Psalm 8:5
For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor.
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(5) The Hebrew poet dwells on neither of these aspects, but at once passes on to the essential greatness of man and his superiority in creation, by reason of his moral sense and his spiritual likeness to God. Another English poet sings to the stars:—

“’Tis to be forgiven

That, in our aspirations to be great,

Our destinies o’erleap their mortal state,

And claim a kindred with you.”

—BYRON: Childe Harold.

But the psalmist looks beyond the bright worlds to a higher kinship with God Himself.

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.—Literally, thou makest him want but a little from God: i.e., hast made him little less than Divine. We should read, however, instead of “for thou,” “and thou hast made,” &c. The Authorised Version follows the LXX. in a translation suggested doubtlessly by the desire to tone down an expression about the Deity that seemed too bold. That version was adopted in his quotation by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 2:6-7). (See Note in New Testament Commentary.) Undoubtedly the word Elohim, being used to express a class of supernatural beings, includes angels as well as the Divine being (1Samuel 28:13; Zechariah 12:8). But here there is nothing in the context to suggest limitation to one part of that class.

Crowned.—Or, compassed.

Psalm 8:5. Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels — Such was man as he came out of the hands of his Maker, in his primeval state. He was lower than the angels, because, by his body, he was allied to the earth, and to the beasts that perish; but as by his soul, which was spiritual and immortal, he was near akin to the angels; he might be truly said to be but a little lower than they, and was in order next to them. And hast crowned him with glory and honour — Endued him with noble faculties and capacities. He that gave man his being, distinguished him from the inferior creatures, and qualified him for dominion over them, by making him wiser than the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the heaven, Job 35:1. Man’s reason is his crown of glory, and he should take care not to profane that crown by perverting the use of it, nor forfeit it by acting contrary to its dictates.8:3-9 We are to consider the heavens, that man thus may be directed to set his affections on things above. What is man, so mean a creature, that he should be thus honoured! so sinful a creature, that he should be thus favoured! Man has sovereign dominion over the inferior creatures, under God, and is appointed their lord. This refers to Christ. In Heb 2:6-8, the apostle, to prove the sovereign dominion of Christ, shows he is that Man, that Son of man, here spoken of, whom God has made to have dominion over the works of his hands. The greatest favour ever showed to the human race, and the greatest honour ever put upon human nature, were exemplified in the Lord Jesus. With good reason does the psalmist conclude as he began, Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, which has been honoured with the presence of the Redeemer, and is still enlightened by his gospel, and governed by his wisdom and power! What words can reach his praises, who has a right to our obedience as our Redeemer?For thou hast made him - Thou hast made man as such; that is, he was such in the original design of his creation, in the rank given him, and in the dominion conceded to him. The object here is to show the honor conferred on man, or to show how God has regarded and honored him; and the thought is, that in his original creation, though so insignificant as compared with the vast worlds over which God presides, he had given him a rank but little inferior to that of the angels. See the notes at Hebrews 2:7.

A little lower - The Hebrew word used here - חסר châsêr, means to want, to lack - and then, to be in want, to be diminished. The meaming is, "Thou hast caused him to want but little;" that is, he was but little interior.

Than the angels - So this is rendered by the Aramaic Paraphrase: by the Septuagint; by the Latin Vulgate; by the Syriac and Arabic; and by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews Heb 2:7, who has literally quoted the fourth, fifth, and sixth verses from the Septuagint. The Hebrew, however, is - מאלהים mi'ĕlôhı̂ym - than God. So Gesenius renders it, "Thou hast caused him to want but little of God; that is, thou hast made him but little lower than God." So DeWette, "nur wenig unter Gott." So Tholuck renders it, "nur um wenig unter Gott." This is the more natural construction, and this would convey an idea conformable to the course of thought in the psalm, though it has been usually supposed that the word used here - אלהים 'Elohiym - may be applied to angels, or even men, as in Psalm 82:1; Psalm 97:7; Psalm 138:1; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9. Gesenius (Thesau. Ling. Heb., p. 95) maintains that the word never has this signification. The authority, however, of the Aramaic, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, would seem sufficient to show that that meaning may be attached to the word here with propriety, and that somehow that idea was naturally suggested in the passage itself. Still, if it were not for these versions, the most natural interpretation would be that which takes the word in its usual sense, as referring to God, and as meaning that, in respect to his dominion over the earth, man had been placed in a condition comparatively but little inferior to God himself; he had made him almost equal to himself.

And hast crowned him with glory and honor - With exalted honor. See the notes at Hebrews 2:7.

5-8. God has placed man next in dignity to angels, and but a little lower, and has crowned him with the empire of the world.

glory and honour—are the attributes of royal dignity (Ps 21:5; 45:3). The position assigned man is that described (Ge 1:26-28) as belonging to Adam, in his original condition, the terms employed in detailing the subjects of man's dominion corresponding with those there used. In a modified sense, in his present fallen state, man is still invested with some remains of this original dominion. It is very evident, however, by the apostle's inspired expositions (Heb 2:6-8; 1Co 15:27, 28) that the language here employed finds its fulfilment only in the final exaltation of Christ's human nature. There is no limit to the "all things" mentioned, God only excepted, who "puts all things under." Man, in the person and glorious destiny of Jesus of Nazareth, the second Adam, the head and representative of the race, will not only be restored to his original position, but exalted far beyond it. "The last enemy, death," through fear of which, man, in his present estate, is "all his lifetime in bondage" [Heb 2:15], "shall be destroyed" [1Co 15:26]. Then all things will have been put under his feet, "principalities and powers being made subject to him" [1Pe 3:22]. This view, so far from being alien from the scope of the passage, is more consistent than any other; for man as a race cannot well be conceived to have a higher honor put upon him than to be thus exalted in the person and destiny of Jesus of Nazareth. And at the same time, by no other of His glorious manifestations has God more illustriously declared those attributes which distinguish His name than in the scheme of redemption, of which this economy forms such an important and essential feature. In the generic import of the language, as describing man's present relation to the works of God's hands, it may be regarded as typical, thus allowing not only the usual application, but also this higher sense which the inspired writers of the New Testament have assigned it.

5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.

These verses may set forth man's position among the creatures before he fell; but as they are, by the apostle Paul, appropriated to man as represented by the Lord Jesus, it is best to given most weight to that meaning. In order of dignity, man stood next to the angels, and a little lower than they; in the Lord Jesus this was accomplished, for he was made a little lower than the angels by the suffering of death. Man in Eden had the full command of all creatures and they came before him to receive their names as an act of homage to him as the vicegerent of God to them. Jesus in his glory, is now Lord, not only of all living, but of all created things, and, with the exception of him who put all things under him, Jesus is Lord of all, and his elect, in him, are raised to a dominion wider than that of the first Adam, as shall be more clearly seen at his coming. Well might the Psalmist wonder at the singular exaltation of man in the scale of being, when he marked his utter nothingness in comparison with the starry universe.

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels - a little lower in nature, since they are immortal, and but a little, because time is short; and when that is over, saints are no longer lower than the angels. The margin reads it, "A little while inferior to." Thou crownest him. The dominion that God has bestowed on man is a great glory and honour to him; for all dominion is honour, and the highest is that which wears the crown. A full list is given of the subjugated creatures, to show that all the dominion lost by sin is restored in Christ Jesus. Let none of us permit the possession of any earthly creature to be a snare to us, but let us remember that we are to reign over them, and not to allow them to reign over us. Under our feet we must keep the world, and we must shun that base spirit which is content to let worldly cares and pleasures sway the empire of the immortal soul.

Thou hast in and through Christ mercifully and wonderfully restored man to his primitive and happy estate, in which he was but one remove below the angels; from which he was fallen by sin.

Hast crowned him, i.e. man, fallen and lost man; who is indeed actually crowned and restored to the glory and dominion here following, not in his own person, but in Christ his Head and Representative, who received this crown and dominion, not so much for himself, who did not need it, as for man’s good and in his stead; which also he will in due time communicate unto all his members. And so the two differing expositions of this place concerning mankind and concerning Christ may be reconciled. For he speaks of that happy and honourable estate by God’s favour conferred first upon Christ, of whom therefore this place is rightly expounded, Hebrews 2:6-8; and then by his hands upon mankind, even upon all that believe in him. And so this whole place compared with that may be thus paraphrased: What is man, that thou shouldst mind or Visit him by thy Son, whom thou hast sent into the world! who, that he might restore man to that happy and glorious estate, which was but a little below that of the angels, was pleased to take upon him man’s miserable and mortal nature, and thereby to make himself (who was far above all angels, even their Lord and God) lower than the angels, mortal and miserable, for a little time; after which he was advanced to the highest honour, and to a universal dominion over all God’s works, the angels not excepted. For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,.... Than Elohim, "than God", as this word usually signifies: and could it be interpreted of man, as made by God, it might be thought to refer to the creation of him in the image and likeness of God; but as it must be understood of the human nature of Christ, it may regard the wonderful union of it to the Son of God, on account of which it is called by the same name, Luke 1:35; and so made but a little lower than God, being next unto him, and in so near an union with a divine Person; and which union is hypostatical or personal, the human nature being taken into a personal union with the Son of God: and so these words give an instance of God's marvellous regard to it; and contain a reason, proving that he has been mindful of it, and visited it. Though rather this clause refers to the humiliation of Christ in his human nature, as it is interpreted in Hebrews 2:9; and so it removes an objection, as it is connected with the following clause, which might be made against what had been observed in Psalm 8:4, on account of the low estate of Christ's human nature, when here on the earth; and the sense is, that God has been mindful of it, and visited it, notwithstanding its state of humiliation for a little while, seeing he has crowned it with glory and honour, &c. Christ was made low as to nature, place, estate, reputation, and life; he who was the most high God, in the form of God, and equal to him in the divine nature, was made frail mortal flesh, and was in the form of a servant in the human nature. He who dwelt on high, and lay in the bosom of his Father, descended into the lower parts of the earth, was formed in the womb of a virgin, and when born was laid in a manager, and dwelt and conversed with sinful mortal men upon earth: he who was Lord of all, whose is the earth, and the fulness of it, had not where to lay his head: he whose glory was the glory of the only begotten of the Father, became a worm and no man in the esteem of men, was despised and rejected of men, and was of no reputation: and he who was the Lord of life and glory was crucified and killed; becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Such is the nature of Christ's humiliation, expressed by being "made low"; the degree of it is, "lower than Elohim", than God: he was equal to him in the divine nature, but inferior to him in the human nature, John 14:28. As Mediator he was the servant of God, and the servant is not greater than his master; nor as such so great: and he was in his low estate in such a condition as to need the help and assistance of God, which he had in the day of salvation: and especially he was lower when he, was deserted by him, Matthew 27:46. Agreeably to which, some render the words, as they will bear to be rendered, "thou didst make him want God", or "didst deprive", or "bereave him of God" (i); that is, of the gracious presence of God: and so Christ was made lower than God in nature, office, and condition. Sometimes the word "Elohim" is used for civil magistrates, as in Psalm 82:6; because they are in God's stead, and represent him; and, on account of their majesty, authority, and power, bear some resemblance to him. Now Christ was made lower than they, inasmuch as he not only taught obedience to them, but obeyed them himself, was a servant of rulers, paid tribute to them, and suffered himself to be examined, tried, judged, and condemned by them; but since the word is rendered "angels" by the Chaldee paraphrase, the Septuagint interpreters, the Jewish commentators, Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, and in the Arabic, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, and above all by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, it is best to interpret it of them: and Christ was made lower than they by assuming human nature, which is inferior to theirs, especially in the corporeal part of it; and more so, inasmuch as it was attended with infirmities, and subject to sorrows and griefs; and as it was sometimes reduced to great extremes, and to want the comforts of life; and sometimes was in such distress as to need the assistance and ministration of angels, which it had, Matthew 4:11; and particularly it was lower than they when deserted by God, whose face they always behold. To which may be added, that Christ was made under, a law given by the disposition of angels, ordained by them, and is called "the word" spoken by them; some parts of which they are not subject to; but the particular instance the apostle observes is suffering of death, Hebrews 2:9; which angels are not liable to, they die not. The duration of this low estate was "a little while"; for so the Hebrew word may be rendered, as it is in Psalm 37:10, and the Greek , used by the Septuagint, and the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, as it is in Acts 5:34; which refers either to the time of suffering death, and lying under the power of that and the grave, which was but a little time; or at most to the days of his flesh, reaching from his incarnation to his resurrection; which was a course but of a few years, and may very well be expressed in this manner. And to this low estate was Christ brought by Jehovah the Father, who is the person spoken of throughout the psalm; he preordained him to it, prepared a body for him, sent him in the fulness of time, made of a woman, made under the law, and had a very great hand in his sufferings and death: though all was with Christ's full consent, and with his free good will;

and hast crowned him with glory and honour; by raising him from the dead, and setting him at his own right hand, committing all judgment to him; and requiring all creatures, angels and men, to give worship and adoration to him. And this being in consequence of his sufferings, after he had run the race, and endured a fight of afflictions; and because of the greatness of his glory and honour, with which he was as it were on all sides surrounded, he is said to be "crowned" with it; who a little before was crowned with thorns, and encompassed with the terrors of death and hell. This respects his mediatorial glory.

(i) "et deficere facies" ("vel facisti", Pagninus) "eum paululum a Deo", Montanus; "destitui quidem eum voluisti paululum a Deo", Michaelis; "carere eum fecisti Deo parumper", Gejerus.

For thou hast made him a little lower than the {c} angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

(c) Concerning his first creation.

5. Render as R.V.:

For thou hast made him but little lower than God,

And crownest him with glory and honour.

In rendering than the angels the A.V. follows the LXX, Vulg., Targ. and Syriac. The later Greek versions (Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion) and Jerome, rightly render than God. For though in some cases Elohim (God or gods) is applied to supernatural beings generally (1 Samuel 28:13), angels are rather called ‘sons of God;’ and moreover there is a clear reference to the creation of man in the image of God, after His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).

‘Glory’ and ‘honour’ (or, majesty: worship in P.B.V. is an archaism for honour) are the attributes of royalty: of God Himself (Psalm 145:5; Psalm 145:12), and of kings who are His representatives (Psalm 21:5; Psalm 45:3). Man is crowned king of creation.

5, 6. The Psalmist looks back to man’s creation. God’s regard was exhibited in the nature with which man was endowed, and the position of sovereignty in which he was placed.Verse 5. - For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels; rather, thou hast made him but a little lower than God (אלהים). There is no place in the Old Testament where Elohim means "angels;" and, though the LXX. so translate in the present passage, and the rendering has passed from them into the New Testament (Hebrews 2:7), it cannot be regarded as critically correct. The psalmist, in considering how man has been favoured by God, goes back in thought to his creation, and remembers the words of Genesis 1:26, 27, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him" (compare the still stronger expression in Psalm 82:6, "I have said, Ye are gods"). And hast crowned him with glory and honour; i.e. "and, by so doing, by giving him a nature but a little short of the Divine, hast put on him a crown of glory such as thou hast given to no other creature." There is a point of view from which the nature of man transcends that of angels, since

(1) it is a direct transcript of the Divine (Genesis 1:27); and

(2) it is the nature which the Son of God assumed (Hebrews 2:16). (Heb.: 7:15-18) This closing strophe foretells to the enemy of God, as if dictated by the judge, what awaits him; and concludes with a prospect of thanksgiving and praise. Man brings forth what he has conceived, he reaps what he has sown. Starting from this primary passage, we find the punishment which sin brings with it frequently represented under these figures of הדה and ילד (הוליד, חבּל, חיל), זרע and קצר, and first of all in Job 15:35. The act, guilt, and punishment of sin appear in general as notions that run into one another. David sees in the sin of his enemies their self-destruction. It is singular, that travail is first spoken of, and then only afterwards pregnancy. For חבּל signifies, as in Sol 8:5, ὠδίνειν, not: to conceive (Hitz.). The Arab. ḥabila (synonym of ḥamala) is not to conceive in distinction from being pregnant, but it is both: to be and to become pregnant. The accentuation indicates the correct relationship of the three members of the sentence. First of all comes the general statement: Behold he shall travail with, i.e., bring forth with writhing as in the pains of labour, און, evil, as the result which proceeds from his wickedness. Then, by this thought being divided into its two factors (Hupf.) it goes on to say: that is, he shall conceive (concipere) עמל, and bear שׁקר. The former signifies trouble, molestia, just as πονηρία signifies that which makes πόνον; the latter falsehood, viz., self-deception, delusion, vanity, inasmuch as the burden prepared for others, returns as a heavy and oppressive burden upon the sinner himself, as is said in Psalm 7:17; cf. Isaiah 59:4, where און instead of שׁקר denotes the accursed wages of sin which consist in the unmasking of its nothingness, and in the undeceiving of its self-delusion. He diggeth a pit for himself, is another turn of the same thought, Psalm 57:7; Ecclesiastes 10:8. Psalm 7:16 mentions the digging, and Psalm 7:16 the subsequent falling into the pit; the aorist ויּפּל is, for instance, like Psalm 7:13, Psalm 16:9; Psalm 29:10. The attributive יפעל is virtually a genitive to שׁחת, and is rightly taken by Ges. 124, 3, a as present: in the midst of the execution of the work of destruction prepared for others it becomes his own. The trouble, עמל, prepared for others returns upon his own head (בּראשׁו, clinging to it, just as על־ראשׁו signifies descending and resting upon it), and the violence, חמס, done to others, being turned back by the Judge who dwells above (Micah 1:12), descends upon his own pate (קדקדו with o by q, as e.g., in Genesis 2:23). Thus is the righteousness of God revealed in wrath upon the oppressor and in mercy upon him who is innocently oppressed. Then will the rescued one, then will David, give thanks unto Jahve, as is due to Him after the revelation of His righteousness, and will sing of the name of Jahve the Most High (עליון as an appended name of God is always used without the art., e.g., Psalm 57:3). In the revelation of Himself He has made Himself a name. He has, however, revealed Himself as the almighty Judge and Deliverer, as the God of salvation, who rules over everything that takes place here below. It is this name, which He has made by His acts, that David will then echo back to Him in his song of thanksgiving.
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