Psalm 8

What exactly is the role of humans in the story of the Bible? Why does God care so much about us as powerless, created beings, and why are we compared to babbling babies in Psalm 8. In this video, we explore God's purpose for humanity and all creation.

Visual Commentaries Mar 9, 2021
Want to Keep Exploring the Psalms?
Jump In


Introduction [0:00-0:22]

Jon: “Oh LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” These are the opening words from Psalm 8 in the Bible.

Tim: It’s a beautiful poem about how the Creator God rules the world through babbling babies.

Jon: Huh? Babbling babies?

Tim: Yeah. This is really cool. Let’s dive in.

The Shape of Psalms [00:23-01:33]

Jon: Okay. First let’s get our bearings. In the collection of literature called the Hebrew Bible, there is a large scroll of poetry called the Psalms.

Tim: There are 150 poems in the Psalms scroll that have been organized into five subcollections, sometimes called books.

Jon: And we’re going to be in Book 1 of the Psalms.

Tim: Right. And Book 1 is designed like this, with a two poem introduction followed by four more groups of Psalms.

Tim: Now first, let’s look at this two-part introduction. It’s important because it introduces a key idea for the entire collection of Psalms. It’s about God’s promise to deal with evil and violence in the world by raising up an anointed king for Israel.

Jon: So who is this king?

Tim: Well, the Hebrew word for anointed is mashiakh, or messiah. This refers back to a promise that God made to David, the king of Israel. God said that a future messiah would come from his line.1 And Psalm 2 says that this powerful king will confront violent world rulers.2 And he’ll become a protective fortress for any who take refuge in him.3

Jon: After the two-part introduction is the next group of psalms, 3-14. And our psalm, Psalm 8, is right in the middle.

The Intentional Placement of Psalm 8 [01:34-02:23]

Tim: And the fact that it’s in the center is important. Let me show you why.

First in Psalms 3-7, we’re invited to reflect on David’s story from the past, when he was powerless and had to hide from his enemies.4 In these poems, David cries out to God to deliver him and restore him to his role as king. Then, after Psalm 8, comes Psalms 9-14. David is joined by a group of people called the poor and afflicted ones. Like David, they’re oppressed by powerful rulers. And they too cry out to God, asking him to confront these world empires and vindicate his people.

Jon: Both David and the afflicted ones are really powerless and weak.

Tim: And yet they are the ones God has chosen to rule the world. And this is what Psalm 8, in the center, is all about. It begins by saying...

God’s Majestic Power [02:24-03:14]

Jon: Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the land.

You have set your splendor above the skies.5

Tim: So Yahweh is the king of creation, and you can see his royal power on display everywhere.

Jon: Now that first line is repeated again at the end of Psalm 8.

Tim: Right. That’s called an inclusio. It’s a signal to the reader of what the poem is all about: God’s majestic power that fills all creation.

Jon: But David and the afflicted ones aren’t experiencing God’s power at the moment.

Tim: Right! This is what the rest of the poem is all about. There are two parallel sections. In the first, we’re introduced to a weak, little creature––a bunch of babbling babies.

Jon: From the mouth of infants and nursing babies,

you have established a stronghold,

because of your adversaries,

to stop the enemy and the avenger.6

God’s Stronghold and Elevation of the Weak [03:15-04:52]

Tim: Now, the Hebrew word for stronghold is oz, which can mean strength or also a strong place, like a fortress or a refuge.

Jon: God’s going to build a stronghold out of baby babble to stop violent enemies?

Tim: Yes. It’s like a riddle that is going to be unpacked by the next matching part of the poem.

Jon: When I consider your skies,

the moon and the stars,

which you have established;

What is human that you remember him,

and the son of humanity that you attend to him?7

Tim: So the poet’s here reflecting on the creation narrative of Genesis chapter 1, where there’s this contrast. God installs the heavenly lights above in all their splendor, and then below he forms the humans out of dirt.

Jon: Yeah I get this, looking up at the night sky, feeling so small and insignificant. Why are humans so important to God?

Tim: And so the poet continues.

Jon: You made humanity a little lesser than spiritual beings,

yet you crowned them with glory and majesty.8

Tim: In Genesis, God elevates the weak little dirt-creatures for this majestic task: to be his image who will rule over all creation.9 The poet can hardly believe it.

Jon: You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

you put everything under their feet…10

So both parts of this poem are about how God loves to elevate the powerless, so he can rule the world through them. Whether babbling babies or lowly humans, God loves to choose the weak.

Tim: Yes. Just like David and like the poor and afflicted ones. And together they set the pattern for the ultimate human, the messiah of Psalms 1 and 2.

Jon: “And he will rule over all the land.”

Jesus the Humble King Arrives [04:53-05:54]

Tim: Now, these ideas in Psalm 8 lead us forward to the story of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 21, Jesus rides into Jerusalem as a king to confront Israel’s powerful leaders. But he’s on a donkey, not a war horse. And the people hailing him as their king are the poor and children!11

Jon: So Israel’s leaders mock Jesus and then have him executed.

Tim: But then God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him as the cosmic king, the true image of God.12 Then Jesus invited his followers to share in his power and mission. But it’s a different kind of power.

Jon: Yeah it’s like how Jesus said that to be his follower is to become like a child.13

Tim: Yes. When God’s people serve others from a place of humility and powerlessness, that’s when God’s Kingdom and power are most on display.

Jon: O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the land.14

1. 2 Samuel 7:12-16
2. Psalm 2:9
3. Psalm 2:9
4. 1 Samuel 20-30
5. Psalm 8:1, 9
6. Psalm 8:2
7. Psalm 8:3-4
8. Psalm 2:5
9. Genesis 1:26-28
10. Psalm 2:6
11. Matthew 21:1-17
12. Matthew 28:18-20
13. Matthew 18:2-5
14. Psalm 2:9
For advanced bible reading tools:
Login  or  Join
Which language would you like?