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8. Psalm 8

1To the Overseer, `On the Gittith.` A Psalm of David. Jehovah, our Lord, How honourable Thy name in all the earth! Who settest thine honour on the heavens. 2From the mouths of infants and sucklings Thou hast founded strength, Because of Thine adversaries, To still an enemy and a self-avenger. 3For I see Thy heavens, a work of Thy fingers, Moon and stars that Thou didst establish. 4What [is] man that Thou rememberest him? The son of man that Thou inspectest him? 5And causest him to lack a little of Godhead, And with honour and majesty compassest him. 6Thou dost cause him to rule Over the works of Thy hands, All Thou hast placed under his feet. 7Sheep and oxen, all of them, And also beasts of the field, 8Bird of the heavens, and fish of the sea, Passing through the paths of the seas! 9Jehovah, our Lord, How honourable Thy name in all the earth!

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Whether גתית, Gittith, signifies a musical instrument or some particular tune, or the beginning of some famous and well-known song, I do not take upon me to determine. Those who think that the psalm is so called because it was composed in the city of Gath, give a strained and far-fetched explanation of the matter. Of the other three opinions, of which I have spoken, it is not of much importance which is adopted. The principal thing to be attended to is what the psalm itself contains, and what is the design of it. David, it is true, sets before his eyes the wonderful power and glory of God in the creation and government of the material universe; but he only slightly glances at this subject, as it were, in passing, and insists principally on the theme of God’s infinite goodness towards us. There is presented to us in the whole order of nature, the most abundant matter for showing forth the glory of God, but, as we are unquestionably more powerfully affected with what we ourselves experience, David here, with great propriety, expressly celebrates the special favor which God manifests towards mankind; for this, of all the subjects which come under our contemplation, is the brightest mirror in which we can behold his glory. It is, however, strange why he begins the psalm with an exclamation, when the usual way is first to give an account of a thing, and then to magnify its greatness and excellence. But if we remember what is said in other passages of Scripture, respecting the impossibility of expressing in words the works of God, we will not be surprised that David, by this exclamation, acknowledges himself unequal to the task of recounting them. David, therefore, when reflecting on the incomprehensible goodness which God has been graciously pleased to bestow on the human race, and feeling all his thoughts and senses swallowed up, and overwhelmed in the contemplation, exclaims that it is a subject worthy of admiration, because it cannot be set forth in words. 129129     “Puisque langue ne bouche ne la scauroit exprimer.” — Fr. “Because neither tongue nor mouth can express it.” Besides, the Holy Spirit, who directed David’s tongue, doubtless intended, by his instrumentality, to awaken men from the torpor and indifference which is common to them, so that they may not content themselves with celebrating the infinite love of God and the innumerable benefits which they receive at his hand, in their sparing and frigid manner, but may rather apply their whole hearts to this holy exercise, and put forth in it their highest efforts. This exclamation of David implies, that when all the faculties of the human mind are exerted to the utmost in meditation on this subject, 130130     “A louer les graces de Dieu.” — Fr. “In praising the grace of God.” they yet come far short of it.

The name of God, as I explain it, is here to be understood of the knowledge of the character and perfections of God, in so far as he makes himself known to us. I do not approve of the subtle speculations of those who think the name of God means nothing else but God himself. It ought rather to be referred to the works and properties by which he is known, than to his essence. David, therefore, says that the earth is full of the wonderful glory of God, so that the fame or renown thereof not only reaches to the heavens, but ascends far above them. The verb תנה, tenah, has been rendered by some in the preterite tense, hast set, but in my judgment, those give a more accurate translation who render it in the infinitive mood, to place or to set; because the second clause is just an amplification of the subject of the first; as if he had said, the earth is too small to contain the glory or the wonderful manifestations of the character and perfections of God. According to this view, אשר, asher, will not be a relative, but will have the meaning of the expletive or exegetic particle even, which we use to explain what has preceded. 131131     “Mais vaudra autant cornroe Que, dont on use pour declarer ce qui a preced.“ — Fr.

Psalm 8:2

2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast founded thy strength, because of thy adversaries, that thou mightest put to flight the enemy and avenger.

 

He now enters upon the proof of the subject which he had undertaken to discourse upon, 132132     The doctrine proposed to be illustrated in this psalm is the excellence of God’s name, or his power, goodness, and other perfections, as manifested in his providence and government of the world; and this the Psalmist states in the first verse. He then proceeds to establish and illustrate this doctrine: 1. From the case of infants; 2. From the starry heavens; and, 3. From God’s being mindful of man, and visiting him, notwithstanding his unworthiness, sinfulness, and misery. declaring, that the providence of God, in order to make itself known to mankind, does not wait till men arrive at the age of maturity, but even from the very dawn of infancy shines forth so brightly as is sufficient to confute all the ungodly, who, through their profane contempt of God, would wish to extinguish his very name. 133133     “Qui voudroyent que son nom fust totalement aboli de la memoire des hommes.” — Fr. “Who would wish that his name were totally extinguished from the memory of men.”

The opinion of some, who think that מפי, mephi, out of the mouth, signifies כפי, kephi, in the mouth, cannot be admitted, because it improperly weakens the emphasis which David meant to give to his language and discourse. The meaning, therefore, is, that God, in order to commend his providence, has no need of the powerful eloquence of rhetoricians, 134134     “Que Dieu, pour magnifier et exalter sa providence, n’a pas besoin de la rhetorique et eloquence de grans orateurs.” — Fr. “That God, in order to magnify and exalt his providence, has no need of the rhetoric and eloquence of great orators.” nor even of distinct and formed language, because the tongues of infants, although they do not as yet speak, are ready and eloquent enough to celebrate it. But it may be asked, In what sense does he speak of children as the proclaimers of the glory of God? In my judgment, those reason very foolishly who think that this is done when children begin to articulate, because then also the intellectual faculty of the soul shows itself. Granting that they are called babes, or infants, even until they arrive at their seventh year, how can such persons imagine that those who now speak distinctly are still hanging on the breast? Nor is there any more propriety in the opinion of those who say, that the words for babes and sucklings are here put allegorically for the faithful, who, being born again by the Spirit of God, no longer retain the old age of the flesh. What need, then, is there to wrest the words of David, when their true meaning is so clear and suitable? He says that babes and sucklings are advocates sufficiently powerful to vindicate the providence of God. Why does he not entrust this business to men, but to show that the tongues of infants, even before they are able to pronounce a single word, speak loudly and distinctly in commendation of God’s liberality towards the human race? Whence is it that nourishment is ready for them as soon as they are born, but because God wonderfully changes blood into milk? Whence, also, have they the skill to suck, but because the same God has, by a mysterious instinct, fitted their tongues for doing this? David, therefore, has the best reason for declaring, that although the tongues of all, who have arrived at the age of manhood, should become silent, the speechless mouth of infants is sufficiently able to celebrate the praise of God. And when he not only introduces babes as witnesses and preachers of God’s glory, but also attributes mature strength to their mouth, the expression is very emphatic. It means the same thing as if he had said, These are invincible champions of God who, when it comes to the conflict, can easily scatter and discomfit the whole host of the wicked despisers of God, and those who have abandoned themselves to impiety. 135135     “Et desconfire toute l’armee des meschans contempteurs de Dieu, et gens adonnez a impiete.” — Fr. We should observe against whom he imposes upon infants the office of defending the glory of God, namely, against the hardened despisers of God, who dare to rise up against heaven to make war upon God, as the poets have said, in olden time, of the giants. 136136     “Comme les poetes ont dit anciennement des geans.” — Fr.

Since, therefore, these monsters, 137137     “Cyclopes.” — Latin version. Ces monstres.” — French version. with furious violence, pluck up by the roots, and overthrow whatever godliness and the fear of God 138138     “Et crainte de Dieu.” — Fr. there is in the world, and through their hardihood endeavor to do violence to heaven itself, David in mockery of them brings into the field of battle against them the mouths of infants, which he says are furnished with armor of sufficient strength, and endued with sufficient fortitude, to lay their intolerable pride 139139     “Leur orgueil intolerable.” — Fr. in the dust. He, therefore, immediately subjoins, On account of the adversaries God is not under the necessity of making war with great power to overcome the faithful, who willingly hearken to his voice, and manifest a ready obedience, as soon as he gives the smallest intimation of his will. The providence of God, I confess, shines forth principally for the sake of the faithful, because they only have eyes to behold it. But as they show themselves willing to receive instruction, God teaches them with gentleness; while, on the other hand, he arms himself against his enemies, who never submit themselves to him but by constraint. Some take the word founded as meaning, that, in the very birth or generation of man, God lays foundations for manifesting his own glory. But this sense is too restricted. I have no doubt that the word is put for to establish, as if the prophet had said, God needs not strong military forces to destroy the ungodly; instead of these, the mouths of children are sufficient for his purpose. 140140     “Comme si le prophete fust dit que Dieu se sert des bouches des petis enfans, comme d’une puissante armee et bien duite a la guerre et qu’elles luy suffisent pour destruire et exterminer les meschans.” — Fr. “As if the prophet had said, God makes use of the mouths of little children as of a powerful and well-fitted army, and these suffice him to destroy and exterminate the wicked.”

To put to flight. Interpreters differ with respect to the word השבית, hashebith. It properly signifies, to cause to cease; for it is in the conjugation Hiphil of the neuter verb שבת, shabath, which signifies to cease. But it is often taken metaphorically for to destroy, or to reduce to nothing, because destruction or death brings to an end. Others translate it, that thou mayest restrain, as if David meant that they were put to silence, so that they desisted from cursing or reviling God. As, however, there is here a beautiful allusion to a hostile combat, as I have a little before explained, I have preferred the military phrase, to put to flight. But it is asked, How does God put to flight his enemies, who, by their impious slanders and detractions, do not cease to strike at, and violently to rush forward to oppose all the proofs of a Divine Providence which daily manifest themselves? 141141     “Lesquels par leurs mesdisances et detractions plenes de sacrilege ne cessent de heurter et choquer impetueusement encontre tout ce en quoy la providence de Dieu se manifeste journellement.” — Fr. I answer, They are not routed or overthrown in respect of their being compelled to become more humble and unassuming; but because, with all their blasphemies and canine barkings, they continue in the state of abasement and confusion to which they have been brought. To express the whole in a few words: so early as the generation or birth of man the splendor of Divine Providence is so apparent, that even infants, who hang upon their mothers’ breasts, can bring down to the ground the fury of the enemies of God. Although his enemies may do their utmost, and may even burst with rage a hundred times, it is in vain for them to endeavor to overthrow the strength which manifests itself in the weakness of infancy. A desire of revenge reigns in all unbelievers, while, on the other hand, God governs his own children by the spirit of meekness and benignity: 142142     “De douceur et benignite.” — Fr. but, according to the scope of the present passage, the prophet applies this epithet, the avenger, to the despisers of God, who are not only cruel towards man, but who also burn with frantic rage to make war even against God himself.

I have now discharged the duty of a faithful interpreter in opening up the mind of the prophet. There is only one difficulty remaining, which is this, that Christ (Matthew 21:16) seems to put upon this passage a different meaning, when he applies it to children ten years old. But this difficulty is easily removed. Christ reasons from the greater to the less in this manner; If God has appointed children even in infancy the vindicators of his glory, there is no absurdity in his making them the instruments of showing forth his praise by their tongues after they have arrived at the age of seven years and upwards.




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