Verse 1. - O Lord our Lord. In the original, Jehovah Adoneynu; i.e. "Jehovah, who art our sovereign Lord and Master." As David is here the mouthpiece of humanity, praising God for mercies common to all men, he uses the plural pronoun instead of the singular one. How excellent is thy Name in all the earth! or, "How glorious is thy Name!" (Kay, Cheyne). Who hast set thy glory above the heavens. It is difficult to obtain this sense from the present Hebrew text; but some corruption of the text is suspected.
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
Verse 2. - Out of the month of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength. By "babes and sucklings" are meant young children just able to lisp God's praises, and often doing so, either through pious teaching or by a sort of natural instinct, since "Heaven lies about us in our infancy" (Wordsworth). These scarce articulate mutterings form a foundation on which the glory of God in part rests. Because of thine enemies. To put them to shame, who, having attained to manhood, refuse to acknowledge God. That thou mightset still the enemy and the avenger. It scarcely seems as if any single individual - either Absalom, or Ahithophel, or even Satan (Kay) - is intended. Rather the words are used generally of all those who are enemies of God, and desirous of revenging themselves upon him. The existence of such persons is well shown by Hengstenberg.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
Verse 3. - When I consider thy heavens (comp. Psalm 19:1; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:2). David, in his shepherd-life, had had abundant opportunity of "considering the heavens," and had evidently scanned them with the eye of a poet and an intense admirer of nature. It is probably in remembrance of the nights when he watched his father's flock, that he makes no mention of the sun, but only of "the moon and the stars." The work of thy fingers; and therefore "thy heavens." Often as the "hand of God" is mentioned in Scripture, it is but very rarely that we hear of his "finger" or "fingers." So far as I am aware, the only places are Exodus 8:19; Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10; and Luke 11:20. The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained (comp. Genesis 1:16).
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Verse 4. - What is man, that thou art mindful of him? In comparison with the lofty heavens, the radiant moon, and the hosts of sparkling stars, man seems to the psalmist wholly unworthy of God's attention. He is not, like Job, impatient of God's constant observation (Job 7:17-20), but simply filled with wonder at his marvellous condescension (comp. Psalm 144:3). And the son of man, that thou visitest him? The "son of man" here is a mere variant for "man" in the preceding hemistich. The clause merely emphasizes the general idea.
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
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).
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
Verse 6. - Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands. An evident reference to Genesis 1:28, "Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." By these words man's right of dominion was established. His actual dominion only came, and still comes, by degrees. Thou hast put all things under his feet (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; Hebrews 2:8). In their fulness, the words are only true of the God-Man, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18).
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
Verse 7. - All sheep and oxen; literally, flocks and oxen, all of them. The domesticated animals are placed first, as most completely under man's actual dominion. Yea, and the beasts of the field; i.e. "and all other land animals" (comp. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:2). If some were still unsubdued (2 Kings 17:25, 26; Job 40:24; Job 41:1-10), their subjugation was only a question of time (see Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:25).
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
Verse 8. - The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas; literally, fowl of the air, and fishes of the sea, the passer through the paths of the seas. Every passer through the paths of the seas, whether exactly a fish or no. The cetacea are thus included (comp. Genesis 1:21).
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Verse 9. - O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy Name in all the earth! The psalmist ends as he began, with excellent poetic effect, and in a spirit of intense piety. Some think that he saw in vision the complete subjugation of the whole earth to man in such sort as will only be accomplished in the "new heavens and new earth," in which Christ shall reign visibly over his people. But his words are not beyond those which are natural to one of warm poetic temperament and deep natural piety, looking out upon the world and upon man as they existed in his day. Inspiration, of which we know so little, may perhaps have guided him to the choice of words and phrases peculiarly applicable to "the Ideal of man's nature and true Representative, Christ;" and hence the many references to this psalm in the New Testament (Matthew 21:16; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; Hebrews 2:6-8), and in this sense the psalm may be Messianic; but it is certainly not one of those, like Psalm 2. and Psalm 22, where the author consciously spoke of another time than his own, and of a Personage whom he knew only by faith. (For other examples of the recurrence at the end of a psalm of the idea wherewith it commenced, see Psalm 20:1-9; Psalm 46:1-11; Psalm 70:1-5; Psalm 103:1-22; Psalm 118:1-29; and the "Hallelujah psalms:" Psalm 106:1-48; Psalm 113:1-9; Psalm 117:1, 2; Psalm 125:1-21; 146-150.)