Psalm 8 – What is Man?

One of my spiritual passions has been reading the Psalms. As a worship leader I have always felt that the Psalms were especially relevant to my ministry.  Once a month I will be sharing a Psalm with you. So far we have looked at Psalm 1, 24, 5, 6 and 7.


The psalm uses a chiastic structure in which the themes of each section mirror each other working from the middle out.

The Majesty of God’s Name
God’s Glory is Above the Heavens
Humanity is Trivial in the Heavens
Humanity is Significant on the Earth
Man’s Glory is Above the Earth
The Majesty of God’s Name

The meaningful center and turning point is found in verses 4-5 where the psalmist is astonished that God should care for such insignificant beings and crown them with glory and honor.

The Majesty of God's Name

Psalm 8:1a-b and Psalm 8:9

Psalm 8 is framed by identical phrases in verse 1 and 9 declaring the majesty of the name of God.  The first two words emphasize the name of God by using both His covenant name, YHWH, and His title, Adonai, Lord – often translated as “O LORD, our Lord”.

God remains pervasive throughout the psalm as the one who is over all.  Notice the constant use of the possessive pronoun “Your” (all references are from the ESV):  “Your name” (vs. 1), “Your glory” (vs. 1), “Your foes” (vs. 2), “work of Your fingers” (vs. 3), “works of Your hands” (vs. 6), and “Your name” (vs. 9).

God's Glory Is Above the Heavens

Psalm 8:1c-2

It is not enough to declare God’s name to be above the earth, the psalmist reminds us that His name is above the heavens also.

The word translated “strength” in some translations is often translated as “praise” in others. This seems to make more sense in context and matches how Jesus used the passage. The praise of even children is strong enough to stop our enemy. Satan hates praise because it remind us of the greatness of our God and takes our minds off of the world.

Psalm 8:2 is quoted by Jesus at His triumphal entry.  When Jesus applies this passage to Himself he is actually equating Himself with God as the one who rightfully should receive the praise of children.

Don’t underestimate the power of praise to defeat the enemy!

Humanity is Trivial in the Heavens

Psalm 8:3-4

When we look at the universe we are awestruck by its immensity and power.

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost between two spiral arms in the outskirts of a galaxy, tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people. Carl Sagan

Is it possible that God cares about us?

C. S. Lewis pointed out in his book Miracles that size has nothing to do with value. A taller person is not more valuable than a short person. The size of the universe does not diminish the value of man.

Humanity Is Significant on the Earth

Psalm 8:5-6

The center of the psalm, though, is actually about the majesty of man.  Structurally the psalmist has placed God as the one who envelopes all creation; the one who is above all and Creator of all.  But at the center of creation is man.

You are valuable because you are God’s creation and God loves you!

Humanity's Glory Is Above the Earth

Psalm 8:7-8

Psalm 8 is also quoted by New Testament writers in Hebrews 2:6-8, 1 Corinthians 15:27 and Ephesians 1:22.  These writers remind us that when Adam fell man lost his dominion over all on earth.  No longer are all things under “under his feet”.   But Jesus, as the new Adam, has once again been given dominion by God.  As our representative Jesus has now been exalted over all things.


Here are a few of the things that stood out to me as I studied Psalm 8:

  • God is Supreme over all and Creator of all
  • Humans, though insignificant looking compared to the vastness of creation, are actually intended to be central to creation.  Our dominion, though, has been weakened by the fall of Adam.
  • Jesus, as the new Adam and our representative, has been exalted by God over all creation.

What a beautiful description of humanity.  Humanity is both glorious and ruined.  Intended by God for dominion, but ruined by the fall.  Christ, our brother, has conquered sin and once again, in Christ, we can be exalted above all creation.

Jerry Wyrick

This post is part of a series on the Psalms.

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory

Posted in General Worship, Psalms and tagged , .