Below is a commentary by Andrew Bonar (1810-1892) on Psalm 8 from Christ And His Church In The Book Of Psalms.
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David
1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Our of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength
Because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him – and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
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 seas
9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Psalm VII. closed with “The name of the Most High,” and this Psalm commences with it. Who can hesitate to say of this song of Zion, that its subject is no other than “The Name that is above every name?” For Heb. ii. 6-9 has claimed it for Jesus, and claimed it for him, too, in speaking of his exaltation in the New Earth, “The world to come.” Paul, in 1 Cor. xv. 24, refers a clause of it for fulfilment to the day of the Advent: and it is interesting to find our Lord himself quoting ver. 2 in reference to the hosannas that welcomed him as Israel’s King on that day when he proved his power over man and over the creatures, riding on the ass amid the shouts of thousands upon thousands.
It is not to us of much moment whether the original Psalmist David knew distinctly the glorious burden of his song when the Holy Spirit taught his heart and harp to sing it, and when he gave it over to “the chief musician” for temple-use, to be sung or played “on Gittith.” He may have had as dim a view of its real reference, as we have of the reference of the term “Gittith;” yet that alters not the Holy Spirit’s meaning. The most skilful of our critics can do no more than give obscure suggestions as to what the title means; yet that alters not the certainty that the title “Gittith” had its sure and definite meaning in the mind of Him who prefixed it. Our position and that of the original receivers of the Psalm is now reversed. Any singer of the Tabernacle could have told us at once whether Gittith meant a “Gathic air,” used by those that handled the harp at Gath, or whether it referred to the air of some vintage-song, or some joyous vintage-instrument; while yet they could not have told so surely as a child among us who can put his finger on Heb. ii. 6,7,8, that here is the crown that fell from our heads seen on the head of the Second Adam.
Led by Heb. ii. 6-9, we find in this Psalm the manifestation of the Lord’s name* in the dominion of the Second Adam, when he reigns over a restored world. It has been said that this Psalm might be called “Genesis i. turned into a prayer;” but it is more truly “the Genesis i. of the New Earth.” It corresponds to Isaiah xi. 6,7, in the scene it exhibits.
It contains a general view of God’s dealings with earth, from Genesis to Revelation. He whose glory crown the heavens, chooses earth for a theatre whereon to display “His name,” – that is, his character, his very being, of which the name is the manifestation. Amid the ruins of the fall, He finds as sweet notes of praise ascending as from his angelic choirs; he finds he can confound his foes – all the seed of the serpent, in hell and on earth (Psa. xliv. 16) – by hosannas from “babes and sucklings.” While “He sets his glory above the heavens,” He finds no less glory to His name on earth. Glorious grace appears in choosing earth for the place of this manifestation (ver. 1). Glorious grace appears again in his working amid the feeblest of our feeble race, and in confounding the enemy and the avenger by this display (ver. 2). Glorious grace is seen dealing with man, the worm (“sorry man”), whose dwelling and whose place in the scale of creation seem so low when compared with the heavens by day, lighted up by their blazing sun, or the moon and stars by night, in their silent majesty (ver. 4). Glorious grace lifts up man from his inferiority to angels (ver. 5). Glorious grace gives man exaltation above angels, in giving him a Head, to whom that whole world is subject, and on whom it leans. All that was lost in Adam is gathered up in this Head: “Thou madest Him to have dominion – thou hast put all things under his feet.” It is a sight that, seen even from afar, raises in the prophetic Psalmist adoring wonder and delight, so that like the “Amen” in Rev. vii. 12, that both prefaces and concludes the angelic song, he begins and ends with the rapturous exclamation, – “Jehovah, our Lord,** how excellent is thy name in ALL THE EARTH!’
One difficulty in the Psalm may be solved by attending to the apostolic use of it in Heb. ii. It is the clause, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.” In Exod. xxii. 28, the word signifies “judges;” and so it seems to have been used for other beings who are high and noble, viz., angels. For Heb. i. 6 again renders the word, “angels.” Some, however, would fain keep [Hebrew characters] in the sense of “God,” and explain it to this effect: “Thou madest him want little of God,” raising him to a super-earthly dignity. But let it be noted, that these interpretations are all inconsistent with Heb. ii. 6-9. That passage quotes this clause as referring to our Lord’s humiliation, not to his exaltation; “We see Jesus, who has been crowned with glory and honour because of his suffering death, – we see this Jesus made a little lower than angels, in order to taste death for every one.” The “made lower” is thus placed beyond doubt as signifying humiliation; the comparison being, not how little was between him and God, but how there was a little between him and angels, and that little on the side of apparent inferiority during the days of his humiliation – though only as a scaffolding for his after rising in our nature far beyond every angel.
One other difficulty remains. At what point does the Psalm leave off the subject of man in general, and begin to speak of man’s Head? We think it is at the word “Thou visitest.” Out of this “visiting” emergest nothing less than man’s exaltation in his Head; and this sense of “visiting” seems referred to in Luke i. 68. (See Duke of Manchester on Epistle to the Hebrews.)
As the “manifesting” Jehovah’s “name” was our Lord’s unvarying design in all his work at his first coming (John xvii. 6 and 26), so shall it still be his design at his second. Isaiah xxx. 27, introduces that event by, “Behold, the name of the Lord cometh.” To this, indeed, he may refer, when in John xvii. 26, he says, that he not only “has” declared that “name,” but that he “will declare it.” Have we not a link of connection here? Our Psalm and that wondrous prayer in which he looked onward to coming glory, both speak much of that “Name.” The dominion of the Second Adam shall carry on this discovery to the praise of his glory; and viewing the Psalm as pointing to this, we may say, that it contains –
The manifestation of Jehovah’s name in the dominion of the Son of man.
* “Name is the expression of his being, God existing secretly in himself is nameless. Manifestation and name are inseparable.” -Hengstenberg
** The English Prayer-book version has it “our Governor,” a rendering that suits well with the scope of the whole. Luther’s “Herr unser Herrscher,” is better than our “Lord our Lord,” and than the similar rendering of the Vulgate and Septuagint. The Hebrew has the two distinct appellations. And notice, too, “How excellent” is the same word as Jer. xxx. 21, “his noble one.”