|"O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!"|
Psalm 8 is the eighth psalm of the Book of Psalms, beginning and ending in English in the King James Version (KJV): "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!". In Latin, it is known as "Domine Dominus noster". Its authorship is traditionally assigned to King David. Like Psalms 81 and 84, this psalm opens with a direction to the chief musician to perform upon the gittith, which either refers to a musical instrument, a style of performance, or alludes to persons and places in biblical history.
Commentator Cyril Rodd describes this as a "well-known and greatly loved psalm ... usually classified as a hymn". It forms a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant liturgies. It has often been set to music, and has inspired hymns such as "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "How Great Thou Art".
Background and themes
Like Psalms 81 and 84, Psalm 8 opens with a direction to the chief musician to perform upon the gittit (Hebrew: גתית). The New King James Version calls it "the instrument of Gath". The Hebrew root gat (גת) refers to a winepress, indicating that these are joyful psalms. The word may also refer to the biblical city of Gath, where a similar song was sung or a musical instrument was created; or to a song of Obed-Edom the Gittite, in whose home the Ark of the Covenant rested for three months (II Samuel 6:11); or to a song over Goliath, who was from Gath.
Charles Spurgeon calls this psalm "the song of the Astronomer", as gazing at the heavens (verse 3 in KJV) inspires the psalmist to meditate on God's creation and man's place in it. Spurgeon further interprets the "babes and sucklings" to whom the Lord gives strength (verse 2 in KJV) as referring variously to man, David, Jesus, the apostles, and all "who fight under Christ's banner".
According to the Midrash Tehillim, verses 5 through 10 in the Hebrew contain questions that the angels asked God as God was creating the world, referring to the righteous men of Israel:
- "What is man that You are mindful of him"—referring to Abraham (see Genesis 19:29);
- "and the son of man that You remember him"—referring to Abraham's son Isaac, who was born as a result of God remembering Sarah (ibid. 21:1);
- "Yet You made him less only than God"—referring to Jacob, who was able to produce streaked, speckled, and spotted flocks (ibid. 30:39);
- "And have crowned him with glory and honor"—referring to Moses, whose face shone (Exodus 34:29);
- "You give him dominion over the work of Your hands"—referring to Joshua, who made the sun and moon stand still (Joshua 10:12-13);
- "You put all things beneath his feet"—referring to David, whose enemies fell before him (II Samuel 22:43);
- "Sheep and oxen, all of them"—referring to Solomon, who understood the language of beasts (I Kings 5:13);
- "and the beasts of the field"—referring to either Samson or Daniel;
- "the birds of the sky"—referring to Elijah, who navigates the world like a bird, and who also received food from the ravens (I Kings 17:6);
- "and the fish of the seas"—referring to Jonah, who dwelled in the belly of a fish (Jonah 2:1).
- "he traverses the ways of the seas"—referring to the Israelites who walked through the sea on dry land (Exodus 15:19).
- "O Lord, our Lord how glorious is Your name in all the earth"—thus the angels concluded, "Do what pleases You. Your glory is to sojourn with Your people and with Your children".
Hebrew Bible version
Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 8:
|1||לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ עַל־הַ֜גִּתִּ֗ית מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד|
|2||יְהֹוָ֚ה אֲדֹנֵ֗ינוּ מָֽה־אַדִּ֣יר שִׁ֖מְךָ בְּכָל־הָאָ֑רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־תְּנָ֥ה הֽ֜וֹדְךָ֗ עַל־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם|
|3||מִפִּ֚י עֽוֹלְלִ֨ים | וְֽיֹנְקִים֘ יִסַּ֪דְתָּ֫ עֹ֥ז לְמַ֥עַן צֽוֹרְרֶ֑יךָ לְהַשְׁבִּ֥ית א֜וֹיֵ֗ב וּמִתְנַקֵּֽם|
|4||כִּֽי־אֶרְאֶ֣ה שָׁ֖מֶיךָ מַֽעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶצְבְּעֹתֶ֑יךָ יָרֵ֥חַ וְ֜כֽוֹכָבִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֣ר כּוֹנָֽנְתָּה|
|5||מָֽה־אֱ֖נוֹשׁ כִּֽי־תִזְכְּרֶ֑נּוּ וּבֶן־אָ֜דָ֗ם כִּ֣י תִפְקְדֶֽנּוּ|
|6||וַתְּחַסְּרֵ֣הוּ מְ֖עַט מֵֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וְכָב֖וֹד וְהָדָ֣ר תְּעַטְּרֵֽהוּ|
|7||תַּמְשִׁילֵֽהוּ בְּמַֽעֲשֵׂ֣י יָדֶ֑יךָ כֹּ֜ל שַׁ֣תָּה תַֽחַת־רַגְלָֽיו|
|8||צֹנֶ֣ה וַֽאֲלָפִ֣ים כֻּלָּ֑ם וְ֜גַ֗ם בַּֽהֲמ֥וֹת שָׂדָֽי|
|9||צִפּ֣וֹר שָׁ֖מַיִם וּדְגֵ֣י הַיָּ֑ם עֹ֜בֵ֗ר אָרְח֥וֹת יַמִּֽים|
|10||יְהֹוָ֥ה אֲדֹנֵ֑ינוּ מָֽה־אַדִּ֥יר שִׁ֜מְ֗ךָ בְּכָל־הָאָֽרֶץ|
King James Version
- O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
- 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.
- When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
- What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
- For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
- Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
- All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
- The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
- O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Psalm 8 is said during Yom Kippur Katan. In the Gra siddur, Psalm 8 is the Song of the Day for Simchat Torah in the Diaspora. In the Siddur Avodas Yisrael, this psalm is said after Aleinu during the weekday evening prayer.
Some verses of Psalm 8 are referenced in the New Testament:
- Verse 2 is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 21:16 in reference to children praising him in the temple.
- Verses 4-6 are quoted in Hebrews 2:6–8 in reference to Jesus' incarnation.
- Verse 6 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:27 and Ephesians 1:22.
In the Liturgy of the Hours, the psalm is recited to Lauds on Saturday of second and in the fourth week. It often appears in the Eucharistic liturgy: it is found in the feast of the Trinity, the Easter octave, the first Tuesday of Ordinary Time, the 5th Tuesday of Ordinary Time and the 28th Saturday in Ordinary Time.
Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 8 inspired hymn lyrics such as Folliott Sandford Pierpoint's "For the Beauty of the Earth" which first appeared in 1864 and "How Great Thou Art", based on a Swedish poem written by Carl Boberg in 1885.
Heinrich Schütz wrote a setting of a paraphrase in German, "Mit Dank wir sollen loben", SWV 104, for the Becker Psalter, published first in 1628.Michel Richard Delalande, composer of King Louis XIV, wrote an extended Latin motet setting this psalm, which was performed at the Royal Chapel of Versailles for royal offices. Marc-Antoine Charpentier compose around 1670s one "Domine Deus noster" for 3 voices, 2 treble instruments, and continuo, H.163.
Gospel singer Richard Smallwood set a version to music in 1990. In 2019, Seth Pinnock & A New Thing recorded a song entitled Psalms 8 which is featured as the first track on the Album: “Seth Pinnock & A New Thing Live”.
The question "What is man?" from Psalm 8 may have inspired the reflection "What a piece of work is a man" in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Peter Moore contends that Shakespeare was inspired by a paraphrase of Psalm 8 composed by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, as he awaited execution in the Tower of London in late 1546 or early 1547. The question also appears as the title of Mark Twain's essay What Is Man?, published anonymously in 1906. The title of a 1974 science fiction short story by American writer Isaac Asimov, ". . . That Thou Art Mindful of Him", is also taken from Psalm 8.
- "Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 8". Archived from the original on 2017-09-30. Retrieved 2019-07-18.
- Rodd, C. S., 18. Psalms in Barton, J. and Muddiman, J. (2001), The Oxford Bible Commentary Archived 2017-11-22 at the Wayback Machine, p. 369
- Psalm 8: NKJV
- Spurgeon, Charles (2019). "Psalm 8 Bible Commentary". Christianity.com. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
- "Midrash Tehillim / Psalms 8" (PDF). matsati.com. April 2019. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
- Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF). halakhah.com (2nd ed.). p. 32.
- Scherman 1985, p. 488.
- Scherman 1986, p. 730.
- Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Vol. Book IV and V: Psalms XC-CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 838. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- Prosper Guéranger, Règle de saint Benoît, Solesmes Abbey, reprinted 2007.
- The main cycle of liturgical prayers takes place over four weeks.
- "Apollo 11 Goodwill Messages" (PDF). NASA. July 13, 1969. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
- Church of England, Book of Common Prayer: The Psalter as printed by John Baskerville in 1762, p. 196ff
- "The Book of Common Prayer: Proper Psalms On Certain Days" (PDF). The Church of England. p. 6. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
- Moore, Peter R. (July 1998). "Hamlet and Surrey's Psalm 8". Neophilologus. 82 (3): 487–498. doi:10.1023/A:1004290421852. S2CID 169494594.
- Wright 2016, p. 36.
- Nahin 2014, p. 86.
- From 4:00 to 4:32 at 
- Nahin, Paul J. (2014). Holy Sci-Fi!: Where Science Fiction and Religion Intersect. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 86. ISBN 978-1493906185.
- Scherman, Rabbi Nosson (1985). The Complete ArtScroll Machzor – Rosh Hashanah. Mesorah Publications, Ltd. ISBN 0-89906-676-3.
- Scherman, Rabbi Nosson (1986). The Complete ArtScroll Siddur (2nd ed.). Mesorah Publications, Ltd. ISBN 0-89906-650-X.
- Wright, Terry R. (2016). The Genesis of Fiction: Modern Novelists as Biblical Interpreters. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317030768.
- Pieces with text from Psalm 8: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Psalm 8: Free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Text of Psalm 8 according to the 1928 Psalter
- Psalms Chapter 8 text in Hebrew and English, mechon-mamre.org
- For the leader; "upon the gittith." A psalm of David. / O LORD, our Lord, / how awesome is your name through all the earth! text and footnotes, usccb.org United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Psalm 8:1 introduction and text, biblestudytools.com
- Psalm 8 – The Glory of God in Creation enduringword.com
- Psalm 8 / O Lord our governor, / how glorious is your name in all the world! Church of England
- Psalm 8 at biblegateway.com
- Hymns for Psalm 8 hymnary.org