*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Psalm 8:3-5 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Psalm 8:3
  • Psalm 8:4
  • Psalm 8:5

When David looks at the beauty and order of God’s creation, he is dumbfounded that God cares about Man, and why He should choose Man, who is younger and weaker than the Angels, to rule over the earth. It is the Son of Man, Jesus, who inherits this glory and authority, because He lived a human life of perfect obedience.

For good reason, given all that is inferred in verse 2, David then expresses to God his complete amazement at the honor God has given to humans to rule over the earth, in light of their newness, and smallness in His creation. When David stops to consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; he is almost stumped by the fact that God even cares for humans, much less that He chose them to rule.

When we look into the sky, we properly feel very small—because by comparison we are. David then asks God, in light of the awesome splendor and function of the heavens, the moon and the stars, and all the work of God’s fingers, why should God consider humankind at all, much less as someone who is important? David asks, What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Why does God even remember we exist, much less care for us? Why does He care about us, why does He pursue relationship with us, when we are so small and insignificant compared to the immense spectacle of the planets and the stars?

The word translated man in the phrase what is man is the Hebrew word “enowsh,” which often refers to any particular group of men, based on the context. Here it refers to any man of the earth. Then it contrasts any man to a single man, the son of man. Jesus referred to Himself often as the “son of man” (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:9, 12:8, etc). The Hebrew word translated man in the phrase son of man is “Adam.” This Hebrew word is used Genesis 1:26 and 2:6-7 to introduce the creation of “man,” then later is translated “Adam” as the text begins to refer to the first man as “Adam.” So literally this is “son of Adam.” Jesus is the second Adam (Romans 5:14), and redeemed earth by living a perfectly obedient life, then dying for the sins of the world. This also is paradoxical, since Jesus is from the seed of woman, because He did not have a human father (Luke 1:26-35), and is therefore the fulfillment of the promise God made immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve to redeem the world through the seed of Eve (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is the second Adam not because He descended from Adam, but because He is the second man God created with the opportunity to rule the earth as God intended, in perfect harmony with Him. As a man, Jesus was born by the Holy Spirit working through a human woman (Luke 1:35).

The sense of the marveling here seems to be both that God cares anything about humans, given our comparative insignificance to God. Further, God cares so much that He sent the son of man to redeem us. This marveling can be further applied to Jesus’ statement in John:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

It was the son of man through whom God expressed His amazing care for humanity.

David’s amazement then expands exponentially. Not only does God take notice of humans, although they are so new and small. But David observes God does not stop there, He has elevated humans to a position of authority over creation. Would anyone put a nursing baby in charge of a business? Or a city? A nation? Certainly not. Yet God appointed humans in charge of the entire earth, even though humans are like nursing babies compared to the angelic beings. David writes,

Yet You have made [man] a little lower than God,

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

This statement likely refers both to humans as a whole, as well as to Jesus, the “Son of Man” who is God become human flesh. Humans were originally created for the purpose of ruling the earth, and silencing Satan, but we fell. The “Son of Man,” Jesus, has restored the original purpose of humanity through his life of obedient service.

The word translated here as God in the phrase You have made him a little lower than God is “Elohim,” which is better translated as “angels,” since “Elohim” can also be understood to mean other spiritual beings, so that it reads “Yet You have made man a little lower than the angels.”

The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the LXX or Septuagint) translates the Hebrew word “Elohim” in Psalm 8:5 as “angels.” That man was made a little lower than the angels. The writer of the book of Hebrews also renders “Elohim” in this passage as “angels” in quoting Psalm 8 (Hebrews 2:7).

For one, everything is lower than God, including the angels. So rendering “Elohim” as “God” doesn’t make a lot of sense. The point here seems to be the comparison between humans and angelic beings. Humans are lower than the angelic beings, and yet God chose to grant them the glory and honor of ruling the earth. “Elohim” is most often translated “god” or “deity,” and often refers to Yahweh, the one true God. But “Elohim” is also used to refer to humans, as in Psalm 82:6:

“I said, ‘You are gods (Elohim),

And all of you are sons of the Most High.”
(Psalm 82:6)

Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 to deflect an accusation against Him by Jews that He had committed blasphemy, and makes it clear in His quotation that “Elohim” here refers to humans (John 10:34).

David is awestruck that despite the fact that humankind is lower than the angels, God appointed us to rule the earth. David thinks it strange that God should even pay attention to humans, but finds complete amazement that the LORD went so far beyond that and saw fit to crown him with glory and majesty. The glory and majesty spoken of here is the honor of ruling the earth. God has the glory of being God to reign over all, and has bestowed a part of His glory upon humans to reign over the earth. We humans are the nursing infants, the newborns of the universe, lower than angels—and God appointed us to rule over the world. Even though we have fallen from our proper station, Jesus as God become human, has restored humanity’s original purpose, for all who will walk in His ways. That makes the entire story all the more amazing.

Biblical Text

3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

4 What is man that You take thought of him,

And the son of man that You care for him?

5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

And You crown him with glory and majesty!

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