The apparent instruction to the “musical director” or “leader” is “according to the Gittith.” In the Septuagint, the corresponding expression is “concerning the winepresses,” possibly suggesting that the psalm should be rendered according to the melody of a composition sung when men were treading grapes. Another possibility is that Gittith designated a musical instrument.
The psalm is attributed to David, but it cannot be linked to a specific period in his life. In content, the composition reflects appreciation for YHWH’s creation. As a shepherd, David watched over the flock at night and doubtless experienced awe and wonder when beholding the moon and the stars on a cloudless night (just as many do today when seeing the night sky while in the deserts, the mountains, or out on the open sea or ocean).
The psalmist expressed awe regarding YHWH’s name, that is, YHWH himself, speaking of the name as “majestic.” According to the reading of the Septuagint, the name is wonderful, marvelous, or admirable. As the Supreme Sovereign, with unlimited powers and unrivaled dignity, he is the Majestic One throughout all the earth or the inhabited land area known to the psalmist.
In view of the reference to the moon and stars in verse 3(4), “heaven” likely designates the sky or celestial dome and not the invisible heavens. As in Psalm 19, YHWH’s splendor is evident in the sky. The Tanakh, in the main text, renders the Hebrew according to this significance, “You who have covered the heavens with Your splendor!” Another possibility (particularly in view of the Septuagint rendering “your majesty was lifted above the heavens”) is that YHWH’s dignity is being represented as of such greatness as to reach beyond the dome-like sky. It seems less likely that the reference is to the invisible realm, where angels extol his splendor. The focus of the psalmist appears to have been on what he could see.
Initially, babbling comes from the mouths of babes and sucklings, and that babbling soon gives way to intelligible speech. Apparently this babbling, as the first sign of speech, filled the psalmist with amazement, and he recognized it as a divine gift and an impressive demonstration of God’s power.
According to the Masoretic Text, YHWH, by the mouth of babes and sucklings, established, founded, or fixed strength. This may mean that, being a gift of God, the childish babbling established strength in the sense that it revealed the working of a wondrous power that prompted the babbling and would later transform it into speech.
After the expression about what YHWH does by the mouth of small children, the psalm continues with the Hebrew term lemá‘an, meaning “for the sake of,” “because of,” “to the intent,” or “on account of.” The corresponding word (héneka) in the Septuagint basically has the same significance and functions as an indicator of reason or objective. Apparently, in the context of this psalm, the objective would be to restrain the foes. Possibly, upon hearing what proceeds from the mouth of little ones, the enemies and avengers (those seeking revenge) would be stopped from carrying out their plans. This could be because they would come to recognize that the divine power at work in the childish babbling or speaking could be directed against them, leading to their ruin.
According to the reading of the Septuagint, the Most High brought forth praise from the mouths of babes and sucklings. In the application of the words of this psalm to Jesus’ being acknowledged as king, the spontaneous expressions from the mouths of youngsters could not be stopped and served to reprove those who persisted in unbelief. (Matthew 21:15, 16)
As the psalmist viewed the night sky, he was filled with awe by what he recognized as being the works of God’s “fingers.” He marveled about the way in which the moon and stars were set in place. The vastness and wonder of what the psalmist beheld made him reflect on how insignificant man appeared to be. He pondered how it was possible for the Creator of everything to take note of man and to care for him, evidently with reference to enabling him to have all the essentials for life. In relation to the earthly creation, man was superior. On account of his unique status, man was just a little less than “gods” (“angels,” Septuagint; or, if the Hebrew is regarded as a plural of excellence, than God himself). In this exalted state, man was crowned with glory or dignity and honor. He had been placed in the position of ruler over all the earthly creation, everything was under his control, under his feet. This included sheep, cattle, wild animals, birds, and fish swimming in the seas (as if passing through paths in the water). Man could exercise his power over them, controlling or using them for his purpose, including for food and clothing.
In the superscription, there is uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew expression commonly understood to mean the “musical director” or “leader.” See Psalm 9.
See Psalm 1 regarding YHWH.
In the Septuagint, the superscription reads, “To the end; concerning winepresses; psalm to David.”
The quotation of Psalm 8:4-6(5-7) in Hebrews 2:6-8 (with an application to the Son of God) is the same as the extant text of the Septuagint. On earth as a human, Jesus, although the perfect reflection of his Father, was a little lower than the angels. In him as a man in the noblest sense of the word, the expressions of this psalm found their fullest realization.
In 1 Corinthians 15:27, the partial quotation of Psalm 8:6(7) is not exactly the same as the reading of the Septuagint.
The opening words of verse 2 (verse 1, if the superscription is not numbered as a separate verse) are repeated as the closing words of this psalm.