As we continue reading there is even more amazing truth in this remarkable psalm. Speaking to God concerning “mankind that you are mindful of … that you care for”, David then says:
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (NIV)
David here takes us back to Genesis and God’s plan for us humans when he first created us. He had (and still has) such great plans for us! What amazing grace!
Verse 5 is interesting because of the word translated “angels” in most Bibles (or “heavenly beings” in the NIV). The Hebrew word used here is “Elohim” as in The Passion Translation: “…what honour you have given to man! Created only a little lower than Elohim.” The text note says: “This is the same Hebrew word used for the Creator God in Genesis 1:1”.
Not being a Hebrew scholar, I decided to check out what others have to say about the use of this very interesting word and discovered some thought provoking comments, not the least the next two quotes.
The Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh Translation by The Jewish Publication Society) has the following: “…You have made him [humans] little less than divine, and adorned him with glory and majesty.” The footnote adds: “As in Genesis 1:26-30, humans are very highly regarded. ‘Elohim’ is properly translated as divine; this explains why people are adorned…with glory and majesty, typically divine qualities. Thus, the tradition that “Elohim” should be rendered here as angels (Septuagint, Targum, Radok) is incorrect, and is the result of the discomfort of depicting humans as too God-like – a discomfort surely not shared by this psalmist.”
Kidner suggests: “In the most obvious sense of the Hebrew, verse 5 would seem to allude to the image of God, mentioned in Genesis 1:26 [“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’.”] which underlies our verses 6-8. But the LXX [Septuagint] takes God (Elohim) in its rarer, genetic sense, to mean supernatural beings i.e. angels…Hebrews 2:7, 9 follows that translation…The New Testament opens up fresh aspects of this passage.” Something we will consider later. (see references # 29)
The point is that God created humans totally unique (“in our likeness”) and with qualities and the potential to live lives in such a way as to reveal who our Creator is. Then, we are made to not only live well, but to reflect His glory and majesty to all creation. Sadly, the manifestation of this seems to have been scarce in the history of the human race, often ruined by our sin, but praise God, as we study history and look around us we see it has been/is still present in some people’s lives.
The psalmist, considering God’s unique creation of humans in Psalm 139:14-18, puts it like this:
“…you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”
Father, these psalms continues to amaze us, with their revelation of your love in creating us as unique beings in your cosmic plan. Strengthen us, Lord, and enable us by your Spirit, to live as those “Created only a little lower than Elohim… adorned … with [your] glory and majesty”, so that you, in all your glory and majesty, may be revealed through us to this desperately needy world around us. Amen.