The subscription of Psalm 8 (mistakenly given in most Bibles
as the superscription of Psalm 9) links this psalm with 1Sa 17. "Muth-labben"
signifies "the death of the champion", or "the death of the man who stands
between (the camps)", with an obvious link to 8:2:
"...that Thou mightest still the enemy and the
Goliath was the champion of the Philistines and the enemy of
Israel. Standing between the two camps, he defied the living God. David, who
slew him with a Spirit-directed stone, was by contrast no more than a "babe" or
"suckling" (v 2):
"When (Goliath) saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth" (1Sa
Psalm 8 appears to be the rejoicing of David after a long and
arduous day, as he gazes upon the moon and stars of heaven and realizes that the
God who created such wonders has also ordained the strength of his arm and
crowned him with glory and honor. What day (or more especially, what night)
might this have been? The account in 1Sa 17 provides some clues.
After David's victory over Goliath, the revitalized army of
Israel proceeds to rout the Philistine host, pursuing them as far as the gates
of their own cities. No doubt David participated in this chase. It is logical
that they did not return until the evening, when David was ushered into Saul's
presence (v 57). (It looks as though Saul, sad and melancholy, had not even led
his army in the evening campaign!) Saul would reaffirm the promise that the man
who slew Goliath would receive great riches and his own daughter to
So in one momentous day, from sunrise to sunset, the lowly
shepherd boy David vaulted from obscurity to glory and honor and dominion (Psa
8:5,6). His faith in upholding the most excellent name of Yahweh against the
blasphemies of the Philistine (Psa 8:1,9; 1Sa 17:45,46) was now rewarded. He
stood once more over the body of the vanquished "champion" -- whom God had put
in subjection under his feet (Psa 8:6)! Goliath had threatened to give David's
flesh to the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, (1Sa 17:44), but that
which he thought to do to David had been done to him (cp. Psa 8:7,8)!
The echoes of Genesis are plain in this psalm. God is seen as
the Creator of the heavens (v 3) and of man (v 4). God has created man a little
(or for a little time?) lower than the angels, so that he might undergo a period
of probation (v 5). Yet man was the crowning glory of God's creation; so God had
given him dominion over all His other works (v 6; Gen 1:28). Implicit in David's
thoughts is Adam's tragic loss of that dominion because of sin. Instead of
benevolent rule over the animals there would be perpetual fear, uncertainty, and
-- in the case of the serpent especially -- enmity (Gen 3:14,15).
The only remedy for the fall would be a special "seed", who
would be ordained by God to "still the enemy", to gain ascendancy over the
"serpent" of sin, and thus recapture that dominion and preeminence over all
creation that Adam had lost. David's victory over Goliath takes on a timeless
aura in Psalm 8; it provides the pattern for Christ's conquest over sin. It
links David's typical conquest with both Genesis (Eden lost) and Revelation
(Eden recovered) through the eternally effective redemptive work of the seed of
The New Testament links with Psalm 8 (and thus indirectly with
Gen 1:28 and 3:15) are many: Mat 21:16; 28:18; John 16:33; 17:1,2; 1Co 15:24-28;
Eph 1:20-23; Phi 2:5-11; 3:20,21; Col 1:15-23; Heb 2:8-16; 1Pe 3:22; Rev
5:5,12-14. Some of the more obvious ones will be considered in later
Psalm 144 bears a strong resemblance to Psalm 8, especially in
vv 3,4. It extols God, Who "teaches my hands to war" (v 1); and it asks
deliverance from the "sons of the alien" (vv 7,11). It appears to be the song
and prayer of David, which he composed (what a time to be composing a new song!)
as he prepared to face Goliath. Its counterpart, Psalm 8, is the song
celebrating that victory.
These well-known words of David are indisputably prophetic of
Jesus. Our Saviour, as he hung on the cross, quoted the opening words of the
"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mat 27:46; Mark
Among the extreme trials of crucifixion, Jesus experienced the
shame and humiliation of nakedness. This is implied in the counting of his bones
(Psa 22:17) and the parting of his garments (v 18). The women who witnessed his
crucifixion stood "afar off" (Mat 27:55; Luke 23:49), possibly due to a natural
modesty at the sight.
As he hung there, all the signs of corruption became a part of
him -- many being echoes of the curse of Genesis 3: the sweat (Gen 3:19), the
dust (Gen 3:19 again), and the nakedness (Gen 3:7).
"Thou art He that took me out of the womb" (Psa 22:9) is a
faint echo of the promise in Gen 3:15 -- the special "seed of the woman"
conceived by the power of God's Holy Spirit. True to the Edenic curse, the woman
was to have sorrow in conception (Gen 3:16); Mary knew such sorrow -- a sword
piercing her own soul also (Luke 2:35). But her sorrow would finally dissolve
into joy, when her son was "born" from the tomb to new and glorious life (John
The crucified Saviour finds his enemies encircling him like
bulls (Psa 22:12), dogs (vv 16,20), and lions (vv 13,21). All God's "creatures"
were his enemies, but by his obedience (where the "first Adam" had failed) he
would re-establish man's promised dominion over them (Gen 1:28).
"Thou hast brought me Into the dust of death" (v 15) is a
conscious remembrance of the curse of Eden; "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt
thou return" (Gen 3:19).
The circumstances that gave rise to Psalm 41 were, almost
certainly, Absalom's rebellion and the traitorous behavior of Ahithophel,
David's counselor. But v 9 is cited in John 13:18 as applicable to Judas
Iscariot in his betrayal of Christ:
"He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against
This is, of course, an allusion to Gen 3:15, but with a
peculiar twist! Judas is put in the place of the woman's seed, lifting up his
heel to crush a dangerous "serpent" underfoot -- and that "serpent" is Jesus!
Surely this tells us, by implication, something about the motives of Judas: that
he had at least begun to accept the reasoning of Israel's leaders, that the
troublesome Jesus was an evil that must be gotten rid of!
The climax was that the "serpent" was indeed crushed in the
death of Jesus, but certainly not in the way the leaders of Israel (and Judas!)
expected. God used these wicked men to accomplish His righteous purpose -- the
condemnation of sinful flesh. Peter explained this to these men on the day of
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God
among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst
of you, as ye yourselves also know: him, being delivered by the determinate
counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have
crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death;
because it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts
The allusion to "heel" in Psa 41:9, coupled with Gen 3:15,
suggests an interesting word study:
"AQEB", or "heel", appears for the first time in Gen 3:15.
"Aqeb" is the root word in the name Jacob, since Jacob took his brother by the
heel when they were "born (Gen 25:26; Hos 12:3). Figuratively, then, to take by
the heel signifies to trip up and to supplant -- which, of course, Jacob did to
his older brother Esau (Gen 27:36) in appropriating the blessing and
The antitype is Jesus, the "last Adam", who has supplanted the
first Adam in receiving the blessing and dominion which he lost. (Notice that
Esau's other name is Edom -- virtually equivalent to "Adam"!)
The other Scripture occurrences of "aqeb" are not numerous,
but some are quite suggestive:
- Gen 49:17: In Jacob's prophecy, Dan ("Judgment") is called a serpent that
bites the horse heels, causing its rider to fall backward. Perhaps Dan is given
the serpent role because this tribe sponsored the introduction of idolatry among
the twelve tribes (Judges 18; 30) -- the reason, perhaps, also for Dan's
omission from Rev 7. The "idolatrous" influences (of a different sort!) in
Israel at the time of Christ caused his bruising in the heel.
- Gen 49:19:
"Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last "(literally,
'at the heel')." This is certainly typical of Jesus, overcome by a mighty
"troop" in his death, yet finally himself overcoming his enemies "at the heel"
-- an obvious allusion to Gen 3:15!
- Jos 8:13: In order to conquer the
Canaanite city of Ai, Joshua set "liers in wait" nearby (literally, "at the
heels" of the city!). By serpent-like subtlety, he drew the men out of the city,
which was then captured by those who waited "at the heels", and the power of Ai
- Job 18:9: Bildad pictures, among the calamities that would
befall the "wicked" Job, that "the gin (trap) shall take him by the heel
('aqeb')". But the "gin" of God's judgment that took Job by the heel finally
proved out to his vindication, and to Bildad's condemnation! The enemies of
Christ set a snare for his heels also; but in the climax they found they had
tripped up themselves (Pro 1:16-18)!
- Psa 49:5: "Wherefore should I fear in
the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?" But
consider this alternate translation as suggestive of Christ: "Why should I fear
in the days of evil, when my wicked supplanters (or those wicked ones who would
trip up my heels) shall compass me about?" Jesus had nothing to fear from such
men, for he knew that even when they "tripped him up" in death, God would "lift
him up" out of the grave to vindication and glory.
- Psa 56:5,6: "Every day
they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather
themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps ('aqeb'), when
they wait for my soul." But..."In God have I put my trust; I will not "be afraid
what man can do unto me... Wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling?" (vv
- Psa 89:50,51: "Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants; how I
do bear in ray bosom the reproach of all the mighty people; wherewith thine
enemies have... reproached the footsteps ('aqeb') of Thy Messiah."
- Song 1:8:
When the Shullamite inquires where her beloved is to be found, she is counseled
to follow the footsteps (or heels) of his flock. If we would follow in Christ's
"heels", we will of course do as best we can what he did: use our "heels" to
crush the head of the "serpent" Sin!
A beautiful picture of the Kingdom age, modeled after the
imperfect type of Solomon's reign. When Christ shall have dominion (Gen 1:28)
from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth (Psa 72:8), then
they that dwell in the wilderness will bow down before him, and his enemies (the
"seed of the serpent") will lick the dust (Gen 3:14)!
This was a passage recognized even by Christ's tempter as
prophetic of the Messiah, since vv 11,12 are quoted as justification for his
casting himself down in the sight of all men (Mat 4:6; Luke 4:10). But Jesus
understood that, while the prophecy applied to him, it could not be perfectly
fulfilled until he had proven himself obedient unto the death of the cross. By a
life of perfect obedience, and by a perfect sacrificial death, Jesus would
"tread upon the adder" of sin (v 13). Thereafter, God would give His angels
charge of Jesus (v 11), to bear him up from the grave (v 12); God would deliver
him and exalt him to heaven (v 14) and show him His salvation (v 16).
In addition to obtaining salvation, Jesus would also receive
dominion over all the wild beasts (v 13) -- indeed, over all creation (Col