[b-hebrew] Psalm 8:6(5) and vav-consecutive

Stephen & Rebecca Shead srshead at gmail.com
Sat Jul 26 15:16:04 EDT 2008


My points below do not correspond with yours, but here are my 2 cents'

1. I agree with Ted that the fall is NOT on view at all in Psalm 8.

- the creation of the heavens  in v.4, which forms the context of the
consideration of humanity's special status,
- the parallelism of 8:6a and b (Ted's point),
- the clear allusion in vv.7-9 to Gen 2, with no mention whatsoever of the
disruption of this dominion brought about by the fall.

This last point, I think, is very important. It is fascinating that David
(or the Psalmist) chooses to describe exclusively the idealistic pre-fall
dominion of humanity, without no acknowledgement of the present human
struggle to exercise this lordship in a fallen world. Indeed, it is the
*absence* of reference to Genesis 3 which is striking here. (In the NT, the
writer of Hebrews, in ch.2, draws attention to this feature of the Psalm.)
James Mays (I think? going from memory) says that this pre-fall focus at the
same time gives the Psalm, paradoxically, a forward-looking, eschatological

Conversely, if the fall is on view in v.6a, the absence of present realism
in vv.7-9 would be simply bizarre.

2. As for the piel of XSR "make less (than)" or "cause to lack (compared
with)" in v.6a, I don't think you've sufficiently taken into account the
following M(+ "a little". To be *only* a little less than, or lacking from,
ELOHIM is surely the highest honour! (Compare the subtle difference in
English between "caused him to be *a* little less than" and "caused him to
be little less than" - perhaps the latter is a better translation here?)

3. With the translation of ELOHIM ("God", "gods", "heavenly beings", ...),
it partly depends on how you would translate Genesis 1:26-27 - if indeed
this is on view in Psalm 8:6 (as I think it is). Some observations:

- Even if ELOHIM in Genesis 1:26-27 is translated "gods" or "heavenly
beings", it is undeniable that God himself is at least included in the
ELOHIM there, because of the 1st person pronoun: "Let us make humankind in
OUR image...". That is, ELOHIM cannot refer *only* to angels. How then is
being little less than ELOHIM anything other than an honour? On the
contrary, to claim to be equal with ELOHIM could be considered blasphemy.

- I would argue that Genesis 1:27 at least suggests "God" for ELOHIM,
despite the singular/plural difficulty. The reason is the AB-B'A'
parallelism of Gen 1:27a-b: "ELOHIM made humankind in *his* (sing.) image;
in the image of ELOHIM he made him".

- You said: "Does anyone know of any place in the Bible where someone talks
to God (or anyone) in the 2nd person, and in the same sentence still
addressing God, refers to God in the 3rd person? That lacking, I think the
meaning must be 'gods', not 'God'."

Maybe someone can come up with an instance (I haven't tried hard), but I
think your condition is too restrictive for such a definitive conclusion.
The question is whether we see this kind of phenomenon in BH, or
alternatively whether there are factors which make it plausible in this

In fact, Gen 1:27b may be an instance of something similar: "...in the image
of ELOHIM he (implicitly, ELOHIM) made him". Moreover, if Gen 1:26-27 is on
view in Psalm 8:6, it wouldn't be surprising to see an explicit reference to
ELOHIM, even if this is whom the Psalmist is addressing. In fact, note that
the Psalmist initially addresses him as YHWH (v.2), not ELOHIM. Is the name
variation because YHWH is not the same as ELOHIM here, or because of the
allusion to Gen 1:26-27?

An example which may be closer to what you're looking for is Abraham's
conversation with YHWH in Genesis 18:22-33. Although Abraham initially
addresses YHWH in the 2nd person (v.23), he subsequently addresses him
sometimes as "my/the Lord" (Adonay) with 3rd-person verbs (vv.27,30-32), and
sometimes with 2nd person verbs. Of course, this is a different sort of
"conversation" and a different grammatical construction - but it shows that
such variation in address is indeed possible.

4. The vav-consecutive at the start of Psa 8:6: I'm no expert here, but your
argument is highly speculative. Even if we accept your "the action in v6
follows some implied action" theory, there is an explicit action in the
context which it would more plausibly follow: the creation of the heavens
and of the heavenly bodies in v.4. But I'll leave the syntax for others.

Best regards,
Stephen Shead
Centro de Estudios Pastorales
Santiago, Chile

-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Miller [mailto:smille10 at sbcglobal.net] 
Sent: 25 July 2008 23:08
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] Psalm 8:6(5) and vav-consecutive

I have 3 questions about Psalm 8:6 (v5 in English)

And You caused him [man] to lack a little from gods and crowned him with
glory and honor.

1. ELOHIM is literally translated either "God" or "gods" depending on the
context. I think the context requires "gods". because David is speaking to
God directly. Since David is talking to God as "You" it doesn't make sense
to say, "You lowered him a little below God". If David meant to say that, he
should say, "You lowered him a little below Yourself". My question is: Does
anyone know of any place in the Bible where someone talks to God (or anyone)
in the 2nd person, and in the same sentence still addressing God, refers to
God in the 3rd person? That lacking, I think the meaning must be "gods", not
"God". Comments?

2. Does Ps 8:6 refer to God's creation of man in Gen 1:26-28 or to God's
causing man to suffer death in Gen 3:19 & 2:16-17? 

a. Arguments in favor of Ps 8:6 referring to Gen 1:26-28 : 

i. Psalm 8:7-9 (6-8 English) clearly refer to God subjecting all things on
earth to man in Gen 1:28. Since Psalm 8:7-9 follows v6, then what happened
in v6 should come before God's subjecting all things under man in vv 7-9.
This matches the sequence in Gen 1:26-28, where God created man in Gen
1:26-27 and subjected all things on earth to him in v28.

ii. Would suffering death be just a "little" lack? It seems to be a big

b. Arguments in favor of Ps 8:6 referring to Gen 3:19

i. The Piel form of the Hebrew verb CHACER means "caused to lack". This does
not seem to refer to creation. God did not create man lacking anything. The
English translations that say "You made him a little lower than ..." make it
sound like it means "You created him a little lower than ...", but this is
not what the Hebrew says. The Hebrew says "caused to lack" not "made".

ii. There is no place in the Bible that says God originally created man
lower than angels, which would be the meaning of "gods" (Ps 82:1; 86:8; Exo
15:11), but after becoming subject to death man is lower than the angels.
The New Testament implies that man was created to be above angels (1 Cor
6:3; Heb 1:7,14; 2:5,16).

iii. The Hebrew verb aspects and conjunctions of Ps 8:6-9 do not imply time
sequence (I think). 
  - v6 starts with a vav-consecutive (more on that in question 3). 
  - The verb in v6a "caused to lack" is perfect, which means it was already
  - v6b starts with a vav prefixed to the noun "glory". If the following
verb was perfect, it would imply past-perfect, but the verb "crown" is
imperfect. It has not been completed yet. Does v6b starting with vav-noun
followed by an imperfect verb imply that the crowning started before the
"causing to lack", but still hasn't been completed yet?
  -v7a uses an imperfect verb, "caused to rule over"
  -v7b uses a perfect verb, "set".
iv. suffering death may be "a little" thing because it is temporary.

3. Ps 8:6 starts with a vav-consecutive. But there is no previous action in
the Psalm to follow. Could this mean that the action in v6 follows some
implied action which the reader can assume happened? In this case, it would
mean that God's causing man to lack came after God's creation of him. 
The vav-consecutive that begins the book of Jonah would mean that the book
of Jonah does not start at the beginning of Jonah's ministry. 
Some translations, even LXX  & YLT which are very strict about always
translating vav prefixes, do not translate the vav at the beginning of Ps
8:6. Others translate it, "For". Are there any other places in the Bible
where a vav-consecutive should be translated as "for"?

Thank you.

-Steve Miller
In my calling, answer Thou me, 
O God of my righteousness. 
In my trouble, You enlarged me.
Hear my prayer, and be gracious. (Psalm 4:1)

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list