And You made him so that he requires little from the powers that be.
On this translation, God made humankind (= ‘him’) ‘so that he requires little from’ the angels (= ‘the powers that be’). The putative content of the clause is not impossible, though I can’t think of other instances in which human beings are said to require little, much, or anything at all from angels.
On top of this difficulty, the clause so understood makes a poor thought rhyme with the second half of the line of which it is a part: ‘you crown him with glory and splendor.’ Nor does the proposed content relate very easily to the rest of the psalm. The sense Arie assigns to the D stem of the verb חסר, furthermore, is far from established, nor can it be taken for granted that the noun אלהים means, as Arie elsewhere translates - out of love for etymology - ‘mighty ones’ (= angels), but here translates, in a spasmodic fit of paraphrase, ‘the powers that be.’
In the following, I argue for a more traditional interpretation, and introduce all of Psalm 8 in Hebrew and in translation.
2 1 יְהוָה אֲדֹנֵינוּ
מָה־אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ
2 אֲשֶׁר תֻּנָּה* הוֹדְךָ עַל־הַשָּׁמָיִם
3 מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים וְיֹנְקִים
3 יִסַּדְתָּ עֹז לְמַעַן צוֹרְרֶיךָ
לְהַשְׁבִּית אוֹיֵב וּמִתְנַקֵּם
4 4 כִּי־אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶיךָ
5 יָרֵחַ וְכוֹכָבִים
5 6 מָה־אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי־תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ
וּבֶן אָדָם כִּי־תִפְקְדֶנּוּ
6 7 וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט מֵאֱלֹהִים
וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ
7 8 תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ
כֹּל שַׁתָּה תַחַת־רַגְלָי
8 9 צֹנֶה וַאֲלָפִים כֻּלָּם
וְגַם בַּהֲמוֹת שָׂדָי
9 10 צִפּוֹר שָׁמַיִם וּדְגֵי הַיָּם
עֹבֵר אָרְחוֹת יַמִּים
10 11 יְהוָה אֲדֹנֵינוּ
מָה־אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ
*MT vocalizes תְּנָה = ‘give!’ – inappropriate in context.
On this scansion, the psalm contains exactly 22 half-lines. The opening and closing lines are noteworthy. The rule followed elsewhere in the psalm is that half-lines are in rough parity in terms of prosodic length (stressed words and syllable count). The first and last lines violate the rule: the first half-line is short in absolute and relatively short with respect to the following half-line. It is natural to pause briefly after אדנינו to restore parity. The result, it seems to me, is a strong focus on the repeated phrase יהוה אדנינו. This is focus within focus, since the opening and closing lines are identical, forming a strict inclusio, a fact which cannot but put a spotlight on the lines’ content. Ancient Hebrew poetry rarely indulges in word-for-word repetition. Psalm 8 is unusual in this respect.
2 1 יהוה our lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth,
2 you whose splendor up in heaven inspires song
3 by mouth of babe and suckling!
3 You founded a fort before your foes,
putting to rest upstart and enemy.
4 4 If I
look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
5 the moon and stars,
that you set in place,
5 6 what is man, that you mind him,
children of dust, that you note them?
6 7 You made him lack little of divinity,
with glory and majesty you crown him.
7 8 you give him reign over the work of your hands,
you set all beneath his feet:
8 9 all cattle large and small,
beasts of the wild as well,
9 10 fowl of heaven, fish of the sea
passing through the paths of the sea.
10 11 יהוה our lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
I note with pleasure that Joseph Addison Alexander, back in the days when Protestant pastors habitually checked the KJV against the original Hebrew and adjusted their sermons accordingly, points out that “the words literally mean, hast made him to lack little of divinity.” Thanks to Google and its project of digitizing books, I discovered that after I chose to translate in identical fashion.
Okay, I admit that Alexander was not your average Protestant pastor. He taught at the College of New Jersey ( = Princeton) and was professor of oriental and biblical literature there from 1838 to 1851. He is in fact one of the finest Hebraists Christendom has ever produced.
To be continued.