What Is Man? (Commentary)

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Why has he placed him over the works of his hands? Why has he made so many arrangements for his comfort? Why has he done so much to save him? He is so insignificant his life is so much like a vapor, he so soon disappears, he is so sinful and polluted, that the question may well be asked, why such honor has been conferred on him, and why such a dominion over the world has been given him. See these thoughts more fully expanded in the notes at Hebrews That thou art mindful of him - That thou dost remember him; that is, think of him, attend to him - that he does not pass away wholly from thy thoughts.

Why should a God who is so vast and glorious, and who has all the starry worlds, so beautiful and grand, to claim his attention - why should he turn his thoughts on man? And especially why should he honor him as he has done by giving him dominion over the works of his hands?

And the son of man - Any descendant of man - any one of the race. What was man, as he was originally made, that such exalted honor should have been conferred on him; and what has any one of his descendants become, in virtue of his native faculties or acquired endowments, that he should be thus honored? The design is the same as in the former part of the verse, to express the idea that there was nothing in man, considered in any respect, that entitled him to this exalted honor. Nothing that man has done since the time when the question was asked by the psalmist has contributed to diminish the force of the inquiry.

That thou visitest him - As thou dost; that is, with the attention and care which thou dost bestow upon him; not forgetting him; not leaving him; not passing him by.

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Here it refers to the attention bestowed by God on man in conferring on him such marks of favor and honor as he had done - such attention that he never seemed to forget him, but was constantly coming to him with some new proof of favor. What God has done for man since the psalmist wrote this, has done nothing to weaken the force of this inquiry.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary 4. This favor is now more fully illustrated. Matthew Poole's Commentary What, i. Man, Heb. Art mindful of him, i. The son of man, Heb. That thou visitest him; not in anger, as that word is sometimes used, but with thy grace and mercy, as it is taken, Genesis Exodus Psalm Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible What is man, that thou art mindful of him?


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That is, the psalmist, while he was considering the greatness and glory of the celestial bodies, thought this within himself, and so expressed it; which is to be understood, not of man in general, nor of Adam in a state of innocence; he could not be called "Enosh", the word here used, which signifies a frail, weak, sickly mortal man; nor could he with any propriety be said to be the son of man, as in the following clause: nor of fallen man, or of Adam's posterity, descending from him by ordinary generation; for all things are not put in subjection to them, as is hereafter said of man: but this is to be understood of the man Christ Jesus, as it is interpreted in Hebrews ; or of that individual of human nature which Christ assumed.

The name of Enosh well agrees with him, who was a man of no note and esteem among men, a worm and no man, a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, encompassed with infirmities, and was subject to death, and did die.

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Now it was a marvellous thing that God should be mindful of that individual of human nature; that he should prepare it in his council and covenant; that among the vast numbers of individuals which it came up in his infinite mind to create, he should choose this, to exalt it, and appoint it to union with his own Son, and take that delight in it he did; that when it was formed by his Spirit, he should anoint it with the oil of gladness above his fellows; that he should take such providential care of it, and so often and so strongly express his affection for it; that he should regard it, and support it under sufferings; and when in the grave, did not leave it, nor suffer it to see corruption; but raised it from the dead, and gave it glory, and exalted it at his own right hand; and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

The name of "the son of man" is the name of the Messiah, in Psalm ; and is often given to Christ, and used by him of himself in the New Testament. And this visiting of him is not to be understood in a way of wrath, though he was so visited by God, when he bore the chastisements of his people; but in a way of favour, by bestowing upon him without measure the gifts and graces of his Spirit; by affording him his gracious presence, and tilling him with spiritual peace and joy.

Then so the ellipse may be filled up , the thought is forced upon me What is frail man that thou shouldest be mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou shouldest visit him? The words for man are chosen to emphasise his weakness in contrast to the vast and apparently unchanging structure of the heavens. Enosh denotes man in his frailty, impotence, mortality Psalm ; hence it is used with special frequency in Job, where man is contrasted with God e.

Job , where A. There is an echo of these words in Psalm , and Jeremiah ; and Job parodies them, when he asks in the bitterness of his soul how man can be of such importance to God that He should think it worth while to persecute him Psalm ff. On the quotation of Psalm in Hebrews ff.

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Pulpit Commentary Verse 4. He is too little to be described at all, only God, who knows the most minute object, can tell what man is. Certainly he is not fit to be the rock of our confidence, he is at once too feeble and too fickle to be relied upon. The Psalmist's wonder is that God should stoop to know him, and indeed it is more remarkable than if the greatest archangel should make a study of emmets, or become the friend of mites.

God knows his people with a tender intimacy, a constant, careful observation: he foreknew them in love, he knows them by care, he will know them is acceptance at last. Why and wherefore is this? What has man done? What has he been? What is he now that God should know him, and make himself known to him as his goodness, fortress, and high tower?

This is an unanswerable question. Infinite condescension can alone account for the Lord stooping to be the friend of man. That he should make man the subject of election, the object of redemption, the child of eternal love, the darling of infallible providence, the next of kin to Deity, is indeed a matter requiring more than the two notes of exclamation found in this verse.

He is not so much man as God made him, but man as his mother bore him; and how can the Lord think of him, and write down such a cipher in his accounts?

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The Lord thinks much of man, and in connection with redeeming love makes a great figure of him: this can be believed, but it cannot be explained. Adoring wonder makes us each one cry out, Why dost thou take knowledge of me? We know by experience how little man is to be reckoned upon, and we know by observation how greatly he can vaunt himself, it is therefore meet for us to be humble and to distrust ourselves; but all this should make us the more grateful to the Lord, who knows man better than we do, and yet communes with him, and even dwells in him.

Every trace of the misanthrope should be hateful to the believer; for if God makes account of man it is not for us to despise our own kind. Psalm "Man is like to vanity. He is like that which is nothing at all. He is actually vain, and he resembles that unsubstantial empty thing which is nothing but a blown-up nothing, - a puff, a bubble.

Yet he is not vanity, but only like it. He is not so substantial as that unreal thing; he is only the likeness of it. Lord, what is a man? It is wonderful that God should think of such a pretentious insignificance. His life is only like to a shadow, which is in itself a vague resemblance absence of something rather than in itself an existence.

Observe that human life is not only as a shade, but as a shade which is about to depart. It is a mere mirage, the image of a thing which is not, a phantasm which melts back into nothing. How is it that the Eternal should make so much of mortal man, who begins to die as soon as he begins to live?

The connection of the two verses before us with the rest of the Psalm is not far to seek, David trusts in God and finds him everything; he looks to man and sees him to be nothing; and then he wonders how it is that the great Lord can condescend to take notice of such a piece of folly and deceit as man. Though I am king over my people, yet, alas, I am but a man.

Takest knowledge of him, i. Makest account of him; the same thing repeated in other words. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him? Man, that is at most and best but a creature, made of the dust of the earth, is but dust and ashes; yea, a sinful creature, that drinks up iniquity like water: and yet the Lord not only knows him, as he is the omniscient God, but takes notice of him in a way of providence, and in a way of grace. His chosen people are no other nor better than others, of the same original, and of the same character; and yet he owns and acknowledges them as his peculiar people, and makes himself known unto them: and so it is rendered by the Septuagint version, "that thou shouldest be known unto him?

David no doubt had a special respect to himself; and wondered at the goodness of God to him, in taking him from a family of little or no account, from a mean employ, from a shepherd's cottage, and raising him to the throne of Israel; and especially in making him a partaker of grace, and an heir of glory; see Psalm ; which is applied to Christ, Hebrews A variation of Psalm Pulpit Commentary Verse 3.

Job , 18 ; Psalm Or the sea of man, that thou makest account of him!

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It enhances our estimate of God's goodness to consider the insignificance and unworthiness of the creatures on whom he bestows it. Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament In this second half the Psalm seems still more like a reproduction of the thoughts of earlier Psalms. The prayer, "answer me speedily, hide not Thy face from me," sounds like Psalm ; Psalm , cf. Psalm And the apodosis, "else I should become like those who go down into the pit," agrees word for word with Psalm , cf. In connection with the words, "cause me to hear Thy loving-kindness in the early morning," one is reminded of the similar prayer of Moses in Psalm , and with the confirmatory "for in Thee do I trust" of Psalm , and frequently.

With the prayer that the night of affliction may have an end with the next morning's dawn, and that God's helping loving-kindness may make itself felt by him, is joined the prayer that God would be pleased to grant him to know the way that he has to go in order to escape the destruction into which they are anxious to ensnare him.