Somewhere in the universe, there’s an angelic onlooker seeking to comprehend God’s fascination with man and asks the question, “What?” It almost sounds like a petulant teenager upset at a parent for an imagined inequality. The amount of attention the Almighty sets upon humanity seems out of balance when compared to man’s contemptible nature. Again, the verse reads:
“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
Curiously, the Hebrew language uses two different words for ‘man’ in this verse; here’s their meanings:
- Man 1.0
The first place is in the first clause, “What is man that you are mindful of him.” The Hebrew word used is ‘enoshe’’¹ and it means ‘mankind’ with images of weak, frail, and sickly mortals. The thought is of humanity’s condition. Man universally is fragile and corrupt. He’s bereft of any possibility for self-correction. Sin has left man destitute in a permanent state of hopeless mortality.
To this condition the angelic being utters in disbelief something like, “What?! If you knew man like I do, you’d have nothing to do with him.” Why does the Almighty bother with weak, frail and sick mortals? The question asked in verse 4, “Why [Oh, God] are you mindful of him?” looks for answers.
Ever had a cheap watch quit working? Attempting to repair something broken and of little value makes no sense. It doesn’t take long until the effort and time outweighs the cost of a new watch. So, unless one is inclined to tinker with such devices as a hobby, it’s a short time until we ask, “Why am I doing this?”
Fortunately, God is not like men—nor angels for that matter. Somehow the Almighty sees value in weak, frail and sickly mortals. In fact, when reading verse 4’s question to God, “What is man that you are mindful of him,” ‘mindful’ is the idea is of being possessed of a thought! In other words, God can’t stop thinking about you—He’s got to fix it! Even in your weak, frail and sickly condition, God has His attention focused on you and can only think of ways to repair your problems.
- Man 2.0
The second use of the word ‘man’ is located in the second clause with the expression ‘son of man,’ or, ben-‘adam.²’ It literal means ‘human being,’ but identifies with the physical, natural condition of humanity—though still limited by mortality. To put Psalm 8, verse 4’s question in perspective, the writer asks: “What is…the son of man that you care for him?” Even in man’s natural estate, he is physically overwhelmed and outmatched in comparison to God, or even angels. In fact, the mystified questioner continues the disparaging pace in verse 5 by suggesting incongruously:
“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”
Since man, on his best day, is temporary and fleeting, why would the Eternal One care for humanity at all?
There’s a little verse in 1 Corinthians 9, verse 26³ where Paul uses the analogy of a boxer. If such an athlete where in the ring of a boxing match and finding himself on the losing side of a fight, a friend’s simple reminder, “I’m in your corner” conveys an inspirational thought that someone is “on your side.” That friend would be wiping sweat from your brow then sending you back into the ring with renewed support! Sometimes all it takes to be encouraged is just knowing that one person is in your corner caring for you.
That second clause of Psalm 8, verse 4: “What is…the son of man that you care for him?” spiritually means God is in your corner! He’s not giving up on any ‘son of man’—no matter how helpless, week, frail, or physically exhausted you’ve become. In fact, in The Message Bible, Hebrews 2, verse 17 reads of Jesus Christ:
“That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life.”
Metaphorically speaking, the thought is Jesus came, got into the ring, and took our place in the fight when we were physically drained and broken. When the angelic beings of heaven ask “What?” The answer is to point to the ‘Son of Man,’ Jesus Christ! He is the demonstration that God is mindful and caring toward man.
J. Robert Hanson
¹ Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, H0582, enoshe’: mortal and frail, hence, a man in general.
² Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Ben-‘Adam; Compound phrase from H120, ‘adam: ruddy i.e. A human being (an individual or the species, mankind, etc.), and H1121, banah: a son (as a builder of the family name).
³ “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.”