Son of Man

Psalm 8 is about Jesus. Which is not a ‘big’ claim, the Psalms are the book of Christ and they all tell his story in one way or another.

Psalm 8 is a kingly Psalm, that connects itself to the creation and the early chapters of Genesis. We could fruitfully notice the parallels with Psalms 18 and 118, and the way they’re followed by a series of Psalms that also have parallels (9, 19, 119) that echo the initial pillars at the start of the Psalms (1 & 2). We could also note the similarities in those numbers.

But that, interesting though it is, is not what I want to draw your attention to.

In verse 4, here from the ESV, we read:

what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

Which sounds all wonderfully poetic, and we assume it means something like the NIV’s rendering:

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

Except that I think that’s missing the point, and like the NIV often does, scrubbing Jesus out of the Psalms in the name of inclusivity. If the ‘man’ here was meant to stand for ‘humanity’ then broadening the meaning to clarify and update the usage makes perfect sense.

Let’s follow the thread of the Psalm to see if that’s the case.

In verse one we have an affirmation of God’s ends in creating the world; God created in order to making his name majestic in all the earth:

O LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

We end in the same place in verse nine. David then says that the Lord has established his strength from the mouths of babes, because of his foes,

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger.

The enemy and avenger are singular, so we should be thinking of the Enemy, the Dragon who wants you to die, rather than generic enemies of God.

Connect those ideas: babies who will defeat dragons. David is poetically retelling the protoevangelium of Genesis 3, God’s promise to Eve that her offspring will be the Serpent-crusher. The preserving of this line of the seed has been the great drama of much of the Old Testament, the people are longing for the new king, the new Adam, to come and rescue.

Then the Psalm continues to speak of the creation, and then we get back to verse four. Which says, in my translation:

What is Enosh that you are mindful of him

and the Son of Adam that you care for him.

The word Adam in Hebrew means Man, and so does Enosh. Enosh is the son of Seth, the son of Adam (Genesis 5).

Implicitly David refers to Enosh, then Seth (son of), then Adam. Especially in the context of the baby who will defeat the enemy, James Hamilton is keen to suggest that we should read these as suggestions towards the seed.

In his superb book Typology, Hamilton argues that David is presenting himself as a new Adam, the king of Israel, the vice-regent of Yahweh. He had, after all, killed a snake. Which even then is meant to point beyond him to the son of David, the one who called himself the Aon of Adam or ‘Son of Man’ (Mark 2), Jesus the Christ.

‘Son of Man’ is one of those terms that we get hung up on, not entirely sure of what it means. We think we get Son of God, assuming that it is a term meaning that Jesus was God. That’s not right by the way, Son of God is a kingly title that’s also applied to Israel.

Perhaps surprisingly to us, Son of Man is the bigger and grander title, and we should read it in two ways: one as here in Psalm 8, the Son of Adam, the Serpent-slayer. The other as in Daniel 7, where Daniel extends the promise of the new Adam to show us that he is God come himself.

Son of Man, after Daniel has prophesied at least, is a messianic title larger than just any King, and it’s a title that claims you are the one who will sit at the right hand of the Ancient of Days.

And before someone feels too clever and wants to point out that Daniel 7 is written in Aramaic and so the phrase Son of Man doesn’t connect to Adam at all: you’re right. But the Aramaic word for man does derive from Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam.

When you’re next reading the New Testament and you come across a reference to Jesus as the Son of Man or the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15) or a second Adam (Romans 5), this grand story is what is in mind. You’re being told that he is the redemption promised to Eve, the dragon-slaying prince of heaven, who has come to stick a sword (Revelation 19) in the Enemy. Death will die, Evil will shrivel, Pain will perish: the Satan will be accused and judged.

And then Life will reign, forever and ever. Amen.

Photo by Tim Wildsmith on Unsplash

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