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.
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.