10. And I wept, my soul fasted; and that was laid to me as a reproach. 11. I also made sackcloth my clothing: and I became a proverb to them. 12. They who sit in the gate defame me: and I am the song of those who drink intoxicating liquor. 13. But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Jehovah! in a time of thy favor, [or good-will,] O God: answer me in the multitude of thy mercy, in the truth of thy salvation.
10. And I wept, my soul fasted. David here proves, by the signs or effects, that his efforts to promote the Divine glory proceeded from a pure and well-regulated zeal, inasmuch as he was not impelled or inflamed by the impetuosity of the flesh, but rather humbly abased himself before God, choosing him to be the witness of his sorrow. By this he shows the more evidently the incorrigible perversity of his enemies. It frequently happens, that those who set themselves boldly for the vindication of the glory of God, provoke and exasperate the wicked to a higher pitch by opposing them contentiously and without moderation. But David's zeal was so tempered that it ought to have softened even the hardness of steel. By this circumstance he, however, intended to show that he was oppressed with such violence by the frowardness of his enemies, that he dared not even open his mouth to speak a single word in defense of the cause of God, and no other means were left him of defending it but tears and mourning. He was deprived, as we know, of the liberty of giving utterance to the sentiments of his heart, or rather his words, as being those of a condemned person, would have been repelled with cruel reproaches. It was a proof of the greater constancy when in such circumstances he continued to burn with a zeal as unabated as ever, and persevered in the voluntary sorrow which he had engaged to exercise with the view of maintaining the honor and glory of God. He accordingly declares, that he wept and that his soul fasted, and that he was clothed with sackcloth; which were the tokens of mourning among the Jews. But his enemies turned all these things into mockery and jesting;1 from which it is manifest that they were carried away with the fury of demons. It is of importance for us to be fortified with such an example, that in the present day we may not be discouraged when we meet with the same perversity by which the enemies of the Gospel prove themselves to be rather devils than men. We must, however, beware of pouring oil upon the fire which is already burning too fiercely, and should rather imitate David and Lot, who, although they had not liberty to rebuke the wicked, were yet deeply grieved in their hearts. And even when the wicked are constrained to hear us, mildness and humility will be a powerful means, or rather will be the best seasoning, for tempering holy zeal. Those who conceive of David as intimating that he resigned himself to suffer punishment in the room or stead of his enemies, attempt to confirm their opinion from his having clothed himself in sackcloth. But I take it more simply as meaning, that when he saw things in such a state of confusion, he voluntarily engaged in this sorrowful exercise to testify that nothing was more grievous to him than to witness the sacred name of God exposed to contumely.
12. They who sit in the gate defame me. Had David been molested only by vulgar buffoons and the refuse of the people, it would have been more easily endured; for it is not surprising that mean persons, who have no regard to what is becoming and honorable, degrade themselves by indulging in defamation without shame. But when the very judges, forgetful of what is demanded by the dignity of their office, abandon themselves to the same audacious conduct, the iniquity and baseness of it is greatly aggravated. Accordingly, David expressly complains that he was made a by-word and a proverb by those in the highest ranks of life. The opinion of some who, by the expression, they who sit in the gate, understand the whole people,2 is both frigid and inconsistent with the words of the text; for although men of every rank and condition assembled at the gates, yet none but the judges and counsellors sat there.3 This is confirmed by the second clause of the verse; for by those who drink strong drink,4 is doubtless meant the rulers who were elevated by their wealth and dignity. It was, indeed, very cruel treatment, that this holy man was not only harassed by the lower classes of the people, but that the very persons who presided in the cause of justice, and the dignitaries of the Church, were in this ringleaders to others. As the same thing happens in our own day, it is not without cause that the Holy Spirit has set this example before our eyes. In the Papacy we find that the higher a man is exalted in honor, he is proportionally the more violent and outrageous in his opposition to the Gospel and its ministers, that he may exhibit himself a more valiant defender of the Catholic faith. Yea, this is a malady with which almost all kings and princes are smitten; which arises from their not regarding true dignity and excellence as consisting in virtue, and from their thinking that they are entitled to act without restraint as they please. And what is the estimation in which they hold the faithful servants of Christ? It is a fact which cannot be denied, that one of the principal things about which they are concerned is, to scoff at and defame them, not only at their tables, but also on their thrones, in order, if possible, to shame them into a renunciation of their faith. In general, also, they sneer at all the people of God, and enjoy themselves in descanting upon their simplicity, as if they were fools in wearying and wasting themselves in the service of God.
13. But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Jehovah! It was a sign of uncommon virtue in David, that even this hard treatment could not shake his mind, and sink him into despondency. He informs us of the means by which he fortified himself against that terrible stumbling-block. When the wicked directed against him their witty and scoffing remarks, as if engines of war, to overthrow his faith, the means to which he had recourse for repelling all their assaults was pouring out his heart in prayer to God. He was constrained to keep silence before men, and, being thus driven out from the world, he betook himself to God. In like manner, although the faithful in the present day may be unable to make any impression upon the wicked, yet they will ultimately triumph, provided they retire from the world, and go directly to God to present their prayers before him. The meaning, in short, is, that David, having tried every means in his power, and finding that his labor was to no purpose, left off dealing with men, and dealt with God only. What follows, a time of thy favor, O God! is explained otherwise by many interpreters, who read the two clauses of the verse in one sentence, thus: But as for me, I prayed to God in a time of his favor; corresponding to that passage in Isaiah 55:6, "Call ye upon him while he is near." Others resolve it thus: I prayed that the time of favor might come, and that God would begin to be merciful to me. But David is rather speaking of the consolation which he then received by reflecting with himself, that although it was now a time of trouble with him, and although his prayers seemed to be altogether unavailing, yet God's favor would have its turn also. Thus the Prophet Habakkuk says,
"I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will
watch to see what he will say unto me." (Habakkuk 2:1)
In like manner, Isaiah says,
"I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob;" (Isaiah 8:17)
and Jeremiah 14:22,) "We will wait upon thee." The only means by which, in our affliction, we can obtain the victory, is by our having hope shining in us in the midst of darkness, and by our having the sustaining influence which arises from waiting for the favor of God. After David has thus fortified himself for continued perseverance in the attitude of waiting, he immediately adds, Answer me in the multitude of thy goodness; and to goodness he joins the truth of salvation,5 intimating that God's mercy is proved by indubitable effect when he succours his servants who are reduced to the very depths of despair. What prompted him to present this prayer was, the full persuasion which he had, that the darkness in which he was now involved would in due time be dispelled, and that a serene and unclouded season of God's favor would succeed; a persuasion which arose from his recalling all his thoughts to God, lest he should faint by reason of the harassing treatment which he met with from the wicked.
1 "That was turned to my reproach; i.e., it was made a subject of reproach to me." -- Cresswell.
2 "They that sit in the gate -- vain and idle persons who spent their time there, in which there used to be a confluence of people." -- Rosenmuller. "They that sit in the gate; i.e., the elders. The expression may, however, be put for the crowd assembled there to hear the decisions of the magistrates: compare 2 Kings 7:1-18." -- Cresswell.
3 Judges sat there in the exercise of their judicial functions; the gates of cities being anciently the places where courts of judicature were held for trying all causes, and deciding all affairs. See Job 29:7, compared with verses 12, 16, and 17; Deuteronomy 25:7; Ruth 4:1, 2; 1 Kings 22:10; Esther 2:19.
4 "Bibentes siceram." -- Lat. Cresswell has the following note on this clause of the verse: "More literally, I am the subject of the songs of them that drink sicera. Sicera was, according to Chrysostom, an intoxicating liquor, made from the juice of the palm-tree; the fruit of that tree being bruised and fermented, was probably the beverage of the lower orders, like the bouza of Æthiopia."
5 Dr Wells explains, the truth of thy salvation, as meaning, "according to the promises thou hast made of saving me."