Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Character Studies in 2 Samuel: Shimei


Shimei was the man who took the opportunity to attack David verbally when he was down, but he eventually paid a high price for his slander. Shimei was from the house of Saul. When David fled before Absalom, Shimei was thrilled. This was his moment to exact revenge on David and gloat over what appeared to be David’s downfall. Who knows how long he had harbored such ill will against David. He meets the king at Bahurim “cursing continuously as he came” (2 Sam 16:1). He even threw stones at David and his entourage, shouting, “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue!” (v. 7). Shimei took it upon himself to interpret the providential circumstances of David’s flight as God’s judgment upon him for overthrowing Saul’s house: “The LORD has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul…. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” (v. 8).

When faithful Abishai offers to take Shimei’s head off his shoulders for his impertinent outburts, David restrains him. He accepts it as God’s perfect will: “Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him. It may be that the LORD will look on my affliction, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing this day” (2 Sam 16:11-12). So, all the while David and his men retreated, Shimei cursed, threw stones, and “kicked up dust” (v. 13).

The circumstances are quite different when the rebellion has been quelled and David crosses the Jordan returning to Jerusalem. The king meets a penitent Shimei: “Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me, or remember what wrong your servant did on the day that my lord the king left Jerusalem, that the king should take it to heart” (2 Sam 19:19). Abishai again offers to exact a just reward, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?” (v. 21). David, however, will not spoil the day of triumph with bloodshed, even that of his enemy. In mercy he tells Shimei, “You shall not die” (v. 23).

There does come a day of reckoning at last for Shimei. On his deathbed, David instructs Solomon not to hold Shimei “guiltless” but to “bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood” (1 Kgs 2:9). Solomon summoned Shimei and warned him that on the day he crossed the Brook Kidron and left Jerusalem that his blood would be on his own head (v. 37). For three years Shimei abided by the restrictions on his travel, but then he trespassed the rules by pursuing two slaves to Gath. Solomon again summoned Shimei and pronounced sentence, “You know, as you heart acknowledges, all the wickedness you did to my father David; therefore, the LORD will return your wickedness on your own head” (v. 44). Within moments Benaiah has struck Shimei down.

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