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Shimei's Folly


Paul Rose MA

David was fleeing from his son, Absalom, who had won the favour of the people of Israel, and had taken the throne by stealth and guile.

Shimei's folly

And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David (2 Samuel 16:5–6).

This man had nursed a grudge against king David ever since king Saul's death. He clearly blamed David for the death of Saul, and now, David's throne had been taken by Absalom, and Shimei was determined to 'rub David's nose in it' as we might say today.

David's restoration

During a battle between the armies of David and Absalom, Absalom was killed and David was restored to the throne. As David travelled back to Jerusalem, Shimei humbled himself before the king and apologized.

Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king...And said unto the king, Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart. For thy servant doth know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king (2 Samuel 19:18–20).

David, pleased to be restored to the throne, was merciful:

...shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? for do not I know that I am this day king over Israel? Therefore the king said unto Shimei, Thou shalt not die. And the king sware unto him. (2 Samuel 19:22–23).

Words have consequences

Shimei must have thought he had escaped judgement, but once said, words cannot be unsaid. There came a day when those words of Shimei, when he cursed David and threw stones at him, had consequences for him. Just before his death, David held a counsel with his son, Solomon, who now reigned instead of David, and he charged him concerning Shimei. David said to Solomon:

And behold, thou hast with thee Shimei... which cursed me with a grievous curse... but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood. (1 Kings 2:8–9).

It wasn't long before Solomon called for Shimei and effectively confined him to Jerusalem:

And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said unto him, Build thee an house in Jerusalem, and dwell there, and go not forth thence any whither. For it shall be, that on the day thou goest out, and passest over the brook Kidron, thou shalt know for certain that thou shalt surely die: thy blood shall be upon thine own head. (1 Kings 2:36–37).

After three years of dwelling safely in Jerusalem, Shimei travelled to Gath to bring back two of his servants who had run away from him. He successfully completed this act and probably thought he had got away with it. But he was seen and the news reached king Solomon. Once again Shimei had to stand before Solomon and be judged. Solomon carried out his former promise and had Shimei killed—dire consequences because of words.

What can we learn from this?

Words often have consequences. There are many Bible verses that tell us to be careful of our words. Here are a few such verses from the book of Proverbs.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

Here we have both ends of the stick: how to turn someone's anger from you, and in the second half of the verse, how to make the matter worse!

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. (Proverbs 15:2)

How often we hear a torrent of words from people who know nothing about some matter. For example, people are often 'convicted' of a crime by the media, or by gossip, when the Police have held them for questioning. The wise person will only speak of that which he knows.

Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles (Proverbs 21:23).

This is something that Shimei would have been wise to observe.

By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone. (Proverbs 25:15)

Gentle words are more likely to soften the heart, than any attempt at robust persuasion.

and finally:

A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow. (Proverbs 25:18)

Yes, telling lies about someone is a deadly weapon.

We do well to learn how and when to use words. James has a few things to say about the use of words in James chapter 3, but I'll leave you to read that for yourself.

© Paul Rose 2003 <'s_Folly.htm>

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