It is quite interesting to consider the events which God preserved in His inspired Word. When you reflect on the many possible events throughout history, no doubt there are many happenings that have been lost to the annuals of time. However, God saw fit to preserve certain events in explicit detail even to the conversations that transpired. These have been preserved so that Christians can learn how God expects us to conduct ourselves in this life.
One such peculiar event is the interaction between King David and Shimei (2 Sam. 16:5-13; 19:15-23). David had been driven from Jerusalem by the attempt of Absalom to usurp the throne. As he reached Bahurim he encountered Shimei, a relative of Saul, who confronted him with cursing and false accusations. This event provides many lessons to Christians who seek to serve God acceptably.
Lesson #1: Recklessness in Anger. Shimei approached the king and his mighty men in an aggressive fashion (2 Sam 16:5-7). Casting stones and cursing the king in the presence of his mighty men is foolish indeed….especially when you reflect upon these battle tested men and their accomplishments (cf. 2 Sam 23:8-39). Abishai, mentioned in verse 18 of that passage, was noted for having slain 300 men with the spear. Abishai desired to execute Shimei for his cursing. Shimei endangered his own life by foolish actions in anger.
Anger causes one to act foolishly. The wise man stated, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…” (Prov. 14:17). Actions in anger are not what God desires to see of His children. James states, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). How dangerous do our actions become when we lash out in anger? One often does things that harm others, damages our relationships and damages our reputation as well as the reputation of others. If you were to reflect on your life, how many times have you acted righteously when you were angry? We say and do things in anger that is contrary to the will of God. This event displays for us the folly of anger.
Lesson #2: We Are Not Alone. During this confrontation, David was probably at a very low emotional state. He was driven from his home by his own son who sought his life (2 Sam. 16:11). David had also left some of his family as well as some of his servants behind at Jerusalem. David perhaps thought that there was no one left one his side. The words of Abishai prove that he was still loyal to David. He was willing to eliminate the threat of Shimei against his king.
As Christians, we sometimes feel that we are alone. It may be an emotional time for us when things aren’t going our way. We need to be reminded that we have the family of God, the body of Christ with us on our side. Paul speaks of the body being many members yet one body (1 Cor 12:14). He further speaks how that all members of the body rejoice and all suffer together (1 Cor 12:26-27). Other passages likewise speak of multiple pieces making up the whole body (c.f. Eph. 4:16). These verses encourage Christians to realize that we are not alone. We have those on our side to help us when we are low and to strengthen when we are weak.
Lesson #3: Do Not Retaliate. How hard must it have been for King David to leave his capital city! His own son was seeking to depose him. How emotional David must have felt! Yet, David did not allow his emotions to cause him to act hastily. He could have easily commanded his mighty men to eliminate Shimei, which Abishai was desirous to do. However, he felt that this may have been a punishment sent from God. Notice David’s words: “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?” (2 Sam. 16:10). David was not going to stand and fight against God. He realized the wastefulness of such an attempt. Had this cursing been from the Lord, David would have been fighting against God in retaliating against Shimei.
During the infancy of the Lord’s church conflict arose. As the council was seeking advice, a wise counselor told the Sanhedrin it was not possible to overthrow the work of God (Acts 5:34-39). If the church was a work of God they would be better not opposing the Lord.
David also was not going to retaliate against Shimei in hope that God would reward him (2 Sam 16:12). Even when things aren’t going our way it is never right to take our vengeance on others. Christian conduct demands a higher moral code. Paul taught, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:18-21). It may be a difficult thing to do; things may not be going well that day. However, David gives us a tremendous lesson in not seeking vengeance against our adversaries in this episode.
Lesson #4: Time for Humility. After David’s forces eliminated the threat of Absalom and even Absalom himself (cf. 2 Sam 18-1-17), David was called again to Jerusalem to sit on the throne. As David was returning, Shimei “hasted and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David” (2 Sam 19:16). Shimei approached the king with a different attitude and conduct in this meeting than previously. He realized the danger his conduct had placed him in and now sought forgiveness for his treachery. The record indicates that Shimei “fell down before the king as he was come over Jordan” (2 Sam 19:18). He wanted David to know that he felt differently and desired forgiveness. Shimei confessed, “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 Sam. 19:19-20).
The confession of sin can be a difficult thing to do for those guilty of such prideful and arrogant actions as this man. However, he humbled himself before the king and his life was spared at this moment. Abishai however, continued to plead with David that he should be executed for his sin of cursing the Lord’s anointed (2 Sam. 19:21).
Lesson #5: Time for Judgment. Shimei was not punished by David at this time. David would not have that joyous occasion marred by the execution of Shimei. However, Shimei was not guiltless and would eventually be held accountable for his wickedness. As David was instructing Solomon of affairs concerning his kingdom, David gave Solomon notice of dealing with Shimei (1 Kings 2:8-9). As Abishai had pointed out Shimei was guilty of cursing the Lord’s anointed, David. Punishment was therefore in order. Solomon would place Shimei under restrictions which he would eventually violate and lead to his punishment.
As Christians, we learn from this that there are consequences for our actions. This makes the earlier discussion in this study so important. Just because emotions are high does not excuse our deeds of foolishness. We must ever be cautious to live according to the law of God. We will stand before God to give account of even the idle words that have been said (cf. Matt. 12:36-37). If one speaks against the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38) and does not seek His forgiveness, he too will one day see punishment.
These lessons and a host of others can be gleaned from this episode between King David and Shimei. One thing is certain. Mankind still faces the same struggles. We still fight the same urges. We still possess the same spirit as those who lived hundreds and thousands of years before our time. It is no wonder why God chose to preserve events such as this for our learning, “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4) and learn to live acceptably unto Him.
Dale is a 2009 graduate of the Tri-Cities School of Preaching in Elizabethton, TN. He preaches for the Wheeler Hill Church of Christ in Pikeville, TN. Dale and his wife Lydia have three daughters.