2 Samuel 16:5-14 – David’s Humbling


2 Samuel 16:5-14


As David flees from his son, Shimei curses him for his violence toward Saul’s house. David insists that his men not kill Shimei for his words. Indeed, after the kingdom is restored to David, Shimei is not punished until after David’s death.


Fundamentally, Shimei is not wrong about David. David had warred against the house of Saul and would cause the grisly deaths of many more of Saul’s descendants. Further, God agreed with Shimei that David was a man of bloodshed (1 Chronicles 28:3). The error, if any, made by Shimei was that Absalom’s rebellion was not because of violence toward Saul’s house, but toward Bathsheba’s and Uriah’s. David must have recognized the (at least) partial truth of Shimei’s words as he wonders if God has sent Shimei to curse him.   

After David returns to the kingship, Shimei (along with Ziba, Mephibosheth’s disloyal servant), comes down to the Jordan to welcome him back to the land, and to beg his pardon. For the second time, David prevents his companions from killing Shimei. But David does not forgive and forget. As he prepares to hand the kingdom over to Solomon, David instructs his son to be sure to punish Shimei for the curses Shimei heaped upon David during his flight from danger. Solomon ultimately has Shimei executed for breaking the terms of his house arrest (1 Kings 2:8-9, 36-46). 

David’s willingness to accept abuse from Shimei as if from the LORD is indicative of David’s potential to reform. As one of God’s favored kings, this pattern of accepting discipline and correction sets David apart from subsequent kings who neither accept correction, nor allow the prophets who criticize them to live in peace. Ultimately, David recommends that Solomon exact the vengeance that David forewent during his lifetime. 

Somewhat ironically, in Jewish tradition, Shimei was the one voice preventing Solomon from capitalizing on his instincts to take several foreign wives and build idolatrous places for them to worship in addition to the temple that he built in Jerusalem. According to this tradition, recorded in the Talmud, even while under house arrest, Shimei was an important advisor to Solomon. Shortly after Solomon had Shimei killed, the king would marry the daughter of Pharaoh and construct places for her, and his other wives, to worship their gods (BT Berakhot 8a; 1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 11:1-11). Taking vengeance on Shimei, where his father, David, had restrained himself, led to a downward spiral of sin for Solomon.