The Judgment Of Shimei
“And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”—Exodus 34:6, 7
The Biblical account of Shimei, son of Gera, is a brief one. Only four passages of Scripture refer to him. They show a contrast between forgiveness and judgment.
Shimei was of the same family as King Saul and evidently opposed the accession of David to the throne of Israel. We first meet him on one of the darkest days in King David’s life. David’s son, Absalom, has gained the upper hand in his bid to replace his father on the throne. David and his entourage flee Jerusalem in disarray. Adding to the humiliation of the hour is a young Benjamite running parallel to the road, cursing David and pelting him with dirt and stones.
“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: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head. And the king said, 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? And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day. And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill’s side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.”—2 Samuel 6:5-13
The humility of David in this instance shines out. Not only did he take Shimei’s critical words kindly, but he attributed them to the Lord, saying, “for the Lord hath bidden him.” It is one thing for any of us to accept criticism when offered graciously, but quite another not to react when attacked publicly and in an unkind manner, let alone accompanied by curses and violence.
David’s flight took him to the mountain retreat of Mahanaim where he regrouped his forces and went forth to defend his kingdom against the usurpation of his son. The battle went successfully for the king. His son Absalom was killed to the deep grief of his father. David returned to Jerusalem in triumph to continue his reign.
As he recrossed the Jordan river we again meet Shimei, this time in a far different attitude. No longer cursing David with bold braggadocio, he assumes the position of the humble penitent.
“And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, which was of Bahurim, hasted and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David. . . . And there went over a ferry boat to carry over the king’s household, and to do what he thought good. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan; 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. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord‘s anointed? And David said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me? 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 Sam. 19:16, 18-23
Once again David rejected the counsel of his nephew Abishai, and graciously forgave the grovelling Shimei. He refuse to mar the joy of his triumphant return with a show of vengeance on his enemies.
If the Bible narrative stopped here we would have a lovely anecdotal account of forgiveness for sins against ourselves. But the record of Shimei picks up again many years later, when David is old and about to turn over the kingdom to his son Solomon.
“And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim: 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
Solomon does not proceed to act quickly on his father’s orders, but gives Shimei space to prove that he has truly repented. King Solomon restricts Shimei to the confines of Jerusalem, offering it to him for a city of refuge.
The Death Of Shimei
“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. And Shimei said unto the king, The saying is good: as my lord the king hath said, so will thy servant do. And Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days. And it came to pass at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away unto Achish son of Maachah king of Gath. And they told Shimei, saying, Behold, thy servants be in Gath. And Shimei arose, and saddled his ass, and went to Gath to Achish to seek his servants: and Shimei went, and brought his servants from Gath. And it was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and was come again. And the king sent and called for Shimei, and said unto him, Did I not make thee to swear by the Lord, and protested unto thee, saying, Know for a certain, on the day thou goest out, and walkest abroad any whither, that thou shalt surely die? and thou saidst unto me, The word that I have heard is good. Why then hast thou not kept the oath of the Lord, and the commandment that I have charged thee with? The king said moreover to Shimei, Thou knowest all the wickedness which thine heart is privy to, that thou didst to David my father: therefore the Lord shall return thy wickedness upon thine own head; And king Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the Lord for ever. So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; which went out, and fell upon him, that he died. And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.”—2 Kings 2:36-46
The conclusion of the account of Shimei furnishes a practical example of how Israel’s cities of refuge worked. They provided a safe haven as long as the accused resided therein, but afforded no protection beyond their borders. The wisdom of Solomon is also evidenced. By restricting him to Jerusalem, he could execute him for a different sin than that for which his father, David, had granted pardon.
In addition to the moral lessons this account teaches, we find, additionally, an allegory. The first three reigns of Israel’s monarchy—those of Saul, David and Solomon—were each of 40 years duration. Various commentators have noted this and suggested that they contain pictorial lessons of three great ages in God’s plan—the Jewish, Gospel and Kingdom ages respectively.
If this indeed be the case, we find in the Shimei account a case of sins during the Gospel age being deferred to Christ’s Millennial Kingdom for judgment. This accords well with the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 5:24, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.”
The present is not the time for the judgment of men’s sins. In fact we are warned not to judge before the time. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Cor. 5:4).
It is for this reason that the Kingdom is called “The Day of Judgment”. “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
In that Kingdom, as it was in Solomon’s reign, the judgment will not be summary but probational. Men will have an opportunity to maintain pardon for past sins as long as they stay within the confines of the New Jerusalem. (Rev. 21:2)
Shimei left the city to reclaim two slaves which had escaped. They were his property, they owed him their lives. But he was in the same position to Solomon. He was Solomon’s prisoner, indebted to him for the continuation of his life. Freely taking Solomon’s pardon, he was unwilling to grant the same to his servants.
How similar with one of the parables of Jesus where a servant is forgiven a debt of ten thousand talents, but refuses to forgive one who owes him a few pence. The basis for man’s judgment will be based in large part upon the basis of judgment he uses for others. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).
The lesson of Shimei, then, teaches us three important points:
1. To graciously deal with those who despitefully use us and persecute us. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:42).
2. To not expect sins to go unrequited, though the judgment may be deferred. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).
3. The Millennial Kingdom is the time for the judgment of men’s sins, not the present. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. 20:11-13).
The House Of Shimei
The name of Shimei comes up one more time in the Old Testament prophecy. In the twelfth chapter of Zechariah we read how God fights for Israel as he fought in the days of old. We note further that at that time he pours upon Israel the spirit of prayer and of supplication (Zech. 12:10) This produces a mourning in Israel as the mourning for one’s firstborn son. John the Revelator applies this text to the recognition of Messiah by Israel in Rev. 1:7.
In noting this mourning, Zechariah calls attention to the fact that it is done by family units: “And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart” (Zech. 12:12-14).
While this may not be the same Shimei (the Bible does list 19 different Shimeis) the fact that this one is the only one of prominence and is of the same time period as the others mentioned by Zechariah is suggestive that he is the Shimei intended.
The four families mentioned—David, Nathan, Levi and Shimei—may well indicate four categories of people. David represented the royal family; Nathan the prophets; and Levi the priesthood; leaving Shimei as a picture of forgiven mankind. However their forgiveness, like that of Shimei of old, is predicated upon their remaining under the protection of the New Jerusalem.