By Shawn McMullen
King David and his men approached the village of Bahurim on a road leading from Jerusalem to the Jordan valley. This particular journey wasn’t for business or pleasure. He was fleeing for his life from his rebellious son Absalom.
It wasn’t a good day. And to make matters worse, they began to hear cursing from the hillside above them, accompanied by a shower of stones and choking dust. The great king of Israel and his mighty warriors were being pelted with debris launched by a disgruntled subject.
The perpetrator was a relative of Saul named Shimei. Not being the kind of man to mind his own business, Shimei seized upon David’s misfortune and began to curse and insult him. The Bible doesn’t give us a description of Shimei, but in my mind I picture him as a small, wiry man—a biblical version of Mayberry’s Ernest T. Bass—with a penchant for throwing things.
Shimei’s loose tongue was not lost on David’s men. Abishai offered to climb the hill and cut off his head. I wonder if David paused for a moment to relish the possibility. In the end, however, he rejected Abishai’s rash offer and chose instead to leave Shimei to his antics as he and his men continued on the road. David viewed the situation somewhat stoically, instructing, “Leave him alone; let him curse . . . . It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today” (2 Samuel 16:11, 12). The scene ends with David and his men continuing on their journey “while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt” (v. 13).
Time passed and Absalom’s bid for the kingdom failed. As David made his way back to Jerusalem, many loyal subjects met him at the Jordan to help bring him across the river.
Interestingly, Shimei was among them. When he came to the king he prostrated himself and begged for forgiveness. Remembering Shimei’s former insult, Abishai once again suggested he be put to death. But David graciously spared his life.
That wasn’t the end of the story for Shimei, however. Before David died, he said to his son Solomon, “And remember, you have with you Shimei . . . who called down bitter curses on me. . . . You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood” (1 Kings 2:8, 9).
There’s more to the story, but in the end, Shimei disobeyed a direct order from Solomon, prompting the king to say to him, “You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the Lord will repay you for your wrongdoing” (v. 44). Solomon gave the order and Shimei was struck down and killed.
It took years, but Shimei’s harsh words finally caught up with him. I wonder if Solomon thought about this incident when he wrote, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).