Curses and Forgiveness
Again today, we have a two part story that bookends David’s flight from Jerusalem in the face of Absalom’s coup. This story deals with a man named Shimei who was a fellow Benjimite with the late King Saul. His story begins as David is leaving Jerusalem and concludes when David returns, just as with Ziba, whom we read about yesterday.
2 Samuel 16:5-14
5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually.
6And he threw 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.
7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man!
8 The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”
9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”
10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ ”
11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.
12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.”
13 So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust.
14 And the king and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.
We will discuss what happens in between these two readings in up-coming days. For now, know that David has returned to Jerusalem having regained his throne.
2 Samuel 19:15-23
15 So the king came back to the Jordan, and Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and to bring the king over the Jordan.
16 And Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, from Bahurim, hurried to come down with the men of Judah to meet King David.
17 And with him were a thousand men from Benjamin. And Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, rushed down to the Jordan before the king,
18 and they crossed the ford to bring over the king’s household and to do his pleasure. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan,
19 and said to the king, “Let not my lord hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. Do not let the king take it to heart.
20 For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore, behold, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.”
21 Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?”
22 But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?”
23 And the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.
A beleaguered David continues on his march away from Jerusalem, women and children in tow. He has already been beset by Ziba, telling him that Mephibosheth is after his crown as well as Absalom. Now, he is assaulted by Shimei with curses and stones. This tribe-mate of Saul's allows his rage to fill his mouth with dangerous words; dangerous because to shout such things at the king could easily mean your death. But he doesn’t stop. David is even offered the opportunity to see Shimei’s head removed from his shoulders, but he doesn’t take it. Shimei even eventually begins to shower David (and his company) with dirt. The original Hebrew colorfully says “dirting him with dirt”, changing the noun into a verb. And David shrugs it off, not exacting the revenge that all would see as just. Again we see the character of David. This is a changed David; one who chooses mercy over revenge. We cannot possibly know what was in David’s heart as he listened to the curses of Shimei. We can be certain that he was tired, possibly frightened, and definitely troubled. His kingdom was collapsing at his feet. Yet in the middle of this stress, he chooses mercy. A man’s life is spared and later, restoration is granted. Had David seen Shimei killed, that would never have been possible.
We are sometimes fearful to grant mercy to someone who has wronged us. While we may not want to see their head lopped off we are tempted to sever the relationship and close the door on future restoration. This not only hurts them but hurts us as well. Broken relationships always leave a scar and those scars can cause further pain. Like an actual scar on our skin, which can become tight and may possibly even restrict movement, a scar on your spirit can do the same thing. Perhaps you spend energy rehearsing conversations with that person in your mind, or you go out of your way to avoid them. You may even be guilty of speaking poorly of them to others, thus further damaging their reputation and your own. Our take home point for today may be that keeping the door open for a restored relationship is generally a good idea. Of course there are those who are simply unwilling to keep that door open with you. But as far as you are able striving to pave the path toward forgiveness is a good idea. David comes through once again as a positive role model.