When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left (2 Samuel 16:5-6 NASB)
After Ziba, the conniving servant of Saul’s household, comes another related to Saul. Only this guy does not bring donkey’s with supplies, but curses. He pelts the travelers with rocks (including the mighty men – how stupid is that?), throws dust, and hurls insults at David. At first I thought he had a death wish, but when I look at the details, that’s not quite true. So, his motivation seems to be harbored resentment toward David that only now finds expression. We’re never told what his problem actually is though. Only that he calls David a ‘man of blood’.
So, what is going on here, why include it, and why is this so important it is revisited at least twice more (chapter 19, and 1 Kings 2)? All I can find are possibilities, but one relies on the idea that part of David’s story is out of order. So here are two possibilities:
Resentment Against the Disruptor of Family?
First, I noted in the last entry that David’s kindness to Mephibosheth was likely very disruptive to Saul’s remaining family. In that now everything Saul had was used to support one person. As I looked at the circumstances of Mephibosheth, that he was summoned from the east side of the Jordan from an unrelated family, I concluded that he had been rejected by Saul’s family. I didn’t mention that Mephibosheth had a son, but as that is only mentioned in passing, it may not be important.
What may be important is that the resources that once supported a sizable clan, now supports one person, who actually is already supported by the king. There could be some resentment harbored because of that. In fact, it’s possible that the upheaval it caused was enough to impoverish some who had been quite wealthy. People are not apt to take reversals in life very well if it’s a downward track.
On the other hand, it could be that what it took to support Mephibosheth wasn’t enough to really cause much damage to the status quo of Saul’s remaining family. In that case, Shemei is really just spouting off anger over no longer being the ruling family in Israel. If that’s the case, he’s basically risking his life over something that really hasn’t changed for him, and wasn’t David’s fault to begin with. His quarrel should have been with the Philistines and the other Israelite tribes who didn’t particularly like Ishbosheth.
Resentment Against the Executioner of Seven Children?
The other idea is that this really is about someone David killed or had killed. I suppose it’s possible that he’s blaming David for Abner’s death, although I would think he would mention that. But David doesn’t do anything but protect Saul’s family (except for the battle at the pool, but that was one incident). The problem could be solved if chapter 21 actually belongs earlier in the story of David. In that story, in order to stop a disaster among the people, David permits the execution of seven of Saul’s sons to atone for Saul’s attempt to destroy the Gibeonites. If that account occurred earlier, then what Shimei says makes perfect sense, except he doesn’t mention it specifically either.
There is a related term used there in chapter 21, though. God refers to ‘Saul’s bloody house’. It sounds British, but He’s referring to Saul killing the Gibeonites (we’re never told about this before). If Shimei had been aware of that term used to indict the seven children of Saul, it would make sense for him to use it here. It would also make some sense why Shimei isn’t interested in who else might be king to replace David, so long as it isn’t David.
Shimei claims David’s ‘bloodshed’ is against Saul’s house, and that David reigned in Saul’s place. If the events in chapter 21 were earlier in David’s reign but after his kindness to Mephibosheth, then what he says could have been a compound of both problems. But what if chapter 21 actually belongs even before Mephibosheth, and the whole reason he was in the Transjordan was to keep him from this Gibeonite atonement? I think that’s a bit too far afield. The kindness of David toward Mephibosheth would have softened Shimei’s attitude had Mephibosheth been ‘protected’. As it was, there was no softness in Shimei.
Whatever the motivation for Shimei’s treatment of David, he was not following God’s advice. David’s response to Abishai indicates that David’s not sure it isn’t, and hopes that if it’s not, God will look favorably on David’s endurance of it. I’m not sure about the validity of David’s theology, but it does seem to agree with Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount and 1 Peter 3:13-16. David seems ready to endure this shame, even after he returns in chapter 19, but keep in mind his advice to Solomon in 1 Kings 2. There he tells Solomon not to let Shimei escape death. This hurt David deeply and he never forgot, nor did he truly forgive Shimei.
The takeaway for me from Shimei and David’s response has to do with resentment. Resentment is something I struggle with greatly. And I have to consider the effects it had on Shimei’s life. It drove him to risk his life to hurl insults on someone wrongly driven from his home. It eventually cost him his life, even after he acknowledged it was wrong (chapter 19). The cost of resentment isn’t only in the outward consequences everyone sees, but also in the effects on the body, and on the family. Those are not always easy to see.
I see in myself that I need to ‘send away’ my resentments. Scripture uses that term for ‘repentance’ as much or more than ‘return’. In this sense, there’s no need for the offender against whom I hold this resentment do anything. I simply send the resentment away. It’s a view of forgiveness that does not rely on the offender in order to be effective. I like that. Had Shimei sent his resentments away, he would have been able to be there with Ziba, passing out summer fruit (hopefully for different reasons). Had Shimei been able to send away his resentments, he would not have been executed for going out to find donkeys later. Had Shimei been able to send away his resentments, it’s possible that he may have made it into Scripture for other reasons besides his mistakes. Now he is remembered for his foolishness.
The question for me is will I send my resentments away? Or will I follow Shimei’s path to foolishness? Now, if I can just figure out how to get rid of them…
That’s my view through this knothole. What’s yours?