David was fleeing from his son, Absalom, who had won the favour of the people of Israel, and had taken the throne by stealth and guile.
This man had nursed a grudge against king David ever since king Saul's death. He clearly blamed David for the death of Saul, and now, David's throne had been taken by Absalom, and Shimei was determined to 'rub David's nose in it' as we might say today.
During a battle between the armies of David and Absalom, Absalom was killed and David was restored to the throne. As David travelled back to Jerusalem, Shimei humbled himself before the king and apologized.
David, pleased to be restored to the throne, was merciful:
Words have consequences
Shimei must have thought he had escaped judgement, but once said, words cannot be unsaid. There came a day when those words of Shimei, when he cursed David and threw stones at him, had consequences for him. Just before his death, David held a counsel with his son, Solomon, who now reigned instead of David, and he charged him concerning Shimei. David said to Solomon:
It wasn't long before Solomon called for Shimei and effectively confined him to Jerusalem:
After three years of dwelling safely in Jerusalem, Shimei travelled to Gath to bring back two of his servants who had run away from him. He successfully completed this act and probably thought he had got away with it. But he was seen and the news reached king Solomon. Once again Shimei had to stand before Solomon and be judged. Solomon carried out his former promise and had Shimei killeddire consequences because of words.
What can we learn from this?
Words often have consequences. There are many Bible verses that tell us to be careful of our words. Here are a few such verses from the book of Proverbs.
Here we have both ends of the stick: how to turn someone's anger from you, and in the second half of the verse, how to make the matter worse!
How often we hear a torrent of words from people who know nothing about some matter. For example, people are often 'convicted' of a crime by the media, or by gossip, when the Police have held them for questioning. The wise person will only speak of that which he knows.
This is something that Shimei would have been wise to observe.
Gentle words are more likely to soften the heart, than any attempt at robust persuasion.
Yes, telling lies about someone is a deadly weapon.
We do well to learn how and when to use words. James has a few things to say about the use of words in James chapter 3, but I'll leave you to read that for yourself.
© Paul Rose 2003 <http://www.twoedgedswordpublications.co.uk/Articles/Shimei's_Folly.htm>