The story of Shimei covers a period of less than four years. Twice he encounters David and twice he is brought before Solomon. None of these meetings are pleasant.
1. David is confronted by Shimei a few miles outside Jerusalem. The king and his men are returning from skirmishes with the armies of his son Absalom who has usurped David’s throne. Shimei follows David along a ridge, cursing and throwing stones. He calls him a “man of Belial,” meaning a worthless, evil, wicked, and ungodly man. The hateful, vengeful remarks of this distant relative of Saul suggest David is not worthy to be king, deserves to be hunted down, and that God is against him. His allegations are patently false and David’s commander, Abishai, wants to take off his head. David tells Abishai to “Let him curse; perhaps the Lord will extend mercy to me in my sorrow” (II Sam 16:11-12).
2. Although Shimei is quick to afflict David when he is depressed, he is the first to grovel at his feet when the king returns in victory. Shimei brings 1,000 fellow Benjamites with him that fall prostrate before the king in a mock show of humility and repentance. Just days before, Shimei calls David an evil man; now he addresses him as “Lord” (II Sam. 19:19). Shimei now honors David, but his previous actions cause us to question his true motives. Abishai again suggests the man be killed, but David forbids it (vv. 21-23). Shimei seems to be an opportunist. He escapes death earlier because David is defeated and now because David is elated. Shimei’s insincerity will eventually cause him to reap what he sows.
3. Shimei is once again mentioned when David is on his deathbed (I Kgs. 2:1). The king’s remarks indicate pardoning this rebel is just a temporary reprieve. He tells Solomon this guilty man is unworthy of pardon. Just before he dies, David asks him to recall how Shimei grievously cursed him a few months ago. David’s last words are harsh, but he has good reason. David knows Shimei must die, for Solomon’s kingdom cannot be established with seditious men such as Shimei around (v. 46). Retribution is warranted. This cancer must be cut out before it spreads.
4. David vows not to kill Shimei (II Sam. 19:23). But Solomon makes no such promise for he is not bound by his father’s oath. The devious man is placed in “house arrest” in Jerusalem and clearly warned by the king not to leave under penalty of death (I Kgs. 2:36-37). The Kidron brook is the barrier and to pass over it means certain death. Three years later two of Shimei’s slaves escape and he leaves Jerusalem to retrieve them (v. 40). His presumption and premeditation reveal his true character. Shimei is executed for his treatment of David years earlier (v. 44). The scorpion is crushed lest he again attempt to sting the house of David.
The story of Shimei serves to warn all who curse our King and presume upon His grace. Although many defame Jesus, they will ultimately be dealt with. We may want to avenge our Lord like Abishai, but God often delays punishment in order to extend mercy to those who repent and obey Him.