Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 11, Shimei Executed

In the remainder of Chapter 2 we find Solomon dealing with someone his father warned him about: Shimei the Benjamite.

We first encountered Shimei in 2 Samuel 16 when David left Jerusalem ahead of the arrival of Absalom and his supporters. David did this so the city would not be besieged and its citizens would not suffer casualties, plus he needed to protect his own life and the lives of his family members. As David and those with him traveled toward safety at the fortified city of Mahanaim, Shimei came out and cursed David and his men, throwing rocks and dirt at them as they wearily trudged down the roadway. Shimei was happy to hear that Absalom was attempting to usurp the throne because, as a man of the clan of the late King Saul, he felt David had no right to the throne. I presume he wanted a man of the house of Saul on the throne instead. David's men offered to kill Shimei for cursing the king but David showed him mercy on that day and he showed him mercy again on the day Shimei met him as he prepared to cross the Jordan on his way back to his throne in Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 19. David promised Shimei he would not take his life. But he did not promise him that no one else would ever take his life if he performed further acts of wickedness. 

Before David passed away he advised Solomon: "Do not consider him innocent. 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 2:9) David felt Shimei could never be trusted and that he represented a threat to Solomon, likely because David was aware of things Shimei was still saying or doing in support of the house of Saul. We don't find any information that Shimei was involved in Adonijah's conspiracies but for some reason---for good reason I am sure---Solomon chooses to place Shimei under a type of quite comfortable and reasonable house arrest. "Then the king sent for Shimei and said to him, 'Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, but do not go anywhere else. The day you leave and cross the Kidron Valley, you can be sure you will die; your blood will be on your own head.'" (1 Kings 2:36-37)

You may be familiar with the expression, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Keeping Shimei close to the palace allows Solomon to monitor his activities. If Shimei were allowed to go back to his estate at Bahurim in the territory of Benjamin he would be more difficult to keep an eye on. Shimei realizes that Solomon could put him to death for his past treatment of King David (indeed, if Solomon were a pagan king he probably would do just that) and he seems grateful at first for Solomon's mercy. Solomon is allowing him to build his own home and, since Shimei is quite wealthy, this means he can live in a great deal of comfort in Jerusalem. He just can't leave Jerusalem and its surrounding area because he is to regard it as a sanctuary city, in a manner of speaking, and a man required to reside in a sanctuary city was safe as long as he did not go outside the borders of the prescribed area. "Shimei answered the king, 'What you say is good. Your servant will do as my lord the king has said.' And Shimei stayed in Jerusalem for a long time." (1 Kings 2:38)

Shimei resides in the capital city of Israel in comfort in a fine home for three years and obeys Solomon's orders never to go past the Kidron Valley. But then two of his slaves run away and he decides to go after them himself. Whether these men run away simply to be free from slavery or whether they run away because Shimei treats them cruelly, we are not told, but I wouldn't be surprised to know Shimei is an unkind master to them. "But three years later, two of Shimei's slaves ran off to Achish son of Maakah, king of Gath, and Shimei was told, 'Your slaves are in Gath.' At this, he saddled his donkey and went to Achish at Gath in search of his slaves. So Shimei went away and brought the slaves back from Gath." (1 Kings 2:39-40) 

"When Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and had returned, the king summoned Shimei and said to him, 'Did I not make you swear by the Lord and warn you, 'On the day you leave to go anywhere else, you can be sure you will die? At that time you said to me, 'What you say is good. I will obey.' Why then did you not keep your oath to the Lord and obey the command I gave you?'" (1 Kings 2:41-43) Shimei not only gave his solemn promise to Solomon but also gave his solemn promise to the Lord and took an oath in His name. If this vow means nothing to him, what does? If he's incapable of keeping his word to the Lord or to the Lord's anointed king in such a small matter, how can he be trusted in more important matters? He does not respect King Solomon and feels it unnecessary to keep the oath he made to him even though the oath was made in the name of the Lord. He recognizes no one's authority over him and has no regard for the laws of God or man. A person like this is very dangerous. 

If Shimei made any reply to the charges against him, the author did not record his words. I think it's likely he made no reply at all because he's clearly guilty of violating a sacred oath and breaking the law. His inability to keep his word has sealed his fate. Solomon did not want to have to put him to death and would not have put him to death if Shimei had fulfilled his oath. But since Shimei is too wicked to keep an oath, Solomon carries out the penalty for breaking it. All the blame for Shimei's death is on Shimei and no one else. "The king also said to Shimei, 'You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the Lord will repay you for your wrongdoing. But King Solomon will be blessed, and David's throne will remain secure before the Lord forever.' Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck Shimei down and he died." (1 Kings 2:44-46a)

At this point any conspiracy against the throne has been successfully dealt with. Adonijah has been executed. Abiathar has been defrocked and banished. Joab has been executed. Shimei, who may or may not have taken part in the conspiracy but who certainly does not recognize Solomon's authority over him, has been executed. No one is coming forward now to present themselves as a rival to King Solomon. "The kingdom was now established in Solomon's hands." (1 Kings 2:46b)

Solomon is a very young king, believed to be anywhere from eighteen to twenty, and he lacks political experience. His father cannot guide him and some of his father's advisors proved themselves to be traitors. Solomon needs help from someone whose advice is always one hundred percent correct, so in tomorrow's study we find him praying to the Lord for the wisdom to lead the nation.

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