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Bible Dictionaries

Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters


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SHIMEI was a reptile of the royal house of Saul. When Shimei saw David escaping for his life out of Jerusalem, Satan entered into Shimei, and he came forth and cursed at David as he passed by. And he cast stones at David, and cried, Thou bloody man, thou man of Belial, he cried. The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul. Behold, thou art taken in thy wickedness, because thou art a bloody man. Why should that dead dog curse the king in that way? said Abishai to David. Let me go over and take off his head. But the king answered to Abishai, So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him. And still as David went on his way, Shimei also went along on the hillside over against David, and he cursed as he went, and he threw stones at David and cast dust. But David held his peace; for David had said to Abishai, It is the Lord.

Political and ecclesiastical party spirit turn us all, on occasion, into reptiles like Shimei. Shimei knew as well as you do that David had never shed a single drop of Saul's blood. So far from that, David's men were astonished and offended at David that he had let Saul go scot-free again and again when he had him in his power. And Shimei knew that quite well. But Shimei hated the truth that he knew. It was not Shimei's interest to admit the truth that he knew. He would not let the truth light on his mind for one moment, especially about David. Nothing was right that David did. Everything was wrong that David had any hand in. If you had a word to say for David, Shimei would follow you about also with curses and stones and dust. Shimei had everything to expect from Saul, and he knew that he had nothing to expect from David; and, therefore, David was a bloody man and a son of Belial. You know Shimei. At any rate, all who know you intimately know Shimei. Charity seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. But you never yet knew a fierce political or ecclesiastical partisan who had charity. When our political and ecclesiastical partisans begin to have charity we shall no longer need to offer the Lord's prayer every day, and say, Thy kingdom come.

Abishai looked up and saw a dead dog barking and biting out of his own kennel-door in Bahurim that day. But it was the Lord to David. David had nothing to do with the fall of Saul on Mount Gilboa; but the fall of Uriah in the front of the battle before Rabbah was ever before David, and never more so than it was that day as he crossed the Kedron, and passed through Gethsemane, and descended upon Bahurim. So let him curse, for the Lord hath said to him, Curse David. To such a divine use was Shimei put of God that greatest day of David's life. For Shimei that day perfected the good work on David that Absalom and Ahithophel had so well begun. Shimei was David's crowning means of grace that day. That day adorns and seals all David's psalms, and it was Shimei that did it. David had only to point with his finger to the hillside, and Shimei's insult and injury would have ceased for ever. But what profit would Shimei's blood have been to David? David had more sense. David had more grace. David knew himself better than that. And he knew God better than that. There is a Shimei that you wish he were dead. He is such a trial and torment to you. He so hampers and hinders you. He is such a rival to you. He is such a thorn in your pillow, and such a crook in your lot, and such a cross on which you are crucified, and are to be crucified, every day you live. You count up how old he is, and you promise yourself to have so many years of relief and enjoyment after he is in his grave. Oh no! Oh no! Let him live. Let his doctor lengthen his days. Let his bow long abide in its strength. Let him see all the days of his fathers. Let him close your eyes. Let him stand over your grave. Let him inherit your substance. Let him live long after you and rejoice in your portion. For it is the Lord. It is your salvation. And who, then, shall say to the Lord, Why hast Thou done this? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? O the depth both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord. Or who hath been His counsellor?

Now, what is true of bad men is equally true of all our other bad surroundings, and all our other adverse circumstances, as we call them. For they also are all set of God, and kept of God, and made of God to operate on us for a good use. God sets to each one of us all the special surroundings, good and evil, of our several lives. It is too high for us to attain to and to understand. How He can do that to you, and to me, and to all other men, as much as to you and me, that surpasses us. But over-work and difficulty and impossibility are only true of men; they are not true of God. The Divine Nature is not like human nature; at least, not in things like that. God is everywhere, and He is wholly everywhere; and all His power, and all His wisdom, and all His grace, and all His truth, are with, and for, and around, and within every man. And thus it is that He sets every man's circumstances to him, good and bad, as much and as well as if He had no other man on His hand in earth or in heaven. When Almighty God creates another soul; when He elects to eternal life another new sinner; when He regenerates and begins to sanctify another new saint, He, from that moment, besets him behind and before, and lays His hand upon him. And when we awake to all that, we fall in with it all with unceasing wonder and with unceasing thanksgiving. O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Whither shall I flee from Thy Spirit? How precious, also, are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! He believes nothing who does not believe that. He knows nothing who does not know that. He has not begun to live who lives not always under that. And he will soon come to see God in everything that befalls him; and not God only, but God his Sanctifier and his Saviour. And then he will not let one atom of his most adverse circumstances be altered, lest he should thereby lose something of his full salvation. And when any of his friends, for his protection, or for his peace, or for his comfort would fain remove out of his life aught that tempts and tries him; aught that tramples on him and humbles him; aught that plagues him and vexes him and leads him into sin, like David to Abishai at Bahurim he says to him, Let it alone, for it is the Lord. You say to me rare things about design, and adaptation, and environment, and means to ends, and final causes, and what not; and you both astonish and edify me. But if you fear God, and come, I will tell you how He environs my soul, and how He adapts you and all you say and do, to the good of my soul. If you could see and study my soul, even as I see it and study it, you would see something to make a science out of it. You would see a design and an end and a final cause, the greatest and the best-your soul under sanctification and mine-a final cause and an end next to God Himself. You would see all things in my world and in my generation, all working together upon me for my good. And all so secretly, so exquisitely, so intricately, so surely, and so infallibly working together of God. No. If you love my soul and its salvation, you must not alter by a single hair's breadth any single thing of all my circumstances; not, at least, till you are sure that I have got its divine end and design out of it. Especially not my trying, and tempting, and searching, and sifting, and sanctifying circumstances. And least of all Absalom and Ahithophel and Shimei. Every hour of every day; every man I meet; every word that enters my ear; every sight that enters my eye; all my thoughts within me that like a case of knives wounds my heart-it is all the Lord! If this life were all, then, I admit, it might be different. If you denied the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul, then I could understand you. But I cannot understand a man who believes in the sanctification and the eternal life of his own soul escaping the only and sure path of life like that. It is the Lord, and He is set upon my salvation. He is set upon my humility, my submissiveness, my meekness, my gentleness, my resignation, my contentment, my detachment, my self-denial, my cross, my death to sin, my death to myself, my unearthliness, my heavenly-mindedness, my conformity to Christ, and my acceptance of Him-and what a splendid use is all that to which to put all the things that otherwise would be so much against me! And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Let this Benjamite alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look upon mine affliction. And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went on the hill's side over against David, and cursed David, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.

The magnificent use to which God puts the greatest of all His people's evils must not be attempted before a common congregation. Had we an elect-enough and a sympathetic-enough audience, this would make a splendid subject for the evening of the Lord's day. But we would need to have before us only the heavenly-minded, and the much-exercised, and the teachable, and the child-like; while all the frivolous and the captious, and all those given to disputes and debates about divine things should stay at home. There are plenty of materials for this great head of our subject lying scattered over the whole face of Holy Scripture. And the great masters have sometimes taken up this subject, after Holy Scripture. Samuel Rutherford, for example, comes often upon it in his Letters and in all his books. But after he has said all that it is possible to say upon it, he exclaims, Oh! what a deep is here, that created wit cannot take up! Jonathan Edwards takes it up with all his matchless wit in his fine letter to Thomas Gillespie of Carnock, and elsewhere in his golden works. And what do you say to Shakespeare himself?

O benefit of ill! now I find true
That better is by evil still made better!
And ruined love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
So I return rebuked to my content,
And gain by ill thrice more than I have spent.
And then, of death, the wages of sin. Can any good be said of death? Yes; by the proper man.

Death,' says Thomas Shepard, 'is the very best of all our gospel ordinances. For in all His other ordinances Christ comes, on occasion, to us; but in a believer's death Christ takes us to be for ever with Him.' A fair specimen of Shepard. And, to bind up this bold anthology with George Herbert:

Death, thou wert once an uncouth, hideous thing,
Nothing but bones.
But since our Saviour's death did put some blood
Into thy face;
Thou art grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.

This brings us to David's deathbed; and David's deathbed has never been without its own difficulties to thoughtful and reverential readers. For Shimei with all his good and all his bad uses comes back again to David's deathbed to tempt and to try David, and to discover what is in David's dying heart. The deathbed sayings of God's saints have a special interest and a delightful edification to us; but David's last words to Solomon about Shimei-we would pass them by if we could. Three or four several explanations of those terrible words of David have been offered to the distressed reader by able men and men of authority in such matters. I shall only mention some of those offered explanations, and leave you to judge for yourselves. Well, some students of the Old Testament are bold to take David's dreadful words about Shimei out of David's mouth altogether, and to put them into the mouth of the prophet who has preserved to us David's life and death. Those awful words, they say, are that righteous prophet's explanation and vindication of the too late execution of Shimei by Solomon after his reprieve had come to an end with the death of David. Others, again, and they, too, some of our most conservative and orthodox scholars, say to us that the text should run in English in this way: 'Hold him not guiltless; at the same time bring not his hoar head down to the grave with blood.' You will blame me for my too open ear to such bold scholarship; and you will think it very wrong in me to listen to such bad men. But the heart has its reasons, as Pascal says, and my heart would stretch a considerable point in textual criticism to get Shimei's blood wiped off David's deathbed. Another interpretation is to take the text as it stands, and to hear David judicially charging Solomon about a case of too long delayed justice against a blasphemer of God and the king. And then the last explanation is the most painful one of all, and it is this, that David had never really and truly, and at the bottom of his heart, forgiven Shimei for his brutality and malignity at Bahurim. And that all David's long-suppressed revenge rushed out of his heart against his old enemy when he lay on his bed and went back on the day on which he had fled from Jerusalem. You can choose your own way of looking at David's deathbed. But, in any case, it is Bahurim that we shall all carry home, and carry for ever henceforth, in our hearts. We shall have, God helping us, David's Bahurim-mind always in us henceforth amid all those who insult and injure us, and say all manner of evil against us falsely; and amid all manner of adverse and sore circumstances, so as to see the Lord in it all, and so as to work out our salvation amid it all. And the Lord will look upon our affliction also, and will requite us good for all this evil, if only we wisely and silently and adoringly submit ourselves to it.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Shimei'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. 1901.

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