Letting Critics Curse

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” (2 Samuel 16:9-10)

It’s great to have defenders. Some know all too well what it is like to be attacked and have few or none to defend you. David knew the blessing of defenders like Abishai, who stood up for David when a man named Shimei cursed David, essentially kicking David when he was already down. But our text shows us that such defenders are sometimes a burden and not a blessing.

In theory, David might have accepted the offer of Abishai to “let me go over and take off his head.” Abishai wanted to stop Shimei’s curses and stone throwing. The mighty men surrounding David were more than ready to kill Shimei in an instant. If David accepted their offer it was one less problem to deal with, one less critical voice to hear.

Yet David told Abishai to back down and told him, “so let him curse.” David didn’t try to shut up Shimei. He didn’t close his ears to unpleasant or critical words. David was willing to hear what God might say to him through a cursing critic.

David let Shimei speak because he was not a bloodthirsty man, while Abishai fit that description at least somewhat. This is why David said, “what have I to do with you” when he turned down Abishai’s offer. It was David’s way of saying, “I’m not like you Abishai. You may want blood revenge here, but I don’t.” Ironically, if David were the kind of man Shimei said he was, Shimei would be dead.

David let Shimei speak because he saw the hand of God in every circumstance. This is what David meant when he said, “the Lord has said to him” in reference to Shimei. He knew that God was more than able to shut Shimei up; David didn’t need to give the order. If God allowed Shimei to speak, perhaps there was something that David needed to hear.

David let Shimei speak because he put the “Shimei problem” in perspective. We see this in this statement: “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite?” (2 Samuel 16:11) David knew that his real problem was Absalom, not Shimei and he did not lose this perspective.

David let Shimei speak because he knew that God’s hand was on the future as well as the present. We find this in 2 Samuel 16:12: “It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” David knew that if he did what was right in the present moment, God would take care of the future.

For all of these reasons, David let Shimei speak – and he refused to take revenge when he had an easy opportunity to do so. Some of us never take revenge because we never have an easy opportunity. There’s no nobility of character in not doing what we can’t do anyway. But when we do have the opportunity we must show the same kind of restraint David did.

In his book A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards put these words into the mouth of David at this point: “The throne is not mine. Not to have, not to take, not to protect, and not to keep. The throne is the Lord’s.” It was that kind of heart that kept David on-track through such a difficult time and enabled him bear up under criticism.

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1 reply
  1. Francis Somerwell
    Francis Somerwell says:

    Wonderfully explained, what I feel is that, David was frustrated, his agony of his own son turning against him was hurting more than the words of Shemai, when his spirit was low, David found those curses was a words of his own deep wound. His soldiers had love and affection on him but couldn’t understand what he was going through, that’s the reason David stopped Abishai. David was not in the mood to attack Shemei then, the curses were soothing to his heart of wounded. But David when he came to his senses later, it was in his heart, David at the later age, asked his men to take of Shemei’s life. So even though on David’s part he didn’t take his life, but certainly Shemei had it for his nonsense behavior for cursing unruly words on the chosen man of God.


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