“And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But now, 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” (emphasis added).

1 Kings 2:8-9 (NIV)

Before King David died, he charged his son Solomon with exacting justice against Joab, who murdered Abner, son of Ner, and Amasa, son of Jether. David also gave this charge to Solomon about Shimei, who cursed him when he fled from Absalom. It seems here in 1 Kings 2:8-9 that David is breaking his oath not to kill Shimei for his actions against David and his company because he advises Solomon to “Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood” because Shimei isn’t innocent. However, is that what’s really happening in these verses? David is honorable, so it doesn’t make sense to keep an oath and then break it by telling someone else to do his dirty work.

The keys to understanding what David told Solomon are in these three things David said.

  1. “Do not consider him innocent.”

Let’s look back at what Shimei did.

As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel!

2 Samuel 16:5-7 (NIV)

Shimei committed treason and assaulted the king.

  1. “You are a man of wisdom.”

Even before the Lord granted Solomon extraordinary wisdom, he was already a pretty smart guy. As such, he would know that someone like Shimei, a wicked and traitorous man, couldn’t stop himself from sinning against the crown.

  1. “You will know what to do to him.”

Solomon knows how to handle traitors. That’s what David’s saying here.

So, what David told Solomon was that Shimei was a traitor, and as a traitor, he could very well do something traitorous again. Therefore, keep an eye on him, and when he does something, deal justice to him. Thus, David didn’t tell Solomon to exact vengeance on his behalf.

The Bible tells us to forgive people when they sin against us. I believe that David, in keeping his oath, forgave Shimei. However, David remembered the type of man Shimei was. Indeed, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when someone slaps us. However, Jesus doesn’t tell us to go back for more. Consider the lack of wisdom in being bitten by a snake and then keeping the snake around to bite you again. No, instead, you would warn others, “Be careful, there’s a snake over there.”

Therefore, when we examine what David actually said to Solomon and why he said it, we realize David didn’t break his oath to Shimei.