We here find how David bore Shimei’s curses much better than he had borne Ziba’s flatteries. By the latter he was brought to pass a wrong judgment on another, by the former to pass a right judgment on himself. The world’s smiles are more dangerous than its frowns. Observe here,
I. How insolent and furious Shimei was, and how his malice took occasion from David’s present distress to be so much the more outrageous. David, in his flight, had come to Bahurim, a city of Benjamin in or near which this Shimei lived, who, being of the house of Saul (with the fall of which all his hopes of preferment fell), had an implacable enmity to David, unjustly looking upon him as the ruin of Saul and his family only because, by the divine appointment, he succeeded Saul. While David was in prosperity and power, Shimei hated him as much as he did now, but he durst not then say anything against him. God knows what is in the hearts of those that are disaffected to him and his government, but earthly princes do not. Now he came forth, and cursed David with all the bad words and wishes he could invent, 2 Sam. 16:5. Observe,
1. Why he took this opportunity to give vent to his malice. (1.) Because now he thought he might do it safely; yet, if David had thought proper to resent the provocation, it would have cost Shimei his life. (2.) Because now it would be most grievous to David, would add affliction to his grief, and pour vinegar into his wounds. He complains of those as most barbarous who talk to the grief of those whom God has wounded, Ps. 69:26. So Shimei did, loading him with curses whom no generous eye could look upon without compassion. (3.) Because now he thought that Providence justified his reproaches, and that David’s present afflictions proved him to be as bad a man as he was willing to represent him. Job’s friends condemned him upon this false principle. Those that are under the rebukes of a gracious God must not think it strange if these bring upon them the reproaches of evil men. If once it be said, God hath forsaken him, presently it follows, Persecute and take him, Ps. 71:11. But it is the character of a base spirit thus to trample upon those that are down, and insult over them.
2. How his malice was expressed. See, (1.) What this wretched man did: He cast stones at David (2 Sam. 16:6), as if his king had been a dog, or the worst of criminals, whom all Israel must stone with stones till he die. Perhaps he kept at such a distance that the stones he threw could not reach David, nor any of his attendants, yet he showed what he would have done if it had been in his power. He cast dust (2 Sam. 16:13), which, probably, would blow into his own eyes, like the curses he threw, which, being causeless, would return upon his own head. Thus, while his malice made him odious, the impotency of it made him ridiculous and contemptible. Those that fight against God cannot hurt him, though they hate him. If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? Job 35:6. It was an aggravation of his wickedness that David was attended with his mighty men on his right hand and on his left, so that he was not in so forlorn a condition as he thought (persecuted but not forsaken), and that he continued to do it, and did it the more passionately, for David’s bearing it patiently. (2.) What he said. With the stones he shot his arrows, even bitter words (2 Sam. 16:7, 8), in contempt of that law, Thou shalt not curse the gods, Exod. 22:28. David was a man of honour and conscience, and in great reputation for every thing that was just and good; what could this foul mouth say against him? Why, truly, what was done long since to the house of Saul was the only thing which he could recollect, and with this he upbraided David because it was the thing that he himself was a loser by. See how apt we are to judge of men and their character by what they are to us, and to conclude that those are certainly evil men that have ever so justly been, or that we ever so unjustly think have been, instruments of evil to us. So partial are we to ourselves that no rule can be more fallacious than this. No man could be more innocent of the blood of the house of Saul than David was. Once and again he spared Saul’s life, while Saul sought his. When Saul and his sons were slain by the Philistines, David and his men were many miles off; and, when they heard it, they lamented it. From the murder of Abner and Ish-bosheth he had sufficiently cleared himself; and yet all the blood of the house of Saul must be laid at his door. Innocency is no fence against malice and falsehood; nor are we to think it strange if we be charged with that from which we have been most careful to keep ourselves. It is well for us that men are not to be our judges, but he whose judgment is according to truth. The blood of the house of Saul is here most unjustly charged upon David, [1.] As that which gave him his character, and denominated him a bloody man and a man of Belial, 2 Sam. 16:7. And, if a man of blood, no doubt a man of Belial, that is, a child of the devil, who is called Belial (2 Cor. 6:15), and who was a murderer from the beginning. Bloody men are the worst of men. [2.] As that which brought the present trouble upon him: “Now that thou art dethroned, and driven out to the wilderness, the Lord has returned upon thee the blood of the house of Saul.” See how forward malicious men are to press God’s judgments into the service of their own passion and revenge. If any who have, as they think, wronged them, should come into trouble, the injury done to them must be made the cause of the trouble. But we must take heed lest we wrong God by making his providence thus to patronise our foolish and unjust resentments. As the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God, so the righteousness of God serves not the wrath of man. [3.] As that which would now be his utter ruin; for he endeavours to make him despair of ever recovering his throne again. Now they said, There is no help for him in God (Ps. 3:2), the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom (not Mephibosheth—the house of Saul never dreamed of making him king, as Ziba suggested), and thou art taken in thy mischief, that is, “the mischief that will be thy destruction, and all because thou art a bloody man.” Thus Shimei cursed.
II. See how patient and submissive David was under this abuse. The sons of Zeruiah, Abishai particularly, were forward to maintain David’s honour with their swords; they resented the affront keenly, as well they might: Why should this dead dog be suffered to curse the king? 2 Sam. 16:9. If David will but give them leave, they will put these lying cursing lips to silence, and take off his head; for his throwing stones at the king was an overt act, which abundantly proved that he compassed and imagined his death. But the king would by no means suffer it: What have I to do with you? So let him curse. Thus Christ rebuked the disciples, who, in zeal for his honour, would have commanded fire from heaven on the town that affronted him, Luke 9:55. Let us see with what considerations David quieted himself. 1. The chief thing that silenced him was that he had deserved this affliction. This is not mentioned indeed; for a man may truly repent, and yet needs not, upon all occasions, proclaim his penitent reflections. Shimei unjustly upbraided him with the blood of Saul: from that his conscience acquitted him, but, at the same time, it charged him with the blood of Uriah. “The reproach is too true” (thinks David), “though false as he means it.” Note, A humble tender spirit will turn reproaches into reproofs, and so get good by them, instead of being provoked by them. 2. He observes the hand of God in it: The Lord hath said unto him, Curse David (2 Sam. 16:10), and again, So let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him, 2 Sam. 16:11. As it was Shimei’s sin, it was not from God, but from the devil and his own wicked heart, nor did God’s hand in it excuse or extenuate it, much less justify it, any more than it did the sin of those who put Christ to death, Acts 2:23; 4:28. But, as it was David’s affliction, it was from the Lord, one of the evils which he raised up against him. David looked above the instrument of his trouble to the supreme director, as Job, when the plunderers had stripped him, acknowledged, The Lord hath taken away. Nothing more proper to quiet a gracious soul under affliction than an eye to the hand of God in it. I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it. The scourge of the tongue is God’s rod. 3. He quiets himself under the less affliction with the consideration of the greater (2 Sam. 16:11): My son seeks my life, much more may this Benjamite. Note, Tribulation works patience in those that are sanctified. The more we bear the better able we should be to bear still more; what tries our patience should improve it. The more we are inured to trouble the less we should be surprised at it, and not think it strange. Marvel not that enemies are injurious, when even friends are unkind; nor that friends are unkind, when even children are undutiful. 4. He comforts himself with hopes that God would, in some way or other, bring good to him out of his affliction, would balance the trouble itself, and recompense his patience under it: “The Lord will requite me good for his cursing. If God bid Shimei grieve me, it is that he himself may the more sensibly comfort me; surely he has mercy in store for me, which he is preparing me for by this trial.” We may depend upon God as our pay-master, not only for our services, but for our sufferings. Let them curse, but bless thou. David, at length, is housed at Bahurim (2 Sam. 16:14), where he meets with refreshment, and is hidden from this strife of tongues.