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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Kings 2

Verse 44

DISCOURSE: 329
SOLOMON PUTS SHIMEI TO DEATH

1 Kings 2:44. The Lord shall return thy wickedness upon thine own head.

FEW parts of Scripture have given more occasion for the cavils of infidels, than that which relates the close of David’s life, and the commencement of Solomon’s reign. Those who delight in disparaging the characters of all the most exalted saints, represent David as dying under the influence of a vindictive spirit; and Solomon as beginning his reign with most flagrant acts of cruelty. But both the one and the other of these saints may be vindicated in what they did; yea rather their conduct must be highly approved, if only we view it in a proper light. Some indeed have vindicated David’s advice, by saying, that though he had sworn to Shimei that he should not be put to death for his offence, Solomon was not bound by his oath. But I answer, that David was as much bound by his oath not to procure the death of Shimei through the instrumentality of another, as he was not to put him to death with his own hand. The true way of vindicating both David and Solomon in reference to all the seeming acts of severity which were recommended by the one and executed by the other, is by viewing them as acts of retributive justice. It is in that light that Solomon himself speaks of the execution of Shimei; and he even represents the punishment as inflicted not by himself only, but by God also.
In considering the subject of retributive justice, we shall shew,

I.

How it should be exercised by men

By men in their individual capacity, it should not be exercised at all—
[We are forbidden to think of retaliating an injury, or of avenging ourselves at all [Note: Proverbs 24:29.]. Yea rather we are taught patiently to bear injuries [Note: Matthew 5:38; Matthew 5:41.]; and tenderly to requite them with acts of kindness [Note: Matthew 5:44.]; and to persist in this conduct till we have melted our adversaries into shame, and overcome them with love [Note: Romans 12:19-21.] — — — Our blessed Lord, who died for his very murderers, has “left us an example that we should follow his steps [Note: 1 Peter 2:21-24.]” — — —]

But, as public men, we may, and must execute justice on those who transgress the laws—
[Magistrates are invested with authority by God himself for this very end: and they are “not to bear the sword in vain:” they are to be a terror to evil-doers, as well as a protection to those who do well.
Now this throws the true light on the advice which David gave to Solomon at the close of his life, and on the conduct which Solomon maintained. David was not actuated by revenge when he advised Solomon to put Joab to death, and to take the first opportunity of visiting on the head of Shimei the sins of which he had been guilty. David knew the characters of both: he knew that Joab would not fail to advance Adonijah to the throne, if ever it should be in his power; and that Shimei still cleaved to the house of Saul as much as ever, and would use all his influence in concert with Joab to dethrone Solomon: David therefore advised him to remove as soon as possible those who would destroy the peace and prosperity of his kingdom. As for Joab, he ought to have been put to death long ago, for the murders he had committed; and David had brought guilt on himself and the whole nation by suffering him to live: and therefore, now that there was no prospect of the people rising in favour of Joab, he recommended that justice should be executed upon him. That David was actuated by no bad spirit in this advice, appears from the charge he gave Solomon at the same time to walk in the strictest observance of God’s commands. We may justly say therefore that the advice was precisely such as a dying monarch ought to have given to a young man, who was just ready to ascend the throne. In like manner Solomon was justified in all the steps he took to establish his kingdom. He had pardoned Adonijah for his conspiracy against him, on the express condition that he should act the part of a good and loyal subject: but seeing speedily his restless ambition, and that the request to have Abishag for his wife was but a device to increase his influence in the state, and to pave the way for his attainment of the throne, he very properly recalled the promise he had made to Bathsheba respecting him (which by no construction whatever could be supposed to extend to such a case as that); and inflicted on him that punishment which his treasonable intentions deserved.
In Adonijah’s late conspiracy Abiathar and Joab had joined, though they all knew that the appointment of Solomon to the throne was not from any partiality in David, but from God himself. Solomon therefore now thrust out Abiathar from the priesthood, and banished him to his native town. This was a mild sentence, in consideration of the services he had rendered unto David in his afflictions.
Joab now saw that justice was coming home to him also: and he fled to the altar, hoping to find the same protection there that Adonijah had found before him: but he was a murderer; and God had expressly ordered that his altar should be no sanctuary for such persons [Note: Exodus 21:14.]: accordingly Solomon ordered that, if he would not come from thence, he should be slain there; that so he might the more manifestly appear to be sacrificed to the justice of his God.

The person spoken of in our text is Shimei, who cursed David in the day of his calamity; but had received from David a free pardon for his offence. This was a very powerful man; for no less than a thousand men attended him when he came to ask pardon: and he retained all his former enmity to David, though he had not been able to manifest it with effect. Him therefore Solomon also pardoned, on condition that he should never go out of the city of Jerusalem, where he might be constantly under the eye of the government. This condition he thankfully accepted: but after three years he violated it, and thus forfeited his life, which Solomon therefore, agreeably to the advice given him by David, required at his hands.
Now, whilst we acknowledge that these acts of retributive justice would have been bad, if they had proceeded from a vindictive spirit, we must affirm that they were both just and necessary, in order to prevent disturbances in the state, and to secure the welfare of the whole nation.]
Such is the way in which retributive justice should be exercised by man. Let us now consider,

II.

How it will be exercised by God

God is the Sovereign of the universe: and though he bears long with his rebellious subjects, he often executes vengeance upon them in this world, as preparatory to the judgments he will inflict upon them in the world to come. In a peculiar manner, as our text expresses it, “he returns their wickedness upon their own head,”

1.

Here—

[Sometimes indeed sinners are left, as it were, wholly to themselves in this world: but even this is a mark of God’s displeasure against them: “Ephraim,” says he, “is joined to idols; let him alone [Note: Hosea 4:17.].” They harden themselves against him, and he gives them up to judicial hardness, as he did Pharaoh of old [Note: Isaiah 6:9-10.]. “They will not believe his word, that they may be saved; and he gives them up to believe their own lie, that they may be damned [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.].” “They will not hear him when he speaks to them; and he turns a deaf ear to them, when in the day of their calamity they cry to him;” thus leaving them to be “filled with their own devices [Note: Proverbs 1:24-31.].”

But in temporal judgments he often marks his indignation against them, and shews them their sin in their punishment. How strikingly was this shewn in the judgments inflicted on Adoni-bezek [Note: Judges 1:6-7.]! and how awfully was David made to behold his crimes in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah, in the ravishment of Tamar by his son Amnon, in the defilement of all his concubines by his son Absalom, and in the murder of Amnon by Absalom! Thus we see now that multitudes are punished in a way so suited to their crimes, that they may even read their crimes in their punishment: their wicked examples are imitated by their children; and they are made to feel the bitterness of their own sins from the sins and calamities of their dearest relatives.

In all such instances we may behold the retributive justice of God. And though it would not be right for us to be hasty in putting this construction on the judgments inflicted upon others, we shall do well to examine how far our own trials may be so interpreted; and to take occasion from our afflictions to put away the sins which they are intended to chastise.]

2.

Hereafter—

[Whether God overlook or punish our sins in this world, he will proceed according to strict equity against us in the world to come. The day of judgment is emphatically called, “the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Then shall every thing be taken into consideration, either to extenuate or aggravate our crimes: “The servant that knew his lord’s will and did it not, shall he beaten with many stripes; whilst the more ignorant transgressor shall be beaten with few.” Every one’s “end will be according to his works:” he will be weighed in a perfect balance, and will “receive according to that he hath done in the body, whether it be good or evil.” His views, his motives, his principles will all be judged: “God will make manifest the counsels of his heart:” and every one shall be constrained to confess that his doom is just — — —]

Let us then learn from this subject,
1.

To be candid in judging others—

[A person looking only superficially at this history would be ready to condemn both David and Solomon for their conduct: but when we view their situation, and enter properly into their motives, we are constrained to approve it Thus it must often happen. We see an action, but we do not exactly enter into all the circumstances that gave it birth: and therefore we judge erroneously respecting it. But we should leave all judgment to the Lord, who alone is able to decide on the motives and principles from which it springs. We must indeed of necessity pass judgment in many cases, where the crimes are so glaring that they cannot possibly be mistaken: but where there is the least ground for favourable interpretation, we should exercise that “charity which hopeth all things and believeth all things.” That rule cannot be too strictly attended to, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”]

2.

To be severe in judging ourselves—

[Here we are in little danger of excess. A person of a gloomy disposition may indeed write bitter things against himself without occasion; but, in general, self-love will lead us rather to extenuate every thing that is amiss, and to justify many things which God will condemn. Let us remember, therefore, that God will not accommodate his judgment to ours: “he will judge righteous judgment:” “to him all things are naked and open:” “his eyes are as a flame of fire,” that will search the inmost recesses of the heart, and try every disposition of the mind. Let us endeavour to bear in mind, that his eye is over us; and let us strive to walk as in his immediate presence. And let our every act and word and thought be regulated by the consideration, that the hour is quickly coming, when every the minutest circumstance of our lives will be brought to light, and our eternal state be fixed by a righteous and unerring God.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Kings 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/1-kings-2.html. 1832.