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Righteous Judgment

By Elie Nessim, November 13, 1999 Printer Friendly Version

Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. "Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother. And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the LORD, saying, `I will not put you to death with the sword'. 9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless , for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood."
With every new king, it is also a time of reckoning; a time of reformation, and a time of rewards.  And, therefore, Solomon was legitimately qualified to deal with this bloodthirsty man; this murderer.  'Do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace.'  And Solomon had a handle on Joab, because Joab had aided Adonijah's treason.  Adonijah had committed treason against Solomon, and Joab had been his henchman, his right hand man.  Solomon had the right to go after Joab.

But he also mentions the sons of Barzillai.  Here's a bright spot in his instructions - in verse 7, Barzillai, the Gileadite. Barzillai had helped David when David was running away from his son, Absalom.  At the risk of his life, Barzillai provided for David and his soldiers; he gave them food and clothes and beds and basins to wash in, et cetera.  And so David said, 'Show kindness to his sons, because he showed kindness to me.'

Mephibosheth is not mentioned.  It's not that David forgot about Mephibosheth, but David had a lasting rule concerning Mephibosheth.  'For the rest of his life, Mephibosheth shall eat at my table, he shall be like one of the king's sons.' That remained unchanged. So it needed no mention.

But now comes the coward and the bully, Shimei.  'Shimei, the son of Gera,' (verse 8), 'a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse.' On the way back after David had defeated the rebels, David was returning in victory; Shimei came all fawning and grovelling before King David; 'Please, forgive me.  I know that I did wrong, but I do ask your forgiveness.  See, I'm the first one to welcome you home.'  What do you do with a hypocrite?  Give him time; give him enough rope; he'll hang himself.    Sooner or later, his character will appear.  'David said, 'I swore to him by the LORD saying I will not put you to death with the sword.''David renounced his personal right.  But David was not only a private person; he was a public person.  And the Law of Moses says that when someone curses the king, or someone in authority, they deserve the death penalty.  And David was saying, 'He still has to account for his public crime of cursing the king.'  (Whoever that king might be.)

Here's what one wise old writer said; how one wise old writer answered this whole problem of private and public injustice.  'Is it consistent to forgive others and still to seek to get satisfaction from the Law for their offences they have committed against us?'  The answer is, yes.  You can forgive them, but you can still prosecute them.  Certainly one law does not cross another.  By the law of charity, the law of justice is not made void. 

A magistrate, though he is a Christian and bound to forgive others, is not bound up from executing his office against public offenders.  So if someone insults a judge, the judge can forgive the personal insult, but he must still honour the law which says that the person is in contempt, and therefore he must be sentenced for contempt of court.  You see the difference? 

This writer goes on to say: 'Nor yet are private men tied from going to the magistrate for the restoration of their right, or reparation of their wrong.  To demand one's right is not contrary to love; nor to seek to amend and humble the guilty party by the magistrate's authority, who is the minister of GOD for good.  Forgiving is an act of private jurisdiction.  The offence, as far as it is private to us, it may be forgiven.  But there are many such offences as are not only an offence to us, but to the public order, and that must be left to the process of law.'

Now there is a wise, Godly man, giving us the correct perspective of it all.  But he goes on to say, 'Whoever uses this remedy must look to his own heart, that he is not being motivated by private revenge, nor with a spirit of rancour against the offending party.  And, furthermore, these remedies from authority must be in weighty cases, and in matters of importance, not in every trivial thing.'

That's what David was doing.  Some people charged David with injustice; with duplicity; with going back on his oath.  No way!  David renounced his personal right.  'I will not put you to death with the sword.' But still, Shimei was guilty of a public offence that merited the death penalty. And so he says here (verse 9), ' Now, therefore, do not hold him guiltless for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do, but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.'

Judgment on the offence is compatible with the forgiveness of the offender. In a later article we'll see, GOD willing, that Shimei proved that he was worthy of the death penalty. But for now we'll have to leave it at David's dying charge, and we read in verse 10: 'So David rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.' 

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