“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” As much as children would like to think this taunt is true, it doesn’t take long to discover just how deep words can wound, especially when they carry a false accusation.
David was being pelted by both stones and words. As he suffered his son’s betrayal and his people’s rejection, another person came to add insult to injury. Shimei, a relative of David’s old nemesis Saul, took advantage of David’s exposed position to retaliate on behalf of his clan. Shimei cursed and hurled rocks, but his most vicious verbal attack landed where David was most vulnerable.
Shimei played on David’s shame, accusing him of wrongdoing and blaming him for the mess he was currently in. It’s all your fault. You deserve this and more—Shimei’s message rang out. He declared that God had rejected David and was punishing him for being a man of blood.
David had to listen as Shimei narrated his life story to cast him as the villain and Saul as the victim. David’s companions were ready to use violence to defend his honor, a sentiment David himself understood (see 1 Samuel 25). But Shimei’s accusations resonated with the shame he was already feeling over Absalom (v. 11), destroying his defenses against this verbal assault. Who was he to say Shimei was wrong? Perhaps he was expressing God’s judgment. Maybe David was guilty as charged.
David could only appeal to the character of God. Perhaps his ability to judge reality was impaired—but God’s was not. If God was cursing him, then he deserved it. If Shimei’s curses were unfounded, then God would defend him. He could trust God’s perspective.