555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

58. Was David Justified in Ordering Solomon to Have Joab and Shimei Executed?

Dean Stanley, strange to say, avers that in the order given to Solomon (I Kings 2:5-9) King David "bequeathed a dark legacy of long cherished vengeance." Dr. Terry's view seems more probable, that "this dying charge was not the offspring of personal revenge, but a measure of administrative wisdom." "David," says Wordsworth, "does not mention among Joab's sins that which caused him personally the most poignant grief, the murder of Absalom." He dwells on the fact that Joab had treacherously slain Abner and had also assassinated Amasa, shedding the blood of war in peace. Shimei had blasphemously insulted the royal majesty of Israel. David, it is true, had sworn to spare Shimei, but this oath was not binding on Solomon. David seems to feel that he had been too lax in punishing crime. His own guilt, though repented of, may have made him feel that the son of Zeruiah, in particular, was too strong for him. Hence this charge to Solomon as keeper of God's law and guardian of the kingdom's safety. In one sense, the execution of these men may be looked upon as an act of retributive justice (they being the enemies of the king), yet in the view of some commentators, the personal vindictiveness that David cherished in the matter, and the absence of a disinterested purpose to secure justice and the welfare and security of Israel, his kingdom, call for condemnation of David in his instructions to his son.