How do you respond to 2 Samuel 16:10?

David says of Shimei’s cursing him, “If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’”

Some compatibilists cite this text to suggest that David regarded evil deeds, including cursing, as taking place in accordance with the sovereign will of God. If we accept this usage of this text, we should also accept David’s conclusion that nothing should be done about it (see How do you respond to Genesis 45:5, 50:20?). If this conclusion is unacceptable, so is the deterministic interpretation of this passage which gives rise to it.

In point of fact, this text does not support compatibilism. Abishai, who tended to have a hot temper (1 Sam. 26:8–9; 2 Sam. 3:30, 39), wanted to respond to Shimei’s cursing by killing him (v. 9). David rather “takes this moment of cursing to reflect on his position before God and his trust that it is God’s grace and not Abishai’s sword that can counter Shimei’s cursing.”* If God is in fact against David—if Shimei is speaking truth—killing Shimei will accomplish nothing. On the other hand, if God is on David’s side, killing Shimei is not necessary. David’s hope is that God is on his side and that his fortune would be reversed in the near future (v. 12). The text does not warrant the conclusion that God controls all cursing, and thus (thankfully) the implication that we should be passive in the face of evil.

Note
* L. Keck, ed. The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. II (Nashville, TN: Abindon, 1998), 1326.

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