1 Kings 2:7 – 9
“But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.
8 “And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ 9 But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”
A week of last words.
A couple more examples of famous last words. The great film actor Humphrey Bogart as he was about to die of cancer of the esophagus in his last words to his wife Lauren Bacall said “I should never have switched from scotch to Martini”.
My all time favourite was the Confederate general who was warned to be careful as he stood on the firestep to look at how the Union army was positioning itself he turned to his officers and said “I’ll be fine they couldn’t hit an elephant at this ra….”
In 2 Samuel 23 there is a long passage headed The Last Words of David where he gives thanks to God for his life and his successes and pays credit to the fighting men who served him well over the years. These, however, are not David’s final final words for those you read on into 1 Kings 2 where David addresses the words above to his son and heir Solomon.
These two passages have always struck me a bit like The Godfather in reverse. Don Corleone called his son and heir Michael to him and told him in no uncertain terms what would happen after his death and who to look out for, who was likely to betray him and who he could count on when the trouble started as men vied to take over his criminal empire. Then Corleone’s actual last words were quite innocuous as he died of a heart attack playing with his grandson in the tomato patch.
David does it the opposite way round Having said nice things about people in Samuel he calls in Solomon and tells him a few hard truths about the people who have double crossed or cursed him in life and then poor Shimei gets the full treatment as David says I may have promised not to harm him but don’t feel yourself under any such obligation.
The passage always reminds me of the scene near the end of Lawrence of Arabia where Prince Faisal (Alec Guiness) is talking with General Allenby (Jack Hawkins) and more or less agreeing to let all Lawrences work go to ruin in tribal disagreement, so Faisal could then pick up the pieces. Allenby looks aghast and says “I thought I was a hard man”, to which Faisal replies “But you are only a General while I am a king”.
David knew Solomon’s task would not be easy even with God on his side, so he was warning him not to take anyone on face value nor to trust people just because they had been around for years. The task of establishing Israel was not finished and Solomon must use all his great wisdom in alliance with God’s will to achieve and there was no room for sentiment in statehood.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, when you ask us to do difficult things give us the wisdom of Solomon and David’s courage that we may see the task through to your glory.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,