SHIMEI (Heb. שִׁמְעִי), son of Gera, a Benjamite and a relative of Saul, who insulted David as the latter fled during the rebellion of Absalom. The road from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley led past Bahurim, in Benjamin, where Shimei resided. As David and his party marched by, Shimei came toward them, threw stones and earth at them, and called to David, "Filth! Filth! Murderer! Blackguard!" He gloated over David's predicament, saying that it was divine retribution for the blood of the house of Saul that David had shed. *Abishai wanted to kill Shimei on the spot but David restrained him, enduring this humiliation as a form of self-mortification whereby men seek to appease God in times of affliction (ii Sam. 16:5–13). When David returned in triumph after Absalom's defeat, Shimei and a thousand Benjamites whom he had persuaded to join him arrived at the Jordan – before any other group of the House of David – and together with the Judahites welcomed him back and begged for clemency (ii Sam. 19:17ff.). Clemency was granted, either because David considered Shimei's change of heart a sign of renewed divine favor (Rashi, ii Sam. 19:23) or because he believed that a vindictive policy against those who had rebelled would prevent firm reestablishment of his reign (Meẓudat David, ii Sam. 19:23). Any oath made by David was not binding on his son Solomon. Before his death David instructed Solomon to watch for an opportunity to do away with Shimei (i Kings 2:8–9). Solomon placed Shimei under close observation, and made him promise under pain of death to restrict his movements to within Jerusalem. When Shimei broke his vow in order to recover two runaway slaves, Solomon had him put to death (i Kings 2:36–46).
In the Aggadah
Shimei, although a Benjamite (ii Sam. 19:17), is called "the first of the house of Joseph" (ibid., 19:21), in order to elaborate his plea for forgiveness from the king. It suggested that David should emulate the example of Joseph, who forgave his brothers (Mid. Ps. 3:3). Another opinion, however, is that "Joseph" is a euphemism for "the house of Israel" (cf. Amos 5:15). It thus paraphrases his plea: "All Israel has dealt ill with thee, and I more so than anyone else. Now all Israel sits waiting for whatever mercy you may show me. If you accept my apology, then all Israel will come forward and make peace with you" (Mid. Ps., ibid.). He failed, however, to persuade David to forgive him. The word Nimreẓet is used by David to describe Shimei's curse (i Kings 2:8). It is said to be a mnemonic to illustrate that Shimei was an adulterer (no'ef); a Moabite (Mo'avi); a murderer (roẓe'aḥ); and an abomination (to'evah; Shab. 105a). Shimei is deprived of any of the credit for having been an ancestor of Mordecai (cf. Esth. 2:5; Meg. 13a). The credit belongs to his wife, who save two righteous men (Jonathan and Ahimaaz) from Absalom (Mid. Sam. 32:4). Shimei's one recorded virtue is that, as long as he lived, Solomon did not marry the daughter of Pharaoh, but took Jewish wives (Ber. 8a). His eventual death was commensurate with his crime. Because he had sinned by word of mouth, Solomon slew him by pronouncing the name of God on him (Zohar, Exodus, 108a).
R. Kittel, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 2 (19257), 143–6; Noth, Hist Isr, 204; T.M. Mauch, in: idb, 4 (1962), 331; G. Buccellati, Cities and Nations of Ancient Syria (1967), 198–9. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 422.