Barack Obama treated Joe Lieberman the way King David treated Shimei son of Gera. Clever guy, that David.

David flees from Absalom’s usurpation (2 Sam. 16):

And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.

And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.

And thus said Shimei when he cursed, “Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial. The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.

Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.

And the king said, “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, ‘Curse David.’ Who shall then say, ‘Wherefore hast thou done so?’ “

And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, “Behold: my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him. It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day”

And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill’s side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and threw garbage.

David returns in triumph after having defeated Absalom (2 Sam. 19):

So the king returned, and came to Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to conduct the king over Jordan. And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, which was of Bahurim, hasted and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David … And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan; And said unto the king, “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart. For thy servant doth know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.”

But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?”

And David said, “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be my prosecutors? Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? For do not I know that I am this day king over Israel?”

Therefore the king said unto Shimei, “Thou shalt not die.”

Most Biblical scholars believe that Barack Obama is descended from King David via Solomon’s dalliance with the Queen of Sheba, which was in East Africa. The textual evidence is unclear, but it’s hard to account for Obama’s rather eerie self-command, and his apparent lack of interest in “getting even,” under any other hypothesis.

There is less agreement about the connection between my friend John Amato and the House of Zeruiah or Joe Lieberman’s descent from Shimei, but again the sheer Mendelian evidence seems awfully strong.

Update A reader reminds me of the last words attributed to David, spoken on his deathbed to his successor Solomon:

And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.

Perhaps Lieberman still needs to watch his back; it would be no bad thing if he thought so. But on current form the President-elect seems to have inherited many of his ancestor’s good qualities, but not his sociopathy.


I’ve used the King James translation, with a couple of modifications for clarity: “my prosecutors” for “my adversaries” in translating the Hebrew “li-satan,” and “threw garbage” for “cast dust.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: