2 Samuel 19:31
Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim to cross the Jordan with the king and send him on his way from there.
Old BarzillaiB. Dale 2 Samuel 19:31-40
BarzillaiThomas S. Dickson, M. A.2 Samuel 19:31-41
Barzillai an Example of Loyalty in Perilous TimesA. Bumstead, B. A.2 Samuel 19:31-41
Barzillai the GileaditeJ. Ker, D. D.2 Samuel 19:31-41
Barzillai the Great Man in SocietyE. Monro.2 Samuel 19:31-41
Barzillai, the Gideonite; Or, the Influence of AgeHomilist2 Samuel 19:31-41
David and BarzillaiW. G. Blaikie, D. D.2 Samuel 19:31-41
The Lives of CourtiersJ. Saurin.2 Samuel 19:31-41

2 Samuel 19:31-40. - (THE JORDAN.)
How long have I to live? (ver. 34). Barzillai dwelt at Rogelim (his own city, ver. 37), in Gilead, where, amidst the rich highland pastures, diligently superintending his flocks and herds, he spent his days in peace. He enjoyed "the blessing of the Old Testament" - prosperity; and was "a very great [wealthy] man." Like Machir ben-Ammiel (2 Samuel 9:4), he was loyal, hospitable, and generous (2 Samuel 17:28). One of his sons (1 Kings 2:7), named Chimham, accompanied him to do honour to the king at his restoration. He was an octogenarian, his memory reaching back to the appointment of the first King of Israel, and Saul's brilliant exploit on behalf of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Samuel 11:11). Of his genuine piety, his answer to the king's invitation, "Come over with me, and I will provide (ver. 32) for thee in Jerusalem," leaves no room for doubt. "May we not legitimately infer that his conduct was influenced, not merely by loyalty to his earthly sovereign, but by the recognition of the higher spiritual truths, and the hope for Israel and the world, symbolized by the reign of David?" (Edersheim). More especially, he furnishes a picture of a beautiful old age (1 Samuel 12:2). To every one, if he should live long enough, old age will come, with impaired powers of judgment, sensibility, and activity (Ecclesiastes 12:1); but whether it will be honourable, useful, and happy depends on the course previously pursued and the character possessed. "Clearness and quickness of intellect are gone; all taste for the pleasures and delights of sense is gone; ambition is dead; capacity of change is departed. What is left? The old man lives in the past and in the future. The early child love for the father and mother who hung over his cradle eighty years ago remains fresh. He cannot 'hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women;' but he can hear, stealing through almost a century, the old tones, thin and ghostlike, of the dear ones whom he first learnt to love. The furthest past is fresh and vivid, and in memory of it is half his life. Also he looks forward familiarly and calmly to the very near end, and thinks much of death. That thought keeps house with him now, and is nearer to him than the world of living men is. Thus one-half of his life is memory, and the other half is hope; and all his hopes are now reduced to one - the hope to die, and then to be laid down and go to sleep again beside his father and mother. And so he returns to his city, and passes out of our sight" (Maclaren). Notice -

I. HIS CLEAR RECOGNITION OF THE NEARNESS OF HIS APPROACHING END. "How many are the days of the years of my life?" etc. (vers. 34, 35; Genesis 47:9). Many an old man considers not that he is old, and must shortly leave the world; he rather strives to keep both his age and his departure out of sight. But such a man as Barzillai is accustomed to reflect on his actual condition, deems himself a "stranger and pilgrim on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Chronicles 29:15); and feels certain that a few more steps will bring him to the end of his journey. He also understands what is possible and becoming during his brief continuance, and acts accordingly. "Can anything be more amiable than these simple and sensible words? What a cheerful and peaceful spirit do they breathe! and how does he put to shame very many old men of our day, who, the more the years perform their dismantling work upon them, are so much. the more zealously bent on concealing the decay of their strength behind the glittering surroundings of vain dignities, titles, and high alliances!" (Krummacher). "Usually the nearer men approach to the earth, they are more earthly minded; and, which is strange to amazement, at the sunset of life are providing for a long day" (W. Bates).

II. HIS CHEERFUL RESIGNATION UNDER THE INFIRMITIES OF ADVANCED AGE. He utters no complaint (such as is too common with others) at the failure of his mental and bodily powers, the loss of earthly pleasures formerly possessed, his incapacity for new enterprises and excitements, which, at an earlier age, might have been suitable and desirable. His language is singularly free from fretfulness, disappointment, and discontent. He perceives and acquiesces with a "glad contentment" in the will of God, who "hath made everything beautiful in its season" (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and, although deprived of some enjoyments, he is not destitute of others of a higher order. "It is this, the tasteless meats, the deafness to the singing men and singing women, the apathy to common pleasures, for which old age is pitied and deplored; but this is God's mercy, it is not his vengeance; he deadens the keenness of our bodily senses only to guide us to immortality; we are disgusted with the pleasures of youth, we deride the objects of manly ambition, we are wearied with one worldly trifle or another, that Our thoughts may centre at last in God" (Sydney Smith. 'On the Pleasures of Old Age'). "Old age may be not only venerable, but beautiful, and the object of reverence untinctured by compassion. The intellect, the emotions, the affections (the best of them) all alive, - it is the passions and appetites only that are dead; and who that is wise and has felt the plague of them, does not, with the aged Cephalus, in Plato's 'Republic,' account a serene freedom from their clamorous importunities a compensation for the loss of their tumultuous pleasures?" ('Sel. from the Correspondence of R.E.H. Greyson, Esq.').

III. HIS COURTEOUS REFUSAL OF THE PROFFER OF EARTHLY FAVOURS. What can even a monarch give him now? The society, the pleasures, the honours, of a court; enlarged influence, increased responsibility, more abundant wealth. Is it worth while for their sake to be transplanted to a new soil from the place where he has been so long growing; and when he must so soon be removed from the world altogether? If he had been a sensual, ambitious, or avaricious man, the craving for such things would have remained, and led him (like others) to grasp at their possession, though no longer able to enjoy them or employ them aright. "What so distressing as to see the withered face of old age dull and dead to every consideration of eternity, and kindling with life only at the mention of earthly vanities?" (Blaikie). He declines them, not because they are sinful and worthless in themselves, but because they are unsuitable to him. His heart is set on ether pleasures; his immediate duties are determined and sufficient for his strength. He will not take new burdens on himself, nor be a burden to others. He will accompany the king "a little way," to show his loyal devotion, and then return (2 Kings 4:13). "With all the dignity of self-respect, with the courtesy of a true gentleman, undervaluing not the king's offers, but his own service to him, with the prudent love of a father for the son whom he recommends to his kindness, having outlived nothing really belonging to the true character of the life of man, he returned with the royal kiss and blessing, master of his own will, to his own place" (W. Romanis).

IV. HIS CHERISHED REMEMBRANCE OF PARENTS AND THE FAMILIAR SCENES OF HIS EARLY DAYS. "Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back," etc. (ver. 37). His thoughts turn back to his native place, his childhood, his father and his mother, whom he must have loved and honoured (Exodus 20:12); and the memory of whom, tender, affectionate, and reverent, is a fountain of pure and undying joy in his breast. How much does the happiness of old age depend upon its memories! Whilst in one case old age is tormented by the recollection of "the pleasures of sin," in another it is gladdened by the recollection of the practice of piety; and such recollections mingle with and, in great measure, determine its anticipations.

"Son of Jesse, let me go:
Why should princely honours slay me?
Where the streams of Gilead flow,
Where the light first met mine eye,
Thither would I turn and die;
Where my parents' ashes lie,
King of Israel! bid them lay me."


V. HIS CONSTANT DESIRE FOR REST in his "long home" (Ecclesiastes 12:5), "the house of eternity." It is now a pervading and increasing feeling. He longs for repose in the sacred spot where his parents lie, as a pilgrim longs for home. The grave for him has no terrors. "He looks for a city which hath foundations," etc. (Hebrews 11:10, 16); and desires to be "gathered with his fathers," and to be forever at rest in God (1 Samuel 25:1; 2 Samuel 7:12; Psalm 49:15; Proverbs 14:32; Daniel 12:13). "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace" (Luke 2:29). "A man should still be bound for home as you see all creatures be. Let a bird be far from the nest, and it grow towards night, she will home even upon the wings of the wind. Every poor beast, and every creature, though the entertainment be but slender at home, yet if you let it slip loose, it will home as fast as it can. Everything tends to its place; there is its safety, there is its rest, there it is preserved, there it is quiet. Now, since it is so with every creature, why should it not be so with us? Why should not we be for our home? This is not our home; here is not our rest. That is our home where our chief friends be, where our Father God is, where our Husband Christ is, where our chief kindred and acquaintance be, all the prophets and apostles and martyrs of God departed are; that is our home, and thither should we go" (R. Harris). "I am now passing through the latest stage of my pilgrimage on earth. My sun is speedily going down; but ere it wholly disappear, its parting beams stream sweetly forth upon the face of all things, and cover all the horizon with a blaze of glory. My Father's house shines bright before my eyes. Its opening door invites me onward, and fills me with an earnest longing to be safe at home. My richest treasures and my dearest hopes are all packed up and gone before, while my whole soul is on the wing to follow after" (W. Gilpin).

VI. HIS CONSIDERATE REGARD for the welfare of those who survive him. "Let thy servant Chimham go over," etc. (vers. 38, 40). He is not wholly absorbed in thoughts of past time or of his final rest; but is interested in the younger man now present with him, and sympathizes with his enjoyments and aspirations. He remembers his own youth. What he declines for himself, he seeks and obtains for his son (Jeremiah 41:17). "When the king could not persuade the father, he gladly accepts the charge of his son. He seems to feel as if the care of this young man would bring comfort to his heart, which was still bleeding for the loss of Absalom. It was not in lightness that he made the request, and when on his death bed he remembered it and charged Solomon to show kindness to the son for the sake of what his father had done for him when he fled from the face of Absalom. In Barzillai we have

(1) a man who knows that he is old, but is not distressed by the thought of it;

(2) who is rich, but is satisfied with his natural possessions;

(3) of long experience, who has kept up his love of simple pleasures;

(4) and is attached to the past, but does not distrust the future" (John Ker). "It is a very reasonable conjecture of Grotius, that David, having a patrimony in the field of Bethlehem, the place of his nativity, bestowed it on Barzillai's son; and from thence this place took the name of Chimham, which remained unto the days of Jeremiah" (Patrick). His descendants continue for ages to partake of the fruit of his piety and beneficence, to perpetuate his name and honour his memory (Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63; Psalm 102:28). - D.

And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king.
1. One feature in the Bible is that it represents members of every class of society, as not only belonging to, but actually working in God's Church. The great gathering of the people of God, which the Bible brings to notice, numbers kings, counsellors, captains, and honourable men, without distinction, as forming a part in God's great Church on earth. The jewels of God, when made up to form His crown, are of every hue and colour; not only the diamond reflecting the varied lustre of the saintly character, which dwelling apart from the world, realises itself as a denizen of heaven; but there also is the purple amethyst of earthly royalty; the pale sapphire of female loveliness; and the emerald, which borrows from the earth its hues, reminding us of the works of the creation of God.

2. Barzillai of Rogelim is one of a class of which many are mentioned in the Bible — great and rich men who served the Lord. Boaz, Caius, Joseph of Arimathea, and Barnabas are his companions. Boundless wealth and magnificence, mark at once his circumstance; unlimited hospitality is the leading feature of his conduct; loyalty, whose keen edge is only whetted by the adversity of the king whom he serves, marks his principles. He was one who had been used to feast under the song "of the singing men and singing women;" ease, courtesy, and independence marked his manner; and the marble which contained the dust of his fathers marked at the same time the last. earthly aim of Barzillai. There are some to whom the aristocracy of the tomb has a nobler lustre than the aristocracy of life; there are some who count it a higher honour that their dust should slumber with the dust of their ancestors than that they in life should repose in the palace of kings. It is among the leading features of those who are truly great in this world. Now these are the features of a great man, and suggest many lessons to the great among ourselves:

(1)His exceeding great position is established;

(2)His boundless hospitality.

(3)His unswerving loyalty, and that shown especially in the king's adversity.

(4)His uncompromising independence.

(5)His carelessness about a court, or the luxuries of-life.

(6)His suggesting a representative of himself to attend the king; and lastly, his feeling about his burial.

3. One duty of the great, rich man which we learn from the case of Barzillai is that of wide, enlarged hospitality. Means are a talent given to improve. But men frequently mistake the tenure of their wealth. The most minute description of the last day in the Bible is based on the claims of hospitality. It is a duty, and in exercising it a man fulfils one great rule and law of Christianity, exercises a distinct talent which God has given him, and fulfils one of those modes of employing his talents which God has left him.

4. Barzillai suggests another lesson: He entertained a king — in adversity. A persecuted outcast, king went by, and he threw his gates open to receive him. Those who are great in wealth and power too often seek the credit of those whose worldly position will cast honour on themselves by having them under their roof. The Christian and religious man of wealth and power is he who rather receives those whom the world frowns upon under his roof; and loves to lend his wealth to buy a share in the return of those on whom God's chastening hand is laid, than refuse the shelter which may bring discredit in the eyes of the world. Barzillai seems to have acted as he did without a conscious desire of worldly honour or human praise. It is not this office or that which makes a man great, it is the way in which a man occupies any office.

5. Barzillai desired burial with his father and mother. The punishment of kings of Israel was that they should not be buried by their fathers, and the first aim of Abraham was not the purchase of a dwelling-place but "the purchase of a burial place." The burial of our Blessed Lord stands as a prominent feature in the acts of His saving Life and Death, though it was where "no man had yet lain." His Sacred Body opened a new vault for the human race, and led the way to a new cave of Machpelah, beneath whose consecrated escutcheons all the Church desire burial. The burial "in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life." The burial under the motto, "Resurgam," and the escutcheon of the wing which bears the soul to heaven. So the associations of the grave became ennobled and sanctified. There the felled trees lie. There lies the record of the character with the finish which it had received at death; the penitent, the patient, the innocent, or the heavily-minded. Let those who stand in high places like him aim at an integrity and a stainless association with the past, and they Will do well. It is not the pomp of the funeral or the magnificence of the eulogy which sheds the lustre on the departed: but the epitaph of their tomb.

(E. Monro.)

Barzillai's words to the king of Israel remind us of the influence that age produces upon men.

I. A MELLOWNESS OF HEART. There is a feeling soft and subdued running through the words of this patriarchal Gideonite. In the gradual passage from maturity to helplessness, the harshest characters sometimes have a period in which they are gentle and placid as young children. One who saw the Duke of Wellington in his last years, describes him as very gentle in his aspect and demeanour.

II. AN INDISPOSITION TO EXERTION. "How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem? I am this day fourscore years old." It seems benevolently arranged that, as the limbs get feeble and incapable of action, the inclination to exertion decreases too.

III. A LACK OF INTEREST IN THE WORLD. To an old man the world is a plum that has lost its bloom, an orange that has been sucked till the peel is dry. The pageantries of court and the dazzle of fashionable life are to the old man but as the worthless gilt that spangles the dress of an actor. When old age comes over the millionaire, how shapes the world to him?

IV. AN INCAPACITY FOR EARTHLY ENJOYMENTS. "Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink?" He could not relish either the banquets or the concerts of the court. The choicest delicacies of the table would fall upon his appetite, the most transporting strains of music would fall dead upon his ear: "The desire has failed, and the daughters of music are brought low." Years not only steal away our strength, but our relish for earthly pleasures.

V. AN INTEREST IN THE DEAD. "Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again," etc. Here is the filial instinct glowing in the breast of an old man. CONCLUSION.

1. Here is a rebuke to worldliness. What if you amass a princely fortune? Whilst it will not make you happy, either in the morning of your youth or the zenith of your noon, it will be utterly worthless to you if you live to old age.

2. Here, is, too, an argument for religion. Form an alliance with those eternal principles that will make your spirits young and strong amidst the infirmities of age. Prepare for the future!


Some of the most interesting spots in our Scottish landscapes are hidden from the hasty traveller. He passes through a beautiful valley, sees the clear rushing river, the green fields fringed by the dark woods which climb the skirts of the hills, the mountain tops with their massive swell or rocky precipice indenting the sky, and he thinks he knows the whole. But there are exquisite spots of beauty hidden among the hills, shady pools in the streams, quiet retreats so fresh and far away from the world's eye, that when he sees them he feels as if the foot of man had never been there before, It is so in the Bible. We read the great roll of the heroes of faith in the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews, and it seems as if we had traversed the history of the ancient Church of God. Buts when we pass through the first ranks and the grander scenes, we light upon spots of tranquil beauty and characters of transparent faith and truthfulness which fill us with the gladness of surprise. The story of Barzillai is one of these.

I. We have A MAN WHO KNOWS THAT HE IS OLD, BUT WHO IS NOT DISTRESSED BY THE THOUGHT OF IT. He has no reticence, no shame, and, so far as we can see, he has no regret. He numbers up his weaknesses, indeed, but it is much in the way a soldier counts the scars he has brought from his battlefields. This is the hoary head which is so beautiful when it is found in the way of righteousness. We should aim at this even from youth. But how are we to prepare for this? First, surely, by taking God with us early in the journey of life. God is willing to receive a man whenever he turns to Him; but the later he turns, the more shall be his regrets. Next, by providing beforehand the compensations which God is willing to give for everything that may be taken away by the changes of life. If the eye is to become dim, we may be preparing an inner vision more open and clear for Divine and eternal realities; if the ear is to be dulled to earthly music, and hard of access to the voice of friends, we can ask that friend to say to it, "Ephphatha, Be opened!" who will enter our solitude with his words — "To old age I am He, to hoar hairs I will carry you;" if the feet and hands become powerless for their accustomed work, we may exercise ourselves in the faith and hope which make the feet more than youthful and change the hands to wings, so that we shall mount up like eagles, and run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. Someone has said that it would be a melancholy world without children, and an inhuman world without the aged; and the world is never better than when these two can meet and give and receive gladness. We have a natural reluctance to the feeling that we are growing old; we put it away, and when something at last forces it upon us, it is like the rush of an armed man from an ambush, or the flake of the first snow to tell us that the long summer days are gone, and that winter is at hand. And yet, as you may have seen, it is the transition which is the most painful. When the first days of brown October show us the fresh green leaves of summer, now sere and yellow, dropping from the boughs under the wind that wails through the thin woods, we cannot help a feeling of sadness creeping over the heart. But when winter has come it has its own enjoyments; there is the long, quiet evening, the cheerful gleam of the hearth, the closer bosom of the family and of friendship, the pleasant memories of summer, and the hopes of its return — these give to winter its gladness, and even its glow. If we are in this transition, or nearing it, we should seek to realise it, and to rise above it by looking forward. Every time of life to a true man is only a transition to something better.

II. We have A MAN WHO IS RICH, BUT WHO IS SATISFIED WITH HIS NATURAL POSITION. No doubt, the remark will readily be made by some, "It is easy for a rich man to be satisfied; let us have his wealth, and we shall blame ourselves if we ask for anything more." But if you look round on the world, you will perceive that it is at the stage of prosperity that the dissatisfaction of many men begins. It is quite true that the Bible forbids no man to seek the improvement of his worldly circumstances, or to use that improvement in a wise and generous way. It has no malediction an wealth itself, and no canonising of poverty. When our Saviour bade the young man sell all he had, and give to the poor, it was a test of character, not a condition of discipleship. But there are two things against which a man who has risen to wealth should carefully watch — becoming the slave of sensual gratification: "What more can I eat and drink?" or "How can I shine in the social circle?" In the midst of empty ambitions, and vain contests for pre-eminence, our wisdom is to prefer the position which agrees with what is deepest in our nature, and which is most helpful to our spiritual life.

III. We have A MAN OF LONG EXPERIENCE, WHO HAS KEPT UP HIS LOVE OF SIMPLE PLEASURES. We can infer this from the tone in which he speaks. In these times of tumult and change, we think with envy of the quiet, primitive days, when men grew up in their place with leisure for spreading out their thoughts like branches, and sending down their affections like roots. We have no wish to depreciate that kind of life which occupies itself with the activities of the world, which presses into the highways of cities, and the throng of business, and which has its pleasure in breasting and battling with the great waves of public movement in social and intellectual and political progress. There are faculties in man's nature which find their proper exercise in this; the world could not advance or even live without it, and the calm recesses, which seem shut out from the great sea of life, would stagnate if they were not stirred by its tides. But we should take care that the whirl of public life does not unfit us for enjoying private life.

IV. We have A MAN WHO IS ATTACHED TO THE PAST, BUT WHO DOES NOT DISTRUST THE FUTURE. There was evidently a great change coming over the land of Israel at this time. The old patriarchal ways were losing their hold. The capital was growing, and men and gold and silver flowing into it. New views were prevailing which looked on the past as antiquated, and pressed forward, often recklessly, into unknown futures. The young men of revolution who gathered round Absalom were a sign of it, and after the splendour of Solomon's reign it came out more distinctly under his successor. In the parting of Barzillai and David we seem to have the two tendencies, the recoil of the old, the advance of the new. We are in the midst of one of these transitions now, when many are fearing, and some predicting, only evil. The quiet old life of our country is retiring evermore into the background, and the towns with their rush of life, their battles of thought and action, their impulses for good and evil are in the front. We cannot help regretting it, and wishing to retain as much as we can of what was good. When we think of the old life of Scotland among its hills and cottage homes, of its men and women so intelligent and God-fearing, so independent in spirit, yet so kindly and courteous, it is hard to believe that its departure can be a blessing. The land can scarcely anywhere rear a nobler people than those who, on a Sabbath morning, gathered like streams from the valleys to the house of God, to sing the psalms which had been the strength of their fathers when they were outcasts among the mountains. There is another view of the time which may make us still more anxious. Insurrections of self-will and lawlessness are breaking out which threaten all things human and Divine. Men are setting their mouths against the heavens, and laying bitter and persistent siege to the citadels in which faith has felt itself secure for ages. These things sadden and startle us when we think of the future. The world looks like a ship descending the rapids, and some surge of the stream may dash and shatter it. on the black reefs of atheism and anarchy which shoot their heads above the foam.

(J. Ker, D. D.)

I. HIS SENSE OF THE NEARNESS OF DEATH. "How long have I to live?... I am this day fourscore years old." To him the thought of death seemed to be neither unfamiliar nor unpleasant. Christian men and women who are advanced ill years should seek to copy Barzillai's example, accustoming themselves to the thought and approach of death.

II. HIS CONTENTMENT UNDER THE INFIRMITIES OF AGE. "Can I discern between good and evil? Can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink?" He had no wish for court-life, for he was no longer fit to enjoy it. His powers were waning; he was no longer able to find enjoyment in that which ministered pleasure to others. Resignation marks his words. Some aged people are fretful over their infirmities. Peevishness is a common characteristic of advanced life. Others endeavour to conceal the ravages of time, and eagerly mingle in the pleasures of youth. With one foot in the grave, they wish to appear and be considered as young as possible. Both courses are alike unbecoming in those who are in "the sere and yellow leaf."

III. HIS UNWORLDLINESS. "Why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?" David's proposal would have been greedily grasped at by many. Notwithstanding its attractiveness Barzillai courteously declined it. How beautiful to see at a time of life, when men, as a rule, cling more closely to worldly things, such an un-regretful renunciation of worldly honour and prosperity!

IV. HIS UNSELFISHNESS. "Behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good to thee." Barzillai was not unwilling that another should enjoy the benefits of which he felt he was unable to avail himself. Too often aged people, no longer able to "enjoy life," frown upon those younger than themselves, who do enjoy it. Forgetful that they themselves were once young, they seek to crush the harmless desires and damp the seasonable enjoyments of youth.

V. HIS FILIAL AFFECTION. "Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother." Even at his great age, the memory of his parents was fresh and tender. It is pleasant to remember that the good that Barzillai was thus privileged to do to his earthly sovereign was not "interred with his bones," but "lived after him." David graciously granted the old man's request, and Chimham not only was taken as his father's substitute to eat at the royal table, but in addition obtained a portion of David's patrimonial possession near Bethlehem (Jeremiah 41:17). "The memory of the just is blessed."

(Thomas S. Dickson, M. A.)

It is very refreshing to fall in with a man like Barzillai in a record which is so full of wickedness, and without many features of a redeeming character. He is a sample of humanity at its best — one of those men who diffuse radiance and happiness wherever their influence extends. Of Barzillai's previous history we know nothing. We do not even know where Rogelim, his place of abode, was, except that it was among the mountains of Gilead. The facts stated regarding him are few, but suggestive.

1. He was "a very great man." The expression seems to imply that he was both rich and influential. Dwelling among the hills of Gilead, his only occupation, and main way of becoming rich, must have been as a farmer. Barzillai's ancestors had probably received a valuable and extensive allotment, and had been strong enough and courageous enough to keep it for themselves. Consequently, when their flocks and herds multiplied, they were not restrained within narrow dimensions, but could spread over the mountains round about.

2. His generosity was equal to his wealth. The catalogue of the articles which he and another friend of David's brought him in his extremity (2 Samuel 17:28, 29) is instructive from its minuteness and its length. Like all men liberal in heart, he devised liberal' things.

3. His loyalty was not less thorough than his generosity. When he heard of the king's troubles, he seems never to have hesitated one instant us to throwing in his lot with him. It mattered not that the king was in great trouble, and apparently in a desperate case. Barzillai was no sunshine courtier, willing to enjoy the good things of the court in days of prosperity, but ready in darker days to run off and leave his friends in the midst of danger. He was one of those true men that are ready to risk their all in the cause of loyalty when persuaded that it is the cause of truth and right. Risk? Can you frighten a man like this by telling him of the rink be runs by supporting David in the hour of adversity? Why, he is ready not only to risk all, but to lose all, if necessary, in a cause which appears so obvious to be Divine, all the more because he sees so well what a blessing David has been to the country. Why, he has actually made the kingdom. He has given unity and stability to all the internal arrangements of the kingdom. And is not a country happy that has such citizens, men who place their personal interest far below the public weal, and are ready to make any sacrifice, of person or of property, when the highest interests of their country are concerned?

4. Barzillai was evidently a man of attractive personal qualities. The king was so attracted by him that he wished him to come with him to Jerusalem, and promised to sustain him at court.

5. Barzillai was not dazzled even by the highest offers of the king, because he felt that the proposal was unsuitable for his years. He was already eighty, and every day was adding to his burden, and bringing him sensibly nearer the grave. David had made the offer as a compliment to Barzillai, although it might also be a favour to himself, and as a compliment the aged Gileadite was entitled to view it. In Barzillai's choice, we see the predominance of a sanctified common sense, alive to the proprieties of things, and able to see how the enjoyment most suitable to an advanced period of life might best be had. It was not by aping youth or grasping pleasures for which the relish had gone. There are few more jarring notes in English history than the last days of Queen Elizabeth. As life was passing away, a historian of England says, "she clung to it with a fierce tenacity. She hunted, she danced, she jested with her young favourites, she coquetted, and frolicked, and scolded at sixty-seven as she had done at thirty." "The Queen," wrote a courtier, "a few months before her death was never so gallant these many years, nor so set upon jollity." She persisted, in spite of opposition, in her gorgeous progresses from country house to country house. She clung to business as of old, and rated in her usual fashion one "who minded not, to giving up some matter of account." And then a strange melancholy settled on her. Her mind gave way, and food and rest became alike distasteful. Clever woman, yet very foolish in not discerning how vain it was to attempt to carry the brisk habits of youth into old age, and most profoundly foolish in not having taken pains to provide for old age the enjoyments appropriate to itself l How differently it has fared with those who have been wise in time and made the best provision for old age! "I have waited for Thy salvation, O my God," says the dying Jacob, relieved and happy to think that the object for which he had waited had come at last. "I am now ready to be offered," says St. Paul, "and the time of my departure is at hand."

6. Holding such views of old age, it was quite natural and suitable for Barzillai to ask for his son Chimham what he respectfully declined for himself. For his declinature was not a rude rejection of an honour deemed essentially false and vain. The narrative is so short that not a word is added as to how it fared with Chimham when he came to Jerusalem. Only one thing is known of him; it is said that, after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzer, when Jonathan conducted to Egypt a remnant of Jews that he had saved from the murderous hand of Ishmael, "they departed and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go into Egypt." We infer that David bestowed on Chimham some part of his paternal inheritance at Bethlehem. The meeting with Barzillai and the finding of a new son in Chimham must have been looked on by David with highly pleasant feelings. In every sense of the term, ha had lost a son in Absalom; he seems now to find one in Chimham. We dare not say that the one was compensation for the other. Such a blank as the death of Absalom left in the heart of David could never be filled up from any earthly source whatever. Blanks of that nature can be filled only when God gives a larger measure of His own presence and His own love.

(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

Barzillai was indeed a noble old man. He loved his country, he loved his king, and in perilous times and days of turbulence and anarchy stood forward the friend of the distressed, the consoler of fallen greatness, and the constant and determined supporter of the rightful government and ancient institutions of his land. I wish you to mark two features of the character thus brought before you — the loyalty and the piety of Barzillai. In the midst of the rampant successes of rebellion he would not forsake the cause of his rightful sovereign, and the interests of his country. And his loyalty was disinterested. He looked for no return, he would accept no reward. You have seen that the reinstated sovereign proffered to him all the splendours of a residence with a royal family in the imperial city. And this in general estimation was no worthless boon. It embraced all that most men court, all that the world with such anxiety is toiling for. He would be admitted to the highest circles in the realm; men would bow down to him, and do him reverence; every luxury would be at his command; he was to sit at the king's table; chariots and horsemen, stately attendants, rich and costly clothing, worldly power, honour, magnificence — all that is dazzling in earthly grandeur, all that is enchanting to a worldly mind was within his grasp. But mark his piety. He declined it all! He would not now distract his mind with the dissipating round of earthly vanity. He would rather end his days in peaceful retirement; and, in the simplicity of country life, mature his soul for heaven.


II. Again, SUCH A LOYAL SPIRIT AS THAT WHICH ANIMATED BARZILLAI, WILL LEAD TO A CHEERFUL DEVOTION OF OUR SUBSTANCE, SO FAR AS IT MAY BE NEEDED, FOR THE USUAL PURPOSES OF GOVERNMENT, OR THE OCCASIONAL EXIGENCIES OF THE STATE. The good old man hastened of his own accord to bring his ample supply to David and his people in their extraordinary reverses. And let us cheerfully contribute to the maintenance of good government, by rendering those imposts which the wisdom of the legislature has arranged.

III. AND LET OUR TRUE LOYAL FEELING FIND ITS EXPRESSION IN FERVENT PRAYER TO HIM WHO SITS ENTHRONED ABOVE — "the King of kings and Lord of lords." "I exhort," saith the apostle, "that prayers be made for kings and all that are in authority: that we may lead a quiet and peacable life in all godliness and honesty."


(A. Bumstead, B. A.)

We suppose Barzillai was a good man, and that his example sufficiently proves it.


1. A wise man will never choose a court, or high offices, as most and best fitted to procure true peace.

2. A wise man will always consider a court, and eminent posts, as dangerous to his salvation. It is in a court, it is in eminent posts, that, generally speaking, the most dangerous snares are set for conscience.

3. A wise man will never enter a court or accept of an eminent post, without fixed resolutions to surmount the temptations, with which they are accompanied, and without using proper measures to succeed in his design.

4. The evils, which embitter the lives of courtiers, and of all who are elevated to eminent posts, and (what may seem a paradox), the hazard of being damned among human grandeurs, ought not to discourage those from occupying the highest offices, who are capable of doing great good to society and the church, It is a tempting of God to expose one's self to danger when no good will come of it. it is rash, it is tempting God to expose ourselves to difficulties, which cannot possibly be surmounted. His refusal proceeds from three causes.

1. The insensibility of old age is the first cause of the refusal of Barzillai. This insensibility may proceed either from a principle of wisdom.(1) a man, who hath experienced the vanity of human grandeur; a man, who hath often asked himself what good comes of this pomp and pleasure? Such a man does not entertain a very high idea of the privilege of living with the great, of eating at their tables, and of participating their pleasures. Such pleasures are approved by reason, ripened by age, and such pleasures are satisfactory at all times, and in all stages of life.(2) But there is also a constitutional insensibility. The senses, which transmit pleasures to us, become blunt, and pleasures are blunted with them.

2. The disgraces of old age are a second reason of the refusal of Barzillai. Why should thy servant be a burden to my lord the king? Certainly, an old man ought to be treated with the greatest respect and caution. Whatever idea Barzillai formed of the equity and benevolence of David, he did justice to himself. He well knew, that a man of eighty would be a burden to this good king. A man at this time of life too strikingly exhibits human infirmities to give pleasure in circles of company, where such mortifying ideas are either quite forgotten, or slightly remembered.

3. In fine, Barzillai revolved in his mind the nearness of old age to death. This was the principal cause of his refusal. Was ever principle better founded? How little is necessary to overset and break the frame of a man of this age? What is necessary? A vapour! a puff of wind!

III. But if the principle of this good old man be well founded, the consequence derived from it is better founded, that is, that WORLDLY AFFAIRS DO NOT SUIT A MAN DRAWING NEAR THE END OF HIS LIFE; that when death is so near, a man should be wholly employed in preparing for it. Everything engages Barzillai to avoid disconcerting himself in his last moments, and to devote the few that remain to seriousness.

1. The long time he had lived. If the account, which God requires every man to give at death, be terrible to all men, it should seem particularly so to old men. An old man is responsible for all the periods of his life, all the circumstances he has been in, and all the connections he hath formed.

2. The continued cares, which exercised the mind of Barzillai, were second spring of his action. How necessary is it to make up, by retirement and recollection in the last stages of life, what has been wanting in the days of former hurry, and which are now no more! I recollect a saying of a captain of whom historians have taken more cars to record the wisdom than the name. It is said that the saying struck the Emperor Charles V. and confirmed him in his design of abdicating his crown, and retiring to a convent. The captain required the Emperor to discharge him from service. Charles asked the reason. The prudent soldier replied, Because there ought to be a pause between the hurry of life and the day of death.

3. In fine, if Barzillai seemed to anticipate his dying clay by continually meditating on the subject, it was because the meditation, full of horror to most men, was full of charms to this good old man.

(J. Saurin.)

Abiathar, Abishai, Absalom, Amasa, Barzillai, Benjamin, Benjamites, Chimham, David, Gera, Israelites, Joab, Joseph, Mephibosheth, Saul, Shimei, Zadok, Zeruiah, Ziba
Bahurim, Gilgal, Jerusalem, Jordan River, Mahanaim, Rogelim
Across, Barzillai, Barzil'lai, Bring, Conduct, Cross, Escort, Gileadite, Jordan, Passed, Passeth, Rogelim, Ro'gelim
1. Joab causes the king to cease his mourning
9. The Israelites are earnest to bring the king back
11. David sends to the priest to incite them of Judah
18. Shimei is pardoned
24. Mephibosheth excused
32. Barzillai dismissed, and Chimham his son taken into the king's family
41. The Israelites expostulate with Judah for bringing home the king without them

Dictionary of Bible Themes
2 Samuel 19:31-37

     5296   disabilities

National Sorrows and National Lessons
On the illness or the Prince of Wales. Chapel Royal, St James's, December 17th, 1871. 2 Sam. xix. 14. "He bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man." No circumstances can be more different, thank God, than those under which the heart of the men of Judah was bowed when their king commander appealed to them, and those which have, in the last few days, bowed the heart of this nation as the heart of one man. But the feeling called out in each case was the same--Loyalty,
Charles Kingsley—All Saints' Day and Other Sermons

BY REV. GEORGE MILLIGAN, M.A., D.D. "There is nothing," says Socrates to Cephalus in the Republic, "I like better than conversing with aged men. For I regard them as travellers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom it is right to learn the character of the way, whether it is rugged or difficult, or smooth and easy" (p. 328 E.). It is to such an aged traveller that we are introduced in the person of Barzillai the Gileadite. And though he is one of the lesser-known characters
George Milligan—Men of the Bible; Some Lesser-Known

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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