2 Samuel 19:36

Barzillai graphically depicts these as experienced by himself. All old men have not exactly the same experience; but all who live to a great age must expect a similar diminution of their powers.


1. Enfeebled or annihilated powers. Blunted or extinct senses; dulness or loss of sight, hearing, taste, smelling; feebleness of body and mind. Consequent inability for active employments. Loss of the pleasures which the exercise of vigorous faculties confers.

2. Increasing dependence on others. Possibly, unlike Barzillai, for the means of subsistence; certainly for much besides. Hence the old man is apt to become, and feel himself to be, "a burden," putting the kindness and patience of others to a severe test. The discomfort arising from such dependance is often very great.

3. The sense of loneliness. Sometimes the aged survive all who have loved and cared for them, and, if not, they commonly feel themselves cut off from the interests and pleasures of the new generation.


1. With cheerful submission and patience. Remembering that the order of nature which brings such ills to the aged, and the circumstances which occasion their own particular troubles, are the appointment of the infinitely wise and good Creator and Father. Recalling also their many years of vigorous faculty and lively enjoyment, and cherishing a gratitude which will suppress discontent.

2. With thankfulness for what remains. The love and care which provide for, or minister to, their needs and alleviate their troubles. Above all, the unchanging love of God and the Redeemer, and the spiritual blessings hence enjoyed.

3. With watchfulness against the temptations incident to old age. Such as those to fretfulness, irritability, impatience, envy of the young, and needless interference with their enjoyments. The revival with new power of old sinful propensities, ill tempers, and bad habits.

4. With joyful hope. Of speedy deliverance from all burdens and troubles, and the recommencement of life with renewed and perfected energies. Nothing can keep the aged Christian long out of heaven.


1. With respectful tenderness, sympathy, and readiness to alleviate them.

2. With diminished desire for the great prolongation of their own lives.

3. With steadfast aim and endeavour so to live that, if old age come, it may not be oppressed with the needless burdens and anxieties which a godless life leads to. Let the young keep in mind the admonition, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). - G.W.

How long have I to live, that I should go up with the King unto Jerusalem?
I. A SERIOUS CONSIDERATION OF APPROACHING DEATH IS PECULIARLY PROPER FOR AGED PERSONS. Barzillai, in his reply to David, seems to have the near approach of death chiefly in view. And surely such a view was exceedingly proper and becoming for a person of his age, though he seemed possessed of much strength and vigour. But some circumstances make it peculiarly proper that the aged should make these thoughts familiar and habitual to them.

1. The speedy period of their lives is more certain than that of others. There is a probability that they who are in the prime or morning of their days may continue many years; but there is no probability that the aged should.

2. The infirmities which are peculiar to, or most frequent in old age, make the consideration of death highly proper.

3. The remembrance of the many relations, friends, and acquaintance whom they have survived, should excite this disposition in them.


1. The prospect of death should make the aged dead to the honours and pleasures of this world.

2. The prospect of death should lead them to get free from the cares of the world, as far as they lawfully can.(1) Their capacity for business is generally weakened. This is Barzillai's reasoning in the verse after the text; "Can I discern between good and evil?"(2) If their capacities continue ever so good, they bare more important concerns to mind, and but a little time for them. The one thing needful, the great business relating to their souls and eternity is sufficient to engage all the time which they can spare from that needful rest which old age requires.(3) The more cares you have upon your hands the more will your dying thoughts be disturbed, and your last Work be interrupted.(4) By various worldly cares the soul will be less disposed and qualified for the heavenly world. The immoderate love of the world is utterly inconsistent with the love of the Father; and such a love of it as may be regular and allowable in the prime or middle of life, may be immoderate and unjustifiable in old age.

(J. Orton.)

I am this day fourscore years old.
I. LENGTH OF DAYS IS A SCRIPTURAL BLESSING. It was eminently such under the Hebrew theocracy, where earthly allotments were the perpetual types of spiritual favour. As death was a penalty, so the shortening of human life was counted as a marked expression of the Divine displeasure, as where the Psalmist exclaims: "He brought down my strength in my journey, and shortened my days. But I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of mine age. For when Thou art angry all our days are gone." But alway, and through all generations, has the hoary head been counted a crown of glory to the righteous. Old age is not to be associated, as a matter of course, with decrepitude or the decays of nature. It has its own appropriate beauty, as well as youth. Undeniably the aged are entitled to our liveliest sympathies and our most sedulous attentions. They have reached the border land. They stand hovering between two worlds, and must shortly vanish and be no more seen. They are going from us, and we in our turn may require the kindness and attention which we bestow. But there are trials incident to old age, and which no power of human sympathy can avert or permanently relieve.

1. Infirmity of body is one. The vigours of life are failing. The fibre of a constitution which withstood all the assaults of threescore years, and promised well for a longer continuance, suddenly gives way.

2. Another trial of the aged is the altered aspect of society, the absence of contemporaries and companions, and the deepening loneliness of life. To outlive their generation, even by a little, is to walk a solitary path.

3. I will mention but one other trial to which the aged are exposed — that, namely, which lies in the tendency to depression and the decay of natural spirits.


1. As a rule, and as a blessedness often attained, the last days of the Christian are his best days, and the end better than the beginning.

2. And, again, the aged saint finds comfort in looking back, and holding in review the way over which he has passed. The retrospection of seventy or eighty years presents God continually in forms and ministries of providential care which are only estimated fully, at the end.

3. Finally, the past revelation of God's mercy and goodness is the best pledge of eternal glory.

(W. F. Morgan, D. D.)

Of the Christian it has been said: "The decay, and wasting, and infirmities of old age will be, as Dr. Guthrie called these symptoms of his own approaching death, only 'the land-birds, lighting on the shrouds, telling the weary mariner that he is nearing the desired haven.'" It is a favourite speculation of mine that, if spared to sixty, we then enter on the seventh decade of human life, and that this, if possible, should be turned into the Sabbath of our earthly pilgrimage, and spent Sabbatically, as if on the shores of an eternal world, or in the outer courts, as it were, of the temple that is above, the tabernacle that is in heaven.

(Dr. Chalmers.)

A grateful admirer of Charles Dickens desired to give the great novelist in his old age a token of affection. He gave him a beautiful piece of plate to stand on his dining-table. As first designed, it was to have represented the four seasons. The giver said, however, "I could not bear to offer him a reminder of the bleak and cold season," so there were but, the three figures — the types of Hope and Beauty and Bounty. The great man was touched by the beautiful gift, and by the kindliness of the thought that had designed it; but he said more than once or twice, "I never look at it but I think most of winter." We may try, by little artificial devices, to rid ourselves of all reminders of life's winter, but they will be futile. The Christian philosophy of life recognises that we must have our winters, and it gives us strength to face and endure them, a day at a time, assured that the gloomiest winter is but the herald of the spring time that will never fail.

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
Compensate, Cross, Desire, Distance, Jordan, Merely, Pass, Recompense, Repay, Reward, Servant, Servant's, Short
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

2 Samuel 19:32-36

     5501   reward, human

2 Samuel 19:34-37

     8358   weakness, physical

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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