Behind the Scene Saint – Barzillai

Barzillai is not familiar to most Bible students.  We are first introduced to him when he is an older man in his eighties, having obviously aged gracefully.  This man of God did not succumb to the rocking chair syndrome, but maintained an attitude of service and self sacrifice to his God and to his fellow men.   Unlike some senior saints, Barzillai did not assertain the thought of retirement, instead he committed himself unto keeping on keeping on, one step at a time in his life’s journey.  Old age does not necessarily bring with it the frailties of mind and body which prohibit purposeful avenues of service.  Barzillai as we will learn, took advantage of the opportunities to be used by God in the lives of others in his old age.

The name Barzillai comes from the Hebrew meaning ‘made of iron.’  He was a wealthy man from Gilead who possessed influence, land, money and homes.  He was a generous benefactor who chose to help others when he saw a need.  These deeds of kindness were done out of  love, without expectation of reward or recompense.  What an example to all of God’s people who have the ability to meet the tangible needs of others.  His story begins to unfold in 2 Samuel 17:27.

King David had taken refuge in Mahanaim to rest and regroup from the weariness of fleeing the wrath of Absalom.  His entourage was more than likely hungry, tired, ailing, and discouraged.  His women and children, having lived the luxurious Palace life were not accustom to the rugged life in which they now existed.  Barzillai, who dwelt in that area, discerned that David was a man of quality and he honored the character that David exhibited.  Seeing the people were in need, we read in verses 28 and 29 of 2 Samuel 17, a list of all of the provisions that Barzillai and his two friends bestowed upon David and his entire camp.  They not only provided the necessities but also a few niceties also.  Barzillai did not have to be asked, he saw the need and he met that need.  This man was not a ‘senior hoarder’, desiring to stockpile his wealth for himself and his heirs.  He sacrificially gave, possibly knowing that it was from God whom his wealth originated.   Barzillai was not concerned about the personal danger involved in helping David; had Absalom been victorious in becoming king, Barzillai would have been slain for aiding David.  Fear had no place in the heart of Barzillai.  He obviously won a place in King David’s heart.

We see that a bond did seem to develop between David, and his benefactor. Barzillai allied himself with the King even though he had no political ties.  History records that the benevolence of Barzillai continued toward David.  The wisdom that David most likely received from Barzillai was an added benefit from this providential relationship.  David and his men had a need and God used Barzillai to meet that need.

We cannot out give God!  Although folks like Barzillai seek no reward or praise for their acts of benevolence, it is not surprising that the Lord does allow special honor to be offered to those who give out of their abundance as well as those who give sacrificially.  Barzillai was not an exception.  God records in 2 Samuel 19: 31-40 that when David returns to Jerusalem, that he invites Barzillai to come with him.  What a golden opportunity, to live in the Palace of the King!  David was so full of gratitude that he wanted to provide for Barzillai in his old age.   This was not a flippant invitation.  David wanted to honor his friend.  Alas, even though the pomp and circumstance of the palace was most appealing, it was not a lifestyle in which Barzillai would be comfortable.  You see, Barzillai was used to serving, not being served.  He saw that his impaired hearing would not be able to enjoy the music of the harp; his diminished taste buds could not enjoy the delicacies of the Kinds table.  In addition,  his mind was failing and sound advice would be found wanting.  Barzillai did not want to become a burden to the King.

Barzillai provided one last gift to King David.  He offered his son Chimham to go in his place.  The King accepted this sacrificial gift of his friend and before he left, David kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and returned him to his own place.  David’s fondness of Barzallai was so great that we find in 1 Kings 2: 7 that on his death bed he charges Solomon to shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those who eat at thy table.

What a plethora of lessons one can learn from the life of this Senior Saint.  Old age should be perceived as a golden opportunity to use our time and talents wisely for the Lord.  Let us press toward the prize of the “well done thou good and faithful servant” when we stand before the Lord.


Ackn:  Article inspired by Pastor Matt