The Works of

Rev. Prof. Dr. F.N. Lee

12 April

Barzillai, 80, wished to be buried by his parents’ grave

Second Samuel 19:31-37

‘Barzillai…came down…and went over Jordan with the king…. Barzillai was a very aged man, even 80 years old…. He had provided the king sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man…. The king said to Barzillai, “Come over with me, and I will feed you!”…. But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king?…. I am today 80 years old, and can I discern?… Let your servant please turn back again, so that I may die in my own city and be buried by the grave of my father!… But behold your servant Chimham!… Let him go…with my lord the king!’ Second Samuel 19:31-37.

Barzillai the octogenarian had come down and gone across the Jordan with King David. Barzillai was very wealthy, and had earlier fed the king. So David would now gladly have taken him with him to Jerusalem, to repay him there for his kindnesses to him which Barzillai had then done at considerable risk to himself when David had fled from Absalom. Second Samuel 17:27-29.

Deeply did King David appreciate Barzillai’s loyalty and generosity. So he later welcomed his aged subject, and accordingly desired he should participate in the feast which was to mark his own restoration to his throne.

But Barzillai had other thoughts. He felt, and rightly so, that one as near to death as he — should rather be engaged in more serious and solemn exercises, than festive jollifications. Such was hardly a suitable occupation for a man so close to the brink of eternity as he. The aged should be done with such pleasures, and set their thoughts and affections on something more enduring and
satisfying than even the best this Earth has to offer!

So he replied: ‘How long shall I have to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am now 80 years old. Can I still distinguish things? Why should your servant still be a burden to my lord the king? Let your servant return, so that I may die in my own city at the grave of my parents! But behold your servant (my own son or grandson) Chimham! Let him go with the king,
and do to him whatever seems good to you!’

Then the king answered ‘Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him whatever seems good to you; and whatever you shall require of me, that I will do — for you!’ (Second Samuel 19:38). David at once fell in with Barzillai’s suggestion, for he was anxious to repay his kindness. For it is our duty to do what we can in assisting the children of those who befriend us.

When the aged David much later was giving instruction to Solomon, he made special mention of the descendants of Barzillai. ‘Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai…, and let them be of those that eat at my table! For they came to me, when I fled because of Absalom!’ (First Kings 2:7).

So the king kissed Barzillai, and took leave of him. And Barzillai blessed the king, and then returned home – where he died in peace, and was buried by the grave of his father and his mother!