Barzillai [Bärzĭl'la ī]—made of iron or strong.
1. A wealthy Gileadite of Rogelim, numbered among the friends of David (2 Sam. 17:27-29; 19:31-40; 1 Kings 2:7).
Barzillai the Gileadite and his family are remembered for many generations, the habitation of his son Chimham is found by Bethlehem, the city of David in the days of the captivity of the land (Jer. 41:17). What an invincible charm there is about this lovable old man! In his warm commendation of Barzillai, Alexander Whyte speaks of him as an aged, venerable, hospitable highland chief and then goes on to apply the highland characteristics of loyalty, courtesy, hospitality and passionate love of hills and valleys to this ripe old saint. This old testament character displays virtues worthy of emulation.
I. His courageous loyalty. When David sorely needed support at the time of Absalom’s rebellion, Barzillai rallied to his side. Like a true man of iron, he offered David indomitable loyalty (2 Sam. 17:27-29). With a hero’s scorn of consequences Barzillai brought necessary provisions to the hungry, thirsty followers of David. Are we as loyal to our heavenly Monarch as Barzillai was to King David?
II. His reverence of character. Barzillai was drawn to David because of the virtues he manifested. Although David was unpopular, Barzillai knew the soul of David and that he was a man after God’s own heart and that therefore he was a man after his own heart. D. L. Moody once said that “Character is what a man is in the dark.” To Barzillai, David was still godly although a fugitive, and his great, loving heart bled for the king as, like a poor panting beast, he hid from his pursuers. Bountifully he provided David with necessary sustenance as he lay at Mahanaim (2 Sam. 19:32).
III. His wide influence. Barzillai is described as a great man, with a noble seat at Rogelim, and whose noble possessions were carried with a noble humility (2 Sam. 19:32). He did not squander his wealth on idle pleasures nor hoard it for selfish ends. His position, prestige and purse were beneficially used for others. David wanted to reward Barzillai but as Professor Eadie says, “The dialogue on this occasion is one of the most lovely to be on the page of history.”
Barzillai felt his services were trivial and unworthy of any recompense from David. Barzillai’s son received of the king’s bounty and had an inheritance with David in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 19:40). When David lay on his deathbed one of his charges to Solomon was, “Show kindness to the son of Barzillai the Gileadite” (1 Kings 2:7). As for Barzillai himself he felt that at his time of life there were some things not worth doing. He was dead to the delights of sense, as Matthew Henry expresses it.
IV. His beautiful old age. Although not spared the infirmities of old age (2 Sam. 19:35), he retained his charm. At eighty years of age his heart of love was deep and broad. Old John Trapp says of Barzillai as he reached an honored age, “He had lost his colour but kept his sweet savour with the rose.” May grace be ours to grow old gracefully and beautifully!
V. His death was contemplated. Barzillai was not afraid to face the crossing of the bar. The pathetic desire expressed to David can be rendered, “The grave is ready for me; let me go out and get ready for it” (2 Sam. 19:37). At eighty, Barzillai was still the loving child of the parents with whom he desired to be buried, and his love of his kindred is to be praised. Thus as Alexander Whyte puts it, “Barzillai having shown us how to live, shows us also how to die. Barzillai dies the same devout and noble and magnanimous man he has all his days lived.” If ours is grace to live well, grace will be given to die well.
2. Father of Adriel, husband of Merab, Saul’s eldest daughter (2 Sam. 21:8).
3. A priest whose genealogy was lost, and who married a daughter of Barzillai, David’s friend (Ezra 2:61; Neh. 7:63).