David had already graced the triumphs of his restoration with the generous remission of the injuries that had been done to him; we have him here gracing them with a no less generous reward of the kindnesses that had been shown to him. Barzillai, the Gileadite, who had a noble seat at Rogelim, not far from Mahanaim, was the man who, of all the nobility and gentry of that country, had been most kind to David in his distress. If Absalom had prevailed, it is likely he would have suffered for his loyalty; but now he and his shall be no losers by it. Here is,
I. Barzillai’s great respect to David, not only as a good man, but as his righteous sovereign: He provided him with much sustenance, for himself and his family, while he lay at Mahanaim, 2 Sam. 19:32. God had given him a large estate, for he was a very great man, and, it seems, he had a large heart to do good with it: what else but that is a large estate good for? To reduced greatness generosity obliges us, and to oppressed goodness piety obliges us, to be in a particular manner kind, to the utmost of our power. Barzillai, to show that he was not weary of David, though he was so great a charge to him, attended him to Jordan, and went over with him, 2 Sam. 19:31. Let subjects learn hence to render tribute to whom tribute is due and honour to whom honour, Rom. 13:7.
II. The kind invitation David gave to him to court (2 Sam. 19:33): Come thou over with me. He invited him, 1. That he might have the pleasure of his company and the benefit of his counsel; for we may suppose that he was very wise and good, as well as very rich, otherwise he would not have been called here a very great man; for it is what a man is, more than what he has, that renders him truly great. 2. That he might have an opportunity of returning his kindness: “I will feed thee with me; thou shalt fare as sumptuously as I fare, and this at Jerusalem, the royal and holy city.” David did not take Barzillai’s kindness to him as a debt (he was not one of those arbitrary princes who think that whatever their subjects have is theirs when they please), but accepted it and rewarded it as a favour. We must always study to be grateful to our friends, especially to those who have helped us in distress.
III. Barzillai’s reply to this invitation, wherein,
1. He admires the king’s generosity in making him this offer, lessening his service, and magnifying the king’s return for it: Why should the king recompense it with such a reward? 2 Sam. 19:36. Will the master thank that servant who only does what was his duty to do? He though he had done himself honour enough in doing the king any service. Thus, when the saints shall be called to inherit the kingdom in consideration of what they have done for Christ in this world, they will be amazed at the disproportion between the service and the recompence. Matt. 25:37; Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee?
2. He declines accepting the invitation. He begs his majesty’s pardon for refusing so generous an offer: he should think himself very happy in being near the king, but, (1.) He is old, and unfit to remove at all, especially to court. He is old, and unfit for the business of the court: “Why should I go up with the king to Jerusalem? I can do him no service there, in the council, the camp, the treasury, or the courts of justice; for how long have I to live? 2 Sam. 19:34. Shall I think of going into business, now that I am going out of this world?” He is old and unfit for the diversions of the court, which will be ill-bestowed, and even thrown away, upon one that can relish them so little, 2 Sam. 19:35. As it was in Moses’s time, so it was in Barzillai’s and it is not worse now, that, if men be so strong that they come to fourscore years, their strength then is labour and sorrow, Ps. 90:10. These were then, and are still, years of which men say they have no pleasure in them, Eccl. 12:1. Dainties are insipid when desire fails, and songs to the aged ear are little better than those sung to a heavy heart, very disagreeable: how should they be otherwise when the daughters of music are brought low? Let those that are old learn of Barzillai to be dead to the delights of sense; let grace second nature, and make a virtue of the necessity. Nay, Barzillai, being old, thinks he shall be a burden to the king, rather than any credit to him; and a good man would not go any where to be burdensome, or, if he must be so, will rather be so to his own house than to another’s. (2.) He is dying, and must begin to think of his long journey, his removal out of the world, 2 Sam. 19:37. It is good for us all, but it especially becomes old people to think and speak much of dying. “Talk of going to court!” says Barzillai; “Let me go home and die in my own city, the place of my father’s sepulchre; let me die by the grave of my father, that my bones may be quietly carried to the place of their rest. The grave is ready for me, let me go and get ready for it, go and die in my nest.”
3. He desires the king to be kind to his son Chimham: Let him go over with my lord the king, and have preferment at court. What favour is done to him Barzillai will take as done to himself. Those that are old must not grudge young people those delights which they themselves are past the enjoyment of, nor confine them to their retirements. Barzillai will go back himself, but he will not make Chimham go back with him; though he could ill spare Chimham, yet, thinking it would gratify and advance him, he is willing to do it.
IV. David’s farewell to Barzillai. 1. He sends him back into his country with a kiss and a blessing (2 Sam. 19:39), signifying that in gratitude for his kindnesses he would love him and pray for him, and with a promise that whatever request he should at any time make to him he would be ready to oblige him (2 Sam. 19:38): Whatsoever thou shalt think of, when thou comest home, to ask of me, that will I do for thee. What is the chief excellency of power but this, that it gives men a capacity of doing the more good? 2. He takes Chimham forward with him, and leaves it to Barzillai to choose him his preferment. I will do to him what shall seem good to thee, 2 Sam. 19:38. And, it should seem, Barzillai, who had experienced the innocency and safety of retirement, begged a country seat for him near Jerusalem, but not in it; for, long after, we read of a place near Beth-lehem, David’s city, which is called the habitation of Chimham, allotted to him, probably, not out of the crown-lands or the forfeited estates, but out of David’s paternal estate.
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