Barzillai-Israel’s Example, You Are Never Too Old Help Others

See 2 Samuel Chapters 17, 18 and 19 in the Bible, Old Testament for the entire story of David and Barzillai

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Barzillai, in Hebrew means “made of iron”

Barzillai was another of the men whose life intersected with King David. They met at a time when the king was on the run and hiding out from his own son. Absalom had usurped the throne and David was traveling throughout the country from one place to another just to stay ahead of the army that had defected to Absalom. He had approached another man asking for provisions to feed his men at a previous time of need. This was Nabal who was a very wealthy man. He also was stingy and greedy. He refused the King even though David’s soldiers had protected Nabal’s own shepherds and flocks. Needless to say, the King was angry and insulted. Many unhappy repercussions arose from that encounter.

But David did not have to ask Barzillai for anything. This good man (along with two friends) actually approached the King and offered all he had. And not just for the King but for all of the people who were with him. And he supported the entire encampment until the war was over. When David had fled Jerusalem, he took his entire household (minus 10 concubines) as well as his soldiers at arms. So there were likely several thousand people with him.

Barzillai was not even a citizen of David’s kingdom. He was from Gilead, near the area where David took sanctuary in Mahanaim, after departing in haste from the Jerusalem where Absalom was convincing many to take sides with him against his father. All of the people had been wandering and running for weeks. They were tired, hungry and some were probably ill. There were women and children who were used to palace life. It must have been a Godsend when Barzillai and his friends came to David with “bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk”.

So Barzillai became allied with David though he had no political or financial reasons to do so. Things didn’t look good for David right then. He was getting old, probably in his sixties at the time and his strong, young son was presenting a powerful front. People seeking to curry favor from political pontiffs usually turn tail and refuse to acknowledge the party who is in disgrace. We see it all the time in our own current society with its ins and outs.

But Barzillai knew quality when he saw it. And all that David represented was what Barzillai desired to honor. He didn’t care about what others thought or about the dangers that might result in his actions. He just knew he could change things for these people who were in need.

This man didn’t store these provisions away for his own use or for his heirs. He spread the wealth out for all to enjoy. In that age of war, one might be tempted to hoard and hide food and supplies. After all if Absalom was victorious, he could seek revenge on anyone who aided his father. As King, he even could have Barzillai executed as a traitor to the throne. But fear had no place in the heart of our brave provider who was no spring chicken.

This generous benefactor is described as very wealthy and very old, eighty to be exact. He was a “great” man with much influence, land, money and homes. That had nothing to do with his generosity and never hindered his rushing to aid suffering people. The Scriptures record that HE went to David and had supplies with him, ready to give. He had thought about it and knew "The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness” (2Samuel 17:29). So he went prepared to help, not just commiserate.

Having lived a full and rich life, Barzillai remained compassionate and quick to lend a helping hand. And when David’s son, Absalom, was killed in battle (in an undignified manner) the kingdom was restored to the rightful ruler. The king didn’t forget all the kindness he had received. Barzillai came down from his nice, peaceful home to escort the king partway home. David invited the benefactor to come live in his own city as an honored guest. This man would never have to worry for a thing the rest of his life!

But he wanted to stay where he had been born, lived and grew to an old age. Gilead was his home. All of the glories associated with being recognized by the king meant nothing to Barzillai. He reminded David that he was old and "How many years have I still to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am this day eighty years old; can I discern what is pleasant and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats or what he drinks? Can I still listen to the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? Your servant will go a little way over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king recompense me with such a reward? Pray let your servant return, that I may die in my own city, near the grave of my father and my mother. But here is your servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do for him whatever seems good to you. "And the king answered, "Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you; and all that you desire of me I will do for you.” "Then all the people went over the Jordan, and the king went over; and the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own home." (2 Samuel 19:31-39)

This puts an entirely new spin on things. An old man, hard of hearing, with burned out taste buds and soon to die had not just set back in a retirement villa. He didn’t sit in a recliner, watch the news and wish things were different. He didn’t wait for the church to organize a food drive. He knew that someone was in need, enduring hard times and planned accordingly.

He also never thought, “Well I am old. I might need this money for my old age. What if I get sick and go into a rest home? Or spend time in the hospital?” He depended on God to take care of him and his family because he was fulfilling God’s command to care for others. Did the Lord personally shake Barzillai and tell him that? I doubt it. The fact that we have intuition, compassion and insight lets us know our duty to others.

He won’t shake you either, or me. Our involvement does not stop because we reach a certain age. We live in a society that values youth and beauty. The elderly are considered unfit to do much more than sit around playing Bingo and patting puppies. And we are taught to expect a leisurely retirement where we can rest from a lifetime of productive employment.

The body certainly changes as we age. Most of us cannot run as far, or run at all. We are sometimes embarrassed by the sounds or “leakages” that escape involuntarily from us. We can face aging with denial, fear, and acceptance or with grace and pride. Barzillai admitted his age. He never tried to deny it or claimed he could keep up with the best of the young whippersnappers. He knew exactly how he wanted to live out his final years and chose wisely. He chose to help others including a king. That is courage and faith in action.

I firmly believe we are even more able to serve others as we age, especially OUR King, the Lord Jesus Christ. We carry wisdom in our grey hair; patience in our lined hands. Our eyes may need glasses but they see between the lines to hidden needs and broken hearts that require love to heal. The days of high heeled shoes have given way to sensible loafers that can carry us into hospital rooms to hold the hurting. We can prepare meals for people when they have lost a loved one or for a new mother who has given birth and needs to rest.

And we can take the good news of the Kingdom of God into all the earth and share it with the lost. How does that work? It is mostly by example that others see Christ in us. We are the role models of moral character and conduct, the one to show a positive attitude to youth who are exposed to the worst kind of despair. We are the salt of the earth and we should season and preserve all we touch.

And this is done out of love without expectation of reward or recompense. When the king offered Barzillai honor, prestigious and the chance to live in luxury the rest of his life, he declined but he suggested another person. And so it happened that another person went into Jerusalem to live a life of luxury and honor with the king while Barzillai stayed in the background.

However upon his deathbed, David remembered this old man who had helped him in his most trying time of life. He did not forget the kindness and compassion shown him by an elder whose eyesight, hearing and health were failing. He recalled this old man had no hesitation to spend his retirement fund and energy to assist people he didn’t even know. He told his successor Solomon, his son, to always provide for Barzillai and his family. Likewise, our own King will not forget us and shall reward us one day. Our good works and acknowledgement that Jesus is our Savior will be rewarded just as Barzillai was rewarded. He will say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

We likewise, do not know whether the person we are helping is in the most difficult time of life or just having a momentary setback. And it doesn’t matter. From the person who is homeless and sleeping in the woods to the millionaire who has never known a gentle touch, we can provide ease and rest. Today’s elder can give so much and provide so many people with what they need.

Visit a hospital. Volunteer to hold premature newborns that require human contact. Go to the animal shelter to walk the dogs and clean the cat cages. These animals are God’s creatures. Your time there gives respite to the many people that work hard providing for these precious ones. Show loving kindness to the elders who cannot give to you. Many are suffering from Alzheimer’s, disability or limited mobility from various illnesses. Some cannot or will not help others due to a lack of knowledge. They can be loved into the Kingdom. Nursing homes, retirement communities and other elder living facilities offer great opportunity for service.

The options are truly limitless and the rewards priceless. Barzillai did not accept age as an excuse or reason to step back. He overcame his own physical restrictions to change lives and at the end of this story he even sent another man into the place of honor that had been offered to himself. And that choice may have had an incredible outcome centuries later.

Jewish lore says that man, Chimham, (sent with David by Barzillai) established an inn at Bethlehem and it was passed down through his children and grandchildren throughout the years. It was part of the gratitude prize given to Barzillai (by proxy) to Chimham. It is possible this was the very stable and inn where Jesus, Savior of the world was born. The generous gift to this man from an ancient of days” made way for the plan of God himself to be fulfilled centuries later.

We may never know if our contribution will last for generations and may be a part of the master plan for this world we live in. God may place a certain person in our own life for a reason and a purpose. We must never be afraid to act or to think we are too old and tired to reach out in faith and love, helping and providing a necessary service.

The older one is, the more time generally her or she has to give in service to others. Remember Barzillai and his personal sacrifice of comfort, finances and time. You too can be one who looks, sees a need and acts to fill it. You can be honored by the king. You ARE honored by Him because He chose you to act and live in love. We can honor Him by looking upon His people with love, compassion, and respect by serving them unselfishly. He will never be less than touched and has given His very life in gratitude to us all. In that world where God resides, we are never old, tired and challenged. We are perfect in every manner. Because He first loved us and we simply mirror His actions.



We Honor God, the Ancient of Days in Our Old Age

© Brenda Barnes-All Rights Reserved

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Comments 35 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Very well written, and enjoyable!


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

Good hub Brenda. I had forgotten about these instances, since I haven't read the bibnle in years. This story is awesome, and still has meaning in this time and age. You should always show compassion, because in due time you may need some as well. Thank you so much for sharing.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi WillStarr, it is nice to see you. I am glad you enjoyed this one. It is fun to write about the men for a change. Thanks for coming by. I appreciate it and you.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

hello A.A. I hope you are well. It is always so great to see you here. I so like this man Barzillai. He just seems like someone who would be cool to be around. I already have the next one started. I hope you like him also. Pull out your Bible and dust it off. You will love reading the referenced verses, lots of drama. The son who tried to steal the kingdom was killed because of his own hair! Isn't that amazing?! Thank you for taking time to come by and read this. See you soon.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Hyphen, you have put together another remarkable Hub. You can sense your passion for the subject. You can feel that you put your heart into it.


Faithful Daughter profile image

Faithful Daughter 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Beautifully written and an excellent example from the Bible. Thanks for the reminder that we will never be too old to work for the Kingdom of God.

A couple of years back, while I was holding down two jobs, I met the saddest people one can find. My part time job required that I pick up labs at hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes. Whenever I entered a nursing home, I had little old women surround me. They would hug and tug at me as soon as they saw me. They were all starving for love and attention, and I was always willing to give it to them.

I never will forget one elderly woman, desperately waiting for a phone call from her son who lived in another state. Apparently, she had been waiting for hours and the call never came, but she would not leave the phone by her side. It was so sad to see how many were forgotten and neglected that it would make me cry every time I stopped by. I always took a few minutes to put a smile on their faces and make small talk, not much, but enough to make their day. Sometimes that's all it takes, a little bit of your time and your willingness to help. Same goes with animals at the shelters as you mentioned, even volunteering once a week can mean so much.

Thanks for sharing.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Brenda, This is a story that i was unfamiliar with. I enjoyed it very much and the video was beautiful. You brought home the fact that just because we age, we still can do good in our communities. This reminded me to do more. Thank you. Love and Peace..


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA

I really enjoy your missives on these little known persons in the Bible. Good work!


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 5 years ago from Taos, NM

Hyphen: This is another great hub and I enjoyed reading this so much. Yes, there is much we can do to honor God and those around us, no matter what age we are.

I keep really busy here in Florida, volunteering and working for organizations that raise scholarships for students. Not everyday is spent at the beach.

There are hundreds of ways retirees can volunteer and help others, even here in Naples, Florida. Your message is so relevant and needed in times like now when we are in such tough economic times.

I hope everyone who reads this will consider helping others no matter what age they are. Helping others also makes you feel so much better about yourself as well.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello mckbirdbks. I do enjoy writing these. I wasn't certain I could write about the men, but after researching it just flows. Thanks for coming by. I know you are preparing for that wedding.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi there Faithful Daughter. I am so pleased you came by to read this one. Barzillai is such a great example. As soon as I read his story I knew why God included him in the Scriptures. Your story of the lady who waited by the phone makes me cry. So many are doing that every day. You have a loving and compassionate heart. God recognizes that too. Bless you in His love and kindness.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello always. I love that video too. We must look for opportunities to help others. You are quick to come read these offerings of mine. Thank you for that.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you liftandsoar. I really appreciate knowing that. I am sure you know the research and writing can be tiring. Your encouragement means a lot to me.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

You have written another excellent hub Hyphen.

I didn't know of this story but so enjoyed reading it.

Too right, it doesn't matter how old we are we can all do a little bit to help someone else.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

We can learn some things from Barzillai today. Old Bar was a righteous and compassionate fellow. A great history and good reminders for us to be in service to others. That is the path to true happiness. In WW2 a German private was ordered by his superior to shoot a civilian at the monstrous battle of Stalingrad. When alone with the victim he had mercy and let the surprised man go. Of over 90,000 German prisoners taken at the end of the 5-month battle, only 5,000 ever saw home again. He was one of them and all the rest of his life he insisted it was because he had shown mercy that long ago day at Stalingrad.


North Wind profile image

North Wind 5 years ago from The World (for now)

Barzillai was one of my favorites as well. You are right- it does not matter what age we are there are ways, if we look for them, to do the things which are pleasing to God.

Great hub as usual, Hyphenbird!


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Dear Brenda,

Yet another wonderful, beautiful hub written and such a good reminder to always reach out no matter how old we are. It is amazing how the smallest of gestures bring so much joy..Thank you my sweet friend..I loved this so much.

Sunnie


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

Your hubs never cease to amaze me! And I agree that even offering small gestures bring us all joy---seems the older I get the more I do little stuff that would never have occurred to me when young--then it had to be bigger things. Actually, a poster read in my 30's made me more aware of giving/doing ANYTHING: "Give somebody a smile today; they may need it more than you." In this world, we can't reach out enough. Thanks for this info and reminder!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Suzette. You are a wonderful person and that you help others comes as no surprise to me. Sometimes even a wealthy area has the most hurting people. Thank you for your love and compassion.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello dear Rosemay. I have learned about so many incredible people from researching the Old Testament. There is an incredible amount of wealth in there. I am so pleased you like Barzillai as much as I do.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Alastar, tat is such a touching story. A loving, compassionate action is always the right choice. Thanks for sharing that and for coming to learn about Barzillai.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello North Wind. I was formerly unaware of him. Since I have been reading literally line by line, I see the most wonderful people and events. I am so pleased you knew of him and his great friendship to the King. Thanks for stopping by with your great comments.


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

It's so nice to see the colorful person you are! :) I've missed you *and hubpages* I've not much chances to write or comment, but some, there is just that thing called "faith" and I have faith that you're always going to say and do the right thing. Meeting you and Susieq has made a BIG difference in my life and if I never said thank you - THANK YOU. You've both done more than you know! Um, wonder who sent you... nah, I don't, I think we know :) *hugz*


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you Sunnie. I am glad you were blessed by this recounting of a special man and his goodness.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Teylina, thank you for your innate kindness. I agree with you. As I get older, I know the small offerings bring the most to others. A simple phone call or reading the paper to someone with poor eyesight brings pleasure to them, and to us. I appreciate your loyal following. You are an example also.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Katharella! You have been o my mind. It is SO great to hear from you. Your thank you makes all the research and writing time well spent. You are so right about faith. It is never for naught and God recognizes it. He is amazing. And it is nice when He sends people into our life. Bless you girl.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

I didn't know anything about this man and found his story absolutely fascinating and so very inspiring. I also loved the way you compared what this 80 year old man did out of love and service to how the elderly in today's times can still contribute much to society if they are healthy enough to do so.

Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting. Keep this series coming. It's entertaining and also very educational.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Happyboomernurse, I had never heard of this man until my eyes were opened to him. I reread those chapters and he just leaped out. I am glad you find him fascinating also. We tend to hear of the same people over and over. They are wonderful but so many more examples are hidden in the Bible like gems to be discovered. I have already unearthed the next gem and am writing about him. I hope to have it finished soon. Thank you for your constant encouragement.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Am so glad you are finding these hidden gems and sharing them in such an entertaining and enlightening way with the rest of us.


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

:) You know, it's just my observation, but being blind for 6 years I wanted to read this/that etc. but I find myself reading what's there, so maybe they are not "hidden" but.. meant to be a the right time or the right people. The light was turned on and a door opened so some wouldn't stumble anymore.. FOOD for thought huh :) *hugz*


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

That is correct Katharella. I was previously not reading with the insight of the Holy Spirit so much was missed. I love this new understanding and look forward to finding more in the same scriptures. Thank you for your insight.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....I am not a religious person so I do not know the Bible intimately but I do believe it to be the 'greatest story ever told' and I thank you sincerely for these 'lessons' my wonderful world class teacher HYPHENBIRD - and yes it's true too that the epi-man (to take an old line and song from Van Halen) IS HOT FOR TEACHER , especially you Miss B.

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Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Epi. One does not have to be religious to love God and to know Jesus as Savior. Religion and real Christianity are sometimes polar opposites. I love studying the Bible and learning these old stories and am thrilled when they help another person. Some think the Bible is dry reading but it is full of drama, love and heroic deeds. Thank you for reading this Hub about a man who refused to walk away.


liftandsoar profile image

liftandsoar 5 years ago from Richmond, VA

Thought you'd like to know that Billy Graham in his latest book, Nearing Homw, features Barzillai as a model of aging gracefully. You'll find it in his opening chapter. As a 70 year old I've specially appreciated your thoughts above.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

liftandsoar, thank you for that information. I have heard that he wrote a new book but have not reviewed or read it yet. Now I must because Barzillai has touched me so much. I am so excited to read it now! Thank you and I also appreciate this example more than I can say.

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