Barzillai Returns Home
31 Barzillai came from Rogelim in Gilead to meet David at the Jordan River and go across with him. 32Barzillai was 80 years old. He was very rich and had sent food to David in Mahanaim.
33David said to him, “Cross the river and go to Jerusalem with me. I will take care of you.”
Your Majesty, why should I go to Jerusalem? I don't have much longer to live. 35I'm already 80 years old, and my body is almost numb. I can't taste my food or hear the sound of singing, and I would be nothing but a burden. 36I'll cross the river with you, but I'll only go a little way on the other side. You don't have to be so kind to me. 37Just let me return to my hometown, where I can someday be buried near my father and mother. My servant Chimham can go with you, and you can treat him as your own.
38David said, “I'll take Chimham with me, and whatever you ask me to do for him, I'll do. And if there's anything else you want, I'll also do that.”
39David's soldiers went on across the river, while he stayed behind to tell Barzillai goodbye and to wish him well. Barzillai returned home, but 40Chimham crossed the river with David.
Israel and Judah Argue
All of Judah's army and half of Israel's army were there to help David cross the river. 41The soldiers from Israel came to him and said, “Why did our relatives from Judah secretly take you and your family and your soldiers across the Jordan?”
42The people of Judah answered, “Why are you so angry? We are the king's relatives. He didn't give us any food, and we didn't take anything for ourselves!”
43Those from Israel said, “King David belongs to us ten times more than he belongs to you. Why didn't you think we were good enough to help you? After all, we were the first ones to think of bringing him back!”
The people of Judah argued more strongly than the people of Israel.
Many troubles awaited David as he returned to resume full authority as king over Judah and Israel. Tribes, clans and factions are a challenge to even the most judicious of leaders.
At this stage of his comeback, David needed reliable people at his side. He knew he could count on Barzillai, a wealthy man from the northern reaches of the kingdom who had provided for David and his troops during the darkest hours of the insurrection. So David invited Barzillai to reside in the king’s court, a place of tremendous honour and prestige.
But Barzillai was old enough and wise enough to know what he really wanted, which was to live out his years in his own hometown. He’d had given more than his reasonable share to support King David’s kingdom. Now he wanted to stay away from the rough and tumble of life in the power centres. He was a giver content to distance himself from the takers.
Almost immediately David had to contend with disgruntled northerners, peeved because David seemed to favour Judah. Of course, the people of Judah claimed David as their kinsman and hotly disputed the charges of preferential treatment. Everyone was grappling for a share of the king, and the king was so tired of all the conflict that he probably envied Barzillai his retirement option. Kings must be givers for life.
Barzillai was loyal to the king and offered generous support when David needed it the most. The majority of the people had waffled in their loyalties, following Absalom when he seemed to be the rising power, and scurrying back to David when the uprising failed. Then they argued about who had the greater share in the kingdom.
Ironically, people who aim to help others without expectation of return often receive as much or more than they give.
O God, I long to be a person after your own heart, generous and discerning in my actions and attitudes. Help me to be willing to give all I can, and enable me to receive graciously what is my due. Fill my spirit with your wisdom and love.
Doug Koop is a writer currently serving as a Spiritual Health Practitioner at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. From 1987 to 2012 he worked as an editor with ChristianWeek newspaper, covering Christian faith and life in Canada. He and his wife, Margaret, are the parents of two adult sons and two daughters-in-law. http://www.christianweek.org http://www.promisekeepers.ca/seven/ http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20121112#pg1