Unsung heroes—Barzillai the Gileadite, Part 1

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Unsung heroes—Barzillai the Gileadite, Part 1


Introduction: Barzillai is one of many in the Bible who is mentioned only a few times, but his deeds more than make up for any lack of coverage. When David fled for his life during Absalom’s revolt (2 Samuel 15-18), he eventually crossed the Jordan River. Barzillai and some other people met the king and provided a number of essential items.

Text, 2 Samuel 17:26-29: 26 So Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead. 27 And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim, 28 Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse, 29 And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.

Thoughts: Gilead was located on the eastern side of the Jordan River and several miles upstream. From Jerusalem, it would have been possible to get to the river and cross it in one day but the more people trying to cross, the longer it would take, and there is no record in the text that God parted the Jordan so they could cross on dry ground.

Eventually David and his followers made it to Mahanaim, a good distance from Jerusalem. David and his followers apparently left in a hurry and may not have had much in the way of food or other necessities. Yet even there, God had some people in place to help David when he and his followers need that help the most.

Barzillai and the others gave different kinds of food and drink, plus places to rest. And best of all, he and the others offered this with no apparent charges. He and the others also provided this with the purest of reasons: “the people (are) hungry, weary, and thirsty in the wilderness.”

Aside from this, Bazillai is only mentioned on one other occasion in the Bible. Here, his concern for those who didn’t have much is commendable. Who would have thought the king would be dependent on other people for the basic things of life? But Barzillai saw the need, joined with some others, and provided for some very needy people.

An unsung hero? Absolutely. But his deeds speak volumes more than anything he ever said.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

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