Barzillai the Gileadite
2 Samuel 19:31-40; 2 Samuel 17:27-29; 1 Kings 2:1-9; Ezra 2:58-63.
I read a fair number of scriptures, beloved brethren, but I think it's necessary to get the full context of what one has in mind as to Barzillai the Gileadite. David's estimation of the sons of Barzillai when he was about to die — "The days of David were at hand that he should die" — was that "they came up to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother." We have perhaps often spoken of how Barzillai says that he won't go on with the king to Jerusalem — he won't go the full way to Jerusalem. But I think we need to look at the history of Barzillai and his family and see heaven's estimation of it. We may have read this scripture in Ezra 2 and the scripture in Nehemiah that says similar words: "the children of Barzillai; who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name. These sought their genealogical register, but they were not found." We may have often read this quickly and thought, "Well, that dates back to the fact that Barzillai the Gileadite did not go the full way with David into Jerusalem."
But we need to read this scripture carefully. There are two Barzillais in Ezra 2, verse 61: "The children of Barzillai; who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite." Barzillai the Gileadite is the man of whom David speaks in 1 Kings 2, and the man who is spoken of as "a very great man" in 2 Samuel 19. This other man, Barzillai, took a wife of Barzillai the Gileadite's daughters, and was called after their name. That is, he assumed the name of this man who had cared for David while he was in reproach. He took on the name, but he was found not to be real. His progeny were found not to have their names in the genealogical register. It is a sober consideration that persons may take on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in rejection — they may take the place of those who serve the Lord Jesus in rejection, but their names may not be found. It says he "was called after their name. These sought their genealogical register, but they were not found; therefore were they, as polluted, removed from the priesthood."
The scripture goes on to show that they should not eat of the most holy things until there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim. That points to the Lord Jesus, the One who is perfectly able, in accord with the lights and perfection of the Urim and Thummim, to discern where persons are. They take on the name of Barzillai the Gileadite, "a very great man", but the Lord Jesus — the priest standing up with Urim and with Thummim — is the One who is able to discern whether reality is there.
Well, I have been affected of late with the way David, at the end of his life, has clear discernment as to these persons who have served him, whether in an outward way when he was publicly king or when he was in rejection. He has very clear discernment as to these persons: Joab, Shimei, and the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite. He speaks of Joab and Shimei in view of Solomon bringing judgment upon them. Although Joab outwardly, during David's life, was generally a supporter of David, there was something of a moral defect in Joab. David said at one time, "the sons of Zeruiah are too hard for me." And there was a defect in Shimei; he cursed David at one point. When David was in rejection, he cursed him, then when David was returning to Jerusalem, he tried to make amends with David, but his heart wasn't pure in the matter. But between these two persons that David singles out for Solomon's judgment, we have this precious reference, "show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table."
Think of that: "the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite!" They would not be political persons. A political person does not support a king when he is in rejection, does not support a king when he is in reproach. But these persons supported David, maintained David at Mahanaim when he was in reproach, when all the outward signs indicated that Absalom was going to take over the kingdom of Israel. It says that "as soon as David came to Mahanaim", these persons immediately responded. Barzillai the Gileadite, and these other persons referred to here, brought everything that was needed in view of the people's sustenance, to sustain David and those that were with him. "The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty in the wilderness." They provide what is needed for David and his people.
Well, dear brethren, that is a really precious reference to one of whom we have often spoken somewhat negatively. It says in chapter 19 that he was an old man: "he was very aged, 80 years old, and it was he that had maintained the king while he abode in Mahanaim, for he was a very great man." There are very few persons in scripture who are spoken of as very great men. It speaks of a person who had the resources to maintain David in a day in which he was rejected. Well, David is a type of the Lord Jesus himself. He is a type of Christ in rejection. And we are living in a time when Christ is in rejection. And the question is whether we have these features of Barzillai amongst us, and the sons of Barzillai, because David, in his assessment, says that "they came up to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother."
So Chimham comes to light and his name means longing. "Behold thy servant Chimham: let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what seems good to thee." We don't know from this scripture whether Chimham was one of Barzillai's sons. He is spoken of as his servant, but perhaps he was one of his sons. So he is one who is going to go with David, to go into Jerusalem with David. He is one who would appreciate David, as being restored to his rights. I believe the Lord Jesus would appreciate the features of Chimham in each one of us. "Do to him what seems good to thee. And the king said, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which seems good to thee; and whatsoever thou shalt require of me, that will I do for thee." The resources of the Lord Jesus are available for persons who have set themselves to care for the interests of the Lord Jesus in a day when He is rejected.
So David says, "show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table." There is a suggestion there of the Lord's table, as we have in Paul's ministry to Corinth. "Let them be of those that eat at thy table." These are the character of persons whom the Lord Jesus desires to have, eating at His table.
Now in Ezra, the sobering thing is that these persons claim to be of the line of Barzillai the Gileadite, but are not truly. They are persons who are called after their name but they are unable to prove their genealogy. The proving of our genealogy bears on whether we are persons who name the name of the Lord and who follow that up with all that scripture requires of us in the day in which we live. "Let him that names the name of the Lord." Well, many things are involved in the lordship of Christ. I believe that persons who name the name of the Lord and who answer to His lordship are those who prove their genealogy.
Then the comforting thing about this whole matter is that the Lord Jesus is the Priest with Urim and with Thummim. He has all the saints on His breastplate, and He has perfect discernment, perfect judgment according to the principles of light and perfection. He has a perfect judgment of each one, a perfect assessment of each one of us. He knows whether we are proving our genealogy or not. We can take comfort in that, that the Lord is greater than our hearts and knows all things. May we be comforted by these things and may we find our part, beloved brethren, among the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite who eat at Solomon's table.
For His name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman
Barzillai the Gileadite