What is a friend? Is there a difference between a “friend” and a “true friend”?

Most people have several friends when things are good. But, true friends stick around even when things are bad.

Barzillai was a true friend of David… even though he didn’t know David very well. He was there for David when things were bad.

2Samuel 17:27-29… Context: Absalom’s Rebellious Coup

This was later in David’s reign as king, and things had been deteriorating since his sin with Bathsheba. It had been prophesied that his children would cause him grief, and this had been proven true… over and over again.

Absalom, one of his sons, rebelled against David and tried to overtake the throne. Rather than fight his own son, David and a few close advisors hurriedly left Jerusalem and went to a small town named Mahanaim, on the other side of the Jordan River. When he got there, a few friends showed their loyalty to David by providing the basic needs for him and his men. Barzillai was one of these men.

We’re never told that Barzillai had met David before. They certainly would not have been described as “friends” before this. Yet, Barzillai proved himself to be a true “friend”.


“A friend in need is a friend, indeed.” “A friend in trouble is proven double.” Troubles & trials have a way of revealing true friends.

Barzillai and the others just brought some food & supplies. But, their gift was simple, timely, and perfect.

Is there someone you know who could use a “true friend” today? You may not even know him/her well, but you know you could give an encouraging word, a little cash, a small gift, etc. It might not have to be much from you to mean much to them.


2Samuel 19:31-39… Context: David’s Return to Jerusalem

When the rebellion was quelled… and Absalom had been killed by one of David’s men, David returned to Jerusalem. Barzillai went with him as far as the Jordan River to send him on his way. In return for the kindness Barzillai had shown him, David invited Barzillai to come live with him in Jerusalem.

Barzillai declined… saying he was too old to enjoy the comforts the king enjoyed at his palace. But, Barzillai asked if another friend of his, Chimham, could go in his place. David blessed Barzillai… and took Chimham with him.

Was it rude of Barzillai to decline David’s request?

– “I’m 80; I don’t have that much life left ahead of me.” (v.34)

– “I couldn’t enjoy it like I could have when I was younger.” (v.35)

– “I’m not worthy of such a reward.” (v.36)

– “My life is here, in Mahanaim.” (v.37)

Barzillai certainly didn’t intend to be rude; and David did not interpret it as such.


Barzillai had done what he could to take care of David. Now, he did what he could to take care of Chimham. It seems he was always a good friend…

At this time in your life, you are either a David, a Barzillai, or a Chimham:

– David… the one in need of a friend. If so, accept the gift of friendship when it is offered.

– Barzillai… the one being a friend. Remember… a little something might go a long way.

– Chimham… the one in debt to a friend. “Thank You” notes are a forgotten art, but you don’t have to be the one forgetting; write that note! And, one of the better ways to repay a debt that can often not be repaid, is to pass that blessing on to someone else in the previous blesser’s name.


1Kings 2:7… Context: David’s Final Instructions to Solomon, His Successor

At the end of David’s life, David’s final instructions to his son, Solomon, who would be king in his place… included continued care for the children of Barzillai.


David never forgot that simple gift given to him at a time when he really needed it. You never know what a simple something might mean to someone else.


You can read Barzillai’s story in 2Samuel 17; 19; 1Kings 2.


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