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Human Ferryboats

Human Ferryboat


 By Mary Lee Thornton

2 Samuel 19:18. “And there went over a ferry boat to carry over the king's household, and to do what he thought good. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan; (kjv)

This is something that is mentioned only once in the bible---a ferry-boat. This ferry-boat comes into one of the stories about King David.

At the time of the story David was an old man and he was passing through one of the most trying experiences of his life. His son, Absalom, had plotted against him and tried to wrest the kingdom from David and make himself king.

The plot had succeeded to the point where king David and his household had to flee from Jerusalem, along with hundreds of those who were faithful to him.

King David and his men had crossed the Jordan river where Joab, and those who had remained faithful to David, fought a great battle with Absalom and his men.

Absalom had been killed in this battle, and, to say the least,

King David was heartbroken at the death of his son.

The Bible allows us to see what a great heart David had by informing us that David did not rush back to Jerusalem with Joab and the soldiers to punish those who had rebelled against him.

Instead, David and his household remained on the other side of Jordan until god brought the hearts of the rebels to a place of repentance for what they had done to the king.


It is noteworthy to notice that the most obstinate of all the tribes of Israel, those who were the last to join the movement to bring back their rightful King, were the men of the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Judah was David’s own tribe, his own people, his own kinsmen. Jesus was opposed by his own brothers until after the crucifixion.

But after David sent to them, and pleaded with them, they also joined the movement to bring back the king. The message was sent by all for David to return as king.

When David and his household was returning they were met at the Jordan by a man named Ziba. Ziba was formerly a servant of King Saul.

Ziba had with him fifteen sons and twenty servants, and they went over the Jordan, that is they forded the river, to meet the King

Our scripture reads, “There went over a ferry-boat to bring back the king’s household,”---the women and children who had gone into exile.


Great scholars who have studied the Hebrew language, in which this story was written, tell us that they are not quite sure that the word translated “ferry-boat” means a ferry-boat.

They say that “ferry-boat” may mean “ford.”

They say we should read that Ziba, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, waded through the Jordan in the presence of the King, and kept crossing, and re-crossing the ford, to carry over the King’s household.

But after all the change does not make any difference to the story. Because, if Ziba and his sons and servants waded through the Jordan and carried over the women and children belonging to the King, what were they but HUMAN FERRY-BOATS?

They took passengers safely across the river, and that is what a ferry-boat is for.

I hope this does refer to human ferry-boats, for that is what I want to ask you to be HUMAN FERRY-BOATS.

There are all kinds of ferry-boats. Some are rowed with oars, some are pushed with poles, some are pulled across by a wire or rope, and others have sails. We may be acquainted with motor driven ferries which are large enough to carry automobiles, along with many passengers.

Some cross small streams where there is no bridge, others cross large rivers or lakes; some even cross inlets off of the ocean. But nature’s ferry-boat, and the earliest ferry-boat known, is just some strong, kind, person who carried a weaker person across a stream.

God wants all of us to be human ferry-boats.

We may ask, “How can I be a ferry-boat?”

To begin with, there is no river near my home, or, if there is, it is too wide and deep to ford, and I am not physically able to carry anybody across. I’m talking in parabolic form, I do not mean a real live river, I’m talking about the river of life, which we all are crossing.

I’m talking about real life situation which we all have to pass through. There are difficulties and dangers which, sooner or later, in the journey of life, we all come to. Through many of these trials we need a kind human ferry-boat to help us over and land us safely on the other side.

Can we think of someone we can help through some situation which has befallen them?

Who would have ever thought that the king’s house-hold would need help? When we think of the king’s household we usually think of splendor, and people free from want of any kind, but there are people from all walks of life who are hurting and need your help.

We want to look in the bible and see some example of what we can call human ferry-boats. The best example is found in one of the parables of Jesus.

Luke 10:30. “And Jesus answering said, a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (kjv)

Here we have a man who was in a desperate condition, he could not help himself, and without some human help he would have died. After lying there for some time in this helpless condition, a man came by who had compassion for him.

Luke 10:33. “But a certain samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (kjv)

We find not only did he feel sorry for him, he did something about it.

Luke 10:34. “And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 

35. “And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, i will repay thee.” (kjv)

Here we have an unnamed individual who helped another unnamed individual across a very difficult place, so we can call him a ferry-boat person. We could think that the great Apostle Paul was so strong in the faith that he would never need help from anyone, but this was not always the case.

In the seventeenth chapter of Acts we read of that great sermon he preached at the city of Athens.

This is one of the most eloquent and persuasive sermons we have recorded by him. But the learned men of Athens were not moved by the message Paul preached to them, in fact they were downright rude to him.

Acts 17:32. “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, we will hear thee again of this matter.      

33 So Paul departed from among them."  (kjv)

Paul left the city of Athens in a downcast mood, having won only a few converts, and went to the city of Corinth. There in the city of Corinth Paul met a man and his wife who became a ferry-boat to him at a time he needed someone to help him through this time of feeling rejected.

Acts 18:1. “After these things paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;

2. “And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.

3. “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

4. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. (kjv)

Aquila and Priscilla was a God-sent ferry-boat for the Apostle Paul. For several weeks Paul lived with them, working to help them in their little business of tent-making.

On the week-ends he went to the synagogue and reasoned in the scriptures. Notice he reasoned, not full of fire and brimstone preaching, of which we think of Paul the apostle.

But after a few weeks with Aquila and Priscilla, Paul began to revive back to his old self and by the time Silas and Timothy arrived he had up a full head of steam.

Acts 18:5. “And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. (kjv)

There was a life-long bond formed between Paul and this couple who came into his life when he needed someone to help carry him through a hard place. We do not know what would have become of the great apostle if Priscilla and Aquila had not taken him into their home at the time he needed some spiritual support.

There may not have been a great church established in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-20), he may not have written all those great letters which have given all of us such great support and instructions. So we may never know the outcome of just one little act of kindness we show to someone, but there will be a great reward laid up for us.

Aquila and Priscilla never realized the impact which their small act of kindness had upon the Christian Faith, nor that their names would be forever solemnized and engraved in the word of God (Acts 18:2, 18, 26,  Romans 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 4:19).

It is our Christian duty to help our fellow Christians when we see them in need of something.

Matthew 25:34 “Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36.  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38. When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee?

39. Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40. And the king shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (kjv)

James 2:15. “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16. And one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (kjv)

1 John 3:17. “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of god in him?

18. My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (kjv)

So surely we can think of someone in our family, our church, or maybe where we work that we can help across a difficult place in their lives.


I hope you enjoyed this article on how we can become a HUMAN FERRYBOAT to help someone across a difficult place. We invite you to read the other studies on our web site.

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By, Mary Lee Thornton




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