Who was Joab in the Bible?King David had three zealous nephews, his sister Zeruiah's sons Asahel, Abishai, and Joab. Renowned as three of David's mighty men, they were known for their fierce loyalty to Israel and strong will. Joab was the closest to David of the three, leading the Israelite army from the early days of David's reign up until his death.
The life of Joab coincides with King David's and is recorded in Second Samuel and First Kings. His name means "my father is God." As a young man Joab fought alongside David as one of his mighty men. After defeating the Jebusites and gaining control of Jerusalem, David appointed him as the commander of his army. Joab was an excellent military leader as both a skilled fighter and tactful strategist. It is believed he never lost a battle and played a key role in establishing Israel as a powerful kingdom. Joab was loyal to his king and often counseled David on major decisions. He was one of few who could stand up to David and call him out when he was making poor decisions. However, Joab was ambitious and headstrong, causing him to disobey David's orders and on various occasions make selfish decisions.
Joab's power-hungry ambition was evident from early on. After his brother Asahel was killed by Abner in battle, he wanted revenge. However, Abner sought an alliance with David so Joab was commanded to let him live. But Joab murdered him in cold blood (2 Samuel 3). Later on, Joab killed his cousin Amasa, and did so while greeting him with a kiss (2 Samuel 20). Also, as David was on his deathbed Joab conspired to put his son Adonijah on the throne instead of Solomon whom David had chosen (1 Kings 1—2).
Yet despite his flaws, Joab demonstrated commitment to protecting his king. When King David instructed him to have Uriah the Hittite killed in battle, he did not question the king's motives, but strategically set up the battle so that the king's plan would be fulfilled (2 Samuel 11). In addition, he warned David his desire to do a census was sinful. However, David did not listen to him, so Joab obeyed his king and carried out the census. Seventy thousand men died because of David's sin (2 Samuel 24). During David's reign Absalom, one of David's sons, avenged his sister Tamar by killing another of David's sons, Amnon, who had raped her. He then fled in fear of what his father would do to him. David failed to deal with any part of this situation. Joab sought out Absalom and brought him home so he could reconcile things with his father. However, Absalom later revolted against his father, conspiring to become king. David's troops stopped the revolt and were advised to deal gently with Absalom. However, Joab killed him when he found him. David mourned his son's death and Joab rebuked him, reminding him that he had a duty as a king to honor the effort of his troops (2 Samuel 13—19).
While Joab's fearlessness made him unstoppable on the battlefield, it proved to be his downfall in times of peace. At the end of David's life, he charged his son Solomon with executing Joab for the murders he had committed. Joab died at the hands of Benaniah in the tent of the Lord while seeking mercy (1 Kings 2).
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