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Joab (Hebrew: יואב, Yōʼāḇ; "Name means::YHWH is Father") (ca. Born::2923 AMDied::Ethanim 2990 AM) was chief of staff of the army of the United Kingdom of Israel under King David. Sadly, he was an overzealous and treacherous servant. At the end of the reign of David, Joab took the side of David's upstart son Adonijah against his brother Solomon, who was David's choice. Joab would pay for that error with his life.[1][2][3]


descendant of::Obed
grandson of::Jesse
son of::Zeruiah
brother of::Abishai
brother of::Asahel

Joab was one of the three sons of Zeruiah, one of David's two older sisters, and thus he was David's nephew.


The Pool of Gibeon

In the spring of 2949 AM, King Saul died in battle. David captured the city of Hebron and established his capital there as king of the tribe of Judah. Joab and his brothers Abishai and Asahel were joint chiefs of staff for David's army. Saul's son Ishbosheth established his own capital at Manahaim and called himself king of the United Kingdom of Israel. Abner was Ishbosheth's chief of staff.

For two years, the two kings were at relative peace, while Abner concentrated on chasing the Philistines out of the territories other than Judah. Then Abner broke the peace with a shocking provocation.[4] Abner and his men challenged Joab and his men to a bizarre contest at the pool of Gibeon. Twelve men from each side met at that place, and the twenty-four men killed one another. Then the rest of the armies met in full-scale battle, and Abner's men lost. Asahel pursued Abner relentlessly, and then Abner turned and killed him with a thrust with the butt of his spear. The other two brothers continued to pursue Abner and his men to the hill of Ammah. There Abner begged Joab to cease the pursuit before any more men died, and Joab sounded the retreat and returned to Hebron, which was David's capital. Abner and his men crossed to the eastern side of the Jordan River and returned to Mahanaim.[5] (2_Samuel 2:12-29 )


Five and one-half years later, Abishai and Joel took their revenge against Abner. Abner had fallen out with Ishbosheth and was now arranging to hand the kingdom over to David. But Joab was not satisfied. He secretly summoned Abner to return to Hebron for further consultation, and then lured him aside and killed him. (2_Samuel 3:24-27 ) The Bible says that Abishai participated in the murder, but does not say exactly how. (2_Samuel 3:30 )

David held a public funeral for Abner, and publicly declared that Joel and Abishai had acted without orders, without proper authority and without justifiable cause. (2_Samuel 3:39 ) David then added a curse:

"May it fall on the head of Joab and on all his father's house; and may there not fail from the house of Joab one who has a discharge, or who is a leper, or who takes hold of a distaff, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks bread." - 2_Samuel 3:29

To underline his displeasure, David ordered Joab and everyone else present to tear their clothes and wear sackcloth for the funereal procession. David also refused any nourishment until sunset on that day. (2_Samuel 3:31-36

Yet David did not execute Joab, either then or on other occasions when Joab acted too rashly for the general good of the kingdom. Instead, David prayed that God would recompense any evildoer according to the evil that he did.

Military service

Joab was an excellent military commander. In one battle, he put to flight a vastly superior force of 30,000 Syrians and Ammonites without having to cast a spear in anger.[1] (2_Samuel 10:6-7,13-14 )

However, Joab was also involved in a particularly shameful incident. Uriah the Hittite came to Joab with a sealed message from David. The message was an order to Joab to send Uriah to fight in the most dangerous part of a siege against a major city, and then to leave him exposed. Joab did so, and Uriah was killed in action, as David had intended.[1] (2_Samuel 11:14-17 )


In 2977 AM, Absalom revolted against David and chased him out of Jerusalem.[4] Absalom declared that Amasa, Joab's cousin, would be chief of staff instead of Joab. (2_Samuel 17:25 ) Joab remained loyal to David and commanded one-third of David's army. His surviving brother Abishai commanded another third, and a general named Ittai the Gittite commanded the final third. (2_Samuel 18:2 ) David gave his generals strict orders to capture Absalom alive and treat him kindly.

The two armies met in combat in a forest in Ephraimite territory, and David's forces won. Absalom tried to flee from the battlefield, but when his mule passed under an oak tree, his hair got caught in the branches, and his mule galloped out from under him. A runner saw Absalom and reported what he had seen to Joab.

Joab was furious. He said that the man ought to have killed Absalom, and Joab would have paid him ten pieces of silver and a new weapon belt. The man protested King David's previous orders concerning Absalom, and Joab curtly told the man that he would not waste any more time. He rushed to the spot with ten of his armor bearers and personally killed Absalom with three spear thrusts through the heart. His armor bearers surrounded Absalom on all sides and also stabbed Absalom. (2_Samuel 2:10-15 )

When David heard the news, he mourned. Joab actually criticized David for this, and even suggested that David would be pleased to have Absalom alive if everyone else loyal to David was dead.[1] (2_Samuel 19:1-7 )


When David regained possession of his capital city, he declared a full pardon for Amasa and even promised to make him chief of staff instead of Joab.

David attempted to reconcile the various factions of Absalom's civil war. Sadly, he did not succeed, and many resentments remained. In 2979 AM, Sheba the Benjamite took advantage of this and started a revolt of his own. In this revolt, only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to David. (2_Samuel 20:1-2 ) David ordered Amasa to call out the army within three days, and Amasa was delayed. David then ordered Abishai to lead his troops in pursuit of Sheba before he could fortify himself.

Joab and his men went with Abishai, and encountered Amasa on the road. Joab approached him as a friend, but with his sword in hand. Joab stabbed Amasa in the abdomen so that his bowels fell out, and left him lying dead in a pool of his own blood. (2_Samuel 20:8-12 )

Siege of Abel

Joab continued to pursue Sheba and eventually ran him to earth in the city of Abel Beth-maacah. He laid siege to the city and built a siege ramp. Then an unnamed woman asked for a parley. She asked whether Joab truly intended to destroy the city, despite its reputation as a place of justice. (2_Samuel 20:18-19 ) Joab stated his terms: he would withdraw if the townspeople surrendered Sheba. The townsfolk cut off Sheba's head and threw it over the wall, and Joab withdrew. (2_Samuel 20:20-22 )

The Census

In 2084 AM, David ordered a general census of Israel. Joab protested, though the Bible does not state the specific grounds of that protest. David insisted, and Joab carried out the census over a period of nine months and twenty days. (2_Samuel 24:1-9 )


In or about the summer of 2989 AM, David became ill. Adonijah, son of David and Haggith, made a bid for the throne. Joab took Adonijah's side, as did the high priest Abiathar. (1_Kings 1:7

Adonijah held a feast for his loyalists in Jerusalem. Suddenly the attendees heard a trumpet sounding. Joab stood up to ask why the city was in an uproar, and Jonathan, Abiathar's son, entered. Jonathan then brought dreadful news: King David had organized a ceremony to anoint Solomon, and Solomon had already taken the throne as pro-rex.

Solomon at first granted clemency to Adonijah. But in the fall of 2990 AM, Adonijah rashly petitioned to have Abishag, David's last concubine, marry him. Solomon ordered Adonijah executed at once. Joab, hearing of this, fled to the brass altar and took hold of its horns. Benaiah, one of Solomon's loyal officers, came to Joab with a royal warrant for his arrest. Joab said that he would sooner die there. (1_Kings 2:30 ) Benaiah reported this to Solomon, who then ordered Benaiah to execute Joab personally. Benaiah did, and became chief of staff in Joab's place.[1] (1_Kings 2:34-35 )


The behavior of Joab has puzzled many commentators. Gary Naler suggests that Joab is a metaphor for the Law, while David is a metaphor for mercy.[6] Hirsch et al. suggest that the Bible blames Joab for certain policies, like the executions of Abner, Absalom, and Amasa, for which David in fact had sufficient motives according to the conventions of Middle Eastern despots of his era.[3]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Blank W, "Joab," Daily Bible Study, n.d. Accessed February 3, 2009.
  2. Konig G and Konig R, "Joab," About Bible Prophecy, n.d. Accessed February 3, 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hirsch EG, Seligsohn M, and Schechter S, "Joab," The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. Accessed February 3, 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jones, Floyd N., The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004, pp. 99-100
  5. "The Unified Kingdom Part II in Biblical Archeology," n.d. Accessed January 1, 2009
  6. Naler GD, "Joab," The Remnant Bride Online Bible Study, n.d. Accessed February 3, 2009.