Joab the faithful, loyal, dedicated, able, but misunderstood captain of David the king
Joab the son of Zeruiah was the captain of King David right from the beginning of his carrier. Zeruiah was his mother’s name and his father’s name was not mentioned in the Bible. Zeruiah and Abigail were two sisters of David’s father Jessie. Joab was the middle son and Abisai was his elder brother and Asagel was his younger brother. All the three were mighty warriors. Abigail’s son was Amasa, an able captain and warrior. So, David, Joab, Abishai, Asahel, and Amasa were close relatives. (I Chro.2:15-17) In case of father and mother of Joab, in English both the names of father and mother is given as Zeruiah. But in Tamil language, Father’s name is given as Zeruiah and mother’s name is given as Zeruial.
When God exalted David to become the son in law of King Saul, and soon he ran away to save his life, these brothers might have accompanied with David except Amasa who joins David on a later date as a captain of King Saul when David was in Ziklag. (I Chron. 12:18) The fourth person fled with David might be Ahimelech the Hittite. (I Sam.26: 6) When David fled, he went to Nob to the priest Ahimelech, he requested for five breads, for one each of them. (I Sam. 21:1-5, 26:5-12)
When King Saul died in the war, people of Judah made David as their king in Hebron. He had an army and Joab was the captain of the army from the beginning. (II Sam. 2:12-14) Joab’s younger brother Asahel, the fastest runner like a deer died in the war in the battle with Abner, the captain of Israel, who made Ishbosheth the other son of Saul as king over Israel. When Abner had an illegal contact with the concubine of late Saul, Ishbosheth admonished his captain Abner. This irked Abner and threatened Ishbosheth that he would hand over the kingdom to King David. Then Abner wrote letters in his own name, to King David to make a treaty with Abner. King David wanted Abner to bring his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, who gave her in marriage to Phalti of Gallim when David fled away. King David wrote letter to king Ishbosheth too to send his wife back to him. Abner brought Michal to King David and he made a treaty with him to merge Israel with King David’s kingdom. King David gave a feast to Abner and his men and sent him away.
Joab and his men came when Abner left Hebron and Joab was told about Abner’s visit. Immediately Job went to King David and enquired about Abner because Joab could not believe Abner, and he knew the potential of harm by Abner to King David. But King David kept silence. Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, so that he is gone? You know that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you and to know you’re going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.” (II Sam. 3: 24, 25) But the reason for King David’s silence was the treaty of King David with Abner and bringing Michal back. Because Joab would have advised the king negatively as it was incorrect as per Law of Moses, to take her back after she was given in marriage to Phalti and she begot five boys from him. (II Sam.21:8) (Duet.24: 1-4) Joab did not want to waste the time and he sent his men to call Abner back and killed him in the gate of Hebron. Though it was mentioned that Joab and Abishai killed Abner for the blood of their brother Asahel, it may be apparently correct in the sight of the people, as Asahel died in war. But, as there is no revenge for death in war, it is incorrect to say that Joab took revenge for his brother. Joab killed Abner to remove the possibility of risk to King David’s life by Abner. Also it is Joab’s prime duty to protect the king from any danger from anybody. Here we can recollect an instance referred in (I Sam.26:12-16) where Abner failed to protect his king, and David condemned Abner that he was worthy of death. “This thing that you have done is not good. As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the Lord’s anointed. And now see where the king’s spear is and the jar of water that was at his head.” These are words of David to Abner when he took the spear and jar from the head side of King Saul While King Saul was chasing David in the forest. But alas! This instance of eliminating the potential danger to King David’s life, brought a deep score and misunderstanding in the heart of King David, and cursed Joab and his family, and kept Joab far away from him in his heart, and never shared any secret with Joab. David said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without son who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” (II Sam.3:28, 29)
Prior to capturing Zion city, King David gave a challenge to all captains “Whosoever getteth to the gutter and smiteth the Jebusites and the lame and the blind that are hated of David’s soul, He shall be chief and captain”. (II Sam. 5:8) King David wanted to get rid of Joab for killing captain Abner, and gave an open call to the captains he had, thinking to have an alternative captain to his army in Joab’s place, but it was the will of God on Joab’s favour. Joab could do it and he became the chief and the captain of the army of King David which was a disappointment to King David.
King David promised Bathsheba to make Solomon as his successor. It was known only to Benaiah the other captain and the chief of body guard of the king.
(I Kings 1:32-35) It was maintained as secret as Solomon was younger than the other sons, and other sons may kill him if they come to know this. So these were separated from other sons in general. This secret was not revealed to captain Joab, his brother Abisai.
When the elder son of King David, Amnon raped Tamar the sister of Absalom, later Absalom killed him and fled to his grandfather, the king of Geshur and stayed there for 3 years. (II Sam. 3:2, 13:38) Absalom was the most handsome son of King David and perhaps Joab had compassion on Absalom and his action against Amnon was out of affection on his own sister, he wanted to bring him back from Geshur. Joab arranged for a drama by a lady of Tekoah and succeeded in his attempt. When the king called Joab and commanded him to call back Absalom, Joab was moved in his heart that the king accepted his advice and he went and brought Absalom back to the king, but the wound created by Absalom was not cured yet in king’s heart and he did not see even Absalom’s face for two long years.” And Joab fell on his face to the ground and thanked the king and Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found grace in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.” (II Sam. 14:22) Joab had a great virtue that when the king did not like Absalom, he too kept a distance with Absalom though he had a personal liking for him. For two long years Absalom kept silence, but he could not continue further, he called Joab to sort out the issue with the king. Joab refused to meet him and finally Absalom set fire in the fields of Joab and dragged Joab to him and reasoned his stand. Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent word to you, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” Now therefore let me go into the presence of the king, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.” (II Sam. 14:32) Joab carried his message to the king and the king called Absalom and kissed him. From then onwards Absalom planned and worked to become the next king, but Joab kept himself away from Absalom, for his loyalty towards the king.
By the time, King David committed sins against God and he took Uria’s wife and killed Uria by the sword of the Ammonites, and the judgement of God against him was professed by Prophet Nathan. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord,
Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.” (II Sam.12:9-12)
Now the judgment of God started in King David’s life and God raised his own son Absalom against him. Absalom made cunning plans and declared himself as king successfully. King David’s counsellor Ahithophel counselled Absalom. His counsel was like that of God’s to King David and also to Absalom. As Joab was a gem given to King David by God, Ahithophel too was a gem given by God. Now God used Ahithophel against King David to counsel Absalom. Absalom carried out the judgment of God upon his own father. The sword of Absalom followed King David. Amasa the cousin brother of Joab, too betrayed King David and joined Absalom and became the Chief and captain of his army. Now King David understood that all adverse things were taking place due to his own sins. King David fled from the palace with his men and women.
Joab knew well that he was not in the good book of King David, and he could have joined Absalom, the next king. But his sincerity and loyalty, and honesty, faithfulness did not permit him to do so, rather to live with the King David or to die with him, and he followed the king. On the way one Benjaminite called Shimei accused King David and his men with blaspheming words and threw sand and stones at them. Joab might be in a distance and could not see Shimei. Abishai walked closely and when Abishai wanted to stop him, but the king did not permit him to do so. The king accepted all because he knew that it was due to his own sins.
The war broke out, and Absalom came with the whole army of Israel as advised by Hushai, as Ahithophel’ s counsel was turned into foolishness as prayed by King David, and Ahithophel went home and hanged himself, and brought the judgment of God upon himself, against his wicked actions including counselling against the king. King David advised his captains to be soft enough towards Absalom. In the war Absalom was caught by the men of Joab and he and his men killed him and made a big heap of stones over him. Why Joab killed Absalom, who was liked by him? Some say because Absalom once burnt his fields. If Joab was grieved so much for his fields, he could have not taken his matter to the king and would not have united him with the king. He knew the purpose of burning his field was only to turn his attention towards Absalom. The main reason to kill him was, as a faithful captain he cannot spare anybody who raise his hand upon the king, even it might be the king’s son. King David also did not blame Joab, in this matter because he was killed in the war. On the death of Absalom, the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Sam. 18:33) Here King did not cry due to love for his son, but because he was the cause for his son’s death, the judgment of God on King David. So he cries “would I had died instead of you.” Here also we can see the judgment of God on Absalom. Though God used Absalom in the judgment against King David, God had to punish Absalom for his sinful and wrongful deed. Likewise, due to the sins of Israelites God sent Nebuchadnezzar to carry out His judgment upon Israel and upon His temple. But the way he executed the judgment brought another judgment upon Babylon. (Jeremiah 50:23-28, 51:11, 12) But in the case of Jonah the prophet, a judgment came upon Jonah but it did not attract another judgment upon the people in the ship! Because they with godly fear and reverence executed the judgment, and offered sacrifices for forgiveness. So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. (Jonah 1:16)
After the war Sheba the son of Bichri rose against David and the people of Israel followed him. King David ordered Abishai to follow him and not Joab. Because his misunderstanding increased after the death of Absalom. Joab could have kept silence and allowed Abishai to follow Sheba, but his loyalty to the king did not allow him to do so. Joab lead the army and came to the city Abel and tried to destroy it to catch Sheba. But a wise lady in that city talked with Joab and he answered her positively. Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David. Give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” (II Sam.20:20) The people of that city cut and put Sheba’s head from top of the wall and Joab returned back with the army.
After the death of Absalom, King David wanted to make Amasa as Chief and Captain of his army replacing Joab. This news leaked to Joab and he was burnt in his heart. Because, he was so faithful to King David in all circumstances, but the captain Amasa though was his cousin brother, became a traitor, when Absalom became king, left King David for his own benefit of becoming the Chief and Captain of army of Absalom. Had he had a chance in the war to face King David, he could have killed him or tried to do so. So, Joab could not bear this pain and decided to eliminate Amasa though he has no other reasons. On his way of chasing Sheba, he found Amasa and killed him cunningly.
When Adonijah the son of King David who was also much handsome and born after Absalom to his mother Haggith, wanted to become king, his father King David did say nothing against him. This made everybody to believe that Adonijah would be the next king. Joab too believed it and favoured him. Here Joab did a mistake that in case Adonijah did not become the king, the people supported Adonijah would be worthy of death according to the custom prevailed. Joab could have confirmed it directly or indirectly from the king. Failure to confirm this made his conscience weak, and made him to run to the altar for mercy, but in vain as already King David passed judgment on Joab, through his son Solomon.
On one occasion, devil deceived King David to number the Israelites, and the king ordered Joab and other captains to number them. But Joab as a wise captain suggested the king not to do it. But the king insisted and after numbering, alas! A great tragedy took place and 70,000 people died due to the mistake of King David. (II Sam.24:1-8)
In one of the wars with the Philistine, a young philistine giant by name Ishbibenob wanted to kill King David, and he reached him and fought with him. King David was unable to overcome him and about to be killed by him, Abishai rushed and came for help and killed the young Philistine giant and saved King David. Here the chief of body guards of King David was Benaiah, and he failed in his duty to save the king and he was worthy of death. But King Solomon made Benaiah as his Chief Captain instead of Abishai, which was also a misunderstanding of King David about the sons of Zeruiah. (II Sam.23:23)
At the end, before his death King David advised his son Solomon to take vengeance against Joab and Shimei. In the case of Joab, his accusation was, he killed Abner and Amasa, the two captains in the time of peace. But of a truth, Joab killed Abner to safeguard the king against potential danger from Abner. Also Abner wanted to turn the kingdom in favour of King David when he was reproved of his misdeed. If Abner was a just person, he could have called David to rule the kingdom when Saul’s three able sons died in the war. Regarding Amasa, Joab had no enmity what so ever against him, but due to the wrong policy of the king to replace a loyal captain with a traitor Amasa. Regarding Shimei, when Abishai wanted action against his misbehavior, the king in his generosity forgave him and vowed in the name of God that he will not be killed, but stealthily, he asked his son Solomon to kill him. In both the cases King David was not in sound mind and old age could have weakened his mind. (I Kings2:8, 9)
Concerning Mephibosheth, King David’s beginning was good, but the end was miserable. As per the covenant with Jonathan his father, he favoured Mephibosheth and made him to dine with him and treated him one of his sons. But when King David fled from Absalom his son, and when Ziba met the king, the servant of Mephibosheth lied the king, and blamed his master saying, the house of Israel will turn the kingdom towards Mephibosheth and King David believed the lie. Was it possible for a cripple who cannot stand of his own, rule the Nation in between much conflicts? Or when Absalom has come to his father’s throne is it possible for the house of Israel to fight against Absalom and make Mephibosheth their king? How King David could not understand this and believed a lie of a servant? Believing the lie, the king immediately gave an order to take the complete property of Mephibosheth by his servant Ziba! (II Sam. 16:4) After the death of Absalom when the king returned, Mephibosheth managed to come and received the king. When the king enquired why he could not come to meet the king earlier when he was going away, Mephibosheth told the fact about his servant’s mischief. Then the king passed an order that the property might be shared between them equally. Was the judgment of the king being right? May be the king in his old age and in the crucial circumstances caused by his own son, due to the judgment of God up on King David, for the wrong doings against Uriah and his wife, passed such orders in his unstable and disturbed mind!
Joab was a faithful, loyal, sincere, able captain who lived completely for the king, though occasions came for him to go away from the king, when Absalom became the king, but did not choose his own benefit, but wanted to live and die with his King David, but he was brutally killed by King David through his son King Solomon due to great misunderstanding. Joab and his brother Abishai had the major army in their hands, but never thought of toppling King David’s rule for their benefit. God of Israel blessed King David with many Gems for his successful rule, like Joab the Captain, Ahithophel the Counsellor etc. in that Ahithophel erred at the end and as a consequence, died by hanging himself as a coward. But Joab carried out his missions successfully throughout his carrier till the end, and will receive his crown and honour from his righteous God as Reward, though his mortal body was brutally killed by King David due to misunderstanding, through his son King Solomon, by the sword of Benaiah, the other captain. (Matt.10:28)
Alas! The righteous captain was ruined in his righteousness. But the wicked, who prolonged his life in evildoing was King Jeroboam the son of Joash, the son of Johoahash, the son of Jehu who ruled for 41 years as a wicked king, because God had sympathy on the people of Israel, against the brutal killing by Syrian Kings Hazael and Benhadadh. (II Kings 14:23-27) As our God is righteous, and a rewarder of righteousness, surely chief captain Joab would receive his crown and reward from God in eternity.