jo'-ab (yo'-abh, "Yahweh is father"; Ioab):
(1) Son of Zeruiah, David's sister. He was "captain of the host" (compare 2Sa 19:13) under David.
1. Joab and Abner:
(a) Joab is first introduced in the narrative of the war with Abner, who supported the claims of Ishbosheth to the throne against those of David (2Sa 2:8-3:1). The two armies met, and on Abner's suggestion a tournament took place between 12 men from each side; a general engagement follows, and in this Joab's army is victorious. Asahel, Joab's brother, is killed in his pursuit of Abner, but the latter's army is sorely pressed, and he appeals to Joab for a cessation of hostilities. Joab calls a halt, but declares that he would not cease had Abner not made his plea.
(b) 2Sa 3:12-29. Abner visits David at Hebron, and makes an alliance with David. He then leaves the town, apparently under royal protection. Joab is absent at the time, but returns immediately after Abner's departure, and expostulates with David for not avenging Asahel's death, and at the same time attributes a bad motive to Abner's visit. He sends a message, no doubt in the form of a royal command, for Abner to return; the chief does so, is taken aside "into the midst of the gate" (or as Septuagint and commentators read, "into the side of the gate," 2Sa 3:27), and slain there by Joab. David proclaims his own innocence in the matter, commands Joab as well as the people to mourn publicly for the dead hero (2Sa 3:31), composes a lament for Abner, and pronounces a curse upon Joab and his descendants (2Sa 3:30 is regarded as an editorial note, and commentators change 2Sa 3:39).
2. The Ammonite War: Death of Uriah:
(a) 2Sa 10:1-14; 1Ch 19:1-15. David sends ambassadors with his good wishes to Hanun on his ascending the throne of the Ammonites; these are ill-treated, and war follows, David's troops being commanded by Joab. On finding himself placed between the Ammonites on the one hand, and their Syrian allies on the other, he divides his army, and himself leads one division against the Syrians, leaving Abishai, his brother, to fight the Ammonites; the defeat of the Syrians is followed by the rout of the ammonites.
(b) 2Sa 10:15-19; 1Ch 19:16-19 describes a second war between Hadarezer and David. Joab is not mentioned here.
(c) 2Sa 11:1 narrates the resumption of the war against the Ammonites; Joab is in command, and the town of Rabbah is besieged. Here occurs the account of David's sin with Bathsheba, omitted by Chronicles. David gets Joab to send Uriah, her husband, to Jerusalem, and when he refuses to break the soldier's vow (11:6-13), Joab is used to procure Uriah's death in the siege, and the general then sends news of it to David (11:14-27). After capturing the `water-city' of Rabbah, Joab sends for David to complete the capture and lead the triumph himself (12:26-29).
3. Joab and Absalom:
(a) The next scene depicts Joab attempting and succeeding in his attempt to get Absalom restored to royal favor. He has noticed that "the king's heart is toward Absalom" (2Sa 14:1), and so arranges for "a wise woman" of Tekoa to bring a supposed complaint of her own before the king, and then rebuke him for his treatment of Absalom. The plan succeeds. David sees Joab's hand in it, and gives him permission to bring Absalom to Jerusalem. But the rebel has to remain in his own house, and is not allowed to see his father (2Sa 14:1-24).
(b) Absalom attempts to secure Joab's intercession for a complete restoration to his father's confidence. Joab turns a deaf ear to the request until his field is put on fire by Absalom's command. He then sees Absalom, and gets David to receive his prodigal son back into the royal home (2Sa 14:28-33).
(c) Absalom revolts, and makes Amasa, another nephew of David, general instead of Joab (2Sa 17:24 f). David flees to Mahanaim, followed by Absalom. Joab is given a third of the army, the other divisions being led by Abishai and Ittai. He is informed that Absalom has been caught in a tree (or thicket), and expostulates with the informer for not having killed him. Although he is reminded of David's tender plea that Absalom be kindly dealt with, he dispatches the rebel himself, and afterward calls for a general halt of the army. When David gives vent to his feelings of grief, he is sternly rebuked by Joab, and the rebuke has its effect (2Sa 17-19:8).
4. Joab and Amasa:
2Sa 19:8 b-15. On David's return to Jerusalem, Amasa is made "captain of the host" instead of Joab (19:13). Then Sheba revolts, Amasa loses time in making preparation for quelling it, and Abishai is bidden by David to take the field (20:6). The Syriac version reads "Joab" for "Abishai" in this verse, and some commentators follow it, but Septuagint supports Massoretic Text. Joab seems to have accompanied Abishai; and when Amasa meets them at Gibeon, Joab, on pretense of kissing his rival, kills him. He then assumes command, is followed by Amasa's men, and arranges with a woman of Abel beth-maacah to deliver to him Sheba's head. The revolt is then at an end.
5. Joab's Death:
Joab subsequently opposed David's suggestion of a census, but eventually carried it out (2Sa 24:1-9; 1Ch 21:1-6), yet 1Ch 21:6 and 27:24 relate that he did not carry it out fully. He was one of Adonijah's supporters in his claim to the throne (1Ki 1:7,19,41). For this he had to pay the penalty with his life, being slain at the altar in the "Tent of Yahweh" (1Ki 2:28-34) by Benaiah, who acted upon Solomon's orders. His murderer became his successor as head of the army. 1Ki 2:5 makes David advise Solomon not to forget that Joab slew Abner and Amasa, and 1Ki 11:14-22 contains a reference to the dread of his name in Edom. 1Ch 11:6 makes him win his spurs first at the capture of Jerusalem, but 2Sa 2; 3 are previous in time to this event (compare 2Sa 5:6-10), and 1Ch 11:8 makes him repair the city, while 1Ch 26:28 refers to a dedication of armor by him.
6. Joab's Character:
In summing up Joab's character, we must remember the stirring times in which he lived. That he was a most able general, there is no doubt. He was, however, very jealous of his position, and this accounts for Amasa's murder, if not partially for that of Abner too: if he was afraid that Abner would supplant him, that fear may be held to be justified, for Amasa, who had not been too loyal to David did take Joab's place for a time. But blood revenge for Asahel's death was perhaps the chief cause. Yet even when judged in the light of those rough times, and in the light of eastern life, the murder of Abner was a foul, treacherous deed (see Trumbull, Studies in Oriental Social Life, 129-31).
Joab opposed the census probably because it was an innovation. His rebuke of David's great grief over Absalom's death can only be characterized as just; he is the stern warrior who, after being once merciful and forgiving, will not again spare a deceitful rebel; and yet David shows how a father's conduct toward a prodigal, rebellious son is not regulated by stern justice. Joab's unswerving loyalty to David leads one to believe that no disloyalty was meant by his support of Adonijah, who was really the rightful heir to the throne. But their plans were defeated by those of the harem, and Joab had to pay the price with his life.
Taken as a whole, his life, as depicted in the very reliable narrative of 2Sa and 1 Ki, may be said to be as characteristic of the times as that of David himself, with a truly Homeric ring about it. He was a great man, great in military prowess and also in personal revenge, in his loyalty to the king as well as in his stern rebuke of his royal master. He was the greatest of David's generals, and the latter's success and glory owed much to this noblest of that noble trio whom Zeruiah bore.
(2) A Judahite, father or founder of Ge-harashim (1Ch 4:14, "valley of craftsmen" the Revised Version margin).
(3) A family of returned exiles (Ezr 2:6 parallel Ne 7:11; Ezr 8:9; /RAPC 1Es 8:35).
(4) See ATROTH-BETH-JOAB.
David Francis Roberts
© Levend Water