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Fausset's Bible Dictionary
1. Oldest of the three sons of Zeruiah, David's sister. The father is not named; his sepulchre was in Bethlehem (2 Samuel 2:32). Revengeful and bold as his brother Abishai, at the same time more able as a statesman (2 Samuel 2:18; 2 Samuel 2:22; 2 Samuel 3:27). Early joined David, whose family and relatives were not safe from Saul (1 Samuel 22:3-4; 1 Samuel 26:6). Became "captain of the host." Abishai is mentioned in David's flight before Saul; but Joab not until after Saul's death. Then, commanding David's servants, Joab encountered Abner at the pool of Gibeon by the challenge of the latter, and defeated him with the loss of only 19 men. Up to Abner's involuntary slaughter of the fleet-footed Asahel, Abner's relations with Joab had been not unkindly. Joab, at Abner's appeal to his generosity, the Benjamites having rallied round the fleeing chief, forbore to press the vanquished to extremities. He added further (2 Samuel 2:27), "unless thou hadst spoken (challenged to combat, 2 Samuel 2:14) surely then in the morning the people would have gone away every one from following his brother," i.e. there would have been no such fratricidal strife at all.
But Joab cherished revenge for his brother's death; and on his return front pursuing a troop, finding that Abner had been favorably received by David, he broke out into a reproof of the king as though Abner had come as a spy; then by messengers recalled the unsuspecting general, and, taking him aside at the gateway of Hebron as if for a peaceable conversation, treacherously stabbed him. Jealousy of a possible rival in David's favor probably was an additional incentive. David, deeply grieved, prayed that the guilt and its penalty might ever rest on Joab and his house, and constrained Joab to appear at the funeral with rent clothes and in sackcloth. Yet David felt himself powerless to punish Joab and his brother; "these men, the sons of Zeruiah, be too hard for me," at once necessary to him and too formidable to provoke. He left the punishment with the Lord (2 Samuel 3:39, compare 2 Samuel 19:7). Joab speedily attained the command in chief by his being first gallantly to scale the Jebusite stronghold and drive out the enemy.
Then he was employed by David to aid him in fortifying the stronghold which became "the city of David" (1 Chronicles 11:4-8). Joab had an armour-bearer, Nahari the Beerothite (2 Samuel 23:37), and ten young men as bearers of his equipment (2 Samuel 18:15). He had a lordly title (2 Samuel 11:11), "my lord ... general of the king's army" (1 Chronicles 27:34). Besides his usual residence at Jerusalem Joab had a house and barley fields in the country not far from the capital (2 Samuel 14:30; 1 Kings 2:34); and "he was buried in his own house in the wilderness," probably that of Judah, as Joab's mother, David's step sister, would naturally dwell near Bethlehem. However, Absalom's residence next Joab seems rather to point to the N. near Baalhazor (2 Samuel 13:23; 2 Samuel 14:30; 1 Chronicles 2:54). (See .) In the war with Ammon, undertaken to avenge the indignity offered David's ambassadors by Hanun, Joab defeated Ammon's ally the Syrians while Abishai was defeating the Ammonites.
His exhortation before the battle was worthy of a better man: "be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God; and the Lord do that which seemeth Him good" (2 Samuel 10:12). Bad men may utter good religious sentiments; practice is the test. David gave the final blow to the rallying Syrians with their brethren from beyond Euphrates under Shobach, Hadarezer's captain. Joab, after David's defeat of Edom in the Valley of Salt (2 Samuel 8:13-14), was six months engaged in slaying the Edomite males, in revenge for their invasion of Israel in David's absence (1 Kings 11:15-16; Psalm 44); his first care was to bury the Israelites slain during the invasion by Edom. The victory over Edom is variously attributed to David as king, to Joab as commander in chief, who slew 12,000, and to Abishai, who slew 6,000, under Joab (1 Chronicles 18:12). Psalm 60 (title) was composed by David after he had beaten Aram of the two floods (Naharaim); this victory the psalmist takes as an earnest that the expedition setting out to occupy Edom would succeed; compare Psalms 60:8-9; Psalms 60:12, with 2 Samuel 8:14.
So terrible was Joab's name to Edom that their prince Hadad did not venture to return from Egypt until he knew "that Joab the captain of the host was dead" (1 Kings 11:21-22). The completion of the war with Ammon was due to Joab who, going forth at the beginning of the next year, took Rabbah the lower city on the river (2 Samuel 11-12). Joab loyally and magnanimously desired David to come and take the acropolis on the N.W., commanding the rest of the city, that the general might not receive the glory which ought to belong to the king. Joab showed a wickedly unscrupulous fidelity as David's tool for murdering Uriah, by setting him in the forefront to encounter a sortie from the city, and then deserting him. Joab thus was in possession of the awful secret of the king, and henceforth exercised an almost complete sway over him (2 Samuel 19:7). David could no longer revenge Abner's blood on his own accomplice in the murder of Uriah.
Joab next, by the wise woman of Tekoa and her parable, induced the king to restore Absalom, which Joab saw was David's own wish, though justice constrained him to severity. He thus at once ingratiated himself with the reigning king, and with Absalom his probable successor, one less likely to punish Joab for murdering Abner than Solomon. David discerned Joab's hand in the Tekoan woman's application. Like the clever schemes of bad men generally, the issue baffled his calculations. Absalom with characteristic recklessness, when he failed to induce Joab to come to him, set fire to his barley and so forced Joab to mediate for his admission to the king's presence. The rebel son was slain by Joab himself, and Joab did not escape his own condign punishment (Job 8:13-19). Possibly Joab at first was disposed to join the rebel; but Absalom's appointment of Amasa to the command "instead of Joab" determined Joab's course (2 Samuel 17:25), and made him thenceforward bitter against Absalom, so that after thrusting three darts through his heart he had his corpse cast into a pit and heaped with stones.
Aware of the anguish the act would cause David, Joab restrained Ahimaaz who was eager to carry the tidings to the king. The grief of David was overwhelming, and was only restrained by Joab's indignant warning that, unless he went forth and spoke encouragingly to his victorious soldiers, all would desert him. David stung by his disrespectful plainness, and feeling that Joab if his own interest was at stake was as little to be depended on as the adversary just defeated, appointed Amasa to supersede Joab. But Amasa was as dilatory as Joab was prompt. David therefore, when Sheba's rebellion broke out, had to send Abishai to pursue the rebel at once, with Joab's men and all the mighty men. Joab, meeting Amasa at the great stone in Gibeon, pretended to kiss him in friendship, holding his beard with the right hand, and then stabbed him with the sword in his left hand. Jealousy made this "bloody and deceitful man" reckless what blood he shed when a rival came across his path.
One of Joab's aides de camp stood by the corpse and invited all to follow Joab; but all stood still at the ghastly sight. Then he removed the body out of the highway, and cast a cloth over it; so the people moved on, and Joab resumed the chief command, with the blood of the treacherously murdered victim still upon his girdle and sandals (1 Kings 2:5), David felt himself powerless to punish him (2 Samuel 23:6-7). Joab so effectively besieged Abel of Beth Maachah that the townsmen were glad to save their town by sacrificing Sheba, throwing his head, at the suggestion of a wise woman in the town, over the wall to Joab. He was adverse to David's command to him to number the people, "why will he (or else it) be a cause of trespass to Israel?" i.e., why by seeking thine own glory in the power and resources of thy kingdom wilt thou bring the penalty from God upon Israel? Dissatisfaction too might be bred among the people. Joab was therefore slow in executing the command, so Levi and Benjamin had not been counted when David revoked the command before the census was complete (1 Chronicles 21:2; 1 Chronicles 21:6; 1 Chronicles 27:24; 1 Chronicles 27:1 Samuel 24).
Conscience at times works on the most daring, as in this case. Joab even dedicated of the spoils won in battle to maintain the house of the Lord (1 Chronicles 26:27-28). But the true character soon showed itself again, and even the worldly sagacity which heretofore had kept him on the winning side in the end forsook him, for with Abiathar Joab joined in Adonijah's rebellion, and Solomon, by David's dying charge, had him slain at the altar of Gibeon where he had fled for sanctuary, but which afforded no protection to a treacherous murderer (Exodus 21:14). The curse of David and of Solomon doubtless pursued his descendants also (2 Samuel 3:29; 1 Kings 2:33). Enrogel is still called "the well of Job" (Joab) from his share in Adonijah's coronation there. For the spiritual lesson of his history see Ecclesiastes 8:11-13.
2. Son of Seraiah. 1 Chronicles 4:14. "Father (founder) of the valley of Charashim," i.e. craftsmen; "for they (Joab's descendants) were craftsmen." This valley was a little N. of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:35). Tradition represented (Jerome, Quaest. Hebrew in Paralip.) that the temple architects were chosen from his sons.
3. Head of a numerous family which returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:6; Ezra 8:9; Nehemiah 7:11). Joab's and Jeshua's sons were probably, in the registration of those who returned, represented by the sons of Pahath Moab, so instead of "of" translated "for (i.e. representing) the sons of Jeshua and Moab."
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Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Joab'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/fbd/j/joab.html. 1949.
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30