Joab, the great military leader, had two brothers who were also famous soldiers: Abishai and Asahel. Joab proved to be the great leader of the three and was the commander of David’s army throughout most of David’s reign.  There is no record that his troops ever lost a battle.

Joab was a fearless fighter like his brothers. Unlike them, he was also a brilliant and ruthless strategist.  His plans usually worked, but he was seldom concerned about those hurt or killed by them.  He did not hesitate to use treachery or murder to achieve his goals.  His career is a story of great accomplishments and shameful acts.  He conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding nations, defeated Abner, and reconciled Absalom and David.  But he also murdered Abner, Amasa, and Absalom, took part in Uriah’s murder, and plotted with Adonijah against Solomon.  That plot led to his execution.

Joab set his own standards – – he lived by them and died because of them. There is little evidence that Joab ever acknowledged God’s standards.  On one occasion he confronted David about the danger of taking a census without God’s command, but this may have been little more than a move to protect himself.  Joab’s self-centredness eventually destroyed him.  He was loyal only to himself, even willing to betray his lifelong relationship with David to preserve his power.

Joab’s life illustrates the disastrous results of having no source of direction outside oneself. Brilliance and power are self-destructive without God’s guidance.  Only God can give the direction we need.  For that reason, he has made available his word, the Bible, and he is willing to be personally present in the lives of those who admit their need for him.

Strengths and accomplishments:

  • Brilliant planner and strategist
  • Fearless fighter and resourceful commander
  • Confident leader who did not hesitate to confront even the king
  • Helped reconcile David and Absalom
  • Masterminded the conquest of Jerusalem

Weaknesses and mistakes:

  • Was repeatedly ruthless, violent, and vengeful
  • Carried out David’s scheme to have Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed
  • Avenged his brother’s murder by murdering Abner
  • Killed Absalom against David’s orders
  • Plotted with Adonijah against David and Solomon

Lessons from his life:

  • Those who live by violence often die by violence
  • Even brilliant leaders need guidance

Vital statistics:

  • Occupation: Commander in chief of David’s army
  • Relatives: Mother: Zeruiah. Brothers: Abishai, Asahel.  Uncle: David
  • Contemporaries: Saul, Abner, Absalom

Key verse: “Then the king commanded Benaiah, ‘Do as he says.  Strike him down and bury him, and so clear me and my father’s house of the guilt of the innocent blood that Joab shed’ “ (1 Kings 2:31).

Joab’s story is told in 2 Samuel 2 – 1 Kings 2. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:16; 11:5-9, 20; 19:8-15; 20:1; 21:2-6; 26:28; and in the title of Psalm 60.


©KingsWay 1973.



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