Joab - A Man After His Own Heart Part 2

Joab - A Man After His Own Heart Part 2

Last time we introduced one of the most complex but unknown characters of the Bible, Joab the captain of David’s army. If you have not read part one of the story, please read that first. This is the conclusion of his life.

More Self-Serving

After Absalom's death, David made Amasa commander of his army instead of Joab. As we saw in Part 1 of Joab’s character study, Amasa was Joab’s cousin, but he was also the commander of Absalom’s rebel army (2 Sam 17:25). This might have been punishment for Joab but also was likely an attempt by David to bring unity to the nation again. As you might expect, this did not make Joab happy, and he again took matters into his own hands.

The army’s first military campaign after the civil war ended was to suppress another rebellion, this time led by Sheba of the tribe of Benjamin. Joab acted very quickly at the beginning of the campaign and approached his cousin Amasa. Even though they were cousins, Amasa appeared not to know Joab very well:

“And Joab said to Amasa, 'Is it well with you, my brother?’ And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So, Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died” (2 Sam 20:9-10).

This shows another case where Joab’s first allegiance was to himself, not honoring David’s request or the well-being of Israel by killing the army’s commander.

One Last Pious Act

The next significant event in Joab’s life is in relation to David’s request for Joab to take a census in 2 Samuel 24 and this again illustrates Joab’s complex character. On the surface, it seems like it would have been okay for Joab to take a census as it would give an accurate count of men needed to serve in the army and protect the nation. Back in Joab’s day, taking a census was considered sinful because it displayed a lack of trust in God’s provision and Joab knew it.

The parallel account of the census in 1 Chronicles tells us that, “the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab” (1 Chron 21:6). Joab had no problem disobeying God’s law when it suited him, even to the point of murder, but Joab hated David’s lack of trust in God. 1 Chronicles 21:6 mentions that Joab excluded the tribe of Levi from the count, which may have been because of God’s command in Numbers 1:47-49 to exclude the tribe from the census he commanded at that time.

One Last Selfish Act

The last act of Joab’s life is one last plot twist where he picks sides against David, showing that his true allegiance seemed to be to himself.

As David was aging, God chose David’s son Solomon as the next king (1 Chron 22:9). David obeyed God and made it clear to his leaders that Solomon was to be king and that they all should support him in his effort to build a temple for God (1 Chron 22:17).

David had sons older than Solomon, and one, Adonijah, led one last rebellion against David and tried to set himself up as king. We see that Adonijah knew that what he is doing was wrong and considered a conspiracy:

Adonijah conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him. But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not with Adonijah (1 Kings 1:7-8).

Zadok, Nathan, Benaiah and Shimei were all very close associates of David, and the mighty men were his most trusted warriors. Joab and Abiathar were the only close associates of David that Adonijah asked to join him. It seems clear that Adonijah was aware that Joab had no problem in serving those who could best benefit him.

When David heard of the rebellion, he quickly performed a public anointing of Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:11-40). This stopped the rebellion and there were no immediate consequences for any of the main people involved in the conspiracy, but this act is what led up to the events in the beginning of this article.

While David is counseling Solomon, he gave these orders for Joab:

Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace (1 Kings 2:5-7).

David had a history of killing those guilty of murder immediately after hearing the news (2 Sam 1:15-16, 2 Sam 4:12). But in the case of Joab, David did not do it but instead waited many years and then commanded his son to carry it out on his behalf. It appears David knew how useful Joab was for the kingdom, but he did not trust him to treat Solomon well.

What Does It All Mean?

Joab is one of the most complex characters of the Bible. We know more about him than we do any of the prophets, disciples, and even many of the most well-known biblical characters like Adam, Noah, and Isaac. But even with all that we know about him, it remains a mystery who he really was.

We should remember is that Joab was not a fictional character in an old novel from the past. He was not a character mentioned in the Bible to confuse us or to create plot twists. He was a real-life human with emotions and a family who God providentially used to protect David and advance His plans to bring a messiah to the world centuries before Jesus’ birth.

Whether his heart was of God or of himself we cannot truly know, but let us remember our own hearts are deceitful too (Jeremiah 17:9). We will forever slide back and forth without trusting Jesus as the anchor to keep us steady (Hebrews 6:19). No matter what good we have done in our lives, it ultimately only matters what Christ has done our behalf (Romans 3:22). Knowing this, we ought to be thankful for how God used Joab for good, and to be humble when looking at the selfish and ungodly actions he was guilty of committing.