Joab (Yoav) "YHWH is father" was the nephew of King David, the son of Zeruiah in the Bible. He was made the captain of David's army (2 Samuel 8:16; 20:23; 1 Chronicles 11:6; 18:15; 27:34). He had two brothers, Abishai and Asahel. Asahel was killed by Abner, for which Joab took revenge by murdering Abner (2 Samuel 2:13-32; 3:27). However, according to Josephus, in Antiquities, Book 7, Chapter 1, Joab had forgiven Abner for the death of his brother, Asahel, the reason being that Abner had slain Asahel honorably in combat after he had first warned Asahel and had no other choice but to kill him out of self defense. This battle was part of a civil war between David and Ishbosheth, the son of Saul. After this battle Abner switched to the side of David and granted him control over the tribe of Benjamin. This act put Abner in David's favor. The real reason that Joab killed Abner was that he became a threat to his rank of general. He then justifies it later by mentioning his brother.
After leading the assault on the fortress of Mount Zion, he was promoted to the rank of General (1 Chronicles 27:34). He led the army against Syria, Ammon, Moab and Edom. He also took part in David's murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:14-25).
Joab played a pivotal role as the commander of David's forces during Absalom's rebellion. Absalom, one of David's sons, rallied much of Israel in rebellion against David, who was forced to flee with only his most trusted men. However, David could not bring himself to harm his son, and ordered that none of his men should kill Absalom during the ensuing battle. However, when a man reported that Absalom had been found, alive, caught in a tree, Joab ordered his men to kill him (2 Samuel 18:1-33).
In addition to the murder of Absalom, Joab also murdered Abner son of Ner against David's wishes (2 Samuel 3). David later replaced him as commander of the army with his nephew, Amasa (2 Samuel 17:25; 19:13). Joab later killed Amasa (2 Samuel 20:8-13; 1 Kings 2:5).
On the brink of death, David told Solomon to have Joab killed citing Joab's past betrayals and the blood that he was guilty of, and for this Solomon ordered his death by the hand of Benaiah (1 Kings 2:29-34), who then replaced him as commander of the army. Joab was buried in 'the wilderness' (1 Kings 2:34). It is interesting to note that Joab fled to the Tent of the Tabernacle and told Benaiah that he will die there. Benaiah, as ordered by King Solomon, kills Joab in the House of Yahweh.
David's ordered dispatching of Joab is one of the more puzzling episodes in biblical literature. A ruthless Machiavel, Joab was nonetheless a loyal subject of the king, and his killing Absalom was certainly motivated by a shrewd political pragmatism to resecure David's overthrown monarchy. It should be remembered that David ordered Joab to place Uriah the Hittite in harm's way, an order Joab followed without question.
Yoav is pronounced Yo+Av.
The name Joab, which is not often attested among Jews before the 20th Century, is a common male name in contemporary Israel - in line with the tendency of Zionism to look favorably upon strong warriors of Biblical times and later Jewish history.
This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.
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