1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Joab
JOAB (Heb. “Yah[weh] is a father”), in the Bible, the son of Zeruiah, David’s sister (1 Chron. ii. 16). His brothers were Asahel and Abishai. All three were renowned warriors and played a prominent part in David’s history. Abishai on one occasion saved the king’s life from a Philistine giant (2 Sam. xxi. 17), and Joab as warrior and statesman was directly responsible for much of David’s success. Joab won his spurs, according to one account, by capturing Jerusalem (1 Chron. xi. 4–9); with Abishai and Ittai of Gath he led a small army against the Israelites who had rebelled under Absalom (2 Sam. xviii. 2); and he superintended the campaign against Ammon and Edom (2 Sam. xi. 1, xii. 26; 1 Kings xi. 15). He showed his sturdy character by urging the king after the death of Absalom to place his duty to his people before his grief for the loss of his favourite son (2 Sam. xix. 1–8), and by protesting against David’s proposal to number the people, an innovation which may have been regarded as an infringement of their liberties (2 Sam. xxiv.; 1 Chron. xxi. 6).
The hostility of the “sons of Zeruiah” towards the tribe of Benjamin is characteristically contrasted with David’s own generosity towards Saul’s fallen house. Abishai proposed to kill Saul when David surprised him asleep (1 Sam. xxvi. 8), and was anxious to slay Shimei when he cursed the king (2 Sam. xvi. 9). But David was resigned to the will of Yahweh and refused to entertain the suggestions. After Asahel met his death at the hands of Abner, Joab expostulated with David for not taking revenge upon the guilty one, and indeed the king might be considered bound in honour to take up his nephew’s cause. But when Joab himself killed Abner, David’s imprecation against him and his brother Abishai showed that he dissociated himself from the act of vengeance, although it brought him nearer to the throne of all Israel (2 Sam. iii.). Fear of a possible rival may have influenced Joab, and this at all events led him to slay Amasa of Judah (2 Sam. xx. 4–13). The two deeds are similar, and the impression left by them is expressed in David’s last charges to Solomon (1 Kings ii.). But here Joab had taken the side of Adonijah against Solomon, and was put to death by Benaiah at Solomon’s command, and it is possible that the charges are the fruit of a later tradition to remove all possible blame from Solomon (q.v.). It is singular that Joab is not blamed for killing Absalom, but it would indeed be strange if the man who helped to reconcile father and son (2 Sam. xiv.) should have perpetrated so cruel an act in direct opposition to the king’s wishes (xviii. 5, 10–16). A certain animus against Joab’s family thus seems to underlie some of the popular narratives of the life of David (q.v.). (S. A. C.)