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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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JOAB (‘Jahweh is father’). 1. One of the sons of Zeruiah the eldest according to 2 Samuel 2:18 , the second according to 1 Chronicles 2:16 and thus the nephew of David. It is perhaps not too much to say that, humanly speaking, the Davidic dynasty would not have been established had it not been for the military genius and the loyalty of Joab. So consistently loyal was Joab to the royal house (see Adonijah), that one is tempted to question whether the passage, 1 Kings 2:5-6 , which describes David’s ingratitude, is genuine; certain it is that if David really felt with regard to Abner and Amasa as he is described as feeling in this passage, it is surprising that he should have left to the wisdom of Solomon the duty of inflicting the punishment due; Joab’s death would seem to have been due rather to his loyalty in supporting David’s rightful heir, Adonijah.

Above all, Joab was a skilled general; this is seen by the number of victories he gained, namely, over the army of Ishbosheth under the leadership of Abner ( 2 Samuel 2:12-32 ); over the Jebusites ( 1 Chronicles 11:6-9 ); over the Syrians and Ammonites ( 2 Samuel 10:1-19; 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26-29 ); over Absalom ( 2 Samuel 18:5-17 ); over Sheba ( 2 Samuel 20:4-22 ). These are specifically mentioned, but there must have been very many more, for those which are spoken of generally as David’s victories were in all probability due to Joab, who is repeatedly spoken of as David’s commander-in-chief ( e.g. 2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:22 etc.).

Secondly, his loyalty to the house of David is Illustrated by his whole life of devoted service, and especially by such conspicuous instances as his desire to make his victory over the Ammonites appear to have been gained by David ( 2 Samuel 12:20 ff.); his slaying of Abner [though other motives undoubtedly played a part in this act, it is certain that Joab regarded Abner as a real danger to the State ( 2 Samuel 3:24-25 )]; the reconciliation which he brought about between David and Absalom ( 2 Samuel 14:1 ff.); his slaying of Absalom when he realized his treachery to David ( 2 Samuel 18:14 ff., 2 Samuel 19:6 ); his words to David in 2 Samuel 19:5-7 one of the most striking instances of his attachment; and lastly, his championship of the rightful heir to the throne, which cost him his life ( 1 Kings 1:7; 1 Kings 2:34 ). How close was the tie between David and Joab may be seen, further, in the blind obedience of the latter, who was willing to be partaker in David’s sin ( 2 Samuel 11:6-26 ).

The darker side of Joab’s character is to be seen in his vindictiveness and ruthless cruelty; for although it is only fair to plead the spirit of the age, the exigencies of the State’s weal, and the demand of blood-revenge, yet the treacherous and bloodthirsty acts of which Joab was guilty constitute a dark blot upon his character (see 2 Samuel 3:22-27 , 1 Kings 11:16; cf. 2 Samuel 18:14; 2 Samuel 20:9-10 .).

2. Son of Seralah ( 1 Chronicles 4:14; cf. Nehemiah 11:35 ), 3 . A family which returned with Zerubbabel ( Ezra 2:6 = Nehemiah 7:11 = Esther 5:11 Esther 5:11; cf. Ezra 8:9 = 1Es 8:35 ).

W. O. E.Oesterley.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Joab'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​j/joab.html. 1909.
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