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Is David the Godfather?

Joab was a loyal captain in charge for King David and he won lot of battles for his king. He had also risked his life in many occasions for the sake of Kingdom of Israel and David. (2nd Samuel 2, 10-12)

He did make some mistakes, however:

  1. He killed Abner who came to reconcile with David. Joab might have felt threatened by this reconciliation. (2nd Samuel 3:26-30)
  2. He killed Amasa who was made captain by David. (2nd Samuel 20)
  3. He killed Absalom for whom David had given specific instructions not harm him in any ways. (2nd Samuel 18)

Why did David not forgive the mistakes of Joab? After all, wasn't he the man after God's own heart:

But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.—1st Samuel 13:14 (ESV)

I still don't feel that Joab should have been punished and given death sentence for his mistakes.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! This is an excellent question. In fact, I think it's been asked under the provocative title: Is David the Godfather? Do the answers there help answer your question? Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 17:51
  • looks like it. But there are some missing links. e.g. What would have happened to Joab if he had not followed Adonijah? Did following Adonijah make Joab a potential risk to the new king Solomon? Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 10:13
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    For the moment, I'm going to close this question in favour of the other one. I think the questions you raise in your comment are worth exploring in a separate question. Commented Oct 11, 2012 at 16:57
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    I hope we can reopen this question, because the accepted answer is quite wrong IMO. It was not a "revenge killing pure and simple." David advised Solomon to eliminate Joab because Joab had crossed him several times and especially because Joab had backed Adonijah's recent act of treason. The accepted answer ignores this crucial fact. Commented Sep 19, 2022 at 14:39
  • @DanFefferman "Accepted" answers don't matter, and it's also rarely so clear that something is definitely wrong. If you want to write a new answer, you can do so on the linked duplicate above.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 22, 2022 at 0:21

2 Answers 2


While it is true that David was a man after God's own heart, he was also a man who had no scruples about killing.

Take, most famously, as an example, Uriah. Uriah was killed for the grievous offense of having a hot wife!

In the case of Joab, it was a political revenge killing, pure and simple. David says in 1 Kings 2:

5 “Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. 6 Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.

In short, just because David did good, didn't mean he was perfect. There is a common hermeneutic that says people in the Bible are good. They aren't. This is not a children's book! It records bad people doing bad things in a bad world.

Doesn't mean you need to emulate them, but do learn from them!

  • Agreed, Bible is very particular in recording facts and not the good things only. And even though David was not perfect but God testifies that he was a man after His heart. A good testimony for the old testament saint. Commented Oct 12, 2012 at 7:40
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    He was also a man who had no scruples about killing. - He did, actually. Otherwise, he would not have gone into all the trouble of sending him on the front line against Philistines, instead of murdering him point blank. This, obviously, constitutes a scruple. The same can be said about him sparing Saul's life, and executing the one who dishonored his lifeless body, instead of showing him gratitude, as a sleazy, opportunistic person would.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 23:23
  • God, through the prophet Samuel, called David a man after His own heart before David had become king (see 1 Samuel 13:14). God never repeated this compliment afterwards. Therefore, we should be careful about saying or thinking that David, in spite of his transgressions, was still a man after God's own heart.
    – Polyhat
    Commented Apr 30, 2021 at 16:39
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    Sorry to challenge this answer here... I can't give my own answer if the Q is not reopened. This was not a revenge killing. David ordered the death of Joab because Joab had just supported the Treason of Adonijah. Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 17:49
  • Now Adoni′jah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him...He was also a very handsome man; and he was born next after Ab′salom. 7 He conferred with Jo′ab the son of Zeru′iah and with Abi′athar the priest; and they followed Adoni′jah and helped him. Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 17:53

...I still don't feel that Joab should have been punished...

Feelings. Bah. Remember, this was David passing sentence, not God. Nothing says that David has to feel about things the same way you do, especially considering he lived in a very different and more brutal age. For that matter, even if it was God, at no time should we ever be so arrogant to believe that God feels about things as we do.

Beyond that, Joab was a tough case. As commander of the army, there were likely significant troops who were loyal to him directly, rather than David. Simply dismissing him may not have been an option. At the same time, Joab has now repeatedly disregarded direct commands from David, likely making it untenable for David to leave Joab in his role. Again remember that this was a more brutal time; Joab may have left David little other option.

But notice all my weasel words above: "may", "likely", "might", etc. This is an area where we are limited almost entirely to speculation and tenuous deduction.

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