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Closely related: Why did David advise Solomon to kill Joab?

The linked question asks why David advised Solomon to kill Joab. I would like to ask a follow-up question: if David wanted Joab killed, why didn't he do it himself? Why did he leave it to Solomon? And why did he allow Joab continue to be such a prominent individual in his staff (including being a commander in his army) even after the misconduct that caused David to want him killed in the first place?

One reason I could think of was that, as a commander of the army who was evidently politically well-conected, Joab was exceptionally powerful; as such, he might have been dangerous, even to David. If that's true, though, why wouldn't he be dangerous to Solomon for the same reason (especially since, as a new king, Solomon was still consolidating his power)?

6 Answers 6

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The absolute answers are only those that can be arrived at by a direct reference to the text. The only explicit reason given is in 1 kings 2:4, namely that Joab had killed two of David's captains when he sided with Adonijah against his Father David. When Solomon had him killed, the reason given is that he had shed innocent blood in the killing of the two captains.

Beyond this we enter into the realm of deduction and therefore it is much more subjective. The relationship David had with Joab is a complex one. Following the events in which David used Joab to kill Uriah the Hittite there would have been a very strained relationship between the two men. Joab is the one person who could have exposed the treachery of killing Uriah. Keep in mind that when Nathan exposed David in 2 Samuel 12 that the killing of Uriah was not mentioned, only the stealing of his wife Bathesheba. From that day forward, Joab could have exposed David's treachery. Of course that required that Joab also have someone who could protect him for his involvement in the treachery. This is where Adonijah enters into the picture in the events just prior to David's death.

As to why David did not have him killed, at this stage his power to had been so reduced that it was much like it had been in the days of Saul. Absalom and Adonijah had rebelled against their own father and those had taken their toll on David. David had told his son Solomon to "do therefore according to thy wisdom," (1 Kings 2:5) recognizing that there were other realities involved in the killing of Joab. One of the results of killing Joab is that this further strengthened Solomon's position against potential rivals to the throne because the captain who had sided with Adonijah had been killed.

One final point -- In 2 Samuel 12:10-11 Nathan the prophet told David that strife and killing would never depart from David and that it would come from his own house. This was fulfilled in the events of Absalom and Adonijah. God was forgiving of David (2 Sam 12:13) yet there would be permanent consequences for David's sin. The child would die and there would be endless strife. We sometimes think that forgiveness means that all the earthly consequences of sin have been removed. Forgiveness means that the damage done to our relationship with God has been restored, regardless of any temporary effect it might have on us on this earth.

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  • So Joab may have had an "insurance policy"? Oct 4, 2018 at 13:26
  • @EJoshuaS -- I can't definitively say based on an explicit text but it seems as if Joab had used Adonijah as the insurance policy. Joab may even have been the cause of the rebellion on the part of Adonijah. One can easily imagine that Joab told Adonijah all of the details as a way of delegitimizing Solomon as the king of Israel because he was the son of David's ill fated union with Bathsheba. Of course there is little in the texts themselves that indicate this so one has to be careful.
    – Ken Banks
    Oct 5, 2018 at 13:48
  • Interesting comment. Anyway, it is incorrect to state that "when Nathan exposed David in 2 Samuel 12 that the killing of Uriah was not mentioned". In fact, in the verse 9 we read: "Uriah the Hittite you have killed with the sword." Note that, from God's viewpoint, was David, not Joab, to be the real killer ("with the sword") of Uriah. Nov 26, 2021 at 23:01
  • @SaroFedele God was addressing David's sin through Nathan, not the sin of anyone else. Joab was complicit, as he should have (and could have) refused David's orders. He had some responsibility for the murder as well. But David, who had instigated the affair, is the one to whom the prophet was sent.
    – Biblasia
    Apr 28, 2023 at 19:44
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When men war side by side in life or death battle, a lifelong brotherhood is formed. That brotherhood can cover a multitude of sins; Uriah's murder, the census, even the ugly reality of taking life in battle.

David and Joab had been a lifetime of good and bad together. Since God put David in the position of King, King David was led by the Lord to protect the throne and advised his son Solomon accordingly. Because of their history & friendship, it was impossible for David to "pull the trigger" himself.

Also, you have to sometimes look at the text of what isn't said. Solomon or his descendants were never charged with the wrongful death of Joab.

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From the testimony of Holy Scripture (2 Samuel 2:13 and 1 Chronicles 2:12-16, and others) it's apparent that David was Joab's uncle.

Only speculating here, but perhaps David and Joab grew up together as boys, or David remembers when his nephew was born and could not bring himself to commit such an act? Remember David's reaction to Absalom's death. It just about ruined him emotionally.

But Solomon was merely a cousin with no major familial ties to Joab apart from the bloodline.

A second reason, perhaps less speculatively given, with more reliable Bible to back up the claim, was the pollution of the land:

Number 35:33 (ESV),

  1. You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.

If this law was in effect in David's day, he may have felt the need to ritually purify the land of Joab's bloodguilt in order to appease YHVH.

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David didn’t kill Joab for the sole reason that he was Joab’s uncle. Joab was the son of David’s sister Zeruiah. This being the case, even if David wanted to kill Joab, he couldn’t because of his love for his sister, and yes he loved the boy Joab as well. All of the above explains why Joab sort of like did as he pleased because he knew David wouldn’t bring himself to kill him. With Solomon it was different because though Joab was his relative, the bond wasn’t as it was with David and Joab, hence David asked Solomon to kill him. By this time Zeruiah must have been dead since David was the last born in his family.

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  • Some quotation from scripture with the source labelled would assist your answer greatly. Otherwise, it is all just opinion.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 19, 2020 at 9:38
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I believe for some of the reasons mentioned by others that David knew that he needed to deal with Joab, but like many of us David procrastinated. However when David sinned by having Uriah killed it became obvious to David that he couldn't pass judgment on Joab when David himself was guilty of shedding innocent blood. So on his death bed he left that task to Solomon.

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    – agarza
    Apr 28, 2023 at 13:05
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David simply had enough disobedience and treachery from Joab. Firing him as commander did not change Joab's conniving. God's Anointed and the fate of Jerusalem, Judah and Israel hung in the balance. This could not stand. David, wisely, instructed Solomon what had to be done to protect him and ensure the safety of the kingdom. Prior to this, David could have executed Joab at any time, particularly after killing Absolom against explicit orders not to harm the boy. Still even after replacing him, David kept Joab in reserve, knowing he had been a valiant and successful commander. He was still a good backup, if needed. I don't think there was any weakness on the part of David. He was a solid leader and decision maker. But after Joab's latest alignment with Adonijah, David knew what Solomon had to do to survive. Solomon followed his father's instruction and got rid of a big, looming problem. I don't believe any of this was related to David's affair. That was done and over with, yet with repercussions of the sin that lasted. He had promised Bathsheba that her son would ascend to the throne. That promise was kept!

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