2 Samuel 18:5 (NIV)
The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

2 Samuel 18:14 (NIV)
Joab said, "I'm not going to wait like this for you." So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom's heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree.

Why did Joab go ahead and kill Absalom?

  • Welcome to BH, nice question! A couple of possibilities: his mind was in the battle, and he was focused on that, and not the King's orders (despite being reminded). Or, perhaps he felt that it was a military necessity, and that the king simply had a soft spot for Absalom, and therefore he felt it would be appropriate to kill him.
    – user22655
    Mar 27, 2018 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


Joab was the commander of David's armies. Before we can understand why he killed Absolom we need to understand what was going on within the royal household:

David’s firstborn son was Amnon (mother Ahinoam), who raped his half-sister Tamar (a daughter of David but by a different wife).

David's second son was Kileab (mother Abigail), but nothing else is recorded about him - perhaps he died.

Absolom was David’s third son (mother Maacah), and he was Tamar’s brother.

Absolom killed Amnon then tried to steal the throne from his father. Joab was commander of David’s armies and he killed Absolom, but against David’s wishes.

Adonijah was David’s fourth son (mother Haggith) and he also tried to steal the throne from his father David.

Joab (David’s nephew) then killed his cousin Amasa after David replaced Joab with Amasa as commander of his armies. Joab supported Adonijah’s bid for David’s throne.

Before David died, and after David had anointed his son Solomon as king, David got Solomon to promise he would have Joab killed. David had never forgiven Joab for killing Absolom (against his express instructions). Solomon entrusted Beniah, who was now commander of David's armies, and who had refused to support Adonijah's bid for the throne. Beniah was loyal to his father David.

Looks like Joab killed Absolom because he supported Adonijah as the next heir to David's throne. And Joab wasn't best pleased when he lost his position as one of David's mighty men. However, he didn't reckon with God's plans to put Solomon on the throne, and through him, would come the promised Messiah.

The words of Robert Burns spring to mind - something about the best-laid plans of mice and men going astray.

Research material into David’s wives and sons:

2 Samuel 2:2 – David’s wives: Ahinoam of Jezreel (Saul’s widow); Abigail (widow of Nabal of Carmel; 2 Samuel 3:2-5 – Maacah (daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur); Eglah. It is supposed that David also married Haggith and Abital.

2 Samuel 3:2-5 - Sons born to David in Hebron: Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel (David’s wife) Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel (David’s wife) Absolom the son of Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur (David’s wife) Adonijah the son of Haggith Sephatiah the son of Abital Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah

1 Chronicles 3:1-4 repeat the six sons born to David in Hebron, where he reigned for seven years and six months. (Kileab is called Daniel) Then verses 5-9 list the sons born to David when he reigned in Jerusalem for 33 years (apart from his sons by his concubines):

Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon (mother Bathsheba) Ibhar, Elishua, Eliphelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, Eliphelet, and their sister Tamar.

More about Adonijah's unsuccessful bid for power in this article: https://www.gotquestions.org/Solomon-Adonijah-Abishag.html


Long before Absalom's rebellion, David made a special deal with Abner, commander of King Ish-bosheth's army in 2 Samuel 3:21

Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once, and I will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.”
So David dismissed Abner, and he went in peace.

Contrary to David's plan, Joab killed Asahel in cold-blooded murder in 2 Samuel 3:27

When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab pulled him aside into the gateway, as if to speak to him privately, and there Joab stabbed him in the stomach. So Abner died on account of the blood of Joab’s brother Asahel.

In this case, the Bible told us the reason: personal revenge. Asahel killed Joab's brother, so Joab killed him. There was a bonus in this killing, Joab eliminated a potential competitor. Like Joab, Asahel would have been a high ranking commanding officer working for David. So he had two personal reasons to disobey David.

Joab was instrumental in helping Absalom to regain the trust of his father king in 2 Samuel 14. Yet Joab and Absalom had a conflict at verse

29 Absalom sent for Joab in order to send him to the king, but Joab refused to come to him. So he sent a second time, but he refused to come. 30 Then he said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.

It is consistent with Joab's character that he bore a personal grudge against Absalom for damaging his property. Once again disobeying David, Joab killed Absalom in 2 Samuel 18:14. Then David demoted Joab a chapter later.

2 Samuel 19:13 And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my own flesh and blood? May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you are not the commander of my army for life in place of Joab.’ ”

However, Amasa was a bit slow and not completely competent in this new post when David ordered him to pursue another rebel named Sheba son of Bikri in 2 Samuel 20. So David send out a second ordered to Abishai who outranked Joab at the time.

2 Samuel 20:6 David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bikri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.” a 7So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.

Joab's devious personality showed up for the 3rd time.

2 Samuel 14:8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.
9Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.

Once again, Joab had eliminated a rival to his position, another relative of David besides Absalom.

How did David react this time?

He promoted him.

23 Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites;

There was a complex relationship between David and Joab. Joab got David's jobs done efficiently, including David's dirty jobs, like killing Absalom--satisfying for Joab and good for David's hold on the throne.


There is a great deal worth exploring, to me, in this saga but I've tried to stick to passages that have direct bearing on the question.

Technically, Joab was not the one who killed Absalom (tho he directed it). Not sure of importance of that tidbit.

2Sam. 18:14 (KJV) - Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he [was] yet alive in the midst of the oak.

ISA 2Sam. 18:14 - And~he-is-saying Joab not(-) so I-shall-wait to~faces-of~you and~he-is-taking three clubs in~palm-of~him and~he-is-pitching~them in~heart-of Absalom still~him living in~heart-of the~terebinth.

2Sam. 18:15 (KJV) - And ten young men that bare Joab's armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.

ISA 2Sam. 18:14 - And~they-are-surrounding ten lads ones-bearing-of gear-of Joab and~they-are-smiting Absalom and~they-are-(putting-to)-death~him.

Why did Joab orchestrate the killing of Absalom? Treason against King David (Absalom's father), and other wickedness.

2Sam. 16:22 - So they spread(5186) Absalom(53) a tent(168) upon(5921) the top(1406) of the house; and Absalom(53) went(935) in unto(413) his father's(1) concubines(6370) in the sight(5869) of all(3605) Israel.(3478)

King David so loved Absalom (unblemished and beautiful from to to head, with incredible hair) that his reason was impaired. Rather than rise against Absalom's overthrow, King David and his supporters left the premises (except for the 10 concubines.)

After the killing of Absalom, Joab had stern words for King David:

2Sam. 19:4 - But the king(4428) covered(3813) (853) his face,(6440) and the king(4428) cried(2199) with a loud(1419) voice,(6963) O my son(1121) Absalom,(53) O Absalom,(53) my son,(1121) my son!(1121)

2Sam. 19:5 - And Joab(3097) came(935) into the house(1004) to(413) the king,(4428) and said,(559) Thou hast shamed(3001) this day(3117) (853) the faces(6440) of all(3605) thy servants,(5650) which this day(3117) have saved(4422) (853) thy life,(5315) and the lives(5315) of thy sons(1121) and of thy daughters,(1323) and the lives(5315) of thy wives,(802) and the lives(5315) of thy concubines;(6370)

2Sam. 19:6 - In that thou lovest(157) (853) thine enemies,(8130) and hatest(8130) (853) thy friends.(157) For(3588) thou hast declared(5046) this day,(3117) that(3588) thou regardest neither(369) princes(8269) nor servants:(5650) for(3588) this day(3117) I perceive,(3045) that(3588) if(3863) Absalom(53) had lived,(2416) and all(3605) we had died(4191) this day,(3117) then(227) it had pleased thee well.(5869), (3477)

2Sam. 19:7 - Now(6258) therefore arise,(6965) go forth,(3318) and speak(1696) comfortably(5921), (3820) unto thy servants:(5650) for(3588) I swear(7650) by the LORD,(3068) if(3588) thou go not forth,(369), (3318) there will not(518) tarry(3885) one(376) with(854) thee this night:(3915) and that(2063) will be worse(7489) unto thee than all(4480), (3605) the evil(7451) that(834) befell(935), (5921) thee from thy youth(4480), (5271) until(5704) now.(6258)

2Sam. 19:8 - Then the king(4428) arose,(6965) and sat(3427) in the gate.(8179) And they told(5046) unto all(3605) the people,(5971) saying,(559) Behold,(2009) the king(4428) doth sit(3427) in the gate.(8179) And all(3605) the people(5971) came(935) before(6440) the king:(4428) for Israel(3478) had fled(5127) every man(376) to his tent.(168)

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