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Joab was the nephew of David the king, being the son of Zeruiah, David's sister. He and his two brothers, Abishai and Asahel, were among the loyal troops that followed David when he was a refugee on the run from Saul, united Israel's first king. He was a violent man of war, not afraid to kill anyone he felt was a threat to his king, or his family.
In the civil war against Saul's son for control of the nation, Joab proved himself in the battle to take Jerusalem from the Jebusites, earning the post of "captain of the host," a post he held for all but a brief time he had killed David's son Absalom. He regained the post when he killed his successor, his own cousin Amasa. During this war, Saul's nephew and commander of the army had taken the side of Saul's son Ishbosheth who had been crowned "king of all Israel" even after David had assumed power in Hebron.
Joab's brother Asahel had dared do personal battle with Abner, losing his life when the general stabbed him in close quarters after Asahel had overtaken him as he was retreating from battle. Soon after this, after Abner had switched over to David's side in the war, Joab and his brother Abishai took an opportunity to get Abner aside to assassinate him. This treachery, though, displeased David greatly.
David would give a command to his son Solomon to assure that justice would be done for the murders of Absalom, Amasa and Asahel. Though mercy was shown at first, with a conditional pardon, Joab sided with Adonijah, Solomon's half-brother, when he challenged the throne. This treason brought swift judgment and Solomon's executor, Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, was sent to kill him.
Joab was buried "in his own house in the wilderness" somewhere near Jerusalem early in the reign of Solomon.
Joab comes from a Hebrew word that means "Yah is Father".
He was a contemporary of his uncle David, for the future king had been his mother's younger brother. Given that David, at the age of 80, refers to Joab as having grey hair, it can be assumed that there was likely only about a decade between them. This being the case, it is not unlikely that Joab became close to his uncle after David had joined the staff of King Saul. At the earliest opportunity, he would have sought action alongside his uncle in his struggle against King Saul. Though not among David's "mighty men," he would hear of the exploits of his older brother Abishai in the service of the young prince. His brothers would become bodyguards for David.
During David's days hiding from Saul, Joab, as well as his brothers, joined David's new army following recruitment by Gad the Prophet. David became friends with the three, making Abishai and Asahel his bodyguards.
Joab led an attack on the mountain fortress of Zion, which promoted him to the rank of commander.