9 Valuable Life Lessons from the Life of King David’s Right Hand Man – Joab

Joab is introduced to us in the bible as a prolific and powerful leader. King David’s second in command and Chief-of-Staff. Here I do a thorough analysis into Joab’s life and reign. He reigned for 40 long years. Same number of years his master: David reigned as king over the whole of Israel.

As a Warrior and Leader, Joab was un-matched. An undefeated highly skilled and gifted warrior. He was loyal to David and served well.

In this article, I share 9 valuable life lessons from the life and reign of Joab, David’s powerful army general.

  1. Excellence attracts Excellence – You don’t just coincidentally become the 2nd in command to an Elite Leader. David was a phenomenal king who led well. A skilled, brave and outstanding warrior. Joab had been with him since the days of hiding in caves while on the run from Saul.

He partook in many raids and battles alongside his master. He knew very well that he had to prove his worth to earn the role of Commander-in-Chief.

That’s exactly what Joab did when he accepted the challenge to lead the difficult attack against Jebus. He knew that the position of Second- in-Command would require a person equally as talented and phenomenal as David.

Joab was up to the task. He was smart enough to recognize and seize a great opportunity when it became available.

2. Be Ready so you don’t have to be Ready – Even way before he was made Army General, Joab had years of training and experience under his belt. When the opportunity for promotion presented itself, Joab was more than ready.

 David had barely finished speaking before Joab agreed to lead to conquest against Jebus. Be ready so you don’t have to be ready. You just never know when the right opportunity would present itself.  

Start to prepare for that position that you have your eyes on now. Do what you need to do now. Take the classes, prepare and get certified. Do the required work so when the opportunity presents itself, you just grab it like Joab did because you have been ready.

We see this same principle played out in the life and story of Joseph. He was first a slave in Egypt and then imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.

But he chose to walk in excellence daily. His skills and abilities and great attitude got him noticed. He was ready. He had been ready. When the opportunity arose to become Pharaoh’s 2nd in command, he confidently rose to the occasion because he had been preparing for that role all his life.

3. Promotion often requires taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone: Leading the conquest against Jebus was a dangerous feat mainly because of what was required to gain access into the fortified city.

Joab wasn’t blind to that fact. The reward of successfully accomplishing the task at hand – even greater. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. Risky? you bet. But it’s not every day one gets the chance to become Army Commander and Right-Hand Man to a powerful king.  Without the conquest of Jebus, I doubt we will know that much about Joab.

Same it is with our daily lives. We will never accomplish much in our lifetime by playing it safe all the time and never stepping out of our comfort zones. Will there be a few losses along the way? Yes, you bet. But you don’t let that rout you. You learn from the losses and mistakes and move forward. The reward of risky moves beats living a life of regret 1000x. Getting to your next level will of often require that you make a risky move. Your next level could be on the other side of that risky move you have been analyzing for over a year now.

4. Bravery is a necessary trait of any successful leader: Those under your leadership are looking up to you. They follow your lead. You as a leader set the tone. Joab was a brave soldier and leader. One of the traits about him that I admire greatly. He was always ready to do what the average soldier would not do. His bravery was part of why he did not lose any battles during his reign. Not even one.

When the opportunity to attack Jebus presented itself, It had to take a very brave soldier to even dare take on that challenge. He led his troops well. They in turn knew the kind of leader they had and they gave him their full support in return.

No one wants to follow the lead of a timid shaky unsure leader why? He/She just won’t be able to deliver in a time of crisis. A powerful brave leader is one who takes difficult challenges head on. He does not shy away from difficult situations.

Remember the story of Joshua? After Moses died, he became his successor. Joshua was scared. No! that’s putting it lightly. He was petrified. So much so that those he was supposed to be leading had to remind him to be strong and brave.

5. Skill and Talent aren’t always enough – We have all heard that saying: your talent will only take you so far”. Joab to his detriment had a few questionable character traits. We see this displayed in the way he murdered Abner and Amasa in cold blood. Why? they were a threat to his position as Army General.

 Joab at times operated with a “mafia boss “like mentality. He dealt with every opposition by taking out the opposition. To him that was the way that seemed best to him and that was the way he knew. This character flaw eventually led to his downfall

6. A relation with The True Living God matters – Joab though a great warrior had a few major character flaws. None of us are perfect, we are all fallible humans. However, the condition and state of our heart matter.

Our response to sin matters. Where David differed from Joab was in his relationship with God and the state of his heart when confronted with sin.  When David was confronted by Nathan the Prophet about his sin with Bathsheba, he was deeply repentant and asked God for forgiveness.

Joab, after he murdered Abner was unmoved. As a matter of fact, he murdered Amasa in cold blood just like he murdered Abner. I wonder, if he did have a true living relationship with God, will that have changed his attitude towards sin? would the state of his heart be different? would he have shown some remorse for his heinous crimes? my answer to all of those questions are yes!

God is not a crutch of sorts. But we become like those we are in relationship with. The heart of God is right, true and full of compassion. A true living relationship with God would have helped to put Joab in check, and prevented him from becoming “too big for his own britches”.

7. Wisdom matters, understanding, even more important – As I mentioned before, Joab was a master strategist. He was also very insightful. When Absalom: David’s son took refuge in a neighboring town after he had murdered his own brother Amnon ( for raping his sister), it was Joab who stepped in and took matters into his own hands, when he realized his master missed his rebel prince deeply, but could not do much about it because of the abhorrent crime Absalom had committed.

Joab was the one who put a plan in place so Absalom could come back to Jerusalem. It was the same Joab that Absalom reached out to, when he wanted to have his title of Royal Prince and all the benefits that came with that position restored. Read more about that here.

8. Insubordination is disobedience – Joab knew he was powerful. Joab was the leader of the most powerful army at the time. He had the full support of his troops. Let’s not forget that Joab was also still a man under authority, David’s authority.

When David gave the explicit command not to kill Absalom. Whether Joab agreed with that instruction or not, he should have carried out his master’s wishes or handled the matter in a more diplomatic matter.

When his soldiers who were also present when David gave those orders – saw Absalom in helpless state ( read more here),  they did not attack. Joab was in no place to kill Absalom in his helpless state. That was outright insubordination and disobedience.

9.We all need accountability in our lives – As I mentioned earlier, Joab grew too big for his own britches. He became so powerful that even his master – David became afraid of reprimanding him when he stepped out of line.

One of David’s last wishes to Solomom was to ensure  Joab did not die a peaceful death. David charged Solomon with ensuring that Joab paid for his crimes: the coldblooded murder of Abner and Amasa.

Sadly Joab a highly decorated leader died similarly to the way he murdered Abner and Amasa. On Solomon’s orders, He was hacked to death and buried like a criminal in the wilderness.