Who is Benaiah son of Jehoiada in the Bible?


Benaiah son of Jehoiada is a fascinating but relatively minor character in the Old Testament. He is mentioned over 20 times, primarily in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings during the reigns of David and Solomon. Benaiah served as the commander of King David’s elite military unit known as “the Thirty” and later became the commander of King Solomon’s army.

Despite his limited direct involvement in key biblical events, Benaiah’s loyalty to David and Solomon, connections to the royal court, and military exploits portray him as a capable warrior and leader. His lineage and repeated identification as “son of Jehoiada” suggest he came from an influential priestly family.

Here are some key takeaways on the life and legacy of Benaiah son of Jehoiada in the Bible:

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  • Benaiah was the commander of David’s elite military unit “the Thirty” and later the commander of Solomon’s entire army
  • He was the son of Jehoiada, likely from an influential priestly family
  • He was known as a mighty warrior who defeated great foes like two Moabite champions
  • Benaiah remained extremely loyal to David during Absalom’s rebellion
  • He carried out Solomon’s directives even when difficult like removing Joab from the priesthood
  • Solomon appointed Benaiah as commander of the army to replace Joab
  • Along with Zadok the priest, Benaiah helped secure Solomon as David’s successor
  • His descendants appear to have maintained positions of authority into the exile

Now let’s explore Benaiah’s story in greater detail.

pcfjkub5bes Who is Benaiah son of Jehoiada in the Bible?

Benaiah’s Background

Very little is known about Benaiah’s family and early life. His father was Jehoiada, a priest who likely served during David’s reign. According to 1 Chronicles 27:34, “Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, the son of the priest” was a key counselor to David late in his rule. This suggests Benaiah came from an influential priestly family that maintained its status across generations.

Benaiah’s name means “Yahweh has built up.” His name echoes his father’s name, which means “Yahweh knows.” This indicates his family had strong theological roots as worshipers of Yahweh.

Based on Benaiah’s military capabilities and quick rise to leadership under David, he likely developed his skills in warfare and leadership from a young age. But the Bible provides no further detail on where he was from or how he gained notoriety.

Benaiah in David’s Elite Military Unit

Benaiah’s abilities as a warrior and leader were recognized by King David, who appointed him as commander over his personal elite military unit called “the Thirty.” This select group of mighty warriors served as King David’s secret service and specialized forces.

1 Chronicles 11:25 introduces the Thirty:

Indeed he [David] was more honored than any of the Thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his guard. (NKJV)

The fact that Benaiah did not attain the status of “the three” might imply there was an inner circle of elite warriors within the Thirty that he was not part of. The three refers to Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah mentioned in 2 Samuel 23 as the mightiest warriors. But Benaiah was recognized as more distinguished than the rest of the Thirty besides these three.

2 Samuel 23 describes some of the mighty exploits of the Thirty:

Now these are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-Basshebeth the Tachmonite, chief among the captains. He was called Adino the Eznite, because he had killed eight hundred men at one time. And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder. And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines had gathered together into a troop where there was a piece of ground full of lentils. So the people fled from the Philistines. But he stationed himself in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory. (NKJV, 2 Samuel 23:8-12)

These men were known for their heroic exploits in battle against Israel’s enemies. By being their commander, it can be assumed Benaiah was known as a mighty man of valor himself.

1 Chronicles 27:6 further confirms Benaiah’s leadership over the Thirty during David’s reign:

This is the Benaiah who was mighty among the thirty, and was over the thirty; in his division was Ammizabad his son. (NKJV)

So Benaiah fulfilled an important military role for David as the commander of his elite fighting forces. His own combat abilities and capacity to lead these warriors served David well.

Benaiah’s Loyalty to David

One of the defining moments in Benaiah’s life was when he helped King David during Absalom’s rebellion. When David’s son Absalom conspired against him and temporarily took over Jerusalem, Benaiah remained completely loyal to the true king.

2 Samuel 15 describes how Absalom undermined his father’s authority and stole “the hearts of the men of Israel.” David chose to flee Jerusalem to avoid harm and allow Absalom’s rebellion to run its course. But before leaving, David addressed his servants:

Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why are you also going with us? Return and remain with the king. For you are a foreigner and also an exile from your own place. In fact, you came only yesterday. Should I make you wander up and down with us today, since I go I know not where? Return, and take your brethren back. Mercy and truth be with you.” But Ittai answered the king and said, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also your servant will be.” So David said to Ittai, “Go, and cross over.” Then Ittai the Gittite and all his men and all the little ones who were with him crossed over. (NKJV, 2 Samuel 15:19-22)

Unlike Ittai who David released to return home if desired, Benaiah stayed with David out of loyalty even though it endangered his own life and future.

When Zadok the priest and the Levites wanted to accompany David out of Jerusalem, David told them:

“Return to the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. Look, I will linger in the plains of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” (NKJV, 2 Samuel 15:27-28)

But the Bible notes that “David ascended the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.” (2 Samuel 15:30 NKJV)

Based on the later accounts of Benaiah’s actions, it can be assumed that he was among this group that loyally followed David out of the city in his time of distress. While others abandoned David, Benaiah remained faithful. This decision proved crucial later when David regained his throne.

2 Samuel 23 relays how some of David’s mighty men broke through the Philistine lines to get David water from Bethlehem when he expressed longing for it. But David considered the water too valuable to drink since it came at the risk of his men’s blood. He poured it out as an offering to the Lord instead.

This story illustrates the devotion David inspired among his mighty men like Benaiah. They were willing to risk their lives just to fulfill a passing comment of desire from their king.

So during Absalom’s rebellion when David’s rule was under threat, Benaiah remained loyally by his side. This loyalty was rewarded after Absalom’s death and David’s return to Jerusalem.

Benaiah’s Exploits as a Mighty Warrior

Although Benaiah’s story is overshadowed by other more prominent biblical warriors like David, we do get a glimpse of some of his great exploits. Benaiah proved himself as a formidable warrior even among elite company like David’s mighty men.

One of Benaiah’s most notable accomplishments was defeating two of Moab’s mightiest warriors. 2 Samuel 23:20-23 describes this in detail:

Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many deeds, he killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. And he killed an Egyptian, a spectacular man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand; so he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and won a name among three mighty men. He was more honored than the thirty, but he did not attain to the first three. And David appointed him over his guard. (NKJV)

Benaiah’s killing of a lion in a pit on a snowy day highlights both his skill and bravery in adverse conditions. His conquering an armed Egyptian with just a staff underscores his cunning as a warrior. But his two most significant feats were defeating Moab’s two greatest warriors, who were compared to lions themselves in might.

By defeating these champions and earning a name as one of the most elite warriors, Benaiah proved his might in both single combat like David against Goliath and large-scale battles. His martial abilities were varied and adaptive across circumstances.

1 Chronicles 11:22-25 confirms these exploits and his reputation:

Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. And he killed an Egyptian, a man of great height, five cubits tall. In the Egyptian’s hand there was a spear like a weaver’s beam; and he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and won a name among three mighty men. Indeed he was more honored than the thirty, but he did not attain to the first three. And David appointed him over his guard. (NKJV)

As a warrior, Benaiah developed a reputation for taking on and defeating mighty foes. This is what brought him to David’s service and command over the Thirty.

Benaiah’s Role During Absalom’s Revolt

As Absalom’s revolt reached its climax, Benaiah was involved in two crucial moments – Hushai’s sabotage and Absalom’s death.

When David’s friend Hushai thwarted Absalom’s plans with bad advice, the Bible notes: “Now Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.’ For the Lord had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring disaster on Absalom.” (2 Samuel 17:14 NKJV)

God was working through events like Hushai’s counsel to ultimately end Absalom’s rebellion. And Benaiah was ready to serve God’s anointed king David when the time came.

As Absalom’s men were defeated in battle by David’s forces, Absalom himself got caught in a tree by his hair and left hanging:

Now Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode upon a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. (2 Samuel 18:9 NKJV)

When Joab heard Absalom was left vulnerable, he took action:

And Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! Why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.” Then Joab said, “I cannot linger with you.” And he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the terebinth tree. (2 Samuel 18:10-14 NKJV)

Joab realized that as long as Absalom lived, he posed a threat to David’s return to the throne. So Joab took matters into his own hands and killed Absalom against David’s wishes.

When David heard Absalom was killed, the Bible records his immense grief:

So the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33 NKJV)

David was heartbroken over the death of his rebellious son.

After Absalom’s revolt ended and David had returned to Jerusalem, the Bible notes that David’s nephew and top general Joab also returned:

And Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was concerned about Absalom. So Joab said to the king, “Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well.” (2 Samuel 19:5-6 NKJV)

Joab accuses David of caring more about those who betrayed him than those who fought loyally for him. This confrontation hints at lingering tensions between Joab and David over the situation with Absalom. It sets up an eventual power transition between them.

Benaiah on the other hand had no tension or altercations with David. He showed unwavering loyalty to the king during Absalom’s revolt. This set Benaiah up to play a key role as David neared the end of his reign.

Benaiah’s Appointment by David

As David entered his final days on the throne, the Bible records some key appointments and arrangements he made to secure the succession process:

The king also said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and take him down to Gihon. There let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel; and blow the horn, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, and he shall be king in my place. For I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah.” (1 Kings 1:33-35 NKJV)

David set up a public anointing ceremony for Solomon led by the priest Zadok and prophet Nathan to establish Solomon as his official successor. This avoided dispute and fulfilled his promises to Bathsheba.

But David also privately ensured Solomon’s transition to the throne by charging Benaiah son of Jehoiada along with Zadok the priest to protect Solomon.

1 Kings 1:36-40 describes David’s orders to them:

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king and said, “Amen! May the Lord God of my lord the king say so too. As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.” So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and took him to Gihon. Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound.

Zadok and Benaiah fulfilled David’s orders and ensured a smooth transition of power to Solomon with public pomp and ceremony.

Together with Nathan the prophet, these two men were instrumental in making sure David’s wishes were realized. By calling on their leadership, David showed great trust in Benaiah’s integrity and loyalty.

David’s last official act as recorded in 1 Kings 2:35 was appointing Benaiah to replace Joab as commander of the army:

The king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada in his place over the army, and the king put Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.

This established a new administration under Solomon after many years of being led by David’s nephew Joab. Benaiah was finally elevated to the highest position of military leadership in service of the next king.

Benaiah’s Service Under Solomon

When Solomon assumed the throne, Benaiah continued to play an important leadership role in the new administration. As commander of the army, he enforced Solomon’s decisions even when difficult.

One of Solomon’s first acts was to punish Joab for his past killings of Abner and Amasa during David’s reign. Joab had opposed David’s succession plan, so Solomon saw him as a threat.

1 Kings 2:29-34 describes Benaiah carrying out Solomon’s sentence on Joab:

So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; and he struck him down, and he died. And the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon. Then news came to Solomon that Joab had fled to the tabernacle of the Lord, and was beside the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the Lord, and said to him, “Thus says the king, ‘Come out!'” And he said, “No, but I will die here.” And Benaiah brought back word to the king, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” Then the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and strike him down and bury him, that you may take away from me and from the house of my father the innocent blood which Joab shed.”

By having Benaiah remove a top military leader like Joab from power, Solomon established unquestioned authority. And Benaiah proved willing to obey Solomon even when it meant condemning a former leader he served under David.

Benaiah similarly carried out Solomon’s sentence of banishment on Abiathar the priest to solidify Zadok’s new position:

And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your own fields, for you are deserving of death; but I will not put you to death at this time, because you carried the ark of the Lord God before my father David, and because you were afflicted every time my father was afflicted.” So Solomon removed Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, that he might fulfill the word of the Lord which He spoke concerning the house of Eli at Shiloh. (1 Kings 2:26-27 NKJV)

Though more lenient, removing the former head priest Abiathar again secured Solomon’s total control. Benaiah obediently enacted the new king’s difficult decisions.

In 1 Kings 4:4, Benaiah is listed as one of Solomon’s chief administrators:

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the army; Zadok and Abiathar were the priests.

He maintained authority over Israel’s military, working in tandem with Solomon’s priestly leaders.

So during Solomon’s early reign, Benaiah son of Jehoiada rose to become commander of the entire army. He faithfully served Solomon by enforcing his decisions and eliminating challenges to his rule.

Benaiah’s Descendants

Several generations after Benaiah’s service under David and Solomon, his descendants are noted as part of the exile to Babylon:

Now these were the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his own city…The sons of Ater through Hezekiah, ninety-eight. The sons of Bezai, three hundred and twenty-three. The sons of Jorah, one hundred and twelve. The sons of Hashum, two hundred and twenty-three. The sons of Gibbar, ninety-five. The sons of Bethlehem, one hundred and twenty-three. The men of Netophah, fifty-six. The men of Anathoth, one hundred and twenty-eight. The sons of Azmaveth, forty-two. The sons of Kirjath Arim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty-three. The sons of Ramah and Geba, six hundred and twenty-one. The men of Michmas, one hundred and twenty-two. The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred and twenty-three. The sons of Nebo, fifty-two. The sons of Magbish, one hundred and fifty-six. The sons of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred and fifty-four. The sons of Harim, three hundred and twenty. The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred and twenty-five. The sons of Jericho, three hundred and forty-five. The sons of Senaah, three thousand six hundred and thirty. The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred and seventy-three. The sons of Immer, one thousand and fifty-two. The sons of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred and forty-seven. The sons of Harim, one thousand and seventeen. The Levites: the sons of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the sons of Hodevah, seventy-four. The singers: the sons of Asaph, one hundred and forty-eight. The gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, one hundred and thirty-eight. The Nethinim: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, the sons of Keros, the sons of Sia, the sons of Padon, the sons of Lebana, the sons of Hagaba, the sons of Salmai, the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephishesim, the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, the sons of Bazlith, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Tamah, the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha. The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Perida, the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth of Zebaim, the sons of Amon. All the Nethinim, and the sons of Solomon’s servants, were three hundred and ninety-two. (Nehemiah 7:6-7; 25-60 NKJV)

This detailed genealogical record shows that the descendants of Solomon’s servants were remembered along with the priestly families and Levites.

The fact that Benaiah’s lineage is noted centuries after his death implies his family maintained some distinction in Israel. Though no longer as prominent personally, his descendants seem to have held on to influence even following the Babylonian exile.


In summary, Benaiah son of Jehoiada served a critical role during the transitional reigns of David and Solomon. As commander of David’s elite military units and Solomon’s entire army, he provided valuable leadership through challenging times.

Benaiah proved himself a mighty warrior who defeated great foes. He demonstrated unwavering loyalty to David during Absalom’s rebellion. His obedience to carry out Solomon’s difficult decrees established the new king’s undisputed authority. And his lineage suggests his family maintained its status over generations.

While Benaiah often operated behind the scenes of key biblical events, he proved himself a capable leader and warrior. His story provides insights into the lesser-known but vital members of David and Solomon’s administration. For those interested in learning more of the untold stories in God’s Word, Benaiah provides a window into this crucial period of Israel’s united monarchy.

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