Why Did Joab Kill Amasa? A Deeper Look into the Biblical Account

Why Did Joab Kill Amasa? A Deeper Look into the Biblical Account


The Old Testament offers a wealth of stories that provide us with timeless wisdom, valuable life lessons, and a greater understanding of God’s character. As we dive into these historical accounts, we may sometimes come across events that seem perplexing or even shocking. One such incident is the killing of Amasa by Joab, as detailed in 2 Samuel 20. This event raises questions about the motivations behind Joab’s actions and the implications for the people involved.

In this blog post, we will examine the events leading up to Amasa’s death, explore the motivations behind Joab’s decision to kill him, and discuss the broader implications for the people of Israel. By the end of this post, we hope to provide a deeper understanding of this significant biblical account and its relevance to our lives today.

Why Did Joab Kill Amasa? A Deeper Look into the Biblical Account

Background: The Family Ties Between Joab and Amasa

Before we delve into the actual events that transpired, it is important to understand the relationship between Joab and Amasa. Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was King David’s nephew and the commander of his army. Amasa, on the other hand, was the son of Abigail, David’s sister, making him David’s nephew and a cousin to Joab (1 Chronicles 2:16-17).

The Rebellion of Sheba

The story of Amasa’s death begins with the rebellion of Sheba, the son of Bichri. After the temporary reconciliation between David and his son Absalom, a man named Sheba incited a rebellion against David’s rule, saying, “We have no share in David, nor do we have an inheritance in the son of Jesse. Every man to his tents, O Israel!” (2 Samuel 20:1, NKJV).

David Appoints Amasa as the New Commander

In response to the rebellion, David made a strategic decision to replace Joab as the commander of his army with Amasa. David instructed Amasa to assemble the men of Judah within three days and return to him (2 Samuel 20:4). This decision was likely motivated by David’s desire to prevent further division among his people, as Amasa had previously served as the commander of Absalom’s army during the revolt against David (2 Samuel 17:25).

Amasa’s Failure and Joab’s Reaction

Amasa’s failure to assemble the troops within the given timeframe led David to call upon Abishai, Joab’s brother, to pursue Sheba before he could fortify his position (2 Samuel 20:6-7). Joab, along with his brother and David’s troops, joined the pursuit, ultimately catching up with Amasa at Gibeon.

In a cunning and deceitful move, Joab approached Amasa as if to greet him, holding his garment with his left hand while concealing a dagger in his right (2 Samuel 20:8-9). As they embraced, Joab stabbed Amasa in the abdomen, causing him to die (2 Samuel 20:10). Joab’s actions not only ensured his return to the position of commander but also eliminated a potential rival.

Motivations Behind Joab’s Actions

There are several potential motivations behind Joab’s decision to kill Amasa:

  1. Jealousy and rivalry: As mentioned earlier, Amasa was appointed as the new commander of David’s army, replacing Joab. This may have provoked feelings of jealousy and resentment in Joab, ultimately leading him to kill his cousin to regain his former position.
  2. Political maneuvering: Joab may have viewed Amasa as a threat to his own standing and influence within David’s court.
  3. Preserving David’s rule: Joab may have been concerned that Amasa’s failure to gather the troops in time would put David’s rule at risk. By killing Amasa, Joab may have believed he was acting in the best interest of David and his kingdom.
  4. Personal loyalty to David: Joab had been loyal to David throughout his reign, and his allegiance to the king may have compelled him to take drastic action against Amasa, whom he perceived as a potential threat to David’s rule.

The Broader Implications of Joab’s Actions

Joab’s decision to kill Amasa had several implications for the people of Israel:

  1. Further division: The murder of Amasa could have potentially exacerbated the existing divisions within the kingdom, particularly between the tribes of Judah and the other tribes of Israel.
  2. Loss of trust: Joab’s actions demonstrated that he was willing to resort to violence and deception to achieve his goals. This could have led to a loss of trust among the people, making it more difficult for David to maintain unity within his kingdom.
  3. A tarnished legacy: The killing of Amasa, along with other acts of violence committed by Joab, such as the murder of Abner (2 Samuel 3:27) and the execution of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14), may have contributed to a tarnished legacy for both Joab and David’s reign.
  4. Consequences for Joab’s future: While Joab’s actions may have allowed him to regain his position as commander of the army, they would eventually contribute to his downfall. In 1 Kings 2:28-34, we see that Joab’s past actions led to his execution under the orders of Solomon, David’s son and successor.

Conclusion: Lessons from the Story of Joab and Amasa

The biblical account of Joab’s killing of Amasa serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of jealousy, rivalry, and unchecked ambition. Though Joab may have believed that his actions were justified or even necessary to protect David’s kingdom, they ultimately led to his own demise and further divisions within the nation of Israel.

As we reflect on this story, we are reminded of the importance of seeking God’s guidance in our decisions and actions, rather than relying on our own understanding or self-interest. We should strive to embody the values of humility, selflessness, and integrity in all that we do, recognizing that our choices have consequences not only for ourselves but for those around us.

Finally, the story of Joab and Amasa highlights the reality that even individuals who are deeply committed to God and His purposes can fall prey to sin and temptation. We must remain vigilant in our pursuit of righteousness and be willing to confront and address our own shortcomings, relying on God’s grace and forgiveness to help us grow and mature in our faith.

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