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David's Mighty Men Of War - The Sons Of Zeruiah

Updated on August 16, 2011
Joab, pretending to greet Amasa with a brotherly hug, stabs him while they embrace.
Joab, pretending to greet Amasa with a brotherly hug, stabs him while they embrace.

Among the number of mighty men who fought for David, there was a group of three known as the sons of Zeruiah. These three were Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. They were brothers and they were fiercely loyal to David and Israel. Fierce is an apt adjective to describe the three for they would not give up once their mind was set on something and they were like wild men at times. Perhaps the reason for their unwavering stand with David was the fact that he was their uncle. Their mother, Zeruiah, was David's sister. More than once, because of their rash and wild behavior, David would ask of them, "What am I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah?"

Asahel the son of Zeruiah

The name Asahel means 'created by God'. He was one of the fastest runners in David's army and his skill was his downfall. It was said of Asahel that he was, 'as light of foot as a wild roe.' (See 2 Samuel 2:18) His speed enabled him to catch many an enemy and cut them down. It was during one of these chases that he perished.

Abner the son of Ner, a member of Saul's army, was fleeing from the sons of Zeruiah. No one could catch up to him save Asahel. Abner, seeing him warned him to turn aside from chasing him but Asahel would not listen and so, though he was unwilling to do so, Abner slew Asahel.

Abishai the son of Zeruiah

The name Abishai means, 'gift of the father.' Abishai was the nephew who stayed by David's side when Saul was pursuing him. It was he who went along with David into the cave where Saul was sleeping and asked permission of David to kill Saul. David refused and stated that God's anointed must not be touched. (See 1 Samuel 26).

Abishai, it was said, killed three hundred men during a battle and thus made a name for himself among David's mighty men. Abishai also slew eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. (See 1 Chronicles 18) He was no doubt skilled in battle, protecting David from a giant called Ishbibenob when David was faint. (See 2 Samuel 21). Abishai's weapon of choice was the spear as it is written that with his spear the three hundred were killed.

Joab the son of Zeruiah

Of all three sons of Zeruiah, Joab was the one who worked closest with David. He was his commander in times of war and he was sometimes his adviser. The name Joab means 'my father is God'. It was Joab who ensured that Uriah the Hittite was placed at the front so that he would be killed. He was a determined, cunning, warrior and though he was loyal to David, he still did not trust him. For Joab revenged his brother Asahel's death and killed Abner son of Ner deceitfully in a time of peace. He also killed his own cousin, Amasa, in order to receive the title of captain of David's army. (See 2 Samuel 20)

Joab's ambition caused David to be weary and he was the only one of the brothers who was cursed by David when Abner son of Ner was killed. The exact curse was,

" I and my kingdom are guiltless before the LORD for ever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner: Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread." 2 Samuel 3:28-29 K.J.V.

On David's deathbed he made Solomon promise to make certain that Joab's gray head did not go down in peace. He was killed while clinging to the altar by Benaiah another of David's mighty men. He had conspired against Solomon and sought to crown his brother king instead. Joab, though he did many a heroic thing, was accused of shedding innocent blood and so David ruled that he had to die.

Out of the three, the only one who is not recorded as having a violent death is Abishai. Both Joab and Asahel perished as a result of disobedience. During the reign of David these three fought with him through the battles with his enemies within and without. Against the Philistines and against Absalom their own cousin. Of the three, perhaps the most puzzling is Joab because everything he did was either very good or very bad. He saw right away that the census David did was wrong and warned him of it, but David did not listen. He saw that Absalom had to be stopped and told David of this but David's hesitance almost cost him the throne. His battle strategy with his brother Abishai, caused kingdoms to surrender when they realized they could not be beat. But he constantly defied his king in order to get his own way and revenge and greed seemed to be embedded in his heart. Zealous could possibly be the word to describe these sons of Zeruiah for they were zealous about everything they did. Perhaps that was why David in frustration would often say, "What am I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah?"

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    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      6 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thank you, Caleb DRC :) Whenever I read about the men in the Bible and the bravery that many of them possessed I am stunned. I cannot imagine what facing giants and armies would feel like.

      The 300 men of Gideon come to mind because they were the bravest of the brave of their time and I find that the bravest ones in the Bible were the ones whose faith was the strongest.

    • Caleb DRC profile image

      Caleb DRC 

      6 years ago

      Loved it North Wind. I'm going to read all your hubs on the warriors of the Bible. You have so many great hubs it is hard to choose.

      I think courage has taken a nose dive in these last days, especially among men. I think it would do all men some good to read how true courage and fearlessness is demonstrated in Scripture.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      6 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thank you Silver Poet :) Joab really was a puzzle. I understand some of the reasons for his actions and he was a great warrior but in the end disobedience caused the end of him.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 

      6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Very interesting indeed. I had always wondered why Joab was killed until you pointed out the things he did. I didn't realize he was responsible for Abner's death.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thank you Wesman Todd Shaw! These three members of David's family were are quite intriguing to me.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      What a terrific hub! Very interesting!

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