Jesus warned His followers that “all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52 NASB).
If there He was thinking of anyone in particular from the Old Testament, it very well could have been Joab. Joab’s life was stained with blood from beginning to gory end. As commander of David’s army, Joab demonstrated great military prowess, defeating an Ammonite coalition in two separate encounters and even giving David the glory of capturing the enemy capital.
At the same time, however, Joab committed several acts that seem to demonstrate a much darker side of his character. He personally avenged the death of his brother by stabbing Abner, a rival commander, to death (2 Samuel 3:26), and he used a similar tactic to assassinate another rival commander named Amasa (2 Samuel 20:9–10). He also stabbed David’s son Absalom, despite David’s direct orders for leniency toward Absalom (2 Samuel 18). Absalom had rebelled against David and was fighting a battle against him at that time.
Joab also went along with David’s scheme to have the warrior Uriah placed in a military situation that would almost surely result in Uriah’s death (2 Samuel 11). Finally, Joab was instrumental in staging Adonijah’s unsuccessful attempt to secure the throne of his father, David.
In the end, Joab himself met a bloody death as Solomon carried out his father’s deathbed requests. David gave Solomon what seems like an Israelite version of a “hit list,” and Joab was first on the list (2 Kings 2).
Joab and his brothers Abishai and Asahel were David’s nephews by his sister Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:13–17). David’s commander, Amasa, was also a nephew of David by his other sister, Abigail.