Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 3

The sons of Zeruiah

2 Samuel 3:38-39

Zeruiah was the mother of three of King David’s most important soldiers: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Asahel died in the battle at Gibeon (2:18-23); Joab became the chief commander of Israel’s army (8:16).

Usually, the Bible gives the name of a person’s father, rather than his mother. So, the frequent description of these men as the ‘sons of Zeruiah’ is unusual. The reason is that Zeruiah was David’s sister (1 Chronicles 2:13-17). So, these men were close family members of David.

However, that close relationship did not make it any easier for David to deal with them. Joab and Abishai were cruel and powerful men. They fought on David’s side, but they did not respect his authority. They did what they wanted to do – and David could not control them. They had just killed Abner, whom David considered to be a truly noble and honourable man.

David publicly confessed his weakness in this situation. He should punish them for that murder – but already they had become too powerful for him to deal with. So David prayed that God would punish them.

Perhaps we see the reason for David’s weakness when King Solomon finally did punish Joab (1 Kings 2:28-35). The king was the chief judge of the country. He issued the judgements – but it was the chief commander of the army who carried them out. There were no separate police to deal with these matters at this time. Clearly Joab would not punish himself – and the other soldiers were too afraid to act against their commander.

Next part: The death of Ish-Bosheth (2 Samuel 4:1-6)


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