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Sabbath School Lessons on Background Characters in the Old Testament
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 8: Joab: David's Weak Strongman *
Introduction: Do you have power or authority over others? If so, God
cares about how you use your power over others. Most power over
others arises in the family, political or the employment context.
Our government, our parents or our employer can do a great deal to
benefit or harm our life. In Ephesians 6:9 God reminds those in
power about the use of their authority. He tells them to respect
those under their authority and refrain from threatening them. Why?
Because God is Lord over everyone, and He is just. Our lesson this
week looks at a military leader/ politician who has a great deal of
power over others. Lets jump into our study and find out what
lessons the Bible teaches us about the use of power and authority!
- A Tale of Two Generals
- Read 2 Samuel 3:17-18. God's people were divided into two
nations - Israel and Judah. David was King over Judah.
His general was Joab. Ish-Bosheth was King over Israel
and his general was Abner. What has Abner decided to do?
(Switch sides! He now decides to support David.)
- What reasons does he give for this change in his
allegiance? (David is the choice of both the elders
of Israel and God.)
- Read 2 Samuel 3:19-21. How important is Abner to this
deal? (Abner is the deal-maker. He is obviously more
powerful than King Ish-Bosheth.)
- Read 2 Samuel 3:22-25. Would you accept Joab's statements
as being true?
- What do you think motivated Joab's statements? (2
Samuel 2 reports that Abner killed Joab's brother in
battle. Joab does not like Abner for that reason.
But, I suspect that the most compelling reason is
that in a consolidated kingdom, Joab views Abner as
a rival to his position as top general.)
- Read 2 Samuel 3:26-27. Have you heard of this kind of
approach in the workplace? (By deceit, you gain promotion
by stabbing your rival in the back. Here, the stabbing is
in the front and it is a real knife!)
- What would you say if you were David? (Joab is
interfering with the deal to consolidate the two
kingdoms under David. This murder is not in David's
- Joab says he is avenging the death of his brother.
Read 2 Samuel 2:22-23. Is this proper revenge? (No.
Abner tried not to kill Joab's brother. Instead of
challenging Abner to a fair fight, Joab uses a trick
to murder him.)
- Read 2 Samuel 3:28-29. What do you think of King David's
reaction? (Weak, to say the least. David sounds like an
outsider who has no authority over the situation. David
must depend to a great deal on Joab.)
- Read 2 Samuel 3:38-39. Who are the "sons of
Zeruiah?" ( 2 Samuel 2:18 tells us that Joab was a
son of Zeruiah. David admits that he, the King, is
too weak to stand up to his own general!)
- On whom does David depend for justice? (God.)
- The Replacement
- Read 2 Samuel 8:14-18. Through military conquest, blessed
by God, King David consolidates his power and territory.
Joab remains David's general. In this time of relative
prosperity, David has the affair with Bathsheba that we
studied two weeks ago. You will recall that Joab helps
David kill Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. What authority
does this give Joab over David?
- Read 2 Samuel 13:1-2 and 2 Samuel 13:12-14. This lust for
his half-sister ends in Amnon raping Tamar. What should
King David do about this? (Read Deuteronomy 22:28-29.
Amnon should pay a fine and then marry Tamar.)
- Read 2 Samuel 13:15-17. Is Tamar insisting on her
right to marriage? (Yes. Tamar did not agree to the
rape, she suggested marriage instead. However, once
raped, she has the right to insist on marrying the
guy - who is next in line to be king.)
- Read 2 Samuel 13:21. What does King David do about this
terrible crime among his own children? (He gets mad, but
- Why? (David likely feels he has lost his moral
- Read 2 Samuel 13:28-29. Why does Absalom kill Amnon?
(Read 2 Samuel 13:32-34. Absalom imposes his own
penalty. Then he flees the country.)
- Do you think Absalom did what was right?
- Read 2 Samuel 13:38-14:3. King David longs for his son,
Absalom, and General Joab gets a woman from Tekoa to
approach David about allowing Absalom to return.
- Read 2 Samuel 14:19-21. We won't get into what the woman
said to convince the king, but David believes that Joab
is behind this plot to bring Absalom home. Why would Joab
do such a thing? Why would he care? (Read 2 Samuel
14:22. It appears that Joab does this to curry favor with
- It turns out that bringing Absalom back was not such a
good idea. Read 2 Samuel 15:10-13. Why does Absalom rebel
against his father? (Perhaps he thinks David is weak
because of age and his failure to deal with his own
- Read 2 Samuel 18:1-5. David decides to fight back. Why
would David want to spare Absalom, the leader of the
- Read 2 Samuel 18:9. What trips up the new King? (It
appears that when the new king was alone, he happened
upon David's soldiers. I suppose Absalom turned his mule
around and started riding as fast as he could - only to
get his head caught in a tree!)
- What would you do if you came across the leader of
- Read 2 Samuel 18:10-13. What is the young man's view of
the honesty and integrity of Joab? (If he killed Absalom
at Joab's request, he believed that Joab would deny any
involvement. The young man would then suffer King David's
- Is there any doubt that Joab understands King
David's command about not harming Absalom?
- Read 2 Samuel 18:14-17. How do you explain Joab's
actions? (Read 2 Samuel 17:25. Joab knew how much Absalom
meant to David, but Absalom had chosen Amasa over Joab.
Every time we see Joab assert his authority, it is to
- Read 2 Samuel 19:11-13. What has King David finally
decided with regard to the authority of General Joab?
(David has had enough of Joab's self-dealing. He promises
to turn Joab's authority over to Amasa, who was Absalom's
- Rebellion Again
- No sooner had Absalom's rebellion been put down, then
another rebel named Sheba claimed authority over Israel.
Read 2 Samuel 20:2 and 2 Samuel 20:4-5. How is General
Amasa doing in his new post? (He is a little slow to his
- Read 2 Samuel 20:6-7. What is the result of General
Amasa's slowness? (Recall that Abishai is Joab's brother.
King David turns not to Joab, but to Joab's brother - who
had previously ( 2 Samuel 18:1-2) been a top commander for
David. Abishai is ready to march and David sends him out
to do battle against Sheba.)
- Read 2 Samuel 20:8-10. When Joab killed Abner, a
potential rival, he had an excuse. What excuse does Joab
have for this murder? (None.)
- Joab and his brother, Abishai, take over David's troops
and put down the rebellion of Sheba. Read 2 Samuel 20:23.
What are we to conclude? That abuse of authority and
treachery are the way to retain authority?
- Read 1 Kings 2:1, 5-6. David has some deathbed
instructions to King Solomon. Why did David not take care
of Joab himself? (David fails (again) to assert his
proper authority. Perhaps a trial of Joab would result
the revelation of David's order regarding Uriah's death.)
- We studied last week how Abiathar the priest, when he was
an old man, conspired with Joab to make Adonijah the new
king while David was still alive. King David intervened
and declared Solomon king. Read 1 Kings 2:27-34. Has Joab
finally received what he deserved?
- Friend, how will you use your authority? To benefit
others or to benefit yourself? Will you allow injustice
to prevail by not acting? Why not commit today to use
your authority to benefit others?
- Next week: Rizpah: The Influence of Faithfulness.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.