Political intrigue has been part of statehood since the formation of the very first kingdom. Often what one person thinks of as patriotism is seen by others as treason, It is usually the victor who gets to define how these acts are recorded in history. From the era of King David one finds the fascinating story of Yo’av.
Yo’av the son of Zeruiah appears throughout II Samuel, the Book of the Prophets that records the majority of King David’s reign. Yo’av fought the battles that David, as king, could not fight. Yo’av was also known as a noted scholar. In fact, Yo’av and King David were so close that it is said: “Without David[‘s Torah], Yo’av could not have waged war, and without Yo’av, David could not have studied Torah” (Talmud Sanhedrin 49a).
Despite their unusually close friendship, at the end of his life, David charged his successor, King Solomon, to punish Yo’av for “what [he] did to me” (I Kings 2:5) Yo’av had not only committed murders in David’s name without his permission, but he had also joined a rebellion against the king that was led by David’s son Adonijah. According to the Midrash, this was not what truly angered David. Rather it was Yo’av’s lack of discretion in two instances, one in which Yo’av showed his private orders from the king to the captains of the troops and the other when he allowed the king’s subjects to believe that David had ordered him to kill Abner.
King Solomon fulfilled his father’s wishes and ordered Yo’av’s death. Even when Yo’av tried to claim sanctuary by grabbing hold of the Holy Ark, Solomon ordered his general to carry out the order, an action that is supported by Exodus 21:13: “But if a man comes presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; you will take him from my altar, that he may die.”
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Related Treats: Cities of Refuge