In the coup attempt Absalom launched against David, Joab the general of David’s army showed himself loyal to the king by disobeying him. David ordered Joab and his army to “deal gently” with Absalom—not to put him to death when they captured him (18:1–5). Joab, however, understood that sparing Absalom would be a grave mistake. He understood that Absalom’s blatant seizure of David’s concubines meant that David’s son had no intention of ever laying down his arms against his father (16:20–22). Joab wanted to deliver David from the danger he faced, so he disobeyed David and killed Absalom (18:6–15). He disobeyed David because of his loyalty to David, making the right decision to protect David’s kingdom even when David was unwilling to do so.
That explains the fierceness with which Joab confronted David regarding the king’s mourning over the death of Absalom. David’s profound grief took what should have been a day of celebration of the rescue of the king and his kingdom and made it a day of sadness for God’s people (18:31–19:2). The people even became greatly ashamed of the victory that had been won against the foes of David and David’s Lord (19:3). Joab could not stand for this, and he angrily rebuked David. Castigating David for loving Absalom, who hated the king, Joab told David that his mourning was seen by his supporters as hatred for them, and he told him that if he did not stop, he risked losing his friends and allies. This snapped David back to his senses, and he returned to the city to speak kindly to the people (vv. 4–8). Truly on this occasion, Joab delivered the kind of faithful wounds to his friend that Proverbs 27:6 commends. Once again, Joab saved David’s kingdom.
David repaid this loyalty by appointing Amasa, the leader of Absalom’s forces, general in place of Joab (2 Sam. 19:8b–15). David likely did this to assure those who had supported Absalom that he would not take vengeance on them now that he was back. But Joab did not take his replacement lightly, as we will see in 2 Samuel 20:9–10.
Today’s passage also tells us that David pledged not to harm Shimei, who had earlier cursed the king (16:5–14). Shimei came to David with several Benjaminites, likely to show the king that he was no longer against him and would go out of his way to find loyal servants for him. Clearly, Shimei was playing politics, but David swore not to kill him (19:16–23).