Today’s Bible study is intended to answer a simple question you may have had while reading the Word of God. This question went unanswered in my life for many years until I stumbled over the answer in my daily Bible reading. The question is: “Who is Zeruiah?”
Zeruiah is named 26 times in 25 verses and 4 books of the Bible. Zeruiah had 3 prominent sons: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel (2 Sam. 2:18).
The Sons of Zeruiah
Joab, the commander of David’s army (2 Sam. 8:16; 1 Chron. 11:6; 18:15), is often named as “Joab the son of Zeruiah” (2 Sam. 2:13; 14:1; 23:37; 1 Kings 1:7; 2:5, 22; 1 Chron. 11:39; 26:28; 27:24).
Abishai was listed as one of David’s 37 “mighty men.” He was chief of the second 3, although he did not attain to David’s top 3 (2 Sam. 23:18-19). Abishai once saved saved David’s life (2 Sam. 21:15-17). Abishai is frequently named as “Abishai the son of Zeruiah” (1 Sam. 26:6; 2 Sam. 16:9; 18:2; 19:21; 23:18; 1 Chron. 18:12).
Asahel is also listed as one of David’s 37 “mighty men” (2 Sam.23:24). Unfortunately Asahel was killed at a young age by Abner the commander of the Israelite army during a skirmish between David’s servants and those of Saul’s son Ishbosheth while David was king of Judah, before he became king of all Israel.
The three sons of Zeruiah were mighty men who fought bravely for David and were important to his success. They loyally supported David throughout his life, from the period while he was running from Saul through his 40-years as king.
But the sons of Zeruiah were too vengeful and quick to kill for David’s liking. The Bible records David saying:
- “. . . these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me” (2 Sam. 3:39)
- “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse” (2 Sam. 16:10)
- “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me? shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? for do not I know that I am this day king over Israel?” (2 Sam. 19:22)
- Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, . . . ” (1 Kings 2:5)
So why were these 3 mighty men so often specified as “sons of Zeruiah”? And why did they loyally support David throughout his life?
Who was Zeruiah?
The answer to this question is found in the genealogy of Judah leading to David, recorded in 1 Chronicles 2:3-12; 13-15; 16.
Many people find the genealogies in the Bible hard to read. Their eyes glaze over or they skip them entirely. But some interesting things can be found in the genealogies, and the answer to the question of who Zeruiah was is one of them.
David had 7 older brothers (1 Sam. 16:10-11) and 2 sisters (1 Chron. 2:16). Zeruiah was one of David’s two sisters. And the 3 sons of Zeruiah (Joab, Abishai, and Asahel) were David’s nephews.
BONUS – Who Was Amasa?
When Absalom stole the kingship and sought to kill his father David, he made Amasa the commander of the Israelite army (2 Sam. 17:25). Even though Amasa led the forces that tried to kill and overthrow him, once Absalom had been defeated David retained Amasa as commander of the army in place of Joab (2 Sam. 19:13). Why would David do this. And why did David refer to Amasa as “of my bone, and of my flesh” (2 Sam. 19:13).
The answer to this question is also found in 1 Chronicles 2:16-17. Amasa was the son of Abigail (1 Chron. 2:17) who was David’s other sister in addition to Zeruiah (1 Chron. 2:16). So Amasa was also David’s nephew. Unfortunately for Amasa (son of Abigail), Joab (the son of Zeruiah) killed his cousin to regain his role as head of Israel’s army.