Mount Tzruya & King David Nephews


Its 1.5 hours after sunrise in the lowest place on earth. We are 200 meters from the dead sea and half a kilometer south of the ancient settlement of Ein Gedi, which appears in the Book of Joshua as one of the desert cities of the tribe of Judah. For you perfume lovers – the place here was known throughout the various empires, 2000 and 3000 years ago as a production place of the most quality perfumes. For more details on the special spices and plants used for perfumes, you are invited to watch the video on Ein Bokek Fortress.

Today we will climb Mount Tzruya. we are starting from the Dead Sea which is 430 meters below sea level and will climb 600 meters to reach the top of Mount Tzruya, I estimate it will take us 3 hours, but the most important, is that we will have the chance to talk about Tzruya, the sister of King David and her three sons, and this will be done during breaks.

Tzruya (also written asZeruiah) is King’s David’s sister, the daughter of Jesse (also written as Ishay or Yisahi). The mother’s name does not appear in the Bible, but the name of King David’s mother (and probably her mother as well) appears in the Talmud as Nitzevet bat Adael. Tzruya is the mother of Abishai, Joab and Asael. Her sons are named after her, unlike what is customary in the Bible and in ancient time, where the children are named after their father. This is either because she was an impressive woman worthy of note or because she is from a privileged family, she is the sister of King David, and perhaps because of the two reasons together.

Tzruya’s sons are fearless heroes, and one can find several places in the Bible where their heroism casts a shadow over King’s David heroism. Their devotion to King David has no limits. Their commitment to David on the battlefield is absolute, willing to die for him, no wonder we often hear what they have say, it seems impossible to separate between them and King David.

The relationship between King David and the brothers is tight and complicated, sometimes it seems difficult for both parties.

Asael (also written as Asahel) – According to the Book of Chronicles, Asael was the youngest of Tzruya sons. He is listed in the bible as one of King David’s heroes. He is described as a fearless hero, yet that has a downside. The young and fast Asael, does not understand that speed is not the appearance of everything, and that judgment and military experience can overcome heroism & youthful enthusiasm. After the death of King Saul, during the battle between the army of Ish Boshet, King Saul’s son, and the army of David by the pool of Gibeon, which began as a game according to the Bible, Asael chased Abner ben Ner, the army commander of Ish Boshet. Abner tried to convince Asael to stop his chase and to avoid the unnecessary fight. When Asael refused, Abner killed him with his spear. Later, Joab avenged his brother Asahel, and kills Abner.

Abishai (also written as Avishai), was Tzruya eldest son, and is listed as one of David’s leading heroes. Apparently, he joined David, in the early days of establishing David’s close supporters, during the period David run away from King Saul. After David’s coronation as king, Abishai was appointed as a senior army commander under the command of Joab, his brother.

When King David was on the run from his son Absalom (also written as Avshalom) who wanted to take over the kingdom, let me add here that probably Absalom was looking for a revenge for the rape of his sister Tamar by Amnon, also David’s son from another mother, and King David didn’t do anything to Amnon for raping Tamar, which according to the bible, Amnon deserves the death penalty. Now, during King David escape, he and his close group encounter Shimei ben Gera, from King’s Saul family, who curses King David.

Abishay with his hot temper seeks to kill Shimei, King David was angry at Abishai for that and tells him, among other things, “What is with you sons of Tzruya”, and apparently this statement is directed not only to Abishai but also to his brother Joab. This statement illustrates the complex relationship between Tzruya’s sons and their uncle King David.

The most famous son of Tzruya was Joab, the chief army commander of King David. His absolute loyalty to David has many examples, and it is important to note that Joab is not afraid to express his opinion to King David, but in the end, he will carry out David’s orders even if he does not agree with them and there are several examples I will not discuss here.

I would like to point out one example that impressed me the most as characterizing Joab – after the failure of Absalom’s revolt against his father King David, and after Absalom is killed, King David mourns his son while all of King David’s supporters are still recovering from the difficult battles. Then comes Joab – and in a brilliant speech he challenges his king – how come the king prefers his one son, the traitor, over his loving and loyal soldiers & servants, and also adds a threat of what will happen if King David will not go out and speak to his people – I encourage you to read the 2nd book of Samuel chapter 19 – an exemplary example of his lack of fear when it comes to  what he believes in –  he will say it even if it is to the greatest king of Israel. King David listens to Joab and returns to function as a king.

What probably failed Joab was the need for revenge. Joab allegedly kills Avner because he does not trust him after Avner met David following the death of King Saul and offered to unite all tribes under David, yet based on the bible, it was a blood revenge for Abner killing Asael, Joab’s brother. Yet even beyond that – Abner brought to David an agreement he arranged – the consent of the tribes of Israel to accept David kingship over them, a step that was necessary for political & military reasons which I will not elaborate here.

The killing of Abner ben Ner could have jeopardized the unite of the tribes of Israel behind King David. Joab also kills Amasa ben Yeter, Absalom’s head of army, who King David nominated to replace Joab after the death of Absalom. It is difficult for Joab to deal with the fact that the king appoints Amasha, who was just a minute ago entrusted by Absalom with his own army to kill king David.

Even towards his relatives, Joab shows no mercy and only to mention that Amasa was the son of Abigail, the sister of Tzruya, Joab’s mother.    

The end of Joab, the son of Tzruya was sad – Joab pays with his life for the killing of Abner ben Ner and Amasa ben Yeter, as listed in Kings David will. It is important to note that King David does not mention in his will the killing of his beloved son Absalom.

He may understood that this was a wise and necessary step in favor of the kingdom. King Solomon, the son of David, fulfills his father will, and instructs his head of army to kill Joab.

We reached the end of this track and as a usual a question for you – How many brothers King David had as listed in the book of Samuel – the answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

Information Sources

  1. Book: David - From shepherd to Messiah, Author: Yair Zakovitch, Publisher: Yad Yitzhak Ben- Zvi
  2. Podcast: by Dr. Liora Ravid, Chapter 54

Mention in the Bible

  1. 1Chronicles chapter 2 verse 16
  2. 2Samuel chapter 2 verses 18, 24-25
  3. 2Samuel chapter 3 verse 30
  4. 2Samuel chapter 16 verse 10
  5. 2Samuel chapter 19 verses 2-9, 14
  6. 2Samuel chapter 23
  7. 1Kings chapter 2 verses 5-6

Related Sites