This detail from The General Warns David to Cease Mourning Absalom appears courtesy of the artist, Schwebel.

King David is visibly shaken by the words his commander-in-chief, Joab, is whispering in his ear, in this detail of a 1995 painting by the American-born Israeli artist Schwebel.

As David fought to gain the throne of Israel, Joab waged a parallel struggle to gain and maintain control of David’s military forces. Their fates are entwined, and David owes much of his own success to Joab’s prowess—and ruthlessness—both on the battlefield and off. But as Robin Gallaher Branch shows in the accompanying article, theirs is a relationship of conflict and distrust as well as loyalty.