When Joab saw that the front of the battle was against him before and behind, he chose all of the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians: and the rest of the people he delivered into the hand of Abishai his brother, that he might put them in array against the children of Ammon. And he said, If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help us: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will come and help thee. Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth good. (2 Samuel 10:9-12)
Joab’s comment, Let us play the men for our people, seems to indicate he and his brother Abishai were afraid of the Syrians and children of Ammon. To play the man means to act like a man or to make yourself act brave (407). If you are courageous, it doesn’t mean you have no fear, it means you do not let the fear stop you from doing what you know you have to do.
The Syrians and children of Ammon were bullies. They had a reputation for being brutal and cruel to their enemies, but they were not courageous. When Joab and the people that were with him got near enough to the Syrians that they could see the Israelites were not going to back down, “They fled before him. And when the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fled, then they fled also before Abishai” (2 Samuel 10:13-14).
The key to being courageous, or acting like a man if necessary, is to be present in the situation, to not let your emotions control your behavior. Emotions come and go depending on our circumstances. When we do that which requires courage, fear begins to dissipate and we gain confidence as we move forward. From a spiritual perspective, we gain power, God’s power, when we act according to his will, therefore, accomplishment is assured (1961).
Acting with courage in situations that cause fear is a declaration of divine control of all things. Joab concluded his statement to his brother Abishai by saying, “And the LORD do that which seemeth him good” (2 Samuel 10:12). Joab was leaving the outcome to God. More than just putting his trust in God for safety, Joab was accepting that the length of his life was determined by God and if it was his time to go, then he wanted to go out fighting for what he believed, that the Promised Land belonged to the Israelites.
I think when the Syrians saw Joab, they could see the determination in his face. He was not going to give up; he would fight to the end. At the conclusion of 2 Samuel chapter 10, it says, “And when all the kings that were servants to Hadarezer saw that they were smitten before Israel, they made peace with Israel, and served them. So the Syrians feared to help the children of Ammon any more” (2 Samuel 10:19).