Alliance a confederacy formed by treaty between two nations for their amicable intercourse and mutual advantage. Compacts of this character are designated in Scripture by various terms, e.g. SEE LEAGUE ; SEE COVENANT ; SEE TREATY , etc.
1. History of Jewish Treaties. — Anterior to the Mosaical institutions, such alliances with foreigners were not forbidden. Abraham was in alliance with some of the Canaanitish princes (Ge 14:13); he also entered into a regular treaty of alliance with the Philistine king Abimelech (ch. 21:22 sq.), which was renewed by their sons (ch. 26:26-30). This primitive treaty is a model of its kind; it leaves all details to the honest interpretation of the contracting parties. Abimelech says: "Swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son; but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee thou shalt do unto me and unto the land wherein thou hast sojourned." Even after the law it appears that such alliances with distant nations as could not be supposed to have any dangerous effect upon the religion or morals of the people were not deemed to be prohibited. Thus, in the case of the treaty with the Gibeonites, Joshua and the elders are condemned for it only on the ground that the Gibeonites were in fact their near neighbors (Jos 9:3-27).
On the first establishment of the Israelites in Palestine, lest the example of foreign nations should draw them into the worship of idols, intercourse and alliance with such nations were strongly interdicted (Le 18:3-4; Le 20:22-23). For the same object of political isolation a country was assigned to them shut in by the sea on the west, by deserts on the south and east, and by mountains and forests on the north. But with the extension of their power under the kings, the Jews were brought more into contact with foreigners, and alliances became essential to the security of their commerce (q.v.). These diplomatic arrangements may primarily be referred to a partial change of feeling which originated in the time of David, and which continued to operate among his descendants. During his wanderings he was brought into association with several of the neighboring princes, from some of whom he received sympathy and support, which, after he ascended the throne, he gratefully remembered (2Sa 10:2). He married the daughter of a heathen king, and had by her his favorite son (2Sa 3:3); the king of Moab protected his family (1Sa 22:3-4); the king of Ammon showed kindness to him (2Sa 10:2); the king of Gath showered favors upon him (1Sa 27; 1Sa 28:1-2); the king of Hamath sent his own son to congratulate him on his victories (2Sa 8:15); in short, the rare power which David possessed of attaching to himself the good opinion and favor of other men, extended even to the neighboring nations, and it would have been difficult for a person of his disposition to repel the advances of kindness and consideration which they made. Among those who made such advances was Hiram, king of Tyre; for it eventually transpires that "Hiram was ever a lover of David" (1Ki 5:2), and it is probable that other intercourse had preceded that relating to the palace which Hiram's artificers built for David (2Sa 5:11). The king of Tyre was not disposed to neglect the cultivation of the friendly intercourse with the Hebrew nation which had thus been opened. He sent an embassy to condole with Solomon on the death of his father, and to congratulate him on his own accession (1Ki 5:1). The plans of the young king rendered the friendship of Hiram a matter of importance, and accordingly "a league" was formed (1Ki 5:12) between them; and that this league had a reference not merely to the special matter then in view, but was a general league of amity, is evinced by the fact that more than 250 years after a prophet denounces the Lord's vengeance upon Tyre, because she "remembered not the brotherly covenant" (Am 1:9). Under this league large bodies of Jews and Phoenicians were associated, first in preparing the materials for the Temple (1Ki 5:6-18), and afterward in navigating the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean (1Ki 9:26-28). Solomon also contracted an alliance with a Pharaoh, king of Egypt, which was cemented by his marriage with a princess of the royal family; by this he secured a monopoly of the trade in horses and other products of that country (1Ki 10:28-29). After the division of the kingdom the alliances were of an offensive and defensive nature; they had their origin partly in the internal disputes of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and partly in the position which these countries held relatively to Egypt on the one side, and the great Eastern monarchies of Assyria and Babylonia on the other. The scantiness of the historical records at our command makes it probable that the key to many of the events that occurred is to be found in the alliances and counter-alliances formed between these people, of which no mention is made. Thus the invasion of Shishak in Rehoboam's reign was not improbably the result of an alliance made with Jeroboam, who had previously found an asylum in Egypt (1Ki 12:2; 1Ki 14:25). Each of these monarchs sought a connection with the neighboring kingdom of Syria, on which side Israel was particularly assailable (1Ki 15:19); but Asa ultimately succeeded in securing the active co-operation of Benhadad against Baasha (1Ki 15:16-20). Another policy, induced probably by the encroaching spirit of Syria, led to the formation of an alliance between the two kingdoms under Ahab and Jehoshaphat, which was maintained until the end of Ahab's dynasty; it occasionally extended to commercial operations (2Ch 20:36). The alliance ceased in Jehu's reign; war broke out shortly after between Amaziah and Jeroboam II; each nation looked for foreign aid, and a coalition was formed between Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah on the one side, and Ahaz and Tiglath Pileser, king of Assyria, on the other (2Ki 16:5-9). By this means an opening was afforded to the advances of the Assyrian power; and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, as they were successively attacked, sought the alliance of the Egyptians, who were strongly interested in maintaining the independence of the Jews as a barrier against the encroachments of the Assyrian power. Thus Hoshea made a treaty with So (Sabaco, or Sevechus), and rebelled against Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:4); Hezekiah adopted the same policy in opposition to Sennacherib (Isa 30:2): in neither case was the alliance productive of much good — the Israelites were abandoned by So; it appears probable that his successor Sethos, who had offended the military caste, was unable to render Hezekiah any assistance; and it was only when the independence of Egypt itself was threatened that the Assyrians were defeated by the joint forces of Sethos and Tirhakah, and a temporary relief afforded thereby to Judah (2Ki 19:9,36; Herod. 2:141). The weak condition of Egypt at the beginning of the 26th dynasty left Judah entirely at the mercy of the Assyrians, who, under Esarhaddon, subdued the country, and by a conciliatory policy secured the adhesion of Manasseh and his successors to his side against Egypt (2Ch 33:11-13). It was apparently as an ally of the Assyrians that Josiah resisted the advance of Necho (2Ch 35:20). His defeat, however, and the downfall of the Assyrian empire, again changed the policy of the Jews, and made them the subjects of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar's first expedition against Jerusalem was contemporaneous with and probably in consequence of the expedition of Necho against the Babylonians (2Ki 24:1; Jer 46:2); and lastly, Zedekiah's rebellion was accompanied with a renewal of the alliance with Egypt (Eze 17:15). A temporary relief appears to have been afforded by the advance of Hophrah (Jer 37:11), but it was of no avail to prevent the extinction of Jewish independence.
On the restoration of independence, Judas Maccabaeus sought an alliance with the Romans, who were then gaining an ascendency in the East, as a counterpoise to the neighboring state of Syria (1 Maccabees 8; Joseph. Ant. 12, 10, 6): this alliance was renewed by Jonathan (1 Maccabees 12:1; Ant. 13, 5, 8), and by Simon (1 Maccabees 15:17; Ant. 13, 7, 3); on the last occasion the independence of the Jews was recognised and formally notified to the neighboring nations, B.C. 140 (1 Maccabees 15:22, 23). Treaties of a friendly nature were at the same period concluded with the Lacedemonians under an impression that they came of a common stock (1 Maccabees 12:2; 14:20; Ant. 12, 4, 10; 13:5, 8). The Roman alliance was again renewed by Hyrcanus, B.C. 128 (Ant. 13, 9, 2), after his defeat by Antiochus Sidetes, and the losses he had sustained were repaired. This alliance, however, ultimately proved fatal to the independence of the Jews: the rival claims of Hyrcanus and Aristobulus having been referred to Pompey, B.C. 63, he availed himself of the opportunity of placing the country under tribute (Ant. 14, 4, 4). Finally, Herod was raised to the sovereignty by the Roman senate, acting under the advice of M. Antony (Ant. 14, 14, 5).
2. Their Religious and Political Effects. — This intercourse with the heathen appears to have considerably weakened the sentiment of separation, which, in the case of the Hebrew, it was of the utmost importance to maintain. The disastrous consequences of even the seemingly least objectionable alliances may be seen in the long train of evils, both to the kingdom of Israel and of Judah, which ensued from the marriage of Ahab with Jezebel, the king of Tyre's daughter. SEE AHAB; SEE JEZEBEL. These consequences had been manifested even in the time of Solomon; for he formed matrimonial alliances with most of the neighboring kingdoms, and to the influence of his idolatrous wives are ascribed the abominations which darkened the latter days of the wise king (1Ki 11:1-8). The prophets, who were alive to these consequences, often raised their voices against such dangerous connections (1Ki 20:38; 2Ch 16:7; 2Ch 19:2; 2Ch 25:7, etc.; Isa 7:17); but it was found a difficult matter to induce even the best kings to place such absolute faith in Jehovah, the Head of their state, as to neglect altogether those human resources and alliances by which other nations strengthened themselves against their enemies. Remarkable instances of this are those of Asa, one of the most pious monarchs of Judah (1Ki 15:16-20), and, in a less degree, of Ahaz (2Ki 16:5, etc.; 2Ch 18:16, etc.). In later times the Maccabees appear to have considered themselves unrestrained by any but the ordinary prudential considerations in contracting alliances; but they confined their treaties to distant states, which were by no means likely ever to exercise that influence upon the religion of the people which was the chief object of dread. The most remarkable alliances of this kind in the whole Hebrew history are those which were contracted with the Romans, who were then beginning to take a part in the affairs of Western Asia. Judas claimed their friendly intervention in a negotiation then pending between the Jews and Antiochus Eupator (2 Maccabees 11:34 sq.); and two years after he sent ambassadors to the banks of the Tiber to propose a treaty of alliance and amity. By the terms of this treaty the Romans ostensibly threw over the Jews the broad shield of their dangerous protection, promising to assist them in their wars, and forbidding any who were at peace with themselves to be at war with the Jews, or to assist directly or indirectly those who were so. The Jews, on their part, engaged to assist the Romans to the utmost of their power in any wars they might wage in those parts. The obligations of this treaty might be enlarged or diminished by the mutual consent of the contracting parties. This memorable treaty, having been concluded at Rome, was graven upon brass and deposited in the Capitol (1 Maccabees 8:22-28; Joseph. Ant. 12, 10; ether treaties with the Romans are given in lib. 13).
3. Rites by which they were ratified. — From the time of the patriarchs a covenant of alliance was sealed by the blood of some victim. A heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon were immolated in confirmation of the covenant between the Lord and Abraham (Ge 15:9). The animal or animals sacrificed were cut in two (except birds, ver.
10), to typify the doom of perjurers. Between the two parts the contracting parties passed, involving imprecations of a similar destruction upon him who should break the terms of the alliance (Ge 15:10; cf. Liv. 1:24); hence the expression כָּרִת בּדַית (=ὅρκια τέμνειν, foedus icere), to make (lit. to cut) a treaty; hence, also, the use of the term אָלָה (lit. imprecation) for a covenant. This usage often recurs in the prophets, and there are allusions to it in the New Testament (Jer 34:18; Daniel 13:55; Mt 24:51; Lu 12:46). The perpetuity of covenants of alliance thus contracted is expressed by calling them "covenants of salt" (Nu 18:19; 2Ch 13:5), salt being the symbol of incorruption, or fidelity, inasmuch as it was applied to the sacrifices (Le 2:13), and probably used, as among the Arabs, at hospitable entertainments. See SALT. Occasionally a pillar or a heap of stones was set up as a memorial of the alliance, (Ge 31:52). Presents were also sent by the party soliciting the alliance (1Ki 15:18; Isa 30:6; Isa 1 Maccabees 15:18). The event was celebrated by a feast (Ex 24:11; 2Sa 3:12,20).
The fidelity of the Jews to their engagements was conspicuous at all periods of their history. The case of the Gibeonites affords an instance scarcely equalled in the annals of any nation. The Israelites had been absolutely cheated into the alliance; but, having been confirmed by oaths, it was deemed to be inviolable (Jos 9:19). Long afterward, the treaty having been violated by Saul, the whole nation was punished for the crime by a horrible famine in the time of David (2Sa 21:1 sq.). The prophet Ezekiel (17:13-16) pours terrible denunciations upon King Zedekiah for acting contrary to his sworn covenant with the king of Babylon. From numerous intimations in Josephus, it appears that the Jewish character for the observance of treaties was so generally recognised after the captivity, as often to procure for them consideration from the rulers of Western Asia and of Egypt.