League (בּרַית, berith', a contract or "covenant;" also חָבִר, chabar' [Da 11:23], to "join" in alliance; thחָ, karath', to cut, i.e. "make" a league), a political confederacy or treaty. That the Hebrews, surrounded on every side by idolatrous nations, might not be seduced to a defection from Jehovah their king, it was necessary that they should be kept from too great an intercourse with those nations by the establishment of various singular rites; but, lest this seclusion from them should be the source of hatred to other nations, Moses constantly taught them that they should love their neighbor, i.e. every one with whom they had intercourse, including foreigners (Ex 22:21; Ex 23:9; Le 19:34; De 10:18-19; De 24:17-18; De 27:19; comp. Lu 10:25-37). To this end, he showed them that the benefits which God had conferred upon them in preference to other nations were undeserved (De 7:6-8; De 9:4-24). But, although the Hebrews individually were debarred from any close intimacy with idolatrous nations by various rites, yet as a nation they were permitted to form treaties with Gentile states, with the following exceptions:
(1.) The Canaanites, including the Philistines; with these nations the Hebrews were not permitted to enter into any alliance whatever (Ex 23:32-33; Ex 34:12-16; De 7:1-11; De 20:1-18). The Phoenicians, although Canaanites, were not included in this deep hostility, as they dwelt on the northern shore of the country, were shut up within their own limits, and did not occupy the land promised to the patriarchs.
(2.) The Amalekites, or Canaanites of Arabia, were also destined to hereditary enmity, unceasing war, and total extermination (Ex 17:8,14; De 25:17-19; Jg 6:3-5; 1Sa 15:1,33; 1Sa 27:8-9; 1Sa 30:1,17-18).
(3.) The Moabites and Ammonites were to be excluded forever from the right of treaty or citizenship with the Hebrews, but were not to be attacked in war, except when provoked by previous hostility (De 2:9-19; De 23:3-6; Jg 3:12-30; 1Sa 14:47; 2Sa 8:2; 2Sa 12:26). With the Midianitish nation at large there was no hereditary enmity, but those tribes who had conspired with the Moabites were ultimately crushed in a war of dreadful severity (Nu 25:17-18; Nu 31:1-18). Yet those tribes which did not participate in the hostilities against the Hebrews were included among the nations with whom alliances might be formed, but in later times they acted in so hostile a manner that no permanent peace could be preserved with them (Jg 6; Jg 7; Jg 8:1-21). No war was enjoined against the Edomites; and it was expressly enacted that, in the tenth generation, they, as well as the Egyptians, might be admitted to citizenship (Nu 20:14-21; De 2:4-8). The Edomites also, on their part, conducted themselves peaceably towards the Hebrews till the time of David, when their aggressions caused a war, in which they were overcome. From that time they cherished a secret hatred against the Hebrews (2Sa 8:13-14). War had not been determined on against the Amorites on the east of the Jordan; but, as they not only refused a free passage, but opposed the Hebrews with arms, they were attacked and beaten, and their country fell into the hands of the Hebrews (Nu 21:21-35; De 1:4; De 2:24-37; De 3:1-18; De 4:46-49; Jg 11:13-23). Treaties were permitted with all other nations, provided they were such as would tend to the public welfare. David accordingly maintained a friendly national intercourse with the kings of Tyre and Hamath, and Solomon with the kings of Tyre and Egypt, and with the queen of Sheba. Even the Maccabees, those zealots for the law, did not hesitate to enter into compact with the Romans. When the prophets condemn the treaties which were made with the nations. they did so, not because they were contrary to the Mosaic laws, but because they were impolitic and ruinous measures, which betrayed a want of confidence in Jehovah their king. The event always showed in the most striking manner the propriety of their rebukes (2Ki 17:4; 2Ki 18:20-21; 2Ki 20:12-13; 2Ki 2
Chronicles 20:35-37; 28:21; Isa 7:2; Isa 30:2-12; Isa 31:1-3; Isa 36:4-7; Isa 39; Ho 5:13; Ho 7:11; Ho 12:1; Jer 37:5-10). See Alliance.