Nature and confirmation.

Alliances are akin to covenants, although the former apply more to the political and military and the latter to the religious and personal. Alliance implies reciprocal action. It involves obligations, risks, protection, and rewards. Because of the anticipated threat of religious contamination by cults of Canaanite neighbors, Moses issued a law prohibiting Israel’s alliance with them (Exod 34:15ff.; Deut 7:3ff.). The manner of making alliances varied, but most of them had certain factors in common, e.g., oral agreement of mutual protection, oaths, exchange of gifts, eating together, and often intermarriages.

Military and political incidents.

Marriage alliances


B. Davies, Student’s Hebrew Lexicon (1960) 193, 238, 308; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1962), 31, 116f.; E. W. K. Mould, Essentials of Bible History (1966), 220, 229, 262.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

a-li’-ans. 1. In the Patriarchal Stories:

Frequent references are made to alliances between the patriarchs and foreigners. Abraham is reported to have had "confederates" among the chiefs of the Canaanites (Ge 14:13). He also allied with Abimelech, king of Gerar (Ge 21:22-34). Isaac’s alliance with Abimelech (Ge 26:26-34), which is offered as an explanation of the name Beer-sheba (Ge 26:33), appears to be a variant of the record of alliance between Abraham and Abimelech. Jacob formed an alliance with Laban, the Syrian (Ge 31:44-54), by which Gilead was established as a boundary line between Israel and Aramaic. These treaties refer, in all probability, to the early period of Israel’s history, and throw a good deal of light upon the relation between Israel and the Philistines and the Syrians immediately after the conquest of Canaan.

2. In Pre-Canaanitic History:

The only reference to an alliance between Israel and foreign people prior to the conquest of Canaan, that might be regarded as historical, is that made between Israel and the Kenite tribes at the foot of Sinai, the precise nature of which, however, is not very clearly indicated. Such alliances led to intermarriages between the members of the allied tribes. Thus Moses married a Kenite woman (Jud 1:16; 4:11). The patriarchal marriages refer to the existing conditions after the conquest. Possibly one more alliance belonging to that period is that between Israel and Moab (Nu 25:1-3). According to the narrative, Israel became attached to the daughters of Moab, at Shittim, and was led astray after Baal-peor. Its historicity is proven from the prophetic allusions to this event (compare Ho 9:10; Mic 6:5).

3. During the Conquest:

The invading hordes of Israel met with strong opposition on the part of the natives of Palestine (Jud 1:21,27-36). In time, alliances were formed with some of them, which generally led, as might be expected, to considerable trouble. One concrete illustration is preserved in the story of the Gibeonites (Jos 9). Intermarriages were frequent. The tribe of Judah thus became consolidated through the alliance and the amalgamation with the Kenites and Calebites (Jud 1:10-16). These relations between Israel and the Canaanites threatened the preservation of Yahwism.

4. The Monarchy:

But at a very early date in the history of the Jewish kingdom the official heads of the people formed such alliances and intermarried. David became an ally to Achish of Gath (1Sa 27:2-12) and later on with Abner, which led to the consolidation of Judah and Israel into one kingdom (2Sa 3:17-21; 5:1-3). It appears likewise that Toi, king of Hamath, formed an alliance with David (2Sa 9:10) and that Hiram of Tyre was his ally (1Ki 5:12 a). Alliances wrath foreign nations became essential to the progress of trade and commerce during the reign of Solomon. Two of his treaties are recorded: one with Hiram of Tyre (1Ki 5:12-18; 9:11-14) and one with Pharaoh, king of Egypt (1Ki 9:16).

5. The Divided Kingdom:

After the disruption, Shishak of Egypt invaded Judea, and probably also Israel. This meant an abrogation of the treaty existing between Israel and Egypt during the reign of Solomon. In consequence of the war between the two kingdoms, Asa formed an alliance with Benhadad of Syria (1Ki 15:18-20). Later on Ahab sought an alliance with Ben-hadad (1Ki 20:31-34). Friendly relations ensued between Israel and Judah, during the reign of Jehoshaphat, which continued to the close of the dynasty of Omri (1Ki 22:2-4,50; 2Ki 3:7). With the accession of Jehu, hostilities were resumed. In the Syro-Ephraimitic war, Israel was allied with Syria, and Judah with Assyria (2Ki 16:6-9; Isa 7). This opened the way to the Assyrian power into both kingdoms. Relief against Assyria was sought in Egypt; Hoshea rebelled against Shalmaneser, and allied with So (Sevechus, the Shabaka of the 25th Dynasty) and thus brought about the fall of Samaria.

6. The Kingdom of Judah:

Hezekiah likewise sought an alliance with So, but derived no assistance from him. He is recorded to have formed friendly relations with Berodach-baladan of Babylon (2Ki 20:12-18). These alliances resulted in the introduction of foreign cults into Jerusalem (2Ki 16:10,11). During the reign of Manasseh, Yahwism was seriously threatened by foreign religious practices (2Ki 21:2-9). The protesting spirit against the prevailing conditions found expression in the Deuteronomic code, which emphasizes the national policy. Josiah fought against Pharaoh- necoh as an ally of Assyria (2Ki 23:29). Jehoahaz continued the Assyrian alliance and was dethroned in consequence by Pharaoh-necoh (2Ki 23:33). Jehoiakin was disposed to be friendly with Egypt, and even after his subjection to Nebuchadnezzar, he remained loyal to the Pharaoh (2Ki 23:35). Zedekiah came to the throne as an ally of Babylon. When he broke this alliance, the destruction of Jerusalem resulted (2Ki 25).

7. In Post-exilic Times:

Judas Maccabeus sought an alliance with the Romans (1 Macc 8; Josephus, Ant, XII, x, 6) which was renewed by Jonathan (1 Macc 12:1; Ant, XIII, v, 8) and by Simon (1 Macc 15:17; Ant, XIII, vii, 3). Treaties were concluded with the Spartans (1 Macc 12:2; 14:20; Ant, XII, iv, 10; XIII, v, 8). The Roman alliance was again renewed by Hyrcanus about 128 BC (Ant., XIII, ix, 2). This alliance proved to be of fatal consequence to the independence of the Jews (Ant., XIV, iv, 4; and xiv, 5). For the rites connected with the formation of the earlier alliances, see Covenant.