A uniting together of different parties, families, individuals, or states, whether by marriage, mutual agreement, or legal compact. An alliance usually implies resultant mutual benefit or the joint pursuit of a desired purpose. The Hebrew word cha·varʹ literally means “be joined” but is used figuratively to mean “be allied; have partnership.” (Ex 28:7; Ps 94:20; 2Ch 20:35) The related cha·verʹ denotes an ally or partner.—Jg 20:11; Ps 119:63.
Abraham entered into an early alliance with Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner of the Amorites. The nature of the confederacy is not stated, but they joined him in his march to rescue his nephew Lot from invading kings. (Ge 14:13-24) Abraham was then dwelling as an alien in land controlled by petty kingdoms, and in this case, some formal declaration in the form of a covenant may have been required of him as a prerequisite for peaceful residence in their midst. However, Abraham avoided unnecessarily obligating himself to such political rulers, as is manifest by his statement to the king of Sodom at Genesis 14:21-24. Later, at Gerar, the Philistine king Abimelech reminded Abraham of his alien status and that he resided in the land of Philistia by Abimelech’s consent, and he requested of him the swearing of an oath guaranteeing faithful conduct. Abraham acquiesced and later, following a water-rights dispute, made a covenant with Abimelech.—Ge 20:1, 15; 21:22-34.
Abraham’s son Isaac also came to dwell in Gerar, although he was later asked by Abimelech to move out of the immediate vicinity, and he willingly complied. Disputes over water rights again occurred, but thereafter Abimelech and his chief associates approached Isaac requesting an oath of obligation and a covenant, doubtless as a renewal of that made with Abraham. Sworn statements were made by both parties guaranteeing reciprocal peaceful conduct. (Ge 26:16, 19-22, 26-31; compare Ge 31:48-53.) The apostle Paul states that these early patriarchs publicly declared themselves strangers and temporary residents tenting in the land, awaiting a city having real foundations, whose builder and maker is God.—Heb 11:8-10, 13-16.
A different situation prevailed with the entry of the nation of Israel into Canaan, the Land of Promise. The Sovereign God had given Israel full right to the land in fulfillment of his promise to their forefathers. They were, therefore, not entering as alien residents, and Jehovah prohibited their making alliances with the pagan nations in the land. (Ex 23:31-33; 34:11-16) They were to be subject only to God’s laws and statutes, not to those of the nations due for eviction. (Le 18:3, 4; 20:22-24) They were particularly warned against forming marriage alliances with such nations. Such alliances would intimately involve them not only with pagan wives but with pagan relatives and their false religious practices and customs, and this would result in apostasy and a snare.—De 7:2-4; Ex 34:16; Jos 23:12, 13.
Marriage Alliances. The Hebrew verb cha·thanʹ, meaning “form a marriage alliance,” is related to cho·thenʹ (father-in-law), cha·thanʹ (bridegroom; son-in-law), cho·theʹneth (mother-in-law), and chathun·nahʹ (marriage).—1Sa 18:22; Ex 3:1; 4:25; Ge 19:14; De 27:23; Ca 3:11.
Abraham insisted that Isaac’s wife not be taken from among the Canaanites. (Ge 24:3, 4) Isaac gave similar instruction to Jacob. (Ge 28:1) At the time of Dinah’s violation by Shechem the Hivite, the family of Jacob was urged by Hamor, Shechem’s father, to enter into marriage alliances with that tribe. Though Jacob’s sons did not follow through with their apparent acceptance, they did take the Hivite women and children captive after avenging Dinah’s honor. (Ge 34:1-11, 29) Judah later married a Canaanite woman (Ge 38:2), and Joseph’s wife was an Egyptian. (Ge 41:50) Moses married Zipporah, a Midianite, evidently called a “Cushite” at Numbers 12:1. (Ex 2:16, 21) These marriages, however, were contracted before the giving of the Law and hence could not be considered a violation of its requirements.
In the battle with Midian, the Israelites preserved alive only virgins from among the women and girls. (Nu 31:3, 18, 35) The Law allowed for the taking of a wife from among such parentless female war captives. (De 21:10-14) Within the Promised Land itself God’s warning concerning marriage alliances with pagans was often ignored, with resulting problems and apostasy.—Jg 3:5, 6.
Marriage alliances were sometimes arranged with a view to achieving certain ends, as when David was invited by King Saul to form a marriage alliance with him by taking his daughter Michal as wife. (1Sa 18:21-27) One of the six wives who later bore David sons at Hebron was the daughter of the king of Geshur (2Sa 3:3), and some consider this to be a marriage alliance entered into by David with a view to weakening the position of rival Ish-bosheth, since Geshur was a petty kingdom lying on the other side of Mahanaim, Ish-bosheth’s capital. Early in his reign King Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh, taking his daughter as wife. (1Ki 3:1; 9:16) This marriage, along with others to Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, eventually caused Solomon to succumb to gross idolatry. (1Ki 11:1-6) King Ahab’s marriage alliance with the king of Sidon by marrying his daughter Jezebel brought similar disastrous results for the northern kingdom of Israel. (1Ki 16:31-33) King Jehoshaphat thereafter formed an unwise marriage alliance with the idolatrous house of Ahab, with lasting bad consequences for the kingdom of Judah.—2Ch 18:1; 21:4-6; 22:2-4.
Following the exile, Ezra was shocked to find that even the priests and Levites had made marriage alliances with the Canaanites and others, a situation that was promptly corrected. (Ezr 9:1-3, 12-14; 10:1-5, 10-14, 44) Yet, in Nehemiah’s time Tobiah the Ammonite again used marriage alliances to develop strong relations with the priestly family in Jerusalem and foster a strong faction of allies among the nobles of Judah, to the point that, in defiance of the Law (De 23:3), the priest Eliashib made a dining hall in the temple courtyard for this Ammonite. Nehemiah, however, indignantly threw all of Tobiah’s furniture outside.—Ne 6:18; 13:4-9, 25-27; see MARRIAGE.
Covenants. Other alliances aside from marriage alliances were made, and these were generally in the form of a covenant. The covenant made with the Gibeonites was, of course, entered into by Israel because of a deception. (Jos 9:3-15) Nevertheless, once made, the covenant was thereafter respected so that Israel was willing to fight to protect the Gibeonites. (Jos 9:19-21; 10:6, 7) A personal alliance by covenant existed between Jonathan and David (1Sa 18:3; 20:11-17), a relationship that Saul condemned as a conspiracy. (1Sa 22:8) King Hiram of Tyre showed friendship toward David when David succeeded Saul as king, and Hiram became “a lover of David.” (2Sa 5:11; 1Ki 5:1) Friendly relations continued, and on Solomon’s accession to the throne a contract was made with King Hiram that called for the supplying of much of the material needed for the temple construction. (1Ki 5:2-18) Under this contract thousands of Israelite laborers were allowed entry into Lebanon and its forests. Hiram even addressed Solomon as “my brother.” (1Ki 9:13) Tyre furnished seamen for Solomon’s fleet of ships operating out of Ezion-geber. (1Ki 9:26, 27) When the kingdom of Tyre later turned against Israel and handed over Israelite exiles to Edom, it was accused of having violated “the covenant of brothers.”—Am 1:9.
Unwise Alliances With Other Nations. Though God’s prophets gave strong warnings against the forming of alliances with other nations, in times of danger or under the pressure of ambition the kings of Judah and Israel frequently ignored such warnings. (Isa 30:2-7; Jer 2:16-19, 36, 37; Ho 5:13; 8:8-10; 12:1) The end results were never good, as the following examples show.
King Asa of Judah used the royal treasures to buy King Ben-hadad I of Syria out of a covenant with King Baasha of Israel. (1Ki 15:18-20) As a result of this ‘leaning on Syria’ instead of on Jehovah, Asa was rebuked by the prophet Hanani with the words: “You have acted foolishly respecting this, for from now on there will exist wars against you.” (2Ch 16:7-9) King Ahab of Israel later made a covenant with defeated Ben-hadad II and received similar condemnation from a prophet of God. (1Ki 20:34, 42) Jehoshaphat allied himself with Ahab in an unsuccessful attack against Syria and was thereafter asked by the prophet Jehu: “Is it to the wicked that help is to be given, and is it for those hating Jehovah that you should have love? And for this there is indignation against you from the person of Jehovah.” (2Ch 18:2, 3; 19:2) Later Jehoshaphat made a commercial shipbuilding partnership with wicked King Ahaziah of Israel, but prophetic condemnation was fulfilled when the ships were wrecked. (2Ch 20:35-37) Obeying divine counsel, Amaziah of Judah wisely decided against the use of mercenary troops from Israel though it meant a loss of 100 talents of silver ($660,600) paid to them as a fee.—2Ch 25:6-10.
In the eighth century B.C.E. as Assyria began to rise as a dominant world power, its menacing shadow drove lesser kingdoms into many alliances and conspiracies. (Compare Isa 8:9-13.) A buildup of new weapons of warfare among the nations also caused increased fear. (Compare 2Ch 26:14, 15.) Menahem of Israel bribed the attacking Pul (Tiglath-pileser III) of Assyria. (2Ki 15:17-20) Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel formed a conspiratorial alliance against Ahaz of Judah, who, in turn, used the royal treasures and those from the temple to buy protection from Assyrian Tiglath-pileser III, resulting in the fall of Syrian Damascus. (2Ki 16:5-9; 2Ch 28:16) Hoshea of Israel made a conspiratorial alliance with King So of Egypt in the false hope of throwing off the Assyrian yoke imposed by Shalmaneser V, with the consequent fall of Israel in 740 B.C.E. (2Ki 17:3-6) Faithful Hezekiah of Judah, however, though falsely accused of trusting in Egypt, relied solely on Jehovah and was saved from the Assyrian Sennacherib’s attack.—2Ki 18:19-22, 32-35; 19:14-19, 28, 32-36; compare Isa 31:1-3.
In its closing years, the kingdom of Judah fluctuated between Egypt and Babylon, “prostituting” itself to both powers. (Eze 16:26-29; 23:14) It came under the dominance of Egypt during Jehoiakim’s reign (2Ki 23:34) but was soon made subject to Babylon. (2Ki 24:1, 7, 12-17) The last king, Zedekiah, made a futile attempt to free Judah from Babylon by a vain alliance with Egypt. Destruction of Jerusalem resulted. (2Ki 24:20; Eze 17:1-15) They had failed to accept Isaiah’s inspired advice: “By coming back and resting you people will be saved. Your mightiness will prove to be simply in keeping undisturbed and in trustfulness.”—Isa 30:15-17.
During the Maccabean period many treaties and alliances were made with the Syrians and the Romans for political advantage, but freedom from bondage did not result for Israel. In a later period the religious Sadducees were especially prominent in favoring political collaboration as a means toward ultimate national independence. Neither they nor the Pharisees accepted the Kingdom message proclaimed by Christ Jesus but allied themselves with Rome, declaring: “We have no king but Caesar.” (Joh 19:12-15) Their religiopolitical alliance with Rome, however, ended in the disastrous destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.—Lu 19:41-44; 21:20-24.
Political and religious alliances are indicated in the symbolisms of Revelation 17:1, 2, 10-18; 18:3. (Compare Jas 4:1-4.) Thus, throughout the Scriptural record the principle stated by Paul is stressed: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? . . . Get out from among them, and separate yourselves.”—2Co 6:14-17.