What Else Does The Bible Say About Alliances?

“A righteous nation looks to God and a foolish nation, to alliances.”

“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

In part one of What Does The Bible Have To Say About Alliances? we explored how looking to alliances is idolatry, the account of Abram and the rescue of Lot which sets the standard for how a righteous man should engage in war, and why Israelites were not supposed to marry foreign women. But this is only a fraction of the biblical support for this argument. There is far more in the scriptures, beginning with who we should look to in a time of need.

Do Not Look To Princes

This is one of the most important themes in the Bible, and it is found throughout the Old Testament. Man cannot save us, only God can. Now we often individualize this, but this is just as often, if not more, about the salvation of your nation from invasion as it is personal salvation. This exhortation is found again and again in the Bible, but especially in the Psalms.

The Psalms is a powerful book that teaches us how to worship, praise, sing and pray to our God, and how to think about our fellowship with God. We read again and again in the Psalms why we should not look to princes.

God is the one in whom there is true power.

“Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, 12 who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth” (Psalm 76:11-12). Why trust in princes when you can trust in the God who cuts off the spirit of princes in his own timing? Who alone is to be feared? God. Turn to him when your nation is in trouble because there is no one to whom it is better to look.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9). For those who want to say this is just a teaching for Old Testament Israel, can you really say these verses are out of date? Of course not. It has always been better to look to God and it is still far better to look to God.

One particularly powerful place to meditate on this theme, if you disagree with me, is Psalms 144 to 150. These Psalms serve as the concluding passages of the book of Psalms and summarize many of its themes and teachings. They are filled with all of the reasons individuals and nations should look to God and in doing so they highlight the importance of not looking to princes.

Psalm 144 directly addresses the concept of war and trusting in God during war: “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Ps. 144:15). Why is such a nation happy? Because it is God who gives the victory, “9 I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, 10 who gives victory to kings, who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword” (Ps. 144:9-10).

Alliances do not give victory; we know this to be true because alliances fail. The first two alliances we see in the Scriptures fail (Gen. 14). One alliance is defeated by the other alliance and the second alliance was defeated by a man with the loyal members of his household. History is filled with examples of foreign alliances failing. God only preserves those who look to him, “The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy” (Ps. 145:20).

Psalm 145 reminds us that our help needs to come from the Lord. And who should trust him? Just Israel? No, “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever” (Ps. 145:21). All who live and breathe should trust him. 

Because God only preserves those who look to him, we should not trust princes: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Ps. 146:3; KJV). Why would you trust in princes when you can trust in the one who made the heavens and the earth? Again and again, Israel defeated its enemies and their alliances when it was righteous and trusted in God. Hezekiah did not defeat Assyria with swords, but with prayer, faith and trust in God. Because peace comes from God: “He makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat” (Ps. 147:14).

Someone might respond, but Matt, Psalm 147 notes that God gives peace to Jerusalem; are not these Psalms just directed to Old Covenant Israelites? No, not at all, as Psalm 148 shows us; who should look to the Lord and trust and praise him? All nations and their leaders: “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!” (Ps. 148:11). God made his special covenant with the people of Israel, but this does not mean that other nations were not supposed to look to him as well. Not trusting in princes is a command for all people, all nations. Only God can save. If he removes his favour from your nation, no alliance will save you.

You are familiar with this teaching, but you more often hear it only applied in the context of individual salvation. However, the Scriptures also apply it to national salvation from foreign threats. I simply cannot see how Christians can just brush aside this teaching in the Scriptures. It is too consistent and it is easy to demonstrate that it is applicable to Gentile nations as well as Israel. 

Alliances God Did Allow

God allowed the kings of Israel to make trade alliances with foreign kings, as long as they did not marry their daughters and encouraged nations to have friendly relations. Solomon, as noted above, is a good example of how to do this wrong: “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem” (1 Kings 3:1).

But he is also an example of how to do this right: “And the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him. And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty” (1 Kings 5:12). Hiram and the Phoenicians were a major source of both the materials and expert tradesmen used to build the temple of God. Obviously, Hiram was a righteous man. God was okay with Israel and Judah trading with foreign nations, but he was in no way fond of free and unrestricted trade as I have discussed elsewhere.

But military alliances with foreign powers were forbidden. Judah and Israel were allowed to ally together, but only with God’s permission. For example, we see how Jehoshaphat responds to Ahab’s request for a military alliance in 1 Kings 22:

“For three years Syria and Israel continued without war. 2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. 3 And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we keep quiet and do not take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?” 4 And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses” 5 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:1-5)

Jehoshaphat knew the wisdom of not even joining Israel in an alliance without God’s permission. Well, he did at least when he was a younger king. In his later years God judges him for joining an alliance with Israel:

“After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. 36 He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. 37 Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.” (2 Chron. 20:35-37)

The NIV translates the word “joined” as “alliance”. This appears to have been either a trade or colonization alliance and God was not okay with it because Israel had an unrighteous king. This is especially notable when read in the context of the rest of the chapter, which we will look at now.

Note how a righteous national leader should respond to a foreign invasion threat:

After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. 15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

24 When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. 25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the Lord. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day. 27 Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. 28 They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. 29 And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.” (2 Chronicles 20:1-30)

Is this not amazing? Lord, give us a leader for our nation like Jehoshaphat. Give us people like the people of Judah in that day. Is this not the definition of a conclusive example? The verse which most jumps out at me is verse 12: “O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. That is the cry of the faithful in a time of need, to look to God and not to alliances. I don’t know how the Bible could be more clear that we should not to look to alliances. This is a remarkable passage. And it is thoroughly consistent with the Bible’s teaching on this topic.

This did not just apply to Israel either. As we saw from Psalm 148. A righteous nation looks to God and a foolish nation to alliances. Is Australia any more capable of opposing a horde of nations than Judah was? No, therefore we need to look to God. 

What does the New Testament say?

I think it would be silly to just brush aside much of this teaching because it is found in the Old Testament and mostly directed towards Israel. The theme of looking to God is just too strong in the Bible to brush away like that. Israel was designed to be God’s model nation for other nations to learn from, so this wisdom has some application for Gentile nations then and now.

Plus, we showed how the Psalms say this applies to other nations, and Paul said this: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:11-12).

The temptation of smaller nations is to rely on alliances. The temptation of larger, more powerful nations is to think they can dominate and direct smaller nations. These are common temptations that still exist today. But there are two more direct passages that I want to show you.

There is a passage in the New Testament you will not fully understand without recognizing its reliance on the Old Testament theology that we have just explored. Paul says in Acts 17:

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 17:26-28)

God created the nations and put them within their own borders so that they would seek him, and him alone. Now is this more consistent with chasing alliances or trusting in God for protection? The answer is obvious. This was part of God’s intention for giving nations borders and sovereignty. They were meant to not interfere with each other, but instead, seek out their creator in times of need.

This was not just a principle for Israel; ALL nations were meant to do this, as the Psalms highlighted. Instead, the nations chased foreign gods and all kinds of nonsense, forgetting that all people were made by God, and this causes the trouble we see among nations today.

It may be impossible to return to this state perfectly, but it is not impossible for a nation to make a stance that they will remain within their borders and not seek to interfere with other nations. Up until recently Switzerland managed to do that and prosper. But there is more relating to this in the New Testament.

God’s final act of judgment on the nations before he judges the earth in the great white throne judgement in Revelation shows how consistent this teaching is in the Bible. What is that final act of God’s judgement before then? To judge an alliance. We read in Revelation 20:

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:7-10)

The final alliance of nations is judged by God, and so is the second to last alliance in Revelation 19:

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.” (Revelation 19:17-21)

Whether you read these two passages as looking at the same final battle, or that one is before the millennium and one after, or even just as allegorical, the application is the same: the final great alliances of men will be stirred up by the devil and destroyed in both instances. One may respond, but Matt, these alliances are bad because of who they are seeking to fight, the Lord Jesus, who beats them thoroughly.

I would simply respond: we have gone through the whole Bible and shown that God does not like nations engaging in alliances, commanded his people not to do them, and it was the pagan nations, who are dominated by the devil, that continually stirred up alliances for war. This consistent teaching is observed from Genesis through to Revelation. When the scriptures stay consistent on an issue from beginning to end, it is foolish to ignore it.

How do you make sure you are not part of this final alliance being judged by God? You look to God and not alliances with foreign kings. We have a responsibility to warn people about being caught up in this final alliance. Even if you believe that believers will be raptured first, which I don’t[2] still, again, we have the same application, warn people to look to Jesus, not to alliances. Warn nations to look to Jesus, not alliances.

Look to God

Someone might be reading this and wondering, but Matt, what if we see another nation invading another nation, shouldn’t we do something? Yes, absolutely, we should take it as a warning to look to God and ask him what we need to repent of. Because every nation that is invaded in the Bible is invaded as an act of judgement of God on that people and their kings, or leadership. This is such a consistent teaching in the Bible that we cannot ignore it. When you see a nation being invaded you should immediately turn to God and ask for his favour to remain on your own nation. If you do not have leadership that can do that, then you are in serious trouble. What we should not do is seek to intervene.

King Josiah sought to interfere between Egypt and Babylon, and God allowed him to die and be punished because of that. In fact, God explicitly condemned Josiah through Neco for this act:

“After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. 21 But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” 22 Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23 And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.” (2 Chr 35:20-24)

This line is especially notable, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war.” Christians today think nothing of having our nation interfering in wars between foreign powers. But one of the few (or only?) examples we see of this in the Bible, is when God condemns the righteous king who in this instance was too big for his boots. Josiah was a good king, a good man, and a good leader. But none of this gave him the right to interfere between Egypt and Babylon. Indeed, not only did he not have the right to do so, it was foolish.

We should not look at another nation under judgement and laugh or take advantage, either, but fear God. Edom stood aloof and took advantage of Judah’s disgrace. God said this to Edom:

“But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress. 15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.” (Ob. 1:12-15)

God told Edom they should heed the invasion of Judah as a warning. When a nation is invaded, it is because God has removed His favour from them. Ask yourself this: is our nation deserving of the favour of God or is our nation poised for judgement? We don’t need more alliances here in Australia, we need to repent and seek God’s favour again. We need leaders who will do this.

Don’t rejoice in the humbling of other people. Look and fear the Lord. Ask: “Lord what do we need to repent of here?” Pray for our leaders to have the wisdom to look to God. In fact it’s in the context of this very topic that we are asked to pray for our leaders: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:1-2).

The job of our national leaders is to keep our nation quiet and peaceful. This is not possible if they are gallivanting around the world and acting like the international police. The job of the Church is to pray for our leaders to keep us out of foreign wars and to pray for our leaders not to oppress their people, but simply to righteously serve and look after their own people. 

So, what does the Bible say about foreign alliances? It says: look to God instead. Man cannot save, man will fail, God is eternal in power so trust in him and not alliances.

[1] Yes, I know this was directed to Christians, and that is my point. We are to learn from the Old Testament, that which is applicable to us and wise, and then we are to teach this to the people of the nations. We cannot control their application of it, but we can at least point them in the right direction.

[2] Here is a detailed look at all of the passages referring to the gathering of the elect, which shows it happens with the second coming and occurs after the tribulation:

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