Plunder or booty taken from a defeated enemy as customarily belonging to the victors in war or, less frequently, that seized by bandits or robbers. (Lu 11:21, 22) Though spoil was taken by Israel in its victories, the acquiring of spoil was not the motive for their battles, but it constituted a part of Jehovah’s reward to them for carrying out his will, as his executioners.
Abraham, when he rescued Lot from Chedorlaomer’s forces, refused to accept from the king of Sodom any of the spoil for himself, so that no one could say that he, not Jehovah, had made Abraham rich.—Ge 14:1-24; Heb 7:4.
Division of Spoil. When vengeance was taken upon the Midianites for their causing the sin and destruction of many of Israel (Nu 25), much spoil was taken. This was divided so that the 12,000 fighting men received half, and those remaining home, the other half. Then one part out of 500 from the fighting men’s share went to the priests, and one part out of 50 of the other half to the Levites. The soldiers voluntarily gave much spoil of gold, particularly in the form of jewelry and ornaments, to the sanctuary in appreciation for Jehovah’s protection in the fight, in which they did not lose one man.—Nu 31:3-5, 21-54.
This formula may not have been followed exactly in later cases, but it seems to have established a general basis for division of spoil. (1Sa 30:16-20, 22-25; Ps 68:12) Later, under the kingdom, a portion of the spoil was set aside for the king or for the sanctuary.—2Sa 8:7, 8, 11, 12; 2Ki 14:14; 1Ch 18:7, 11.
In the Conquest of Canaan. Cities of the seven nations of Canaan were to be devoted to destruction; all the inhabitants were to be killed; only cattle and other items could be taken. (De 20:16-18; 7:1, 2; Jos 11:14) Jericho, as the firstfruits of the conquest of Canaan, was an exception; only the metals were kept and devoted to the sanctuary. (Jos 6:21, 24) Rahab’s household was spared because of her faith. (Jos 6:25) In cities belonging to people of other nations, if they had to be taken by warfare, the virgin women and the children were saved. (De 20:10-15) All spoil in the form of goods or other items had to be cleansed: If of fabric, skin, or wood, it was to be washed; if metal, it was to be processed with fire.—Nu 31:20-23.
Apostate Cities. Israelite cities that turned apostate were to be completely annihilated with all their inhabitants, the spoil was to be burned in the public square, and the city was to be left “a heap of ruins to time indefinite.”—De 13:12-17.
Christ Despoils Satan’s House. When on earth, Jesus Christ despoiled or ‘plundered’ the house of Satan by delivering those held in bondage to the demons, curing the afflictions the demons had brought upon them. (Mt 12:22-29) Also, “when he ascended on high he carried away captives; he gave gifts in men.” These he took away from Satan’s control as gifts for the building up of his congregation.—Eph 4:8, 11, 12.
False Religious Spoilers. Christ declared the scribes and Pharisees to be, like robbers, “full of plunder,” evidently acquired by extortion from widows and other defenseless persons; and also because they kept the people in religious bondage by taking away “the key of knowledge.” (Mt 23:25; Lu 11:52) The religious leaders of the Jews were likewise prominent in causing the plundering of the possessions of Christians.—Heb 10:34.