SPOIL (Heb. bizzâh, meshissâh, shōd, shālāl, Gr. harpagē, skylon). The plunder taken from the enemy in war—pillage, booty, loot. The spoils of war were divided equally between those who went into battle and those who were left behind in camp (Num.31.27; Josh.22.8; 1Sam.30.24). Parts were given to the Levites and to the Lord (Num.31.28, Num.31.30). Under the monarchy, the king received part of the spoils (2Kgs.14.14; 1Chr.18.7, 1Chr.18.11).

SPOIL. “Spoil” is the KJV tr. of nine different Heb. nominal forms, and the verb “to spoil” trs. five additional different Heb. roots; thus KJV trs. some fifteen different Heb. words by this one Eng. word. “Booty” is the KJV tr. of three different Heb. words.

When Israel returned from the victory over the Midiantites, they brought the spoils to Moses and Eleazar for distribution (Num 31). All the male children were killed, and of the women, only the virgins were kept alive. The spoil was then divided into two parts, one part to be equally distributed among the warriors and the other to the people at large. For the Lord’s tribute the warriors were to give up one person or beast out of every 500; the people, one out of every fifty. In addition, they brought the Lord articles of gold, armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and beads. The choice plunder was devoted to the deity; e.g. Goliath’s sword was housed at the sanctuary at Nob (1 Sam 21:9); the armor of defeated Saul was placed by the Philistines in their temple of Ashtaroth (1 Sam 31:9, 10). Later, in the times of the Temple, some of the spoil won in battle was dedicated “for the maintenance of the house of the Lord” (1 Chron 26:27).

Sometimes, prior to an assault, a city or tribe might be “devoted” to God, which meant that everything animate was to be destroyed, all precious metals and objects given to God, and the remainder burned or rendered useless (Josh 6:17-19).


J. Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture, Vols III-IV (1940), 1-32; R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1961), 255-257.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


See Booty; War, 8.