Monday, August 1, 2022

The Spoils

An interesting thing happened when the Jews defended themselves against the Persians in the time of Esther: they took no spoil.

They fought back against those who had been given authority to take their lives, and they took the lives of the fighters instead, but they took nothing else. They took no jewelry. No livestock. No home nor field. They took nothing at all. 

They walked out of that battle with only their lives.

Remember, this was a people who walked out of Egypt with everything. Before the Passover, God instructed them to ask the Egyptians for jewelry and gold and whatever else they could think to ask for, and the Egyptians gave it to them. They walked out of Egypt with thousands of pounds of spoil on their backs.

And when they worked their way into the Promised Land, it was hit or miss. Sometimes, they took spoil; sometimes, they destroyed everything in sight. There's the famous story of Achan, who took spoil where he wasn't supposed to take spoil and brought destruction on the entire camp of Israel. And there are a lot of complicated reasons for why you take spoil in one place and not another, although the easy answer is always just to say that God made clear in each situation what the case would be.

That might be fun to get into some time - why God lets His people take spoil from one battle and not from another, and what the great sin is in taking spoil where you aren't supposed to. Maybe we'll get into that. But not today.

What happened at Purim, which was the day (turned into more than one day) when the Jews defended themselves against the Persians, though, was quite the unique event in the story of God's people, though. Because they neither took spoil nor destroyed everything. 

They fought for their lives, won their lives, and left everything else literally entirely alone.

That's worth thinking about a little bit. A decree is issued to completely destroy the Jewish people. As God would have it, He already had a plan in place so that a second decree is issued that the Jewish people can defend themselves, even as captives in a foreign land. And yet, they are neither permitted to take anything nor to destroy everything. They may only have their lives. 

What's going on? 

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