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Question Box







'The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD'


-Proverbs 16:33-


Scriptures citations are to the NIV-UK unless otherwise noted



Q What does this mean?


A Sometimes the Christian is faced with urgent and complex decisions, and there is no clear instruction in Scripture on what course of action to take. In such cases consecrated believers will consult the Lord in prayer, weigh the options, and with prudence do his or her best to tackle the trouble in faith. The outcome (‘every decision’) will be left to the Lord’s providence to either endorse or override, as He sees fit.


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The casting of a ‘lot’ was common in Israel, and the Old Testament contains many references to the practice. The Hebrew word used frequently in this application is gôral, and denotes a pebble, by which the casting of the lot often was accomplished.


In a different context, ‘lot’ also signifies a tract of land. For this sense, the Hebrew word is chębel, which describes a measuring or surveyor’s line – by extension, a plot of ground. The N. American expression, ‘parking lot’, conveys a similar meaning. After the Jews reached Canaan, at Jehovah’s direction tribal land was apportioned on the basis of a lottery (‘allotment’) (Num. 26: 55).


Heads or Tails

In a biblical setting a lottery was less to do with ‘luck’ than with a procedure intended to demonstrate impartiality or neutrality, similar to the tossing of a coin to determine which side kicks off in a football match or which team bats first in cricket. All parties to the coin toss are treated equally, no favouritism implied.


In a related but contrary vein, compare the Mosaic laws governing trade, specifically weights and measures, and the command to deal justly:


Deut. 25:13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag – one heavy, one light.  14 Do not have two differing measures in your house one large, one small.  style 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 16 For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.


Micah 6:11 Shall I [God] acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?


None of the remarks above imply that God is not partial to the Christian. The Father is not cannot be indifferent to those who love the Son. Always remember that in all circumstances the Heavenly Father loves us and will not turn us over to blind chance.


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Some examples from the Old Testament of casting the lot (emphases added):


Lev. 16: 8 On the day of atonement: ‘He [the high priest] is to cast lots [gôral] for the two goats one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat.’


Num. 26: 55 God’s instructions to the Israelites: ‘Be sure that the land is distributed by lot. What each group [tribe] inherits will be according to the names for its ancestral tribe.’


Judges 1: 3 ‘The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, ‘Come up with us into the territory allotted [by lot, gôral] to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.’


Psalm 22: 18 Of Jesus: ‘They divide my clothes among them and cast lots [gôral] for my garment.’



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