Casting Lots

Concise Bible Dictionary:

This mode of determining a matter was ordered of God to be practiced over the two goats on the day of atonement (Lev. 16:8-108And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 10But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:8‑10)). God also commanded that the land should be divided by lot (Num. 26:55-5655Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot: according to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit. 56According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few. (Numbers 26:55‑56)). The people resorted to it for various purposes on the return from exile (Neh. 10:3434And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law: (Nehemiah 10:34); Neh. 11:11And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities. (Nehemiah 11:1)). God overruled among His people how the lot should fall, as stated in Proverbs 16:3333The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord. (Proverbs 16:33): “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” He also could direct it among the heathen to work out His own purposes, as He did in the case of Haman, which so deferred the period of the execution of his design that there was time for the action of Esther, and for new edicts to be sent all over the kingdom, that the Jews might be saved from destruction (Esther 3:77In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar. (Esther 3:7); Esther 9:2424Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is, the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; (Esther 9:24)). The various names, dates, and so forth, for selection were marked on pieces of wood, potsherd, etc., and these “lots” were then shaken together either in a vessel or the fold of a garment, till one came out.
The lot was also used by the Roman soldiers in parting the garments of the Lord (Psa. 22:1818They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. (Psalm 22:18); Mark 15:2424And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. (Mark 15:24)). In order to fill up the vacancy caused by the fall of Judas, the lot was resorted to; but was on that occasion accompanied by prayer that the Lord would show which of the two He had chosen (Acts 1:2626And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)). There is no instruction in the New Testament as to casting lots. It would have been quite out of place among the disciples while the Lord was with them, as also now that the Holy Spirit has been given to the Christian.

From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The use of the lot, as a mode of settling disputed questions, is very ancient, and was practiced by most ancient nations. It was resorted to in reference to almost all the varied affairs of life. Magistrates and priests were appointed by it, and the land of conquered enemies was distributed by its means.
Among the Hebrews we find its use sanctioned by Divine authority. Thus the scape goat was selected by lot (Lev. 16:88And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:8)). The inheritances of the tribes in the Land of Promise were determined in the same way (Num. 34:1313And Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying, This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot, which the Lord commanded to give unto the nine tribes, and to the half tribe: (Numbers 34:13); Josh. 14:22By lot was their inheritance, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe. (Joshua 14:2)). The lot was used on various occasions subsequently. We cite a few instances. The men who attacked Gibeah were selected by lot (Judg. 20:99But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; (Judges 20:9)). In this manner Jonathan was detected as the violator of Saul’s command concerning fasting, in his fight with the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:41-4241Therefore Saul said unto the Lord God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. 42And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken. (1 Samuel 14:41‑42)). In this way the positions of the porters in the temple were decided (1 Chron. 26:1313And they cast lots, as well the small as the great, according to the house of their fathers, for every gate. (1 Chronicles 26:13)). When the storm arose on board the ship where Jonah was the heathen sailors cast lots to determine who had brought them into trouble (Jonah 1:77And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. (Jonah 1:7)).
We have no information given in Scripture concerning the mode by which lots were cast. Among the Latins, especially where several parties were concerned, “little counters of wood, or of some other light material, were put into a jar (called sitella) with so narrow a neck that only one could come out at a time. After the jar had been filled with water and the contents shaken, the lots were determined by the order in which the bits of wood, representing the several parties, came out with the water. In other cases they were put into a wide, open jar and the counters were drawn out by the hand. Sometimes, again, they were cast in the manner of dice” (Fairbairn, Imperial Bible Dictionary, s. v., Lot).
Roberts describes the mode by which property is divided by lot in India, as follows: “They draw on the ground the cardinal points, thus: They then write the names of the parties on separate leaves and mix them all together. A little child is then called, and told to take one leaf and place it on any point of the compass he pleases; this being done, the leaf is opened, and to the person whose name is found therein will be given the field or garden which is in that direction” (Oriental Illustrations, p. 231). He further states that the Hindus settle every disputed question by lot. They decide what physician they shall have, and what remedies, and even leave the selection of a wife to the same blind chance.

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