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Casting Lots

Numerous Hebrew words are translated by the single English word "cast." Among them are the words (pronounced) gaw-rawsh, which means to force out; shaw-lawk, which means to throw; shaw-cole, which means to miscarry; yaw-raw, which means to flow; naw-gaw, which means to touch; yaw-tsawk, which means to pour; naw-thawn, which means to appoint, or to assign; naw-fawl, which means to drop.

On the other hand, in almost all cases, the English word "lots" is used to translate a single Hebrew word, pronounced go-rawl, which literally means rough, but is used to refer to a small, hand-held stone, or pebble.

Surprising as it may be to some people, "casting lots" was used frequently by the people of God to determine the will of the LORD (i.e. Jesus Christ; see Christ The Creator, 'Before Abraham Was, I AM' and 'The God Of The Old Testament'). It wasn't something that the people invented for themselves; the LORD Himself told them to do it, for certain things. One of the most well-known is the casting of lots for the two goats for the Day of Atonement (see The Saviour And The Scapegoat). Of the examples listed above, the actual Hebrew word that is translated as "cast" for choosing between the two goats is the rarely-used naw-thawn, which means to appoint, or to assign.

"16:7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 16:8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.

16:9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. 16:10 But 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 16:7-10 KJV)

"They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture"

"Casting lots" was also used by Joshua to determine the tribal territories west of the Jordan River. The actual Hebrew word, translated here as "cast," is shaw-lawk, which means to throw.

The Tribes Of Israel

"18:9 And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book, and came again to Joshua to the host at Shiloh. 18:10 And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions." (Joshua 18:9-10 KJV)

In answer to a request to the LORD, Saul (see Israelite Monarchy - The Origin and The Civil War) determined by casting lots that his son Jonathan was the man that he was searching for. The word translated as "cast" here is naw-fawl, which means to drop.

"14:41 Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. 14:42 And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken." (1 Samuel 14:41-42 KJV)

The service of the Levites was determined by casting lots. The word translated as "cast" here in both examples is also naw-fawl, which means to drop.

"24:31 These likewise cast lots over against their brethren the sons of Aaron in the presence of David the king, and Zadok, and Ahimelech, and the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites, even the principal fathers over against their younger brethren." (1 Chronicles 24:31 KJV)

25:8 And they cast lots, ward against ward, as well the small as the great, the teacher as the scholar.
25:9 Now the first lot came forth for Asaph to Joseph:
the second to Gedaliah, who with his brethren and sons were twelve:
25:10 The third to Zaccur, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:11 The fourth to Izri, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:12 The fifth to Nethaniah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:13 The sixth to Bukkiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:14 The seventh to Jesharelah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:15 The eighth to Jeshaiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:16 The ninth to Mattaniah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:17 The tenth to Shimei, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:18 The eleventh to Azareel, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:19 The twelfth to Hashabiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:20 The thirteenth to Shubael, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:21 The fourteenth to Mattithiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:22 The fifteenth to Jeremoth, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:23 The sixteenth to Hananiah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:24 The seventeenth to Joshbekashah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:25 The eighteenth to Hanani, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:26 The nineteenth to Mallothi, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:27 The twentieth to Eliathah, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:28 The one and twentieth to Hothir, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:29 The two and twentieth to Giddalti, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:30 The three and twentieth to Mahazioth, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve:
25:31 The four and twentieth to Romamtiezer, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve." (1 Chronicles 25:8-31 KJV)

After the return of The Southern Kingdom from their Babylonian exile in the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, Nehemiah used the casting of lots to determine who was to bring specific offerings. The word translated as "cast" here is also naw-fawl, which means to drop.

"10:34 And 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:

10:35 And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD:

10:36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:

10:37 And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage." (Nehemiah 10:34-37 KJV)

Nehemiah also used casting of lots to determine which of people would live in Jerusalem (see also The Origin Of The Essenes, Sadducees And Pharisees) and which would re-settle the other cities of Judah. Again, the word translated as "cast" here is naw-fawl, which means to drop.

"11:1 And 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 KJV)

As with so many other things, the casting of lots was also used in reference to evil. In both examples below, the Hebrew word translated as "cast" is pronounced yaw-dawd; it means to handle.

"3:3 And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink." (Joel 3:3 KJV)

"3:10 Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity: her young children also were dashed in pieces at the top of all the streets: and they cast lots for her honourable men, and all her great men were bound in chains." (Nahum 3:10 KJV)

Along with being a king of Israel, David was also a prophet (see The Prophets: David; also The Restoration Of David's Fallen Tabernacle and David, Future King Of Israel). He was given to witness the future Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, as it was happening, through Christ's own eyes. Once again, the word translated as "cast" here is naw-fawl, which means to drop.

"22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 22:17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 22:18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." (Psalm 22:15-18 KJV)

That Prophecy was recorded, as fulfilled, in the "Gospel" books.

"27:35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." (Matthew 27:35 KJV)

Casting lots, in a righteous way (as opposed to all of the many unrighteous ways that it can be misused, whether for divination or gambling) continued on in the New Testament. The final determination of the replacement for the traitor Judas was done by casting lots - whereby Matthias became the new member of the twelve apostles.

"1:23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 1:24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, 1:25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. 1:26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:23-26 KJV)

Fact Finder: Was the traitor Judas Iscariot by chance, or by choice? ("Iscariot" is an important distinction because there were others with the name of Judas who were definitely not traitors - see Righteous Judas)
See Was Judas Necessary?; also The Treason Of Judas


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