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Holman Bible Dictionary
One of the best examples of this use of lots is in Acts. Matthias was chosen to be Judas' successor by lot (Acts 1:26 ). The apostles' prayer immediately before shows the belief that God would express His will through this method. In the Old Testament Saul was chosen as Israel's first king through the use of lots (1 Samuel 10:20-24 ).
In a similar fashion God communicated knowledge unknown to human beings through lots. Saul called for the casting of lots to determine who sinned during his day-long battle with the Philistines. Specifically, he called for the use of the Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 14:41-42; See Joshua 7:10-15 ).
Lots helped God's people make a fair decision in complicated situations. God commanded that the Promised Land be divided by lot (Numbers 26:52-56 ). Later, lots established the Temple priests' order of service (1 Chronicles 24:5-19 ). This practice continued into Jesus' day. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was burning incense in the holy place when the angel spoke to him. Zechariah was there because the lot fell to him (Luke 1:9 ). The awful picture of soldiers casting lots for Jesus' garments was this kind of “fair play” use of lots (Matthew 27:35 ). Proverbs teaches that the use of lots is one way to put an end to a dispute when decisions are difficult (Proverbs 18:18 ).
Lots are memorialized in the Jewish Feast of Purim. Purim, the Akkadian word for lots, celebrates the frustration of Haman's plan to destroy the Jews in Persia. Haman had used lots to find the best day for the destruction (Esther 3:7 ).
Finally, the word lot came to refer to one's portion or circumstance of life. The righteous could confess that God was their lot ( Psalm 16:5 ). The lot of those who violated the people of God was terror and annihilation (Isaiah 17:14 ). See Oracles; Urim and Thummim .
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Lots'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/l/lots.html. 1991.