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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Lots

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1. Definition.-The article Divination indicated how at an early period men felt it to be their duty and for their advantage to get into and maintain friendly relations with their divinities. There gradually grew up, on the one hand, methods by which the deities revealed their will to men; and on the other, methods by which men could learn the desire or decision of the deities. Among the latter, one of the most primitive and most widely diffused was kleromancy (κλῆρος + μαντεία), divination by lot. While the efficacy of kleromancy in modern civilized life depends on the elimination of all possibility of human interference, in the lower culture it depends and depended on the certainty of Divine interference, the untrammelled exercise of the Divine will. This end was attained by (a) the use of certain things through which, according to tradition, the divinities could express their will. There were many such, as ‘a rod’ (ῥάβδος, מַקֵּל, hence ῥαβδομαντεία, ‘rhabdomancy’), ‘arrows’ (βέλος, חֵץ; hence βελομαντία, ‘belomancy’), knucklebones (ἀστράγαλος; hence ἀστραγαλόμαντις, ‘astragalomant’), and many others, as pebbles (ψῆφος, גּוֹרָל), beans, etc.; (b) the reverent manipulation of sacred things through which the deity had indicated his pleasure to make known his will, a good example of which is the use by the Hebrew priests of ‘the Urim and the Thummim’; (c) the selecting of a method by which the deity was perfectly free to express his will without human interference, a good example of which is seen in the action of Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:9-13). This latter use approaches very closely to the omen or the ordeal and to some kinds of rhabdomancy.* [Note: See James Sibree, ‘Divination among the Malagasy,’ Folk-Lore, iii. (1892) 193 ff.]

2. Diffusion.-Kleromancy is a universal religions practice. It was resorted to by the Romans† [Note: Granger, The Worship of the Romans, 1895, p. 180; Cicero, de Divinatione, ii. 86, etc.; W. Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1875, artt. ‘Oraculum,’ ‘Sortes’; Thomas Gataker, Treatise of the Nature and Use of Lots2, 1627, and A just Defence of certain Passages in [the preceding] Treatise, 1623, p. 75.] and Greeks.‡ [Note: R. Smith, RS2, 1894, p. 196, and comment thereon by G. B. Gray in Com. on Numbers (ICC, 1903).] It prevailed throughout the Semitic world. In the form of belomancy it was used by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 21:21 (26); ‘he shook the arrows to and fro.’§ [Note: The Qur’ân (sura v. 4, Sale’s Prel. Disc. v.) prohibits the procuring of a Divine sentence by drawing a lot at the sanctuary with headless arrows.] It was employed by the sailors of the ship of Tarshish (Jonah 1:7), by the Arabs,|| [Note: | W. Robertson Smith, ‘Divination and Magic in Deuteronomy 18:10-11,’ in J Ph xiii. [1885] 277.] and Assyrians (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii. 152b), while the Persians resorted to it as a means of finding out lucky days (Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24-32). It flourishes in China and Japan and in all uncivilized countries to-day. In every case it is in close connexion with the worship of the deities, and often takes place in their presence or in their temples, and always under their auspices.

‘Among the Hebrews in the oldest times the typical form of divine decision was by the lot, or other such oracle at the sanctuary.’¶ [Note: Robertson Smith, ib.] Later on, kleromancy was largely and regularly employed with the sanction of Jahweh, so that, apart from all human influence, passion, bias, or trickery, He might be able to dictate His will: ‘The lot בַּחֵיק יוּטַל but the whole decision thereof comes from Jahweh’ (Proverbs 16:33).** [Note: may mean (α) ‘cast into,’ or (β) ‘cast about in’ (HDB iv. 840). çÅé may mean the bosom of (α) a person; (β) a garment; (γ) a thing, as a chariot or altar, hence might possibly mean an urn (Smith’s DB ii. 146). The meaning is almost certainly that under (β).] This means not ‘that the actual disposal of affairs might be widely different from what … the lot … appeared to determine’ (Fairbairn, Imperial Bible Dictionary, ii. 118), but the exact opposite; hence it was clearly established that ‘the lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty’ (Proverbs 18:18). We have a conspicuous example of rhabdomancy in the budding and fruit-bearing of Aaron’s rod (Numbers 17:1-8 [16-23]),†† [Note: † W. R. Halliday, Greek Divination, 1913, ch. x.; Smith, loc. cit., art. ‘Dicastes’; The Martyrdom of Polycarp, vi.] and the practice is also referred to in Hosea 4:12, and probably in Isaiah 17:10. We find kleromancy practised in the form of belomancy in 2 Kings 13:15-19.* [Note: See also Psalms 91:5.] Under the form known as the Urim and the Thummim it was or became a mode used only by the priests.† [Note: As was the ephod (1 Samuel 14:18); LXX And J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Israel, 1885, p. 133; HDB iv. 838, with the literature there mentioned, and v. 662b.] Kleromancy had, of course, its largest sphere in acts directly connected with Jahweh. The decision as to which goat should be for sacrifice to Jahweh and which to Azazel was determined by lot (Leviticus 16:8-10). A war was the war primarily not of Israel but of Jahweh, and that specially if it was for the punishment of wrong-doing; hence the members of a punitive expedition were chosen by lot (Judges 20:9), hence also the spoil taken in war (Judges 5:30), whether captives (2 Samuel 8:2, Nahum 3:10, Joel 3:3) or sections of a conquered city (Obadiah 1:11), The services of the sanctuary were sacred; hence the priestly functions were assigned to the orders by lot (1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 24:7, Luke 1:9), Shemaiah the scribe writing out the lots in the presence of a committee consisting of the king, the high priest, and other functionaries (1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 24:31). The musicians (1 Chronicles 25:8), the custodians (1 Chronicles 26:13-14), and the persons who should bring the wood and other offerings to the temple (Nehemiah 10:34), were all chosen by lot. So sacred was this procedure that a special official was entrusted with ‘superintending the daily casting of the lots for determining the particular parts of the service that were to be apportioned to the various officiating priests’ (E. Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] II. i. 269, 293). It was even maintained by some Jews in later times that the high, priest had been chosen by the same method (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) IV. iii. 7, 8; c. Ap. ii. 24). As the king was the official representative of Jahweh, Saul was chosen by lot (1 Samuel 10:19-21). Godless or indiscriminate work is where no lot is cast (Ezekiel 24:6). When the חַרָם or ban had been pronounced and violated, then the guilty person was detected whether the חַרָם was permanent (Joshua 7:14-18) or temporary (1 Samuel 14:41-42), in both cases presumably by the Urim and the Thummim.‡ [Note: 1 Samuel 14:41-42 as amended from LXX by A. Kuenen, The Religion of Israel, i. [1874] 98; A. R. S. Kennedy, HDB iv. 839b; G. B. Gray, in Mansfield College Essays, 1909 p. 120; S. R. Driver, Text of the Books of Samuel, 1890.] As the Semites regarded the land inhabited by a nation as the possession of the god of the nation, Palestine belonged, as an allotment, to Jahweh (Deuteronomy 32:9); hence it was His right and duty to put His people into actual possession (Psalms 105:11, 1 Chronicles 16:18), which He did (Psalms 78:55; Psalms 135:12, Acts 13:19), and to divide it up by kleromancy into allotments to the various tribes (Numbers 26:55-56; Numbers 33:54; Numbers 36:2).§ [Note: Ezekiel’s ideal division of the land was by lot (Ezekiel 47:22; Ezekiel 48:29). It was the intention of Antiochus, after subduing Palestine, to plant colonies in the land, dividing it among them by lot (1 Maccabees 3:36). Josephus (BJ iii. viii. 7) saved his life by inducing his soldiers to agree that the order in which they should kill each other should be decided by lot. He adds this comment, ‘whether we must say it happened ad by chance, or whether by the providence of God.’] This accordingly was done in regard to the nine and a half tribes (Numbers 34:13, Joshua 14:2; Joshua 15:1; Joshua 16:1; Joshua 17:1; Joshua 17:4-17, Psalms 78:55), to the conquered land, to the land still unconquered after the first great effort (Joshua 18:6-11; Joshua 19:1-40), and at the death of Joshua (Joshua 13:6); also in regard to the towns for the Levites (Joshua 21:4, 1 Chronicles 6:54; Joshua 21:5, 1 Chronicles 6:61; Joshua 21:6, 1 Chronicles 6:62; 1 Chronicles 6:63; Joshua 21:8, 1 Chronicles 6:55). This was done ‘before Jahweh’ (Joshua 18:6) and under the direction of a committee consisting of the high priest, the political chief, and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes (Joshua 14:1-2).

In course of time the procedure which had been primarily and essentially sacred was applied to secular affairs such as the selection of people to inhabit and guard a city (Nehemiah 11:1). A study of the Old Testament reveals how kleromancy coloured the thought and the theology of the Hebrew thinkers and poets.

3. In the New Testament.-At the Crucifixion of Jesus we see its secular and Roman use when the soldiers divided His upper garments among themselves by lot.

After the suicide of Judas it was decided that a successor should be appointed. The procedure (Acts 1:21-26) was as follows. From the mass of the followers of Jesus, numbering about one hundred and twenty, those only were declared eligible who had proved their steadfastness by keeping in constant contact with Him from His baptism. From this short leet they appointed (ἔστησαν; not ‘put forward’) two. Neither the parties who did this nor the method of doing it are mentioned. Then prayer was offered to Jesus* [Note: P. Liddon, The Divinity of our Lord11, 1885, p. 375; A. Carr in Expositor, 6th ser. i. [1900] 389; a various Commenaries in loco.] for His decision. The next step is not quite certain. If the words ἔδωκαν κλήρους αὐτοῖς, which is the correct reading, mean ‘they gave the lots to them,’ then that indicates that to each of the two there was given to place in the proper receptacle a tablet with his name or mark, and he whose tablet was first shaken cut was held to be Divinely elected. But the phrase is not the classical nor the NT expression for casting lots, and if rendered ‘they gave lots for them,’ a quite legitimate rendering, then, as Mosheim held,† [Note: L. Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, 1868, p. 20, note 3.] the election was by ballot. This, of course, is not in harmony with Jewish practice, as seen in the selection of the goats (Leviticus 16:8). From the result being indicated by the words ‘the lot fell’ and not ‘the Lord chose,’ it has been argued that the election was unwarranted and that the Divine intention was that St. Paul should fill the place of Judas. This is a piece of pure imagination. Nor is there a shadow of proof that the eleven were in any special manner led either to appoint a successor or to appoint him by this method. The fact that the election took place before Pentecost has no vital significance. The act, in the face of the enemies of the Church, was, like the auctioning of the camp of Hannibal by the Romans, a boldly prudent step, a declaration to all that the Church, was neither cowed by the death of her Lord nor dejected by the suicide of the traitor, but was girding herself for a forward march. When St. James was martyred there was no occasion for such an act, and no successor was appointed. Hence this remains the only official use of the lot in the Apostolic Church.‡ [Note: Bingham, Origines Ecclesiasticae, 1840 iv. 1. 11; J. Cochrane, Discourses on Difficult Texts of Scripture, 1851, p. 297; J. B. Lightfoot, Epistle to the Philippians2, 1870, p. 246; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 4th ser., 1874, p. 117; F. Rendall, Expositer, 3rd ser. vii. [1888] 357; HDB iii. 305, and literature there mentioned. The Didache (15) contains no reference to the method of electing bishops and deacons.] Kleromancy has left its mark on the thought, and specially on the soteriology, of the Apostolic Age. κλῆρος is used in the secondary sense which it gradually gained as something assigned to man by a higher power. Judas had received τὸν κλῆρον in the ministry carried on by Jesus (cf. Il. xxiii. 862; Acts 1:17), and his successor was to take not τὸν κλῆρον (א C3E), but only his τόπον, ‘place’ (ABC*D; Acts 1:25), while in it Simon Magus had neither μερὶς οὐδὲ κλῆρος, neither a share, a limited portion, nor an allotment (Acts 8:21). The πρεσβυτέροι must not exercise lordly mastery (cf. Psalms 9 [10]:5) over what is not theirs, but τῶν κλήρων, allotments made to them (1 Peter 5:3). Ignatius prays for grace εὶς τὸ τὸν κλῆρόν μου ἀνεμποδίστως ἀπολαβεῖν, ‘to cling to my lot without hindrance to the end’ (Epistle to the Romans, i.). κληρονομία has its original sense of an allotment made by a higher power. Abraham went out from Ur into a τόπον, a district in which he was promised an allotment (Hebrews 11:8), but in which he actually got none (Acts 7:5), the allotment, and all its accompaniments, resting on nothing legal, but on a mere promise (Galatians 3:18). Similarly the called of God still receive only the promise of an allotment which is eternal (Hebrews 9:15).

The transmission of an allotment was regulated by certain customs. A holder could convey it to another, as Isaac did to Jacob, and such transference could not be cancelled or altered (Genesis 27:33, Hebrews 12:17). It was recognized that the son of a female slave could not share an allotment with the son of a free-born wife (Genesis 21:10, Galatians 4:30). Hence gradually the children, just because they were the children, of the possessor (Romans 8:17) claimed the allotment on the death of the possessor as a thing to be divided among them (Luke 12:13). Because a child came to be looked upon as the holder of the κλῆρος, and when he attained the proper age (Galatians 4:1) entered on possession, κληρονόμος (κλῆρος + νέμομαι, ‘hold’) came to mean what we call an ‘heir’ (Hebrews 11:9).* [Note: the remarks on feudal tenure in J. Hill Burton, The Scot Abroad, 1898, p. 4.] In this sense the word is used proleptically in the expression, ‘This is ό κληρονόμος, let us kill him and the κληρονομία will become ours’ (Matthew 21:38, Mark 12:7, Luke 20:14). Similarly the higher things of life came to be looked upon as something the κλῆρος of which a man could hold. Noah became the holder of the κλῆρος of righteousness (Hebrews 11:7). Very significant as attaching excellency to a name, as a condensed form of the whole personality, is the expression that the Eternal Son διαφορώτερον κεκληρονόμηκεν ὄνομα, had allotted to Him a more excellent name (Hebrews 1:4), and thus became the One to whom all things were allotted (Hebrews 1:2), κληρονόμον πάντων. Salvation, whether as promised or bestowed, is, in its ultimate eschatological form, something allotted. St. Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was to open the eyes that they might receive κλῆρον, an allotment, a thing falling to their lot, among them that are sanctified (Acts 26:18). God, who is able to give them a κληρονομίαν among all them that are sanctified (Acts 20:32),† [Note: Polycarp. Epistle to the Philippians, xii.: ‘det vobis sortem et partem inter sanctos suos.’] Himself causes them to become partakers τοῦ κλήρου, of the allotment of the saints in light (cf. Psalms 16:6, Colossians 1:12), the ἀρραβών, the arles of the allotment, being the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14), and the ministry of the angels (Hebrews 1:14). The promises of God are given as an allotment to those who exhibit faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12), and Christian graciousness to others (1 Peter 3:9); while to him who overcomes temptation there is given as an allotment the blessing that only God can give (Revelation 21:7), and to those who comport themselves rightly to the home circle there is given as a recompense the allotment (Colossians 3:24). The saints in this way become, as Israel of old (Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 9:29; Deuteronomy 32:9), the allotment which belongs to God (Ephesians 1:11), ἐν ῷ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν (א BKLP), and, being the riches of His glory (Ephesians 1:18), are the heirs of all the promises (Hebrews 6:17). Just as the earth is an allotment made to the meek (Matthew 5:5), and eternal life an allotment to those who have left houses, etc. (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:17, Luke 10:25; Luke 18:18, Galatians 5:21), so there is a Kingdom in which the unrighteous (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), in which flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:50), in which fornicators, etc. (Ephesians 5:5), cannot receive an allotment; for it is an allotment prepared only for the blessed of the Father (Matthew 25:34). It is therefore a spiritual allotment, incorruptible, undefined (1 Peter 1:4). This possession passes to men not through force of a legal enactment, but through their showing themselves heirs to it by their ethical and spiritual conduct. Thus the allotment of this world, promised to Abraham, passes to those linked to him not by flesh and blood, but only by the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:13-14), and only those who are thus in Christ are Abraham’s progeny, and κληρονόμοι according to the promise (Galatians 3:29). They are the heirs of eternal life, according to hope (Titus 3:7), and because they have loved their Lord (James 2:5). Hence it is that the Gentiles equally with the Jews are συνκληρονόμοι, fellow heirs (Ephesians 3:6), and wives are συνκληρονόμοις, joint heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).* [Note: the slave made co-heir (Hermans, ii.).] The conception of salvation as something allotted to man may have tended to obscure the necessity for diligence and earnestness in the pursuit of the Christian ideal, and this again may account for the absence of the idea from the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. In actual life at least we are not unfamiliar with something similar.

While kleromancy, it is true, ‘appeared to take the responsibility of decision out of the hands of man and vest it in the presiding deity,’† [Note: E. Carpenter. Comparatives Religion, 1913, p. 178.] yet, in reality, its tendency is not to exalt the Divine will but to enervate the human mind. It thus tends to destroy our sense of responsibility, and the duty of patiently permitting God to enlighten our minds as to what is right. It thus robs us of the moral and spiritual discipline of acting according as conscience, enlightened by Him, dictates, and besides opens up infinite possibilities of trickery and fraud. Through the action of the eleven, and age-long influences, Jewish and pagan, kleromancy continued to be practised in the Church. Augustine held that divisory lots were lawful in common things but not in disposing of ecclesiastical offices and lives of men,‡ [Note: Bingham, xvi. 5. 3.] and similar views continued to prevail till near the end of the 17th century.§ [Note: Bingham, iv. 1. 1. For the connexion between κλῆρος and ‘clergy’ see Lightfoot, p. 245, and E. de Pressensé, Christian Life and Practice in the Early Church, 1880, p. 52.] Jeremy Taylor still thought it ‘not improbable, and in most cases to be admitted, that God hath committed games of chance to the Devil’s conduct.|| [Note: | Ductor dubitantium, 1660, iv. 1.] Wesley believed in Divine guidance being given by lot,¶ [Note: Life of Wesley, by Robert Southey (Bohn’s edition, 1864), pp. 80, 81, 110, 111, 119, note 27.] and in 1738 a journey to Bristol was finally decided on, after various appeals to the Sortes Sanctorum, by kleromancy.** [Note: * Journal of John Wesley (Everyman’s edition), i. [1906] 175.] Among the Moravians, whose first ministers were chosen by lot, in 1467, and whose church life was at first completely regulated by kleromancy, its sphere was steadily and gradually limited, and it is now scarcely recognized.†† [Note: † Primitive Church Government in the Practice of the Reformed in Bohemia, with notes of John Amos Comenius, 1703, pp. viii, 23; H. Klinesmith, Divine Providence, or Historical Records relating to the Moravian Church, Irvine, 1831, p. 432.] Though down to the end of the 16th cent. it was frequently practised,‡‡ [Note: ‡ See, e.g., Johnson’s Life of Cowley (Nimmo’s edition).] and the prevailing view was that ‘lots may not be used, but with great reverence, because the disposition of them cometh immediately from God,’ yet the arguments of Gataker§§ [Note: § Thomas Gataker, Treatise of the Nature and Use of Lots, pp. 91, 141.] that such Divine interposition was ‘indeed mere superstition,’ and that ‘lots were governed by purely natural laws,’ gradually influenced educated men. Among the more illiterate sects kleromancy long lingered, and the scene in Silas Marner (ch. 1) was true to life. Pious but ignorant people still resort to it in one form or another. The rule that when a lower type of religion is absorbed or superseded by a higher the ceremonies of the former finally become games, and then children’s games, is illustrated by the fact that the casting of lots, once sacred and solemn, is now totally confined to games.

Literature.-This has been indicated in the foot-notes.

P. A. Gordon Clark.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Lots'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/l/lots.html. 1906-1918.

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