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Lot

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(properly גּוֹרָל or גֹּרָל, goral', κλῆρος, literally a pebble, used anciently for balloting; other terms occasionally thus rendered are חֵבֶל or חֶבֶל, che'bel, a portion, Deuteronomy 32:9; 1 Chronicles 16:18; Psalms 105:11, referring to an inheritance; and λαγχάνω, to obtain by lot, Luke 1:9; John 19:24), strictly a small stone, as used in casting lots (Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 33:54; Joshua 19:1. Ezekiel 24:6; Jonah 1:7), hence also a method used to determine chances or preferences, or to decide a debate. The decision by lot was often resorted to among the Hebrews, but always with the strictest reference to the interposition of God. As to the precise manner of casting lots, we have no certain information; probably several modes were practiced. In Proverbs 16:33 we read that "the lot," i.e., pebble, "is cast into the lap," properly into the bosom of an urn or vase. It does not appear that the lap or bosom of a garment worn by a person was ever used to receive lots.

The use of lots among the ancients was very general (see Dale, Orac. ethn. c. 14; Potter, Greek Antiq. 1:730; Adams, Roman Ant. 1:540 sq.; Smith, Dict. of Class. Ant. s.v. Sors) and highly esteemed (Xenoph. Cyrop; 1:6, 46), as is natural in simple stages of society (Tacit. Germ. 10), " recommending itself as a sort of appeal to the Almighty secure from all influence of passion or bias, and a sort of divination employed even by the gods themselves (Homer, Iliad, 22:209; Cicero, De Div. 1:34; 2:41). The word sors is thus used for an oracular response (Cicero, De Div., 2:56). So there was a mode of divination among heathens by means of arrows, two inscribed and one without mark, βελομαντεία (Hosea 4:12; Ezekiel 21:21; Mauritius, De Sortitione, c. 14, § 4; see also Esther 3:7; Esther 9:24-32; Mishna, Taanith, 2:10). (See DIVINATLON). Among heathen instances the following additional may be cited:

1. Choice of a champion, or of priority in combat (Il. 3:316; 7:171; Herod. 3:108);

2. Decision of fate in battle (Il. 20:209);

3. Appointment of magistrates, jurymen, or other functionaries (Aristot. Pol. 4:16; Schol. On Aristoph. Plut. 277; Herod. 6:109; Xenoph. Cyrol). 4:5, 55: Demosth. c. Aristog. 1:778, 1; comp. Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Dicastes);

4. Priests (AEsch. in Tim. page 188, Bekk.);

5. A German practice of deciding by marks on twigs, mentioned by Tacitus (Germ. 10);

6. Division of conquered or colonized land (Thucydides, 3:50; Plutarch, Pericles, 84; Bockh, Public Econ. of Ath. 2:170)."

The Israelites sometimes had recourse to lots as a method of ascertaining the divine will (Proverbs 16:33), and generally in cases of doubt regarding serious enterprises (Esther 3:7; compare Rosenmü ller, Morgenl. 3:301), especially the following: (a.) In matters of partition or distribution. e.g. the location of the several tribes in Palestine (Numbers 26:55 sq.; Numbers 33:34; Numbers 34:13; Numbers 36:2; Joshua 14:2; Joshua 18:6 sq.; Joshua 19:5), the assignment of the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:4 sq.), and, after the return from the exile, the settlement in the homesteads at the capital (Nehemiah 11:1; compare 1 Maccabees 3:36). Prisoners of war were also disposed of by lot (Joel 3:3; Nahum 3:10; Obadiah 1:11; compare Matthew 27:35; John 19:24; compare Xenoph. Cyrop. 4:5, 55). (b.) In criminal investigations where doubt existed as to the real culprit (Joshua 7:14; 1 Samuel 14:42). A notion prevailed among the Jewls that this detection was performed by observing the shining of the stones in the high-priest's breastplate (Mauritius, c. 21, § 4). The instance of the mariners casting lots to ascertain by the surrendering of what offender the sea could be appeased (Jonah 1:7), is analogous; but it is not clear, from Proverbs 18:18, that lots were resorted to for the determination of civil disputes. (c.) In the election to an important office or undertaking foir which several persons appeared to have claims (1 Samuel 10:19; Acts 1:26; comp. Herod. 3:128; Justin. 13:4; Cicero, Verr. 2:2, 51; Aristot. Polit. 4:16), as well as in the assignment of official duties among associates having a common right (Nehemiah 10:34), as of the priestly offices in the Temple service among the sixteen of the family of Eleazar and the eight of that of Ithamar (1 Chronicles 24:3; 1 Chronicles 24:5; 1 Chronicles 24:19; Luke 1:9), also of the Levites for similar purposes (1 Chronicles 23:28; 1 Chronicles 24:20-31; 1 Chronicles 25:8; 1 Chronicles 26:13; Mishna, Tamid, 1:2; 3:1.; 5:2; Jonut, 2:2. 3, 4; Shabb. 23:2; Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in Luke 1:8-9, volume 2, page 489). (d.) In military enterprises (Judges 20:10; compare Val. Max. 1:5, 3).

In the sacred ritual of the Hebrews we find the use of lots but once prescribed, namely, in the selection of the scape-goat (Leviticus 16:8 sq.). The two inscribed tablets of boxwood, afterwards of gold, were put into an urns which was shaken, and the lots drawn out (Joma, 3:9; 4:1). (See ATONEMENT, DAY OF). Eventually lots came into frequent usage (comp. the Mishna, Shabb. 23:2). In later times they even degenerated into a game of hazard, of which human life was the stakes (Josephus, War, 3:8, 7). Dice appear to have been usually employed for the lot (הַשְׁלַיךְ גּוֹרָל, to "throw the die," Joshua 18:8; so הוֹרָה, to cast, Joshua 18:6; δίδωμι, to give, Acts 1:26; נָפָל, πίπτω, to fall, Jonah 1:7; Ezekiel 24:7; Acts 1:26), and were sometimes drawn from a vessel (יָצָא הִגּוֹרָל," the lot came forth," Numbers 32:54, so עָלָה, to "come up," Leviticus 6:9; comp. the Mishna, Joma, 4:1). A different kind of lot is elsewhere indicated in the Mishna (Josna, 2:1; comp. Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. page 714). A sacred species of lot was by means of the (See URIM AND THUMMIM) (q.v.) of the high-priest (Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 28:6), which appears to have had some connection with the divination by means of the sacerdotal EPHOD (1 Samuel 23:6; 1 Samuel 23:9). Stones were occasionally employed in prophetical or emblematical lots (Numbers 17:6 sq.; Zechariah 11:10; Zechariah 11:14). (See PURIM). Election by lot appears to have prevailed in the Christian Church as late as the 7th century (Bingham, Eccles. Antiq. 4:1, 1, volume 1, page 426; Bruns, Conc. 2:66). Here also we may notice the use of words heard, or passages chosen at random from Scripture. Sortes Biblicae, like the Sortes Vigilance, prevailed among Jews, as they have also among Christians, though denounced by several councils (Johnson, "Life of Cowley," Works, 9:8; Bingham, Eccl. Antiq. 16:5, 3; id., 6:53 sq.; Bruns, Conc. 2:145-154, 166; Mauritius, c. 15; Hofmann, Lex. s.v. Sortes).

On the subject generally, see Mauritius, De Sortitione ap. vet. Hebraeos (Basil, 1692); Chrysander, De Sortibus (Halle, 1740); Benzel, De Sortibus vet. in his Syntagma dissertat. 1:297-318; Winckler, Gedanken ü ber dl. Spuren gottl. Providenz in Loose (Hildesheim, 1750); Palaophili, Abhandl. v. Gebrauchs d. Looses in d. heil. Schr. in Semler's Hall. Samml. 1:2, 79 sq.; Junius, De Sorte, remedio dubias caussas dirimendi (Lips. 1746); Eenberg, De Sortilegiis (Upsal. 1705); Hanovius, De electione per sortem (Gedan. 1743; in German by Tramhold, Hamb. 1751); Bauer, Vormitze Kunst, etc. (Hildesh. 1750).

The term "lot" is also used for that which falls to one by lot, especially a portion or inheritance (Joshua 15:1; Judges 1:3; Psalms 125:3; Isaiah 17:14; Isaiah 47:6; Acts 8:21). Lot is also used metaphorically for portion, or destiny, as assigned to men from God (Psalms 16:5): "And arise to thy lot in the end of days" in the Messiah's kingdom (Daniel 12:13; comp. Revelation 20:6). (See HERITAGE).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Lot'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​l/lot.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
 
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