Decisions! We make thousands of them in the course of a single day. The majority of our decisions do not have long-term consequences, but there are some that do, some that will affect our lives and the lives of others dramatically. Sometimes our decisions are just not clear ones and we are forced to choose between two good or even two negative things.
Numbers 16 is the first time I see decisions made by the casting of lots in the scriptures. The high priest uses a lot to decide which of two identical goats is going to die and which is going to be released into the wilderness. This casting of lots is a shadow picture of an event which will happen at the end of the tribulation. Yehovah will decide at some future Kippurim service which men (with their families) will make it into the millennial kingdom alive and which ones won’t; just like Noah was delivered from the antediluvian world into this one safe and sound.
1. That which, in human speech, is called chance, hazard, fortune; but in strictness of language, is the determination of providence; as, the land shall be divided by lot.
2. That by which the fate or portion of one is determined; that by which an event is committed to chance, that is, to the determination of providence; as, to cast lots; to draw lots. (Webster 1828 Dictionary)
The casting of lots works for Yehovah’s men because they have come out from the kingdom of their birth, made themselves fully His and then have come into covenant with Him at Passover as His spiritually born seed. These men (with their families) are His segulah, His special treasure that he talks about in Exodus 19. He cares what happens to these men and desires to lead and guide them in His providence. The casting of lots is Israel’s way to establish Yehovah’s will in their lives; lots were, and can still be used, to bring peace and contentment to some difficult decisions.
Decisions, Decisions and the Casting of Lots
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from Yehovah. (Pro 16:33)
Casting of lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart. (Pro 18:18)
Here are a few times where Israel’s seed (perversely know as “the children of Israel”) used the casting of lots to make decisions in order to prevent strife from rising up among themselves.
When Israel came into their land it was, at least in part, divided among us by the casting of lots.
These are those who were numbered of Israel’s seed: six hundred and one thousand seven hundred and thirty. Then Yehovah spoke to Moses, saying: “To these the land shall be divided as an inheritance, according to the number of names. To a large tribe you shall give a larger inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a smaller inheritance. Each shall be given its inheritance according to those who were numbered of them. But the land shall be divided by lot; they shall inherit according to the names of the tribes of their fathers. According to the lot their inheritance shall be divided between the larger and the smaller.” (Num 26:51-56)
“Speak to Israel’s seed, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess. And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families; to the larger you shall give a larger inheritance, and to the smaller you shall give a smaller inheritance; there everyone’s inheritance shall be whatever falls to him by lot. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers. (Num 33:51-54)
The families of the Korahites used the casting of lots to decide which gates each family would be responsible for.
Concerning the divisions of the gatekeepers: of the Korahites … And they cast lots for each gate, the small as well as the great, according to their father’s house. (1Ch 26:1,13)
Certain men (with their families) were chosen to dwell in Jerusalem by the casting of lots; and it sounds like dwelling in Jerusalem may have been more of a duty than a privilege. Interesting!
Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem. (Neh 11:1-2)
Israel only has two kinds of men in it; the ezrach (the native-born man) and the ger (stranger) who dwells with them. To me it seems presumptuous to expect, or even think, that a Gentile can walk in the providential leading, provision and protection of Yehovah if he will not make himself fully His man. We can not serve two masters and Yehovah makes it very clear that if we do not love His Torah and walk in it, then He will not even hear our prayers.
But, if we will make ourself only His man we can, and should expect to have His leading in our life; and the casting of lots is one way Yehovah directs His people. Speaking to Yehovah’s son, Israel, Moses says,
And he [Balaam] took up his oracle and said: “Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, from the mountains of the east. ‘Come, curse Jacob for me, and come, denounce Israel!‘ “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom Yehovah has not denounced? For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him. There! A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations. (Num 23:7-9)
“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as Yehovah my Elohim (lawmaker and judge) commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples [Gentiles] who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ “For what great nation is there that has Elohim so near to it, as Yehovah our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? (Deu 4:5-7)
The Urim and the Thummim
The Urim and the Thummim was separate from, but stored in, the breastplate which the High Priest wore; I have often wondered if they were used for the casting of lots. Perhaps we will look at that possibility next time.
Then he [Moses] put the breastplate on him, and he put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastplate. (Lev 8:8)
And when Saul inquired of Yehovah, Yehovah did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets. (1Sa 28:6)