463. The Lot

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Proverbs 18:1818The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty. (Proverbs 18:18). The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
The use of the lot, as a mode of settling disputed questions, is very ancient, and was practiced by most ancient nations. It was resorted to in reference to almost all the varied affairs of life. Magistrates and priests were appointed by it, and the land of conquered enemies was distributed by its means.
Among the Hebrews we find its use sanctioned by Divine authority. Thus the scape goat was selected by lot (Lev. 16:88And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:8)). The inheritances of the tribes in the Land of Promise were determined in the same way (Num. 34:1313And Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying, This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot, which the Lord commanded to give unto the nine tribes, and to the half tribe: (Numbers 34:13); Josh. 14:22By lot was their inheritance, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe. (Joshua 14:2)). The lot was used on various occasions subsequently. We cite a few instances. The men who attacked Gibeah were selected by lot (Judg. 20:99But now this shall be the thing which we will do to Gibeah; we will go up by lot against it; (Judges 20:9)). In this manner Jonathan was detected as the violator of Saul’s command concerning fasting, in his fight with the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:41-4241Therefore Saul said unto the Lord God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. 42And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken. (1 Samuel 14:41‑42)). In this way the positions of the porters in the temple were decided (1 Chron. 26:1313And they cast lots, as well the small as the great, according to the house of their fathers, for every gate. (1 Chronicles 26:13)). When the storm arose on board the ship where Jonah was the heathen sailors cast lots to determine who had brought them into trouble (Jonah 1:77And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. (Jonah 1:7)).
We have no information given in Scripture concerning the mode by which lots were cast. Among the Latins, especially where several parties were concerned, “little counters of wood, or of some other light material, were put into a jar (called sitella) with so narrow a neck that only one could come out at a time. After the jar had been filled with water and the contents shaken, the lots were determined by the order in which the bits of wood, representing the several parties, came out with the water. In other cases they were put into a wide, open jar and the counters were drawn out by the hand. Sometimes, again, they were cast in the manner of dice” (Fairbairn, Imperial Bible Dictionary, s. v., Lot).
Roberts describes the mode by which property is divided by lot in India, as follows: “They draw on the ground the cardinal points, thus: They then write the names of the parties on separate leaves and mix them all together. A little child is then called, and told to take one leaf and place it on any point of the compass he pleases; this being done, the leaf is opened, and to the person whose name is found therein will be given the field or garden which is in that direction” (Oriental Illustrations, p. 231). He further states that the Hindus settle every disputed question by lot. They decide what physician they shall have, and what remedies, and even leave the selection of a wife to the same blind chance.