Proverbs 18:18

The Lot is Cast



1. This is a simple proverb. Its meaning is crystal clear—unlike many other proverbs that are a bit ambiguous.

2. This is simple and right to the point: lots can end arguments.

3. It is an extremely valuable tool that can be used today in all kinds of settings and circumstances.

4. It is valuable, though not ideal. Its value lies in how practical it is, not how perfect it is.

What a Lot Is

1. Lot: defined

a. Strong’s: Portion; pebbles used for systematically making decisions.

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: Pebbles, sticks, or pottery shard thrown or blindly pulled out of a container, for decision making based on what seems like chance, but was a communication of the Lord.

c. Zodhiates: A lot was cast, probably a stone or stones, to decide questions or appoint persons for various reasons

2. Lot described:

a. We are not told exactly what KIND of lots were used.

b. History tells us that lots originated in Asia… from anklebones of animals.

c. Many cults used variations of this in determining the will of their gods.

d. Sometimes pieces of bone were scattered randomly and the way they fell was interpreted by a sort of witch doctor or sorcerer (quite subjective!)

e. Sometimes they were more like dice—with numbers or symbols with meaning on each side. They were thrown and gave a reading much like dice today.

f. Sometimes they were black or white stones randomly picked from a container.

g. There were many different forms of lots throughout history.

h. We don’t know exactly what the Jews used… but we DO know that it was a way of randomly and by chance (from our perspective) determining an outcome—usually with a yes or no answer.

3. God did command the use of lots in the Old Testament.

a. In dividing the land (Num. 33:54)

b. In choosing the goats on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:8)

c. In selecting men for various position (I Chron. 24:5, 31; 25:8)
• In these cases, it seems (assuming there were many qualified men for the positions), it really didn’t matter much one way or the other…

d. It was used in divine revelation—in showing Joshua who was guilty of stealing from Jericho—and the lot fell on Achan.
• In these and other Old Testament examples, it DID matter.
• In these cases, the lot cast was actually an act of supernatural revelation from God—like the Urim and the Thummim.

e. In selecting an apostle to replace Judas (Acts 1:26) (Old Testament economy).

4. Another important feature of the LOT in the Old Testament was its relationship to Divine Sovereignty.

a. Prov. 16:33 – the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.

b. That which SEEMS like mere chance to us, is actually under the control of God.

c. Think of the flipping of a coin. God is sovereign over the wind… over the rotation of the earth… over man who does the flipping… over density and humidity in the air… and over every imaginable physical detail involved.

d. Thus, that which seems like chance to us is not from the standpoint of Divine Sovereignty and Providence.

e. In fact, the Lord controlled the outcome of such lots even when cast out of superstition or in unbelief!
• The casting of lots was used by superstitious pagans to determine who was responsible for the storm at sea… and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jonah 1:7)
• The casting of lots was used by Saul to determine who was guilty of violating Saul’s order not to eat… and Jonathan (the guilty party) was revealed through the lot. (I Sam. 14)

5. Sometimes this was commanded by God—and on other occasions we are simply told that it is what men practiced.

a. Clearly we see BOTH in the Bible: commands and practice.

b. Thus, since God on occasion commanded it, it is certainly not wrong or immoral.

c. However, the LAST time we see it practiced in the Bible is in Acts 1:26, BEFORE the Day of Pentecost.

d. Once the church began and the Holy Spirit was given, we read of it no more.
• It is a good ASSUMPTION that the coming of the Spirit is the reason—though that is not stated in Scripture.
• It is an assumption.

e. Be careful here: there is NO command either way.
• The church is never commanded to practice the lot.
• The church is not forbidden from using a lot.
• And historically (in the New Testament) we never see it practiced during the church age.
• It is simply ABSENT… it is not mentioned one way or another.

The lot causeth contentions to cease

1. In this verse, Solomon presents a purely PRACTICAL use of lots.

2. He does NOT SAY the lot here:

a. That the lot determines God’s will.

b. That the lot determines the morally right choice.

c. That the lot will produce the correct or accurate answer.

d. That the lot will reveal the best choice.

e. That the lot will determine absolute truth.

f. NONE of that is mentioned in this verse… so let’s not read something into this verse that is not here.

3. Nor is Solomon saying that this is the BEST WAY to make a choice. It is “a” way… and a way that works.

4. What Solomon DOES tell us here is one generic practical value of the lot: lots can cause contentions to cease.

a. If both parties in the controversy are willing to USE the lot, it can be extremely helpful.

b. Contentions: strife, dissension, i.e., a verbal quarrel.

c. When the lot is cast, it gives a yes or no answer…

d. It is not open for interpretation… or debate as to what is meant. It is crystal clear.

e. It gives an answer that ENDS the debate and the contention.

f. Once the lot is cast, the argument is over. Someone wins and someone loses. Period. End of story.

5. This has practical value in ALL KINDS of settings.

a. With issues of no real consequence:
• If the Sunday school teacher isn’t quite sure which student gave the answer first in the contest, the debate could be ended with the flipping of a coin!
• In a Vacation Bible School program if it wasn’t really clear to the judges who won the race—picking straws could end the debate as to who gets the piece of candy.
• At home, when nobody can remember which boys turn it is to take out the garbage, flip a coin and end the argument!

b. With issues slightly more important.
• Planning a weeklong family ski vacation. Will it be Killington or Sunday River?
• If the family is perfectly divided on the issue, ONE way to resolve it is by a lot.

c. The value of a decision by a lot.
• It will not be a divine revelation of the will of God. But God’s will has much more to do with the hearts of those family members and their relationship to each other, than on which mountain they ski!
• Without the lot, one half of the family [kids?] might feel cheated.
• By casting a lot, it makes it (from the human perspective) purely random…
• Therefore, there is no one is to blame… no one gets the credit.
• It serves a purpose in taking the human element OUT of the equation.
• It serves a purpose in removing the possibility of someone crying, “That’s not fair.”
• It serves the purpose in people from complaining that their side wasn’t being heard… or my side didn’t have a chance… or they always get their way.
• It is (from a human perspective) perfectly fair and unbiased.

And parteth between the mighty

1. Solomon mentions its value in ending contentions.

2. Then he takes it a step further: it can even end contentions among the MIGHTY!

a. It’s one thing to use a lot to determine who wins the candy or which mountain you ski on. The outcome isn’t very consequential.

b. But Solomon suggests here that it can even be used among the might men in things that ARE of great consequence!

3. This could settle cases in court and save the government millions by doing away with a lot of useless litigation.

4. It could be used to settle the border dispute between Israel and the Palestinians…

5. We are told in the book of Joshua that the land of Canaan was divided by lot.

a. We are not told WHY.

b. It is entirely possible that it was to settle contentions among the tribes. (I want that piece! I want more coastline!)

6. Neh. 11:1 – lots were used to determine who among those returning from exile would dwell in Jerusalem and who would live in the countryside.

a. Most people did NOT want to live in Jerusalem.

b. It was still mainly rubble… and dangerous, since the enemies wanted to KEEP it rubble.

c. So rather than argue and fight over who should live in Jerusalem, a lot was cast.

d. 1 out of 10 was chosen by Lot to live in Jerusalem.

e. That settled the contention.

7. Some of the older commentators hold a very different view of lots than I do.

a. Ex: Adam Clark wrote:
• “The lot should never be resorted to in indifferent matters; they should be those of the greatest importance.”
• His view was that lots are OK for today in determining God’s will when you cannot discern it otherwise.
• He thought in that it should be done in prayer to seek God’s will, and thus only on the real BIG issues of life.
• Thus he said, “In such cases the lot is an appeal to God, and he disposes of it according to his goodness, mercy, and truth. The result, therefore, cannot be fortuitous.”
• In other words, he believed that it was a valid tool to determine God’s mind on a matter… and thus to be OBEYED as if from the Lord.

b. I would recommend just the opposite.
• Casting lots or putting out a fleece was used by God to reveal His divine will in the Old Testament. However, when that was the case, God SAID to do it!
• God has not told us to discover His will by flipping a coin or casting a lot… or using a fleece.
• I would recommend that you pray, seek counsel, read the Word, and plead with the Lord for guidance and direction and don’t budge until the way is clear!
• But on the matters that are truly inconsequential, a lot is fine! It might settle the debate as to which kid gets to sit in the front seat on the way to the beach!

8. Lots cast can part between the MIGHTY.

a. When mighty men are in a controversy, it can easily get out of hand… and escalate into violence…

b. Hence, the casting of a lot to settle the dispute is not a bad idea.

c. If you are in an argument over an issue, and tempers are beginning to flare… and the conversation is getting out of control—stop and agree to flip a coin.

d. It just might END what otherwise could turn into a mighty bloody battle between mighty proud men…

e. It is a legitimate way to end disputes… and to end them QUICKLY… immediately… fairly… without bias…

9. Casting of lots will NOT

a. determine God’s will.

b. determine the morally right choice.

c. produce the correct or accurate answer.

d. reveal the best choice.

e. determine absolute truth.

f. But it CAN end a dispute in a hurry. And there are times when ending a dispute right away is a good idea!

10. But as a Christian, there is a BETTER way to end disputes. The better way is described variously in the New Testament:

a. It’s called “grace,” a gift given to another without regard to merit or lack thereof.

b. It’s called “esteeming others better than oneself.”

c. It’s called love – sacrificing self for the good of others… love seeketh not her own…

d. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth/good.

e. It’s called submitting one to another… being clothed in humility.

f. In other words, it’s called Christlikeness.

g. Unfortunately, not every believer manifests Christ at all times. There are times when it might be wise and beneficial to cast a lot… NOT to determine God’s will—NOT to discover the right answer—but to END a dispute!

Back to Top

Back to Proverbs Ch. 18 Index

Back to Main Proverbs Index