“And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.”
And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this trouble has come upon us.’
The ancient mariners wanted to get to the root of the problem, so they used an ancient system of superstition – the casting of lots. They played the lottery way back then! The sailors viewed the crisis as a religious problem. God overruled this pagan superstition by answering the request of the sailors.
The casting of lots seems to be sanctioned by God at times in Scripture and at other times condemned by God (Le. 16:7-10; Josh. 18:6-10; 1 Sa. 14:36-42; Ne. 10:34; Es. 3:7; Pr. 16:33; Ac 1:26). However, there is a big difference between God’s system of casting lots and pagan superstition. The only context where God sanctioned the casting of lots was in the pursuit of His will.
Pr 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.”
So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.
The sailors found the culprit by divination – it was the recalcitrant prophet, Jonah. First, they threw the cargo overboard, but that did not help. Then they resorted to prayer, but that did not get them anywhere either. Finally, they cast lots to determine the object of divine displeasure, and they discovered the perpetrator of God’s displeasure.
The casting of lots is not a New Testament methodology for determining God’s will.
There is only one situation in the New Testament where God’s people used the casting of lots to determine God’s will. That is the choosing of Matthias in place of Judas. It is not all that clear as to whether this was in the will of God, for God told them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, but Peter jumped the gun.
Ac 1:26, “And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
Matthias is never again mentioned in the Bible. God did raise the apostle Paul years later.