What is Casting Lots

Urim and Thummim in the Old Testament

The issue of casting lots began in the Old Testament with the high priest and the urim and thummim. There are several views of what the urim and thummim were.

First some people feel that these were precious stones or jewels that were sewn into the breastplate of the high priest. When God sent a yes answer, the white stone would glow, and when God sent a no answer, the black would glow.

A second view is that the urim and thummim were identically-sized stones that were kept in a pocket in the high priest vest, i.e., the breastplate. When he prayed for decisions, he would reach in and if he pulled out a white stone, the answer was yes, obviously if he pulled out the black stone the answer would be no.

A third view is that these two stones were put into a bottle, shaken, and then they were cast into the lap of the high priest. If the white stone came out it was a yes, and if the black came out the answer was no.

Casting Lots in the New Testament

Following the pattern of the Old Testament, the apostles cast lots to determine which of the two candidates would fill Judas’ place. Most likely they identified one candidate with one color stone, and the other candidate with the other color.

The apostles, just like the priests in the Old Testament, did not depend on gambling or chance. They committed the matter to God, and asked God to lead through the “casting of lots.” So in that sense, it was not gambling.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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