Lot (properly גּוֹרָל or גֹּרָל, goral', κλῆρος, literally a pebble, used anciently for balloting; other terms occasionally thus rendered are חֵבֶל or חֶבֶל, che'bel, a portion, De 32:9; 1Ch 16:18; Ps 105:11, referring to an inheritance; and λαγχάνω, to obtain by lot, Lu 1:9; Joh 19:24), strictly a small stone, as used in casting lots (Le 16:8; Nu 33:54; Jos 19:1. Eze 24:6; Jon 1:7), hence also a method used to determine chances or preferences, or to decide a debate. The decision by lot was often resorted to among the Hebrews, but always with the strictest reference to the interposition of God. As to the precise manner of casting lots, we have no certain information; probably several modes were practiced. In Pr 16:33 we read that "the lot," i.e., pebble, "is cast into the lap," properly into the bosom of an urn or vase. It does not appear that the lap or bosom of a garment worn by a person was ever used to receive lots.
The use of lots among the ancients was very general (see Dale, Orac. ethn. c. 14; Potter, Greek Antiq. 1:730; Adams, Roman Ant. 1:540 sq.; Smith, Dict. of Class. Ant. s.v. Sors) and highly esteemed (Xenoph. Cyrop; 1:6, 46), as is natural in simple stages of society (Tacit. Germ. 10), " recommending itself as a sort of appeal to the Almighty secure from all influence of passion or bias, and a sort of divination employed even by the gods themselves (Homer, Iliad, 22:209; Cicero, De Div. 1:34; 2:41). The word sors is thus used for an oracular response (Cicero, De Div., 2:56). So there was a mode of divination among heathens by means of arrows, two inscribed and one without mark, βελομαντεία (Ho 4:12; Eze 21:21; Mauritius, De Sortitione, c. 14, § 4; see also Es 3:7; Es 9:24-32 ; Mishna, Taanith, 2:10). SEE DIVINATLON. Among heathen instances the following additional may be cited:
1. Choice of a champion, or of priority in combat (Il. 3:316; 7:171; Herod. 3:108);
2. Decision of fate in battle (Il. 20:209);
3. Appointment of magistrates, jurymen, or other functionaries (Aristot. Pol. 4:16; Schol. On Aristoph. Plut. 277; Herod. 6:109; Xenoph. Cyrol). 4:5, 55: Demosth. c. Aristog. 1:778, 1; comp. Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Dicastes);
4. Priests (AEsch. in Tim. page 188, Bekk.);
5. A German practice of deciding by marks on twigs, mentioned by Tacitus (Germ. 10);
6. Division of conquered or colonized land (Thucydides, 3:50; Plutarch, Pericles, 84; Bockh, Public Econ. of Ath. 2:170)." The Israelites sometimes had recourse to lots as a method of ascertaining the divine will (Pr 16:33), and generally in cases of doubt regarding serious enterprises (Es 3:7; compare Rosenmüller, Morgenl. 3:301), especially the following: (a.) In matters of partition or distribution. e.g. the location of the several tribes in Palestine (Nu 26:55 sq.; 33:34; 34:13; 36:2; Jos 14:2; Jos 18:6 sq.; 19:5), the assignment of the Levitical cities (Jos 21:4 sq.), and, after the return from the exile, the settlement in the homesteads at the capital (Ne 11:1; compare 1 Macc. 3:36). Prisoners of war were also disposed of by lot (Joe 3:3; Na 3:10; Ob 1:11; compare Mt 27:35; Joh 19:24; compare Xenoph. Cyrop. 4:5, 55). (b.) In criminal investigations where doubt existed as to the real culprit (Jos 7:14; 1Sa 14:42). A notion prevailed among the Jewls that this detection was performed by observing the shining of the stones in the high-priest's breastplate (Mauritius, c. 21, § 4). The instance of the mariners casting lots to ascertain by the surrendering of what offender the sea could be appeased (Jon 1:7), is analogous; but it is not clear, from Pr 18:18, that lots were resorted to for the determination of civil disputes. (c.) In the election to an important office or undertaking foir which several persons appeared to have claims (1Sa 10:19; Ac 1:26; comp. Herod. 3:128; Justin. 13:4; Cicero, Verr. 2:2, 51; Aristot. Polit. 4:16), as well as in the assignment of official duties among associates having a common right (Ne 10:34), as of the priestly offices in the Temple service among the sixteen of the family of Eleazar and the eight of that of Ithamar (1Ch 24:3,5,19; Lu 1:9), also of the Levites for similar purposes (1Ch 23:28; 1Ch 24:20-31; 1Ch 25:8; 1Ch 26:13; Mishna, Tamid, 1:2; 3:1.; 5:2; Jonut, 2:2. 3, 4; Shabb. 23:2; Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. in Lu 1:8-9, volume 2, page 489). (d.) In military enterprises (Jg 20:10; compare Val. Max. 1:5, 3).
In the sacred ritual of the Hebrews we find the use of lots but once prescribed, namely, in the selection of the scape-goat (Le 16:8 sq.). The two inscribed tablets of boxwood, afterwards of gold, were put into an urns which was shaken, and the lots drawn out (Joma, 3:9; 4:1). SEE ATONEMENT, DAY OF. Eventually lots came into frequent usage (comp. the Mishna, Shabb. 23:2). In later times they even degenerated into a game of hazard, of which human life was the stakes (Josephus, War, 3:8, 7). Dice appear to have been usually employed for the lot (הַשׁלַיך גּוֹרָל, to "throw the die," Jos 18:8; so הוֹרָה, to cast, Jos 18:6; δίδωμι, to give, Ac 1:26; נָפָל, πίπτω, to fall, Jon 1:7; Eze 24:7; Ac 1:26), and were sometimes drawn from a vessel (יָצָא הִגּוֹרָל," the lot came forth," Nu 32:42, so עָלָה, to "come up," Le 6:9; comp. the Mishna, Joma, 4:1). A different kind of lot is elsewhere indicated in the Mishna (Josna, 2:1; comp. Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. page 714). A sacred species of lot was by means of the SEE URIM AND THUMMIM (q.v.) of the high-priest (Nu 27:21; 1Sa 28:6), which appears to have had some connection with the divination by means of the sacerdotal EPHOD (1Sa 23:6,9). Stones were occasionally employed in prophetical or emblematical lots (Nu 17:6 sq.; Zec 11:10,14). SEE PURIM. Election by lot appears to have prevailed in the Christian Church as late as the 7th century (Bingham, Eccles. Antiq. 4:1, 1, volume 1, page 426; Bruns, Conc. 2:66). Here also we may notice the use of words heard, or passages chosen at random from Scripture. Sortes Biblicae, like the Sortes Vigilance, prevailed among Jews, as they have also among Christians, though denounced by several councils (Johnson, "Life of Cowley," Works, 9:8;
Bingham, Eccl. Antiq. 16:5, 3; id., 6:53 sq.; Bruns, Conc. 2:145-154, 166; Mauritius, c. 15; Hofmann, Lex. s.v. Sortes).
On the subject generally, see Mauritius, De Sortitione ap. vet. Hebraeos (Basil, 1692); Chrysander, De Sortibus (Halle, 1740); Benzel, De Sortibus vet. in his Syntagma dissertat. 1:297-318; Winckler, Gedanken über dl. Spuren gottl. Providenz in Loose (Hildesheim, 1750); Palaophili, Abhandl. v. Gebrauchs d. Looses in d. heil. Schr. in Semler's Hall. Samml. 1:2, 79 sq.; Junius, De Sorte, remedio dubias caussas dirimendi (Lips. 1746); Eenberg, De Sortilegiis (Upsal. 1705) ; Hanovius, De electione per sortem (Gedan. 1743; in German by Tramhold, Hamb. 1751); Bauer, Vormitze Kunst, etc. (Hildesh. 1750).
The term "lot" is also used for that which falls to one by lot, especially a portion or inheritance (Jos 15:1; Jg 1:3; Ps 125:3; Isa 17:14; Isa 47:6; Ac 8:21). Lot is also used metaphorically for portion, or destiny, as assigned to men from God (Ps 16:5): "And arise to thy lot in the end of days" in the Messiah's kingdom (Da 12:13; comp. Re 20:6). SEE HERITAGE.