Old Testament Lot-Casting: Divination Or Providence? -- By: Mark A. Snoeberger
DBSJ 16:1 (2011) p. 3
Old Testament Lot-Casting:
Divination Or Providence?
In Deuteronomy 18:9-14, Yahweh denies Israel the use of divination techniques borrowed from the surrounding nations: “Let no one be found among you who…practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.”2 Unlike the gods of the nations, Yahweh refused to submit to divination by the manipulative whimsy of his creatures; instead, Yahweh himself would determine when and to whom he would reveal his mind, chiefly through prophets of his own choosing (so vv. 15-22).
Despite this prohibition of divination, the balance of the OT divulges that God’s people did, on multiple occasions, inquire of God to discern his mind or purposes. Most famously, the theocratic head had at his disposal the Urim and Thummim, a unique mechanism provided by God himself (and notably not borrowed from the nations) by which the king could “inquire of the Lord” for guidance (Exod 28:30; Lev 8:8; Num 27:21). The Urim was not properly a means of divination, but a vehicle for formally requesting revelation (a request that God could ignore—1 Sam 28:6); nonetheless, it represented an extraordinary means of theocratic inquiry that was not shared by the general population.3 Later in the OT, use of this mysterious medium apparently went into decline and the kings began to seek the mind of
DBSJ 16:1 (2011) p. 4
God by means of court “seers” (יםאִרֹ or חֹזִים—see, e.g., 2 Sam 24:11; 1 Chron 25:25; 2 Chron 35:15).4 Clearly, the king had special access to revelation that was not forbidden by the general ban on divination in Deuteronomy 18.
At issue in this article, however, is the more general practice of lot-casting, a procedure available not merely to kings, but to anyone. This practice, which was widespread among Israel’s neighbors, appears many times in the O...
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