During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them. “Brothers,” He said, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.”
(Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”)
Peter continued, “This was written in the book of Psalms, where it says, ‘Let his home become desolate, with no one living in it.’ It also says, ‘Let someone else take his position.’ So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time He was baptized by John until the day He was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, You know every heart. Show us which of these men You have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven.()Acts 1:15-26
A Reader’s Questions:
- Why was the casting of lots the way to determine God’s will?
- Is that the pattern we should be following today?
The concept of the casting of lots goes back to the Old Testament practice of using the Urim and Thummim. Let’s investigate further, but I warn you at the outset it is very cloudy and unclear and filled with lots of speculation and fanciful thinking. I will share the detail with you in this Gem (for those of you who want to know the full story) and then in the following Gems I will give you my take or summation on it all.
The Use of the Urim and Thummim
According to the Old Testament:
The use in the Old Testament of the Urim and Thummim is rather unclear as to exactly what they were and how they were used. Through the Urim and Thummim God’s will was sought in national crises, the future foretold, guilt or innocence established. Thus, Joshua was to stand before Eleazar who was to inquire for him after the judgment of the Urim (Num 27:21). It seems that this means was employed by Joshua in the matter of Achan (Josh 7:14, Josh 7:18) and overlooked in the matter of the Gibeonites (Josh 9:14). The Danites in their migration ask counsel of a priest, perhaps in a similar manner (Jdg 18:5, Jdg 18:7). It is possible that even the prophet Samuel was assisted by the Urim in the selection of a king (1Sam 10:20-22). During Saul’s war with the Philistines, he made inquiry of God with the aid of the priest (1Sam 14:36, 1Sam 14:37), Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, who at that time wore the ephod (1Sam 14:3). Although on two important occasions Yahweh refused to answer Saul through the Urim (1Sam 14:37; 1Sam 28:6), it appears (from the Septuagint version of 1Sam 14:41; see below under Recent Views) that he used the Urim and Thummim successfully in determining the cause of the divine displeasure. After the massacre of the priests in Nob, Abiathar fled to the camp of David (1Sam 22:20), taking with him the ephod (including apparently the Urim and Thummim, 1Sam 23:6) which David used frequently during his wanderings (1Sam 23:2-4, 1Sam 23:9-12; 1Sam 30:7, 1Sam 30:8), and also after the death of Saul (2Sam 2:1; 2Sam 5:19, 2Sam 5:23; 2Sam 21:1). After the days of David, prophecy was in the predominance, and, accordingly, we find no clear record of the use of the Urim and Thummim in the days of the later kings. After the exile times it is even more difficult to determine how the Urim and Thummim were used to decide the right of certain priests to eat of the most holy things reserved till a priest stood up with the Urim and Thummim (Ezr 2:63; Neh 7:65).
It may be that this was done in the same manner as the goats on the day of atonement having lots cast on them (Lev 16:8). There was a vessel which they call “Kalphi”, set in the court, into which two lots, which were made of wood, or stone, or metal, were put; the one had written on it, for Jehovah, and on the other was written, “for the scapegoat”. The two goats, the one at the right hand of the priest, and the other at the left; the priest shook the vessel, and with his two hands took out the two lots, and laid the lots on the two goats; the right on that which was at his right hand, and the left on that which was at his left. The goat which had the lot put upon it, on which was written, “for the Lord”, was killed. The other goat, on which was written, “for the scapegoat”, was presented alive. The manner of Moses’s choosing the seventy elders is said to have been handled in this way. “Moses took seventy two papers, and on seventy of them he wrote, זקן, “an elder”; and upon two, חלק, “a part”; and he chose six out of every tribe, and there were seventy two; he said unto them, take your papers out of the vessel; he into whose hand came up “an elder” (i.e. the paper on which it was so written) he was sanctified (or set apart to the office); and he, in whose hand came up “a part” (the paper that had that on it), to him he said, the Lord does not delight in thee.
Traditional Historical Views:
The Urim and Thummim were associated with the stones of the breastplate of the priesthood. Josephus states that the stones shone whenever the Glory of God was present at a sacrifice or when the army proceeded to battle. The Talmud suggests that by the illumination of certain letters the divine will was revealed, and that in order to have a complete alphabet, in addition to the names of the tribes, the breastplate bore the names of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the words shibhṭē yeshūrun. A later scholar even suggests that the letters moved from their places to form words. (Mmm even sounds a bit like an ouija board.) The Talmud prescribes rules and suggestions for the consultation of the Urim and Thummim: that the one asking must be a man of public importance, that the question must pertain to the public good; that the priest must face the shekhı̄nāh (west); that one question be asked at a time. Philo suggests the Urim and Thummim were two small symbols representing Light and Truth embroidered on the garment hung round the neck of the high priest.
The view most generally held today is that the Urim and Thummim were two sacred lots, one indicating an affirmative or favorable answer, the other a negative or unfavorable answer. The chief support of this view is found in 1Sam 14:41 – “If this fault be in me or in Jonathan, my son, give Urim, and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim.” The following sentence clearly suggests the casting of lots, possibly lots on which the names of Saul and Jonathan were written, and “Jonathan” was taken. There is a view that the Urim and Thummim themselves were sacred lots on the basis of similar customs among pre-Islamic Arabs and Babylonians but it is hard to substantiate. Whatever the lot-theory has to recommend it, it is inconsistent not only with the post-Biblical traditions, but also with the Biblical data. For those who are not inclined to give much weight to the passages connecting the Urim and Thummim with the high priest’s apparel (Ex 28:30; Lev 8:8) there is of course no difficulty in dissociating the two, in spite of the fact that for the use of this system of divination, the one thing necessary in the historical passages on which they rely seems to be the ephod. Still, if we are to think of two lots, one called and possibly marked “Urim” and the other “Thummim,” it is difficult to get any meaning from the statement (1Sam 14:37; 1Sam 28:6) that Yahweh did not answer Saul on certain occasions, unless indeed we surmise for the occasion the existence of a third nameless blank lot. A more serious difficulty arises from the fact that the answers ascribed to the Urim and Thummim are not always the equivalent of “yes” or “no” (compare Jdg 1:2; Jdg 20:18; 1Sam 22:10; 2Sam 5:23; 2Sam 21:1), even if we omit from consideration the instances where an individual is apparently pointed out from all Israel (compare the instances of the detection of Achan and the selection of Saul with that of Jonathan).
The New Testament Practice of the Casting of Lots:
Some have supposed that this means they voted. But:-
- The word “lots, klērous, is not used to express votes, or suffrage.
- The expression “the lot fell upon” is not consistent with the notion of voting. It is commonly expressed as the casting of lots.
- Casting lots was common among the Jews on important and difficult occasions, and it was natural that the apostles should resort to that method at this time.
The common mode of casting lots was to write the names of the persons on pieces of stone, wood, etc., and put them in one urn, and the name of the office, portion, etc., on others. These were then placed in an urn with other pieces of stone, etc., which were blank. The names were then drawn at random, and also the other pieces, and this settled the case.
Bruce Waltke’s View:
“The priest could use the urim and thummin to determine God’s will in a particular situation. We are not exactly sure what the urim and thummin were, but the priest carried in his breastplate perhaps two sticks or stones, one white and the other black, that would give a yes or no answer to a specific question. Should Israel be preparing for battle, they would somehow shake or toss the sticks. If they turned up black the Israelites would not go to battle, and if they turned up white they would proceed into battle with the knowledge that they were in the will of God. That is one form of divination that God allowed in the Old Testament. We read in Exodus 28:30, “Also put the Urim and the Thummin in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.”
Much has been made of the urim and thummin by modern mystics, who want to find in them the key to the divine mind. All sorts of fanciful explanations have been put forward, including that the items may have glowed, that they had secret words engraved on them, or that they were ancient artifacts with magical powers. However, it should be noted that 1 Samuel 28:6 makes clear a definite answer was not always obtainable, so it may not have been as simple as tossing two stones on ground.
Some translate the words urim and thummin to mean “curse” and “blessing,” others simply “dark” and “light,” although the literal translation seems to be “light” and “perfections.” There is no proof that there were only two items; some early rabbis believed that the urim and thummin were a series of stones with Hebraic characters on them by which the Lord could spell out a message for the high priest. However, most scholars believe them to be two sticks or stones, perhaps precious stones, that God used in a miraculous way to reveal His will.
Ian’s Summation in the next Gem.
The Democratic Process – some jokes will help:-
You rarely get what you want after marriage and after the elections.Anon
Votes should be weighed not counted.Anon
If you can’t convince them, confuse them.Anon
Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.Anon
The problem with political jokes is they get elected.Anon