Is it Biblical to make decisions by casting lots?


By BibleAsk Team

Casting Lots

In the Bible, the practice of casting lots goes back to ancient times. It was an established belief that the lot was decided by divine intervention (Proverbs 16:33). In the Old Testament, the Jews used lots on several occasions to make decisions.

Old Testament

  1. Choosing the goats in the ceremonies of the Hebrew Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:5–10)
  2. Allotting land in Canaan to the tribes when they first entered the promised land (Numbers 26:55; Joshua 18:10), and upon the return from exile (Nehemiah 10:34; 11:1)
  3. Settling criminal cases where there was uncertainty (Joshua 7:14, 18; 1 Samuel 14:41, 42)
  4. Choosing forces for battle (Judges 20:8–10)
  5. Appointing to high office (1 Samuel 10:19–21)
  6. Allotting the cities of the priests and Levites (1 Chronicles 6:54–65)

New Testament

The New Testament does not explicitly endorse or prescribe the casting of lots as a method for decision-making in the same way it is mentioned in the Old Testament. However, there is one notable instance in the New Testament where the disciples cast lots to choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot among the twelve apostles.

In Acts 1:23-26 (NIV), after Judas had betrayed Jesus and died, the remaining eleven apostles were faced with the need to fill the vacancy:

“So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

In this case, the disciples took two qualified candidates, prayed for God’s guidance, and then cast lots to determine who would replace Judas. It’s worth noting that this instance occurred before the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, and after that event, the apostles received direct guidance through the Holy Spirit.

We also read about the Roman soldiers casting lots on Calvary for the Lord’s seamless garment (Matthew 27:35; John 19:23, 24).

While casting lots was a method used in this specific situation, it is not presented as a universal or ongoing practice for decision-making in the New Testament. The emphasis in the New Testament is more on prayer, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and making decisions in light of biblical principles.

Today, many Christians try to receive divine guidance by methods not approved of God—methods which are in their essential nature similar to ancient methods of divination (Ezekiel 21:21) such as tossing up a coin; or asking the Lord to answer Yes or No by writing the words on either side of the card, and then dropping it, to find the answer. Others allow the Bible to fall open at random and accept the message they first read…etc.

It is true that the Lord at ancient times has given guidance by casting lots, but this method should not be used today to find God’s will. If, in every decision of life, a person received a direct answer from God by casting lots, he would become a mere machine. After the Pentecost, Christians can find the will of God through His clear Word that is a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105) and the guidance of the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised (John 16:13).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

We'd love your feedback, so leave a comment!

If you feel an answer is not 100% Bible based, then leave a comment, and we'll be sure to review it.
Our aim is to share the Word and be true to it.