Casting Lots, Purim (Term)

In theological terms, the “casting of lots” is an ancient practice used to discern divine will or make decisions, frequently referenced throughout the Bible. This practice involves using objects—such as stones, sticks, or pieces, depending on the cultural context—to make decisions in situations where human judgment seems insufficient. The outcome of the lots is interpreted as revealing God’s guidance or judgment.

In the context of the Hebrew Bible, the casting of lots was employed in various significant instances, including the distribution of tribal lands in Israel (Numbers 26:55), the selection of scapegoats on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:8), and in the story of Jonah to determine who had brought about a storm (Jonah 1:7). In the Christian New Testament, lots were cast to determine Judas Iscariot’s replacement among the apostles (Acts 1:26).

Purim,” meaning “lots” in Hebrew, specifically refers to the Jewish festival commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman’s plot to destroy them, as recorded in the Book of Esther. The festival’s name derives from Haman casting lots (“pur”) to choose the date for this extermination, which ultimately led to his downfall and the Jewssalvation. This event highlights the theme of divine providence and reversal in the face of human evil.