310 – Psalm 16 – lot (not the man)

Psalm 16:5 (NKJV)

           5       O [YHWH], You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

    You maintain my lot.

Last time we talked about the concept of Yahweh being both David and our portion. What we didn’t talk about was, “You maintain my lot”, at the end of verse five. If we were going to do our diligence as students of the Bible we might look up the word “maintain” in the original language before considering the word “lot”. If we were to do that we would discover it means “to hold”. Comparing other translations, for example, the Lexham English Bible, validates “hold” as a reasonable translation for “maintain”.

Now we’re ready to consider the word “lot”. The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament lists the following glosses (possible definitions) for the Hebrew word “goral”: a lot; what falls to any one by lot; an inheritance, land which falls to any one by inheritance; the lots. What is this notion of “falls to anyone by lot”? You’ll remember that the Roman soldiers cast lots for Christ’s garment when He was on the cross (Psalm 22:18, John 19:24). The disciples cast lots to determine who should replace Judas as a witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:15–26). Consider the following from the Lexham Bible Dictionary:

LOTS (גּוֹרָל, goral). Objects that were cast to reach a randomized and impartial decision.

Lots in the Ancient World

Ancient peoples used lot-casting as a form of cleromancy—a type of divination in which the random outcome was believed to reflect divine will. Ancients commonly used small stones labeled to reflect the possible outcomes of the decision (Lindblom, “Lot-casting,” 168). The Bible contains no description of the specific procedure for casting lots, undoubtedly due to the commonplace nature of the practice. Based on etymology, Kitz suggests the Israelites likely placed marked stones into a container, which was then shaken in such a way as to “cast” out a deciding stone (Kitz, “Terminology,” 207–14). Hittite and Akkadian texts also indicate that the casting of stones was used to determine an oracular answer to a series of questions (Kitz, “Urim and Thumim,” 401–10).

Biblical Usage

Old Testament

The Old Testament contains multiple examples of lot-casting. The primary Hebrew word for “lots” (גּוֹרָל, goral) refers to small stones cast to produce a decision. The Israelites believed that Yahweh brought about the result of cast lots (Prov 16:33). God Himself commanded the use of lots for the fate of the two goats used in the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:5–10).

Fleenor, Rob. “Lots.” Ed. John D. Barry et al. The Lexham Bible Dictionary 2016: n. pag. Print.


Though we don’t practice “casting lots” as believers today it’s important to understand David’s reference. He is acknowledging that what he has, though it may have seemed randomly provided, was indeed given him by Yahweh Himself. He furthermore acknowledges Yahweh’s power to protect that which He has given this earthly king. Do you think about what you have as having been provided by Yahweh? Is He able to “hold” what He has provided? 

Yahweh is worthy of all Praise, Worship, and Adoration!

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