Sunday, October 4, 2015

Casting Lots

Bill Hamblin and Dan Peterson just published a very good article in the Deseret News about the practice of casting lots in ancient Israel. We saw this weekend three new apostles called to take their places in the modern Quorum of the Twelve. In the primitive church, a new apostle, Matthias, was chosen to replace the fallen Judas Iscariot. Acts 1:26 describes an apostolic selection process based on casting lots.

The practice of casting lots is well-attested in the Old Testament.
In Leviticus 16:8-10 lots were cast to select goats for ritual purposes.
In Numbers 26:55-56 lots were cast to divide land among the tribes of Israel.
Joshua 18:6-8 confirms that casting lots was a priestly or prophetic function done before the Lord.
Judges 20:9 describes military units mustered by casting lots.
In Davidic times priests were selected by casting lots 1 Chronicles 24:31.
The provisioning of fuel for sacrificial offerings was apportioned by casting lots Nehemiah 10:34.
Population was distributed among urban areas by casting lots Nehemiah 11:1.
A messianic psalm foretold Roman soldiers casting lots to divide the Savior's clothing Psalms 22:18.
Proverbs 16:33 & Isaiah 34:17 describe divine forces at work in the process of casting lots.
Seamen cast lots to indict Jonah as the cause of their ill weather Jonah 1:7.

Ritual functions in the New Testament also involved casting lots Luke 1:9.

Casting lots is attested in the Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 3:11, Alma 20:30.

Hamblin and Peterson write that the ancient practice of casting lots was "a form of divination by which the will of God was revealed."

The lots themselves were stones or pieces of broken pottery. Some modern biblical translations use the word "dice." Some scholars believe the enigmatic Urim andThummim Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8 was a type of divining crystal or stone stored in a pouch on the priestly breastplate.

The Urim and Thummim Moroni delivered to Joseph Smith was in a stone box with a breastplate Joseph Smith History 1:52. And when Joseph found the Nephite Urim and Thummim cumbersome to use for translation, he went back to his familiar seer stone which he kept in a pouch.
One of Joseph Smith's Seer Stones with Pouch
This is another view of the same stone and pouch.
Joseph Smith Seer Stone with its Pouch
Virtually all Book of Mormon geographic models set in Mesoamerica place the greater land of Nephi in highland Guatemala. Among the Quichean Maya of highland Guatemala, the practice of priestly divination using seeds, stones and pieces of broken pottery survives to this day. Diviners are called "daykeepers" and they guard their "lots" in pouches, bags, or bundles. Noted anthropologist Dennis Tedlock was trained as a daykeeper and had a remarkable experience using his pouch of semi-precious objects in divination. See Dennis Tedlock, Breath on the  Mirror: Mythic Voices and Visions of the Living Maya, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque: 1997), pp. 194-202. This is Tedlock's illustration of his divining pouch with his "lots" grouped atop a stone slab.
Divining Pouch Used by Quichean Daykeepers
Mesoamericanists see evidence the divining tradition using "lots" extended back into Olmec times. Current interpretations of the Cascajal Block find the graphemes indicated represent open and closed divining pouches.
Cascajal Block ca. 900 BC
See my report on a presentation by F. Kent Reilly, III of Texas State in section 22 of the article entitled "Light from L.A."