(KJV)Joshua 7:18-19

And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. [19] And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

(KJV)Hebrews 4:13

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

The above texts seem to contradict each other,since all things are naked & open to God & he had revealed to Joshua that there was a trespass, did then Joshua had to cast lots to find who had committed that trespass?


The casting or drawing of lots is a practice called sortition. It was a very common way of discerning divine will. I think it was done by the Greeks and Romans, too, and there are other occurrences of sortition in the Bible. Take, for example, the casting of lots in the Book of Jonah, whereby the mariners determine that Jonah is the cause of the storm.

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jonah 1:7 ESV)

Another important example of drawing lots happens later on in Joshua. While Caleb receives Hebron for the faithful account he had given Moses, most of the other tribes receive their inheritance of land by lot.

Their inheritance was by lot, just as the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moses for the nine and one-half tribes. (Joshua 14:2)

This decision is based on what God had said to Moses.

And the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. You shall inherit the land by lot according to your clans. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. According to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” (Numbers 33:50-56)

Okay, now, with all that said, you can see how the casting or drawing of lots is an important practice of the time. You can also see how it enhances the story in chapter 7 of Joshua. This unlikely process of drawing a tribe by lot, and then a clan by lot, and then a household by lot, and then an individual by lot, eventually reveals the culprit. The drawing of lots was intended to reveal God's will, and it did reveal God's will, as it uncovered Achan. The process must have been time-consuming. Achan did not confess during any time of the process. So it might be a way of showing how inexorable God's justice can be. But in the Book of Jonah we also see that God can turn from his wrath if a sinner repents. The entire city of Nineveh repents in Jonah, every person and beast wearing sackcloth and ashes, and so God decides not to destroy the city. As the other answer states, this climactic process of drawing by lot may have (1) given Achan a chance to repent and (2) shown how inevitable God's justice can be.


I'm not sure there is a reading of the passage of Joshua that says that lots were cast, but in any case you might also have questioned Genesis 3:9-11

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

Why did God need to ask Adam where he was or what he done?

The consensus of the Church Fathers is that God did not question Adam for His (God's) sake, but for Adam's, in that Adam had the opportunity to repent in his response. I believe a similar interpretation fits the passage in Joshua you cite. As the tribes, clans, and houses were being called forward, Achan had ample opportunity to confess but did not do so until pressed personally by Joshua.


The Talmud offers an answer to this question, though it is not based on any particular textual analysis:

Sanhedrin 11a

And Shecaniah learnt it from [the story told of] Joshua. As it is written, The Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up, wherefore, now, art thou fallen upon they face? Israel hath sinned . . . ‘Master of the Universe,’ asked Joshua, ‘who are the sinners?’ ‘Am I an informer?’ replied God. ‘Go and cast lots [to find out].’ (Soncino translation)

The suggestion is that God did not tell Joshua (directly) who the sinner was because God does not want to be an "informer".

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