(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?

4 Answers 4


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".


The valley of Achan, a place of curse, however, was forecasted, at the time of the prophet Isaiah, to be able to turn into a place for herds to lie down. (Isaiah 65:10)

“i will do so for my servants's sake and not destroy them all” (Isaiah 65:8b)

My one understanding of this historical event over the whole history is: Even the cursed has values in the eyes of the merciful God, for his Servant's sake.

Also, the Talmud above offered a very different perspective. Could it be that there were actually many others who had done same as Achan did? If that was the case, could it be that: nevertheless, there had to be an one to be punished? And fear needed to be distilled into hearts of the community? If that was so, could there be any other fairer ways than casting lot?

Some expanding here:

"Mercy without justice is dissolution; while justice without mercy is crulty"

A glance of this part of history would tell us that justice was claimed according to the covenant of the God and Israelites.

However, justice is one aspect of God, and mercy is another. A broader examine of other history books would help with a fuller understandings of God's width, breadth, length and depth which would in turn, satisfy more hearts. After all, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Christ from whom comes truth and grace.

Could Prophet Isaiah 65 be an example of such books, a prove of God's width, breadth, length and depth?

Also, it is interesting to notice that in Exodus 25:21-22 when God instructed Moses about the making of the ark of the covenant, He specified that the mercy seat was to be on top of the ark and he would meet Moses there, delivering all commands there from above the mercy seat between the cherubims that were to overshadow the mercy seat.

Another finding is, thanks what User33515 mentioned, it could really be possible that Joshua didn't cast lot at all, as the bible only says: "the tribe/clan/household that the Lord takes..." the Hebrew word here seems be יִלְכְּדֶ֤נָּה (Strong 3920). Casting lot the Hebrew word בְּגוֹרַ֖ל (strong 1486) wasn't used here.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jul 1, 2022 at 22:41
  • Hi Liqiong, welcome to the site. This looks like the start of a good answer - could you expand on it and how it addresses the original question? Please be sure to take the site tour, and thanks for contributing! Jul 4, 2022 at 17:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.