At the beginning of Acts, the eleven decide that it is appropriate to replace Judas. To do so, they narrow down the list of candidates to two men: Joseph and Matthias. Then they pray, "Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over the apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." After this they cast lots, and it falls to Matthias, so he was added.

There don't seem to be any other examples of praying and then casting lots in the New Testament. Was this practice atypical? And if so, why was the practice adopted for this decision?

  • No other examples by Christians, you mean? Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 13:01
  • Yeah, I meant in the context of prayer or before God. Obviously the soldiers as the cross cast lots to gamble for clothes; I guess I wasn't thinking of those as the same practice.
    – Soldarnal
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 15:35
  • Related: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/4394/423
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 4:07

1 Answer 1


First of all, the believers in Acts 1 had not yet received the Holy Spirit. However, their trust was placed in something they knew of God:

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:33 ESV)

Other Old Testament verses that refer to this practice include Proverbs 18:18 (settling a quarrel or choosing between opposing sides), Joshua 18:8-10 (the division of the land) and Psalm 22:18, which is also used in the New Testament account of the crucifixion. I'm sure there are many others as well, but several others refer to the use of the practice by people such as the foreign kings who came to carry the people into exile. So probably not the best imagery for a practice used by the church.

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