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(Credit Reference for definition below:  https://literary-devices.com/content/idiom/  )


Definition: An idiom is a group of words with a meaning that cannot be understood by the meanings of the words considered separately.  Idioms are often particular to certain groups of people.

Proverbs 16:33

The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.

16:33 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex בַּ֭חֵיק יוּטַ֣ל אֶת־הַגֹּורָ֑ל וּ֝מֵיְהוָ֗ה כָּל־מִשְׁפָּטֹֽו׃

Could the phrase (Proverbs 16:33a) "..lot is cast into the lap.." have been an Ancient Hebrew idiom that was frequently used among the Ancient Israelites followers of God?

It might have been possible that Ancient Israelites understood  (Proverbs 16:33a) "..lot is cast into the lap.." phrase to idiomatically refer to significant decisions in a person's life.

Let's elaborate.

Should I accept an offer to work at a high-paying job that requires working many hours?


Should I stay at my current job that usually has typical 9-to-5 working hours?

( And therefore, since (Proverbs 16:33a) "..lot is cast into the lap.." is might be an idiom, it really has Nothing to actually casting lots or dices into a person's lap. When someone says "It's raining cats and dogs", she/he actually means it's raining heavily, and has Nothing to do with anything literal about cats and dogs falling from the sky ).

Proverbs 16:33

The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.

Furthermore, (Proverbs 16:33b) phrase which states "...its every decision is from the Lord..:" might just be an example of using the hyperbole language literary device.

Therefore, Would (Proverbs 16:33) "..lot is cast into the lap.." & ".. every decision is from the Lord" be respectively idiom & hyperbole language literary devices used among the Ancient Israelites followers of God?

  • 2
    I could see it as similar to "the ball is in your court", but "its every decision" indicates that the lot is literal, meaning the lot is not an idiom (one wouldn't say "… raining cats and dogs, and they …"). But that's only an English translation; from what I can see of the original Hebrew, the "its" isn't required. Someone with a better understanding of Hebrew could confirm that "its" is an interpretation rather than a translation. May 27, 2022 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


"Lap" in English suggests the area across the thighs when one sits. However, the word in Hebrew of Prov 16:33 is חֵיק (cheq) = bosom, ie, the chest area. It occurs 27 times in the Hebrew OT and is used both metaphorically and literally:

  • that part of the chest where cherished items are clasped or embraced (1 Kings 3:20) such as a wife or concubine (Gen 16:5, Deut 28:54);
  • one's husband (Deut 28:56); the LORD carries His people in His bosom (Isa 40:11);
  • What affects one's bosom afects a person deeply (Prov 6:27);
  • fools permit anger to lie in their bosoms ((Eccl 7:9);
  • The LORD repays the sins of the fathers into the bosoms of their children (Jer 32:18)
  • The word also means the a fold in the garment above the belt where one's hand can rest and where objects are carried (Ex 4:6, 7)

Thus, something in one's bosom was a cherished item and personal, often private thing.

Prov 16:33, being a proverb, is notoriously difficult to translate in order to obtain all the nuances of the original language. Here is a sample that shows the range of meanings:

  • YLT: Into the centre is the lot cast, And from Jehovah is all its judgment!
  • NRSV: The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the LORD’s alone.
  • JPS: The lot is cast into the lap; But the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
  • GNT: People cast lots to learn God's will, but God himself determines the answer.
  • DRB: Lots are cast into the lap, but they are disposed of by the Lord.
  • CEV: We make our own decisions, but the LORD alone determines what happens.
  • LXX (Brenton): All evils come upon the ungodly into their bosoms; but all righteous things come of the Lord.
  • Aramaic in Plain English: Into the breast of the vicious his portion falls; from before LORD JEHOVAH goes forth his judgment.

Thus, the proverb contains much greater truth than a simple English translation. Almost all the above are allowable translations and show the breadth or meaning it contains.

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