What does Proverbs 18:18 mean?
ESV: The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders.
NIV: Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart.
NASB: The cast lot puts an end to quarrels, And decides between the mighty ones.
CSB: Casting the lot ends quarrels and separates powerful opponents.
NLT: Flipping a coin can end arguments; it settles disputes between powerful opponents.
KJV: The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
NKJV: Casting lots causes contentions to cease, And keeps the mighty apart.
Verse Commentary:
The exact nature of lots is unknown, but they were likely something like small pieces of wood or stone. The closest modern equivalent to casting lots is rolling dice or flipping a coin. Often these "lots" were inscribed with names, symbols, or numbers. These were placed in a receptacle or a garment, shaken, and cast. In the ancient world, these were used to solve disputes or to make close decisions. The purpose of using lots was to avoid any perception of human bias (Proverbs 16:33; Joshua 14:2; Jonah 1:7).

The term translated as "quarrels" here can also mean "controversies" or "disagreements." When two sides are strongly opposed, or the consequences of the decision are very high, the only way to reach agreement might be through something like lots, or some other "random" selection process.

Of course, even those things which happen "by chance," from the human point of view (Luke 10:31), are part of God's sovereign control (Psalm 16:5; Proverbs 16:33). Casting lots was used for selecting territories in Canaan for the tribes of Israel (Numbers 26:55; Joshua 15). It chose the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus16:8, 10). Lots were used to pick out priests and Levites for sanctuary service (1 Chronicles 24:5–31; Nehemiah 10:34; Luke 1:8).

Lots were even used to choose a successor to Judas, the betraying disciple who committed suicide (Acts 1:15–19). Before casting lots to determine Judas's successor, the believers prayed for the Lord's direction. Two names were advanced: Barsabbas and Matthias. "The lot fell on Matthias, and was numbered with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:23–26).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 18:16–24 provides practical advice on a variety of matters. Other proverbs in this chapter are echoed in statements about objectivity and unity. Solomon addresses areas such as bribery, quarrels, reconciliation, the power of speech, marriage, and an unfortunate difference between the poor and the rich. The last remark in the section notes the difference between quality and quantity in friendships.
Chapter Summary:
This segment of Solomon's wise sayings includes several well-known and often-repeated remarks. Among these are references to God's "name" as a place of safety, the connection between pride and catastrophe, the value of a godly spouse, and the intimate loyalty of a good friend. As in other parts of the book of Proverbs, these teachings are tied to warnings about the consequences of poor decisions.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 18 continues a long string of wise sayings attributed to Solomon. These began in chapter 10 and will continue through chapter 22. This section contains numerous references to fair-mindedness and seeking out truth from multiple sources. Diligent responsibility—in words, actions, and beliefs—is a notable emphasis in this segment.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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