Sailors of ancient times tended to be very superstitious because of their constant exposure to the dangers of the sea. When a storm struck the ship in which Jonah was escaping from the call of the Lord, they assumed the pagan gods were punishing them because of their displeasure with one person on board.

To find out who this person was, they cast lots-custom similar to rolling dice or drawing straws in modern times. These lots may have been round stones or flat sticks of various lengths. Exactly what they looked like is not known (read Proverbs 18:18).

The casting of lots as a method of decision making is mentioned several times in the Bible (Leviticus 16:8-10; Numbers 33:54; Joshua 14:2; 1 Chronicles 25:8-9; Acts 1:26).

JONAH 1:7 Come, and let us [sailors on Jonah’s ship] cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil [calamity, NIV] is upon us.

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