Chapter 16: Beneath the Surface

16:6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.

      "Atonement" is a concept central to the Bible story – Old and New Testaments – and is frequently mentioned, although not generally by this term. The range of translations offers a sense to the meaning of this Hebrew word: to ransom, to propitiate, to pacify, to appease, to reconcile, to purge, to pardon, to forgive, to make amends, to release, to remove guilt, to annul.
      In the Bible, atonement was a big deal and was tied to the shedding of blood – to death. In order to atone for something – to really address it and deal with it – something had to die, and generally it was something else other than the perpetrator. Thus sacrifices on the altar at God's House could "atone" for the sins of perpetrator – a guilty but honest Israelite.
      At its root, the word carries the idea of "covering over" something. If it is covered, it is no longer exposed or even appears anymore. It has been changed from its original state to a new one. That's what Jesus did for us. His death and resurrection covered our sins – as well as all those other things just mentioned above. That will change everything about us!

16:15 When a king's face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

      In the Biblical world, it hardly ever rained from April through October. Admittedly, in a decade of excavating in Israel during the spring and fall, I have seen an occasional sprinkle during those months – and even one small shower. But none would have offered any help to crops.
      The former (early) rain started at the end of October and that softened the ground so farmers could plow and plant their annual grain. The later rain brought those plants to full maturity, helping secure a bountiful harvest. Even a cloud in the spring – as the later rain was ending – brought hope for an ancient Israelite.

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

      Casting lots (see 18:18) is known today by two English words: cleromancy (or kleromancy) from the New Testament Greek word kleros ("lot"); and sortition from the Latin word sortis ("lot"). Two Old Testament Hebrew words are often translated "lots." The most common word goral ("pebble") is the one used here (and in 18:18: see note there).
      The practice of casting lots is mentioned seventy times in the Old Testament and seven times in the New Testament. In spite of all these references, we know virtually nothing about the actual lots, themselves. Presumably they were sticks of various lengths, inscribed pottery sherds or flat stones.
      Apparently the process involved a "yes" or "no" answer. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.