In our Wednesday study of the Bible in a Year last week, we read the strange story of the death of King Ahab in 1 Kings 22:34:
“A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.”
Did you know that this is the only story in the Bible that uses the word “random”? (It’s told again in 2 Chronicles 18:33 with the exact same word.)
Random is a strange word.
It means “happening without method or conscious decision.” It is impossible to reliably predict a random number.
It is a chaotic word.
The Hebrew word in this story shows up 23 times in the Bible, but only here is it translated random. The word is usually translated integrity, blameless, innocence, full, or upright. Seem strange?
According to the NET Bible, the phrase here literally translated would be “now a man drew a bow in his innocence” (i.e., with no specific target in mind, or at least without realizing his target was the king of Israel).
That’s a little different, don’t you think?
You see, from the archer’s perspective, this was a random occurrence.
A shot went up and came down. He was innocent, in a sense. But it wasn’t random to Ahab. That one-in-a-million shot against the high-value target felt more like divine judgment. And it certainly wasn’t random to God who sees all and knows all.
I’m not sure exactly how God runs this world. I know that Ecclesiastes says that “time and chance” happen to all (Ecclesiastes 9:11). But from God’s perspective, I’m not sure that there is such a thing as random.
I can’t make sense of all the chaos in the universe, but maybe it is comforting to know that it isn’t my job to do that. I trust that God knows what he’s doing. I don’t have to!