Old Testament Prophecies of the Messiah, Casting Lots for Clothing

People Cast Lots for the Clothes of King David and Jesus

Calvary Christian Background

There were many times during David's reign over Israel that enemies sought after his life. And many of those times he was victorious over them. Still other times, he was able to escape from them by hiding in the wilderness, or simply outsmarting his adversaries. But there also were times when David was surrounded by them, and there was no escape. He could feel them closing in on him, and sense the extreme danger that he was in. On one such occasion, the words he wrote in one of his Psalms communicates clearly the contempt that his enemies had for him, in the image of them casting lots for his clothing: “For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18)

For an individual to be surrounded and then overtaken by an enemy was a humiliating defeat. And for the enemy to strip the captive of their clothing was even more humiliating. Then, if the victor stooped so low as to cast lots for their clothing, it became a shameful mark against the captive's value as an individual. At that point, they were no more valued than a common slave. The victor simply saw the clothing as a trophy, evidence of their valiant conquest. This was what David feared the most when he found himself surrounded by his enemies. He did not want to lose his honor as a man, nor lose face before the people as the king of Israel. And yet David was also speaking prophetically of Jesus Christ, the one who fulfilled those words.

As Jesus hung in agony on the cross, He suffered the most humiliating death possible. To be sentenced to crucifixion was the lowest punishment the Romans had to offer. It typically was reserved for the vilest of criminals, as it was bloody, and the victim often took days to die. And while the victim wished for death, bystanders hurled filthy and hateful insults, adding to their misery. But for Jesus, the Roman soldiers added the humiliating act of casting lots for His clothing that he had been stripped of: “They said therefore among themselves, 'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,' that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: 'They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots. Therefore the soldiers did these things.” (John 19:24)

Jesus' clothing was a single piece of cloth woven into a garment from top to bottom. There were no seams in it, unlike other typical garments of that time. As a more uncommon item, it held an even greater value as a trophy for whoever cast the chosen lot. And yet, though it was seen as a highly valued prize, the condition in which it was allotted to the winner was not unspoiled. Rather, it was a bloody mess. It had been stripped from His body just prior to His scourging. And after the Roman soldiers robed Jesus in purple and mocked Him, they removed the robe and put His garment back on His beaten and bloodied body.

It was no casual coincidence that the winning soldier received the garment stained with the blood of the perfect Lamb. It should have represented an exchange; the filthy rags of the unrighteous Gentiles for the bloodstained yet pure robe of righteousness offered by the Son of God. But to the Roman soldiers, it was simply a trophy of their conquest over the reviled Man they mockingly called the King of the Jews. And yet many of the other officials and onlookers treated Jesus' blood with just as much contempt and dishonor that day.

Like David, Jesus did not take pleasure in disgrace. But He subjected Himself to every shame and degradation known to man for the benefit of those who believe in Him. He was laid bare so that the sins of others might be covered. And with His undivided robe of righteousness, He now clothes the forgiven.

Written by: Amy Miller