chance in the Bible

The English word “chance” appears 4 times in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and New King James Version (NKJV) and is translated from the following 4 ancient words.

  1. Hebrew: miqrehמִקְרֶה —translated as “chance” in 1 Samuel 6:9 NASB and NKJV (“it happened to us by chance”)
    ESV translates it as “coincidence”
  2. Hebrew: qaraקָרָא —translated as “chance” in 2 Samuel 1:6 NASB, NKJV and ESV (“I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa”)
  3. Hebrew: pegaפֶגַע —translated as “chance” in Ecclesiastes 9:11 NASB, NKJV and ESV (“time and chance happen to them all”)
  4. Greek: sugkuria or sungkuriaσυγκυρίαν —translated as “chance” in Luke 10:31 NASB, NKJV and ESV (“Now by chance a certain priest came down that road”)

The King James Version has 3 additional occurances of the word “chance” or “chanceth”.

  1. “If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground” —Deuteronomy 22:6 KJV
    NKJV: “If a bird’s nest happens to be before you…”
    NASB: “If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest…”
    ESV: “If you come across a bird's nest…”
  2. “any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night” —Deuteronomy 23:10 KJV
    NKJV: “any man among you who becomes unclean by some occurrence in the night”
    NASB and ESV: “any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission
  3. τυγχάνω —transliteration: tugchanó —meaning: to hit (as in “hit the bullseye”), hit upon, meet, or happen
    KJV: “And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain” —1 Corinthians 15:37 KJV
    NKJV, NASB and ESV translation: “perhaps of wheat”

Divine Sovereignty and Providence

What may appear to be random chance to mankind, may involve divine sovereignty and providence. For example, the meeting of Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch might appear to have been by chance, but it certainly was a meeting arranged by God (Acts 8:26-27).

There is no “chance” in God’s empire. “Chance” is only another word for our lack of knowledge about the way in which one event falls in with another.

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Article Version: September 11, 2019