Reference: Urim And Thummim
(See HIGH PRIEST; EPHOD.) ("lights and perfections".) The article "the" before each shows their distinctness. In De 33:8 the order is reversed "thy Thummim and thy Urim." Urim is alone in Nu 27:21; 1Sa 28:6 Saul is answered neither by dreams nor by Urim. Thummim is never by itself. Inside the high priest's breast-plate were placed the Urim and Thummim when he went in before the Lord (Ex 28:15-30; Le 8:8). Mentioned as already familiar to Moses and the people. Joshua, when desiring counsel to guide Israel, was to "stand before Eleazar the priest, who should ask it for him after the judgment of Urim before Jehovah" (Nu 27:21). Levi's glory was "thy Thummim and thy Urim are with thy Holy One," i.e. with Levi as representing, the whole priestly and Levitical stock sprung from him (De 33:8-9).
In Ezr 2:63 finally those who could not prove their priestly descent were excluded from the priesthood "till there should stand up a priest with Urim and Thummim." Theteraphim apparently were in Ho 3:4; Jg 17:5; 18:14,20,30, the unlawful substitute for Urim (compare 1Sa 15:23 "idolatry," Hebrew teraphim; and 2Ki 23:24, margin). Speaker's Commentary thinks that lots were the mode of consultation, as in Ac 1:26; Pr 16:33. More probably stones with Jehovah's name and attributes, "lights" and "perfections," engraven on them were folded within the ephod. By gazing at them the high priest with ephod on, before the Lord, was absorbed in heavenly ecstatic contemplation and by God was enabled to declare the divine will.
The Urim and Thummim were distinct from the 12 stones, and were placed within the folds of the double choshen. Philo says that the high priest's breast-plate was made strong in order that he might wear as an image the two virtues which his office needed. So the Egyptian judge used to wear the two figures of Thmei (corresponding to Thummim), truth and justice; over the heart of mummies of priests too was a symbol of light (answering to Urim). No image was tolerated on the Hebrew high priest; but in his choshen the white diamond or rock crystal engraven with "Jehovah," to which in Re 2:17 the "white stone" with the "new name written" corresponds, belonging to all believers, the New Testament king-priests. Compare Ge 44:5,15; Ps 43:5, "send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead me."
Also 1Sa 14:19. Never after David are the ephod and its Urim and Thummim and breast-plate used in consulting Jehovah. Abiathar is the last priest who uses it (1Sa 23:6-9; 28:6; 2Sa 21:1). The higher revelation by prophets superseded the Urim and Thummim. Music then, instead of visions, became the help to the state of prayer and praise in which prophets revealed God's will (1Sa 9:9).
These denote the two essential parts of the sacred oracle by which in early times the Hebrews sought to ascertain the will of God. Our OT Revisers give as their meaning 'the Lights and the Perfections' (Ex 28:36 Revised Version margin). This rendering
The signification of these Hebrew words is 'lights' and 'perfections.' They were distinct from the gems on the breastplate, for Moses put the breastplate upon Aaron, "also he put in or 'on' the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim." Le 8:8. It is clear that God answered questions by means of the Urim and Thummim. Nu 27:21; De 33:8; 1Sa 28:6. On the return of the Jews from Babylon some, who claimed to be priests but could not show their genealogy, were not allowed to eat of the holy things until there should stand up a priest with Urim and Thummim, and an answer be obtained from God. This great privilege has never yet been restored. Ezr 2:63; Ne 7:65.
It may be remarked that there is no record as to the construction of the Urim and Thummim, nor of their form. The first mention of them is in Ex 28:30; "Thou shalt put in or 'on' the breastplate of judgement the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart when he goeth in before the Lord," as if God had given them to Moses, and had merely to tell him what to do with them
U'rim and Thum'mim
(light and perfection). When the Jewish exiles were met on their return from Babylon by a question which they had no data for answering, they agreed to postpone the settlement of the difficulty till there should rise up "a priest with Urim and Thummim."
The inquiry what those Urim and Thummim themselves were seems likely to wait as long for a final and satisfying answer. On every side we meet with confessions of ignorance. Urim means "light," and Thummim "perfection." Scriptural statements. --The mysterious words meet us for the first time, as if they needed no explanation, in the description of the high Priest's apparel. Over the ephod there is to be a "breastplate of judgment" of gold, scarlet, purple and fine linen, folded square and doubled, a "span" in length and width. In it are to be set four rows of precious stones, each stone with the name of a tribe of Israel engraved on it, that Aaron "may bear them on his heart." Then comes a further order. In side the breastplate, as the tables of the covenant were placed inside the ark,
are to be placed "the Urim and the Thummim," the light and the perfection; and they too are to be on Aaron's heart when he goes in before the Lord.
Not a word describes them. They are mentioned as things-already familiar both to Moses and the people, connected naturally with the functions of the high priest as mediating between Jehovah and his people. The command is fulfilled.
They pass from Aaron to Eleazar with the sacred ephod and other pontificalia.
When Joshua is solemnly appointed to succeed the great hero-law-giver he is bidden to stand before Eleazar, the priest, "who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim," and this counsel is to determine the movements of the host of Israel.
In the blessings of Moses they appear as the crowning glory of the tribe of Levi: "thy Thummim and thy Urim are with thy Holy One."
In what way the Urim and Thummim were consulted is quite uncertain. Josephus and the rabbins supposed that the stones gave out the oracular answer by preternatural illumination; but it seems to be far simpler and more in agreement with the different accounts of inquiries made by Urim and Thummim,
etc., to suppose that the answer was given simply by the word of the Lord to the high priest comp.
when, clothed with the ephod and the breastplate, he had inquired of the Lord. Such a view agrees with the true notion of the breastplate.
URIM AND THUMMIM. The high priests of the Jews, we are told, consulted God in the most important affairs of their commonwealth, and received answers by the Urim and Thummim. What these were, is disputed among the critics. Josephus, and some others, imagine the answer was returned by the stones of the breastplate appearing with an unusual lustre when it was favourable, or in the contrary case dim. Others suppose, that the Urim and Thummim were something enclosed between the folding of the breastplate; this some will have to be the tetragrammaton, or the word ????, Jehovah. Christophorus de Castro, and after him Dr. Spencer, maintain them to be two little images shut up in the doubling of the breastplate, which gave the oracular answer from thence by an articulate voice. Accordingly, they derive them from the Egyptians, who consulted their lares, and had an oracle, or teraphim, which they called Truth. This opinion, however, has been sufficiently confuted by the learned Dr. Pococke and by Witsius. The more common opinion among Christians concerning the oracle by Urim and Thummim, and which Dr. Prideaux espouses, is, that when the high priest appeared before the veil, clothed with his ephod and breastplate, to ask counsel of God, the answer was given with an audible voice from the mercy seat, within the veil; but, it has been observed, that this account will by no means agree with the history of David's consulting the oracle by Abiathar, 1Sa 23:9,11; 30:7-8; because the ark, on which was the mercy seat, was then at Kirjathjearim; whereas David was in the one case at Ziklag, and in the other in the forest of Hareth. Braunius and Hottinger have adopted another opinion: they suppose, that, when Moses is commanded to put in the breastplate the Urim and Thummim, signifying lights and perfections in the plural number, it was meant that he should make choice of the most perfect set of stones, and have them so polished as to give the brightest lustre; and, on this hypothesis, the use of the Urim and Thummim, or of these exquisitely polished jewels, was only to be a symbol of the divine presence, and of the light and perfection of the prophetic inspiration; and, as such, constantly to be worn by the high priest in the exercise of his sacred function, especially in consulting the oracle.
Michaelis observes: That in making distributions of property, and in cases of disputes relative to meum [mine] and tuum, [thine,] recourse was had to the lot, in default of any other means of decision, will naturally be supposed. The whole land was partitioned by lot; and that, in after times, the lot continued to be used, even in courts of justice, we see from Pr 16:33; 18:18; where we are expressly taught to remember, that it is Providence which maketh the choice, and that therefore we ought to be satisfied with the decision of the lot, as the will of God. It was for judicial purposes, in a particular manner, that the sacred lot called Urim and Thummim was employed; and on this account the costly embroidered pouch, in which the priest carried this sacred lot on his breast, was called the judicial ornament. "But was this sacred lot used likewise in criminal trials?" Yes, says Michaelis, only to discover the guilty, to convict them; for in the only two instances of its use in such cases which occur in the whole Bible, namely, in Jos 7:14-18; 1Sa 14:37-45, we find the confessions of the two delinquents, Achan and Jonathan, annexed. It appears also to have been used only in the case of an oath being transgressed which the whole people had taken, or the leader of the host in their name, but not in the case of other crimes; for an unknown murder, for example, was not to be discovered by recourse to the sacred lot.
The inner sanctuary, within the veil of the tabernacle, observes Dr. Hales, or most holy place, was called the oracle, 1Ki 6:16, because there the Lord communed with Moses, face to face, and gave him instructions in cases of legal difficulty or sudden emergency, Ex 25:22; Nu 7:89; 9:8; Ex 33:11; a high privilege granted to none of his successors. After the death of Moses a different mode was appointed for consulting the oracle by the high priest, who put on "the breastplate of judgment," a principal part of the pontifical dress, on which were inscribed the words Urim and Thummim, emblematieal of divine illumination; as the inscription on his mitre, "Holiness to the Lord," was of sanctification, Ex 28:30-37; Le 8:8. Thus prepared, he presented himself before the Lord to ask counsel on public matters, not in the inner sanctuary, which he presumed not to enter, except on the great day of national atonement, but without the veil, with his face toward the ark of the covenant, inside; and behind him, at some distance, without the sanctuary, stood Joshua, the judge, or person who wanted the response, which seems to have been given with an audible voice from within the veil, Nu 27:21, as in the case of Jos 6:6-15; of the Israelites during the civil war with Benjamin, Jg 20:27-28; on the appointment of Saul to be king, when he hid himself, 1Sa 10:22-24; of David, 1Sa 22:10; 23:2-12; 30:8; 2Sa 5:23-24; of Saul, 1Sa 28:6. This mode of consultation subsisted under the tabernacle erected by Moses in the wilderness, and until the building of Solomon's temple; after which we find no instances of it. The oracles of the Lord were thenceforth delivered by the prophets; as by Ahijah to Jeroboam 1Ki 11:29; by Shemaiah to Rehoboam, 1Ki 12:22; by Elijah to Ahab, 1Ki 17:1; 21:17-29; by Michaiah to Ahab and Jehoshaphat, 1Ki 22:7; by Elisha to Jehoshaphat and Jehoram, 2Ki 3:11-14; by Isaiah to Hezekiah, 2Ki 19:6-34; 20:1-11; by Huldah to Josiah, 2Ki 22:13-20; by Jeremiah to Zedekiah, Jer 32:3-5, &c. After the Babylonish captivity, and the last of the prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the oracle ceased; but its revival was foretold by Ezr 2:63, and accomplished by Christ, who was himself the oracle, under the old and new covenants, Ge 15:1; Joh 1:1. See BREASTPLATE.