Thursday, August 26

Ever Hear of the Urim and the Thummim?

Not many have. We do not often hear about what is called the "Urim and the Thummim," because like many other Biblical oddities, it is highly misunderstood, and therefore is not often popularized. In this entry, we will look at a "Biblical Oddity." (Photo credit to:

I always enjoy writing about things found in the Bible that to some are highly controversial, forcing me to do much research, as well as things that are not very well-known. For example, to the average church-goer, how many people could tell you what a Urim and a Thummim is, unless they've looked into it? Well, that's the intention of these type of entries - to inform you, and give insight.

That said, let's investigate. The dictionary's definition says, "objects, possibly made of metal or precious stones and inscribed with symbols, worn in the breastplate [breastpiece] of the high priest and used, perhaps like lots, to determine God's response to a question answerable by 'yes' or 'no.'" Precisely.

The Urim and the Thummim were both stones worn by Priests - they gave a yes/no answer to the people of Israel. When the answer was yes, one stone would light up - literally light up, like a light bulb. If the answer was no, the other would light up - and when the High Priest came out of the Tabernacle, all of Israel could see which was lit - what the answer was.

What does God's Word have to tell us about this fascinating topic? Exodus 28:30 is the first to mention this. Now, God had been giving Israel laws at Mount Sinai - he had just given specifications for The Ark of The Covenant, the Lampstand, The Tabernacle, the Altar, and the Courtyard. Chapter 28 is the specifications for Priestly Garments.

Exodus 28:30 says, "Also put Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord." When Aaron and his Sons were finally ordained in Leviticus 8:8, "[Moses] placed the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece."

When Moses was nearing the end of his life, it was decided that Joshua would succeed Moses. God told Moses to have him ordained by Eleazar. "He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions from him by inquiring of the Urim and Thummim before the Lord." (Numbers 27:21a) Henceforth, the Urim and the Thummim were used by the Levites, the order of the Priests.

The Urim and Thummim are again mentioned in Deuteronomy 33:8. In Judges 1:1, most assume that since Israelites did not directly speak with God, the must have asked using the Urim and the Thummim. However, if the Urim and Thummim only gave yes and no answers, this is probably not the case, however, not improbable.

Consequently, since it was not always used by priests, by the time of David, it was carried in an Ephod. An ephod is "a richly embroidered, apronlike vestment having two shoulder straps and ornamental attachments for securing the breastplate, worn with a waistband by the high priest." (1st Samuel 14:3; 23:9)

The stones are not spoken of until after the Exile. Ezra writes a list of the 42,360 Israelites who had returned form Exile, having been invaded by Babylon years before. Ezra 2:62-63 says, "These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor ordered them not to eat of any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim." Nehemiah 7:65 repeats this passage.

The Urim and the Thummim are not mentioned beyond Nehemiah and Ezra. It is assumed by most scholars that the stones that the stones were lost or destroyed after the time of King David when the Babylonians invaded Israel, Although Hosea, one of the prophets, tells us later on, "For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones [Urim and Thummim], without ephod or household gods." (Hosea 3:4)

Since Ezra and Nehemiah refer to the stone as if it has not existed for quite some time, most Biblical Scholars also agree that the Urim and Thummim had probably lost its use a while before David's rule, since the objects were, in a sense, replaced by the prophets. How can we understand the two stones?

1st Samuel 14:41 says, "Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault, respond with the Thummim,' Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared." Scholars believe this passage to be the key to understanding these objects.

By using objects whose function was made right by God, divination, the attempt is made to identify a sinner through the Urim and Thummim, by continually splitting people into two different groups, proceeding to identify which group contained the sinner. It is believed that the Urim and Thummim were not consulted by the common Israelite, but by people of prominent figures, such as Kings, Generals, the like. The only questions asked were those that would benefit Israel.

The Urim and Thummim are also used by the Mormon Religion. Joseph Smith Jr, was is the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Smith claimed that an angel named Moroni told him about "Golden Plates," containing the Urim and Thummim. While some Mormons claim that their beliefs are based on the Bible, that claim is not held, as The Book of the Mormon compared alongside God's Word is, bluntly, factitious.

What do "Urim" and "Thummim" mean? Urim and Thummim can be translated as "Light and Perfection." Urim also means doctrina, or revelation, whereas Thummim also means veritas, the latin word for truth. So, "Doctrine and Truth," or "Revelation and Truth."

On another note, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, in order for the Urim and Thummim to give an answer, it was first necessary for the individual asking the question to stand facing the high priest, fully dressed, and vocalize the question briefly and in a simple way, although it wasn't exactly necessary for it to be loud enough for anyone else to hear the question.

Whatever the case may be, we can understand that these objects were held in great importance from the time of Moses to the time of King David. Where are they now? Destroyed, perhaps, or lost. We may never discover, on this side of life.I pray that this entry of "The Truth" has been informative and insightful. You can email or visit the facebook page if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. Take Care - and God Bless. Troy Hillman

1 comment:

  1. You are mistaken... the Urim and Thummim are disclosed first in Exodus 28... they were to be placed next to the heart of the priest behind the breastplate.