Urim And Thummim

From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

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 יהוה , 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,   1 Samuel 23:9;  1 Samuel 23:11;  1 Samuel 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   Proverbs 16:33;  Proverbs 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  Joshua 7:14-18 ,  1 Samuel 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,  1 Kings 6:16 , because there the Lord communed with Moses, face to face, and gave him instructions in cases of legal difficulty or sudden emergency,  Exodus 25:22;  Numbers 7:89;  Numbers 9:8;  Exodus 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,  Exodus 28:30-37;  Leviticus 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,  Numbers 27:21 , as in the case of  Joshua 6:6-15; of the Israelites during the civil war with Benjamin,  Judges 20:27-28; on the appointment of Saul to be king, when he hid himself,  1 Samuel 10:22-24; of David,  1 Samuel 22:10;  1 Samuel 23:2-12;  1 Samuel 30:8;  2 Samuel 5:23-24; of Saul,  1 Samuel 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  1 Kings 11:29; by Shemaiah to Rehoboam,  1 Kings 12:22; by Elijah to Ahab,  1 Kings 17:1;  1 Kings 21:17-29; by Michaiah to Ahab and Jehoshaphat,  1 Kings 22:7; by Elisha to Jehoshaphat and Jehoram,  2 Kings 3:11-14; by Isaiah to Hezekiah,  2 Kings 19:6-34;  2 Kings 20:1-11; by Huldah to Josiah,  2 Kings 22:13-20; by Jeremiah to Zedekiah,  Jeremiah 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  Ezra 2:63 , and accomplished by Christ, who was himself the oracle, under the old and new covenants,  Genesis 15:1;  John 1:1 . See Breastplate .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Urim And Thummim . 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’ (  Exodus 28:36 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). This rendering or rather, taking the words as abstract plurals, ‘Light and Perfection’ seems to reflect the views of the late Jewish scholars to whom we owe the present vocalization of the OT text; but the oldest reference to the sacred lot suggests that the words express two sharply contrasted ideas. Hence if Thummim , as most believe, denotes ‘innocence,’ Urim should denote ‘guilt’ a sense which some would give it by connecting it with the verb meaning ‘to curse.’ Winckler and his followers, on the other hand, start from ‘light’ as the meaning of Urim , and interpret Thummim as ‘darkness’ (the completion of the sun’s course). ‘Urim and Thummim are life and death, yes and no, light and darkness’ (A. Jeremias, Das AT [Note: Altes Testament.] im Lichte d. alt. Orient 8:2, 450; cf. Benzinger, Heb. Arch . 2 459 f.). There is thus a wide divergence among scholars as to the original signification of the words.

As to the precise nature of these mysterious objects there also exists a considerable, though less marked, divergence of opinion, notwithstanding the numerous recent investigations by British, American, and Continental scholars, of which the two latest are those by Kautzsch in Hauck’s PRE [Note: RE Real-Encykl. für protest. Theol. und Kirche] 3xx. 328 336 [1907], with literature to date, and M’Neile, The Book of Exodus [1908], 181 184. The most instructive, as it is historically the oldest, passage dealing with Urim and Thummim is   1 Samuel 14:41 f., as preserved in the fuller Greek text. The latter runs thus: ‘And Saul said, O J″ [Note: Jahweh.] God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? If the iniquity be in me or in my son Jonathan, J″ [Note: Jahweh.] God of Israel, give Urim; but if thou sayest thus. The Iniquity is in thy people Israel, give Thummim. And Saul and Jonathan were taken, but the people escaped,’ etc. Now, if this passage be compared with several others in the older narratives of Samuel, e.g .   1 Samuel 23:2-4;   1 Samuel 30:7-8 ,   2 Samuel 2:1 , where mention is made of ‘enquiring of the Lord’ by means of the sacred lot associated with the ephod, the following points emerge: (1) There is good reason, as most scholars admit, for believing that the Urim and Thummim were two lots closely connected in some way, no longer intelligible, with the equally mysterious ephod. (2) As the lots were only two in number, only one question could be put at a time, capable of being answered by a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ according to the lot which ‘came out.’ (3) When, as was the case in   1 Samuel 14:1-52 , the situation was more complicated, it was necessary to agree beforehand as to the significance to be attached to the two lots.

As to the material, shape, etc., of the two lots and the precise method of their manipulation, we are left to conjecture. It seems, on the whole, the most probable view that they were two small stones, either in the shape of dice or in tablet form, perhaps also of different colours. Others, including Kautzsch ( op. cit .), favour the view that they were arrows, on the analogy of a well-known Babylonian and Arabian method of divination (cf.   Ezekiel 21:21 ). In addition to the two alternatives above considered, it may be inferred from   1 Samuel 28:6 that neither lot might be cast. Were they contained within the hollow ephod-image, which was provided with a narrow aperture, so that it was possible to shake the image and yet neither lot ‘come out’? (The lot is technically said ‘to fall or come out,’ the latter   Joshua 16:1 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ,   Joshua 19:1 , etc.) The early narratives above cited show that the manipulation of the sacred lot was a special prerogative of the priests, as is expressly stated in   Deuteronomy 33:8 (cf. LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ), where the Divine Urim and Thummim are assigned to the priestly tribe of Levi, and confirmed by   Ezra 2:63 =   Nehemiah 7:65 .

In the Priests’ Code the Urim and Thummim are introduced in  Exodus 28:30 ,   Leviticus 8:8 ,   Numbers 27:21 , but without the slightest clue as to their nature beyond the inference as to their small size, to be drawn from the fact that they were to be inserted in the high priest’s ‘ breastplate of judgment ’ (see Breastplate). But this is merely an attempt on the part of the Priestly writer to divest these ‘old-world mysteries’ of their association with ideas of divination now outgrown, and, moreover, forbidden by the Law. It is, besides, doubtful if P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] was acquainted, any more than ourselves, with the Urim and Thummim of the Books of Samuel, for the passage above cited from Ezr.-Neh. shows that they were unknown in the post-exilic period. In specially placing them within ‘the breastplate of judgment,’ it is not impossible that P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] was influenced by the analogy of the Babylonian ‘tablets of destiny’ worn by Marduk on his breast, but the further position that these ‘and the Urim and Thummim were originally one and the same’ (Muss-Arnoit, Urim and Thummim , 213 and passim ), as has been recently maintained, has yet to be proved.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [3]

The terms "Urim" and "Thummim" have traditionally been understood as "light(s)" and "perfection(s)" or as "perfect light." The Urim and Thummim were a means of revelation entrusted to the high priest. No description of them is given. This oracular means apparently consisted of a material object or objects since it was physically stored in the breastpiece of the high priest ( Exodus 28:30;  Leviticus 8:8 ). Most scholars today think that the Urim and Thummim were a lot oracle, but this is by no means certain.

Besides being mentioned by their full name ( Exodus 28:30;  Leviticus 8:8;  Ezra 2:63;  Nehemiah 7:65; in reverse order with possessives,  Deuteronomy 33:8 ), the Urim and Thummim could also be referred to by Urim alone ( Numbers 27:21;  1 Samuel 28:6 ). Sometimes the mention of the ephod (on which the breastpiece housing the Urim and Thummim were fastened) includes a reference to the Urim and Thummim ( 1 Samuel 23:9-12;  30:7-8 ). Also the verb "inquire of" followed by "the Lord" or "God" when no means of revelation is specified refers to a usage of the Urim and Thummim.

The Urim and Thummim were used at critical moments in the history of God's people when special divine guidance was needed. The civil leader was expected to make use of this means for all important matters for which he needed direction. Although referred to in  Ezra 2:63 and   Nehemiah 7:65 , there is no convincing evidence that the Urim and Thummim were used after the time of David.

The reason for the demise of the Urim and Thummim is not explicitly given. Since the Urim and Thummim, in whatever way they functioned, were a physical means of revelation, it appears that God was taking his people away from the easy certainty inherent in a mechanical means of revelation to the more consistent use of prophecy and the Word alone. This would require the more difficult application of the norms for true and false prophecy ( Deuteronomy 13:1-4;  18:20-22 ) and thus necessitate a faithful teaching priesthood ( Deuteronomy 33:10;  Malachi 2:7 ).

Although the lot theory has wide support today, there are significant difficulties with so identifying the Urim and Thummim. It is questionable whether the key evidence, the Greek text of  1 Samuel 14:41 , is really to be preferred over the Hebrew text. Also, the vocabulary of lot casting is not used, and the answers contain more information than the casting of lots could yield (5:23-24). This last point suggests the involvement of prophecy and the divine inspiration of the high priest in giving revelation. It can also be noted that the use of the actual object(s) constituting the Urim and Thummim appears to have been self-authenticating. Even in extremely difficult circumstances, the guidance of the Urim and Thummim is followed ( Judges 20:18-28 ). It could be theorized that a perfect light that miraculously shone from the gem(s) constituting the Urim and Thummim (which belonged to God,  Deuteronomy 33:8 ) gave the needed authentication to the actual answer spoken by the high priest under divine inspiration. In this way the judgment of the Urim, the light, may have been given ( Numbers 27:21 ). Such authentication would not have been out of place in Old Testament times when special signs were provided more often.

Cornelis Van Dam

See also Priesthood Priest; Idea Of Revelation

Bibliography . C. Van Dam, ISBE, 4:957-59.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

(See High Priest; Ephod ) ("lights and perfections".) The article "the" before each shows their distinctness. In  Deuteronomy 33:8 the order is reversed "thy Thummim and thy Urim." Urim is alone in  Numbers 27:21;  1 Samuel 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 ( Exodus 28:15-30;  Leviticus 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" ( Numbers 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 ( Deuteronomy 33:8-9).

In  Ezra 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  Hosea 3:4;  Judges 17:5;  Judges 18:14;  Judges 18:20;  Judges 18:30, the unlawful substitute for Urim (compare  1 Samuel 15:23 "idolatry," Hebrew teraphim; and  2 Kings 23:24, margin). Speaker's Commentary thinks that lots were the mode of consultation, as in  Acts 1:26;  Proverbs 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  Revelation 2:17 the "white stone" with the "new name written" corresponds, belonging to all believers, the New Testament king-priests. Compare  Genesis 44:5;  Genesis 44:15;  Psalms 43:5, "send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead me."

Also  1 Samuel 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 ( 1 Samuel 23:6-9;  1 Samuel 28:6;  2 Samuel 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 ( 1 Samuel 9:9).

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

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."  Ezra 2:63;  Nehemiah 7:65. 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 means "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. Inside the breastplate, as the tables of the covenant were placed inside the ark,  Exodus 25:16;  Exodus 28:30, 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.  Exodus 28:15-30. 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.  Leviticus 8:8.

They pass from Aaron to Eleazar with the sacred ephod and other pontificalia.  Numbers 20:28. 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.  Numbers 27:21. 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."  Deuteronomy 33:8-9.

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,  1 Samuel 14:3;  1 Samuel 14:18-19;  1 Samuel 23:2;  1 Samuel 23:4;  1 Samuel 23:9;  1 Samuel 23:11-12;  1 Samuel 28:6;  Judges 20:28;  2 Samuel 5:23 etc., to suppose that the answer was given simply by the word of the Lord to the high priest, compare  John 11:51 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.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

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."  Leviticus 8:8 . It is clear that God answered questions by means of the Urim and Thummim.  Numbers 27:21;  Deuteronomy 33:8;  1 Samuel 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.  Ezra 2:63;  Nehemiah 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  Exodus 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 — if indeed they were material things; but what they were, and how the answers were given, is not revealed. When Israel is restored, Christ Himself will take the place of the ancient Urim and Thummim.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [7]

It seems that the Urim and Thummim were small objects that the Israelite high priest kept in the flat pouch (or breastpiece) that he wore on the front of his clothing. They were used to find out God’s will in matters requiring a clear-cut decision.

In seeking God’s will through the Urim and Thummim, the priest put a question to God in a form that required an answer of either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. He then took the Urim and Thummim out of the breastpiece to find out the answer. God may have said ‘yes’, ‘no’, or nothing at all ( Exodus 28:15-30;  Numbers 27:21;  1 Samuel 14:41;  1 Samuel 23:9-12;  1 Samuel 28:6;  1 Samuel 30:7-8;  Ezra 2:63;  Nehemiah 7:65). (Compare, for example, the drawing of two identical coins out of a pouch. Two ‘heads’ means ‘yes’; two ‘tails’ means ‘no’; a ‘head’ and a ‘tail’ means ‘no answer’.)

Holman Bible Dictionary [8]

 Exodus 28:15-30 Deuteronomy 33:8 Numbers 27:18-23 1 Samuel 14:41-45 1 Samuel 28:6-25

The ultimate fate of the Urim and Thummim is unknown. In Nehemiah's time, expectation continued that someday a priest would arise with Urim and Thummim ( Ezra 2:63;  Nehemiah 7:65 ). This probably refers to the ability to receive an answer from the Lord, however, rather than a return of the lots given to Aaron. See Oracles; Lots; High Priest .

Albert Bean

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [9]

(light and perfection, ) among the ancient Hebrews, a certain oracular manner of consulting God, which was done by the high priest, dressed in his robes, and having on his pectoral, or breast-plate. There have been a variety of opinions respecting the Urim and Thummim, and after all we cannot determine what they were. The use made of them was, to consult God in difficult cases relating to the whole state of Israel, and sometimes in cases relating to the king, the sanhedrim, the general of the army, or some other great personage.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Urim and Thummim'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/u/urim-and-thummim.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

ū´rim and thum´im ( והתּמּים האוּרים , - 'ūrı̄m weha - tummı̄m (article omitted in   Ezra 2:63;  Nehemiah 7:65 ); perhaps "light and perfection," as intensive plurals):

1. Definition:

Articles not specifically described, placed in (next to, or on (Hebrew 'el  ; Septuagint epı́  ; Samaritan-Hebrew ‛al )) the high priest's breastplate, called the "breast-plate of decision" (English Versions of the Bible, "judgment"). (  Exodus 28:30;  Leviticus 8:8 ). Their possession was one of the greatest distinctions conferred upon the priestly family ( Deuteronomy 33:8; Ecclesiasticus 45:10), and seems to have been connected with the function of the priests as the mouthpiece of Yahweh, as well as with the ceremonial side of the service ( Exodus 28:30; compare Arabic kahı̄n , "soothsayer").

2. Use in the Old Testament:

Through their use, the nature of which is a matter of conjecture, the divine will was sought in national crises, and apparently the future foretold, guilt or innocence established, and, according to one theory, land divided ( Bābhā' Bathrā' 122a; Sanhedrin 16a). Thus, Joshua was to stand before Eleazar who was to inquire for him after the judgment (decision) of the Urim (  Numbers 27:21 ). It seems that this means was employed by Joshua in the matter of Achan ( Joshua 7:14 ,  Joshua 7:18 ) and overlooked in the matter of the Gibeonites ( Joshua 9:14 ). Though not specifically mentioned, the same means is in all probability referred to in the accounts of the Israelites consulting Yahweh after the death of Joshua in their warfare ( Judges 1:1 ,  Judges 1:2;  Judges 20:18 ,  Judges 20:26-28 ). The Danites in their migration ask counsel of a priest, perhaps in a similar manner ( Judges 18:5 ,  Judges 18:7 ). It is not impossible that even the prophet Samuel was assisted by the Urim in the selection of a king ( 1 Samuel 10:20-22 ). During Saul's war with the Philistines, he made inquiry of God with the aid of the priest ( 1 Samuel 14:36 ,  1 Samuel 14:37 ), Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, who at that time wore the ephod ( 1 Samuel 14:3 ). Although on two important occasions Yahweh refused to answer Saul through the Urim ( 1 Samuel 14:37;  1 Samuel 28:6 ), it appears (from the Septuagint version of  1 Samuel 14:41; see below) that he Used the Urim and Thummim successfully in ascertaining the cause of the divine displeasure. The accusation of Doeg and the answer of the high priest ( 1 Samuel 22:10 ,  1 Samuel 22:13 ,  1 Samuel 22:15 ) suggest that David began to inquire of Yahweh through the priesthood, even while he was an officer of Saul. After the massacre of the priests in Nob, Abiathar fled to the camp of David ( 1 Samuel 22:20 ), taking with him the ephod (including apparently the Urim and Thummim,  1 Samuel 23:6 ) which David used frequently during his wanderings ( 1 Samuel 23:2-4 ,  1 Samuel 23:9-12;  1 Samuel 30:7 ,  1 Samuel 30:8 ), and also after the death of Saul ( 2 Samuel 2:1;  2 Samuel 5:19 ,  2 Samuel 5:23;  2 Samuel 21:1 ). After the days of David, prophecy was in the ascendancy, and, accordingly, we find no clear record of the use of the Urim and Thummim in the days of the later kings (compare, however,  Hosea 3:4; Ecclesiasticus 33:3). Still, in post-exilic times we find the difficult question of the ancestral right of certain priests to eat of the most holy things reserved till there would stand up a priest with Urim and with Thummim ( Ezra 2:63;  Nehemiah 7:65; 1 Esdras 5:40; Ṣōtāh 48b).

3. Older (Traditional) Views:

Though Josephus sets the date for the obsolescence of the Urim and Thummim at 200 years before his time, in the days of John Hyrcanus ( Ant. , III, viii, 9), the Talmud reckons the Urim and Thummim among the things lacking in the second Temple ( Ṣōtāh 9 10; Yōmā' 21b; Yeru Ḳid . 65b). Both Josephus and the Talmud identify the Urim and Thummim with the stones of the breastplate. The former simply states that the stones shone whenever the shekhı̄nāh was present at a sacrifice or when the army proceeded to battle.

"God declared beforehand by those twelve stones which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone forth from them before the army began to march, that all the people were sensible of God's being present for their assistance" ( Ant. , III, viii, 9).

The Talmudic explanation suggests that by the illumination of certain letters the divine will was revealed, and that in order to have a complete alphabet, in addition to the names of the tribes, the breastplate bore the names of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. and the words shibhṭē yeshūrun . A later scholar even suggests that the letters moved from their places to form words ( Yōmā' 73a,b). Characteristically enough the Talmud prescribes rules and suggestions for the consultation of the non-existing Urim and Thummim: that the one asking must be a man of public importance, that the question must pertain to the public weal; that the priest must face the shekhı̄nāh (west); that one question be asked at a time, and so forth (same place).

It is difficult to tell just how much, if anything, of a lingering tradition is reflected in the view that the Urim and Thummim and stones of the breast-plate were identical. In the absence of other ancient clues, however, it is not safe to reject even the guesses of the Jews of the second temple in favor of our own. We do not even know the meaning of the word ḥōshen , so confidently translated "pouch" or "receptacle" by opponents of the older view, without any basis whatever. On the other hand the theory of identification was widespread. Even Philo leans toward it in his De Monarchia , although in his Vita Mosis (iii) he seems to have in mind two small symbols representing Light and Truth embroidered on the cloth of the ḥōshen or hung round the neck of the high priest, similar to the Egyptian symbol of justice. Another very old view is that the Urim and Thummim consisted of a writing containing the Ineffable Name (Pseudo-Jonathan on   Exodus 28:20; compare Rashi and Nachmanides at the place).

4. Recent (Critical) Views:

The view most generally held today is that the Urim and Thummim were two sacred lots, one indicating an affirmative or favorable answer, the other a negative or unfavorable answer (Michaelis, Ewald, Wellhausen, Robertson Smith, Driver, G. F. Moore, Kennedy, Muss-Arnolt). The chief support of this view is found, not in the Massoretic Text, but in the reconstruction by Wellhausen and Driver of  1 Samuel 14:41 ff on the basis of the Septuagint: "If this fault be in me or in Jonathan, my son, give Urim ( dós dḗlous ), and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim ( dós hosiótēta )." The following sentence clearly suggests the casting of lots, possibly lots on which the names of Saul and Jonathan were written, and "Jonathan" was taken. Efforts have been made to support the view that the Urim and Thummim themselves were sacred lots on the basis of analogous customs among other peoples (e.g. pre-Islamic Arabs (Moore in EB ) andBabylonians (W. Muss-Arnolt in Jewish Encyclopedia and AJSL , July, 1900)). It must be borne in mind, however, that whatever the lot-theory has to recommend it, it is inconsistent not only with the post-Biblical traditions, but also with the Biblical data. For those who are not inclined to give much weight to the passages connecting the Urim and Thummim with the high priest's apparel ( Exodus 28:30;  Leviticus 8:8 , both "P"), there is of course no difficulty in dissociating the two, in spite of the fact that for the use of this system of divination the one thing necessary in the historical passages on which they rely seems to be the ephod. Still, if we are to think of two lots, one called and possibly marked "Urim" and the other "Thummim," it is difficult to get any meaning from the statement ( 1 Samuel 14:37;  1 Samuel 28:6 ) that Yahweh did not answer Saul on certain occasions, unless indeed we surmise for the occasion the existence of a third nameless blank lot. A more serious difficulty arises from the fact that the answers ascribed to the Urim and Thummim are not always the equivalent of "yes" or "no" (compare  Judges 1:2;  Judges 20:18;  1 Samuel 22:10;  2 Samuel 5:23;  2 Samuel 21:1 ), even if we omit from consideration the instances where an individual is apparently pointed out from all Israel (compare the instances of the detection of Achan and the selection of Saul with that of Jonathan, above).

5. Etymology:

If we turn to etymology for assistance, we are not only on uncertain ground, but when Babylonian and other foreign words are brought in to bolster up a theory abput anything so little understood as the Urim and Thummim, we are on dangerous ground. Thus, Muss-Arnolt is ready with Babylonian words ( urtu , "command," and tamı̄tu , "oracular decision"); others suggest tmē , the Egyptian image of justice; still others connect Urim with 'ārar , to curse," in order to make it an antonym of tummı̄m , "faultlessness." It is generally admitted, however, that, as pointed in the Massoretic Text, the words mean "light" and "perfection," on the basis of which the Talmud ( Yōmā' 73b) as well as most of the Greek versions translated them ( dḗlōsis kaı́ alḗtheia  ; phōtismoı́ kaı́ teleiótētes ), although Symmachus in one place (  Deuteronomy 33:8 ), who is followed by the Vulgate, connects Urim with the word Tōrāh and understands it to mean "doctrine" ( teleiótēs kaı́ didachḗ ). Though loth to add to the already overburdened list of conjectures about these words, it appears to the present writer that if Urim and Thummim are antonyms, and Urim means "light," it is by no means difficult to connect Thummim with darkness, inasmuch as there is a host of Hebrew stems based on the root - tm , all indicating concealing, closing up, and even darkness (compare אטם , חטם , חתם , עתם , טמה , טמן ( see  Job 40:13 ), סתם and תמם even and cognate Arabic words in BDB ). This explanation would make Urim and Thummim mean "illuminated" and "dark" (compare Caster in Hastings, ERE , IV, 813), and, while fitting well with the ancient theories or traditions, would not be excluded by the recent theory of lots of opposite purport.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [12]

Two ornaments attached to the breastplate of the Jewish high-priest which, when consulted by him, at times gave mysteriously oracular responses.