Urim and Thummin

Q. What are the Urim and the Thummim and what is their significance? What about the ephod? What do they look like?

A. The term “Urim and Thummim” appears only 7 times in the Bible:

1. Ex 28:30 Also put the Urim and the 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.
2. Lev 8:8 He placed the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece.
3. Num 27:21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”
4. Deut 33:8 About Levi he said: “Your Thummim and Urim belong to the man you favored. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah.
5. 1 Sam 28:6 He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.
6. Ezra 2:63 The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.
7. Neh 7:65 The governor, therefore, ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there should be a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.

As you can see, about the only things we know for sure is that they are means used by the priest to obtain decisions from the Lord, who sometimes refuses to answer. We don’t know from Scripture what they look like, or exactly how the decision is conveyed to the priest. Neither is there any clue from Jewish literature.

Some scholars guessed that since the root word for Urim means “light”, they are two stones, one light and one dark, that are used to indicate “yes” and “no”. It is assumed that they are kept in a pouch which was shaken, and whichever one comes out first indicates God’s answer to the query. In this sense they act like casting lots, but there is no proof of that, only a reasonable conjecture.

Their significance is that they are one of the means (prophets, priests, dreams) the Israelites used to get direction or guidance from God. There is no mention of them after the Exile. Nowadays we depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

(To be continued)

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