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Urim And Thummim
by Wayne Blank
The Urim and Thummim were priestly objects used by Aaron and his successors. Their meaning in Hebrew is something like lights and perfections, which merely adds to the curiosity about them. They are first mentioned in the above verses in Exodus, with no previous explanation of their origin, construction, appearance, or specifically how they worked.
What we do know is that they were physical objects, perhaps precious stones or metal, that were placed in the breastplate (shown in the illustration) of the high priest. They were somehow used to determine the will of God in matters affecting the nation.
There are two primary theories regarding the Urim and Thummin. The first is that they were used as some sort of device for casting lots, the result somehow revealing God's will. The second is that they served as a symbol of the high priest's authority to seek the will of God.
A few verses regarding the Urim and Thummin:
"And he placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim." (Leviticus 8:8 RSV)
"And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before The Lord; at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation." (Numbers 27:21 RSV)
"And of Levi he said, "Give to Levi [see Levites] thy Thummim, and thy Urim to thy godly one, whom thou didst test at Massah, with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah" (Deuteronomy 33:8 RSV)
"These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean; the governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim." (Ezra 2:62-63 RSV)
Fact Finder: Which of Aaron's sons succeeded him as high priest?
This Week's Bible Quiz
Name the English-language translations of The Bible that are represented by these abbreviations:
For the answers to this April 11 2000 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page