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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

u'-rim and thum'-im (ha-'urim weha-tummim (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 epi; 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 kahin, "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 (Babha' Bathra' 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, 18) and overlooked in the matter of the Gibeonites (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, 2; Judges 20:18, 26-28). The Danites in their migration ask counsel of a priest, perhaps in a similar manner (Judges 18:5, 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, 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, 13, 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, 9-12; 1 Samuel 30:7, 8), and also after the death of Saul (2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 5:19, 23; 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; Sotah 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 (Sotah 9 10; Yoma' 21b; Yeru Qid. 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 shekhinah 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 shibhTe yeshurun. A later scholar even suggests that the letters moved from their places to form words (Yoma' 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 shekhinah (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 choshen, 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 choshen 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; on the basis of the Septuagint: "If this fault be in me or in Jonathan, my son, give Urim (dos delous), and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim (dos hosioteta)." 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 Jew 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 tamitu, "oracular decision"); others suggest tme, the Egyptian image of justice; still others connect Urim with 'arar, to curse," in order to make it an antonym of tummim, "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 (Yoma' 73b) as well as most of the Greek versions translated them (delosis kai aletheia; photismoi kai teleiotetes), although Symmachus in one place (Deuteronomy 33:8), who is followed by the Vulgate, connects Urim with the word Torah and understands it to mean "doctrine" (teleiotes kai didache). 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... (see Job 40:13),... and 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.

Nathan Isaacs

Strong's Hebrew
224. Urim -- part of the high priest's breastplate
... 223b, 224. Urim. 225 . part of the high priest's breastplate. Transliteration:
Urim Phonetic Spelling: (oo-reem') Short Definition: Urim. Word Origin pl. ...
/hebrew/224.htm - 6k

747a. urim -- region of light
... 747, 747a. urim. 747b . region of light. Transliteration: urim Short
Definition: east. ... 747, 747a. urim. 747b . Strong's Numbers.
/hebrew/747a.htm - 5k

2833. choshen -- breastpiece, sacred pouch
... From an unused root probably meaning to contain or sparkle; perhaps a pocket (as
holding the Urim and Thummim), or rich (as containing gems), used only of the ...
/hebrew/2833.htm - 6k


Book 3 Footnotes
... against Apion, sect.16. [22]These answers by the oracle of Urim and Thummim, which
words signify, light and perfection, or, as the Septuagint render them ...
/.../josephus/the antiquities of the jews/book 3 footnotes.htm

Mormonites, or the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.
... With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called 'Urim
and Thummim,' which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a ...
/.../hayward/the book of religions/mormonites or the church of.htm

Appendix 2 Extracts from the Babylon Talmud
... in the army (make wars of conquest).' Immediately they took counsel with Ahithophel
and thought over it in the Sanhedrim, and inquired at the Urim and Thummim ...
/.../edersheim/sketches of jewish social life/appendix 2 extracts from the.htm

Book 5 Footnotes
... [10] By prophesying, when spoken of a high priest, Josephus, both here and frequently
elsewhere, means no more than consulting God by Urim, which the reader is ...
/.../josephus/the antiquities of the jews/book 5 footnotes.htm

A Look into the Hebrew Bible.
... together by three gold rings; that these plates were covered with writing in the
"Reformed Egyptian" tongue, and that with this book were "the Urim and the ...
//christianbookshelf.org/gladden/who wrote the bible/chapter i a look into.htm

An Awful Contrast
... We may be high priests, and wear the Urim and the Thummim, and put on the breastplate
with all its wondrous mystic stones, and bind around us the curious ...
/.../spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 42 1896/an awful contrast.htm

The Covenant of an Everlasting Priesthood
... considering relative or friend, is mentioned as the proof of their fitness for God's
service (Deuteronomy 33:5-11): "Let Thy Thummim and Thy Urim be with Thy ...
/...//christianbookshelf.org/murray/the two covenants/chapter xv the covenant of.htm

A Private Enquiry
... There was much mercy in it; yet we clearly see the Lord stripping his servant of
his decorations, and setting him in a lower place"making the Urim and the ...
/.../spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 37 1891/a private enquiry.htm

The Rebuilding of the Temple.
... Where was the Ark? where the manna? where the Urim and Thummim? where the Light
upon the Mercy-seat? Gone for ever, and heaps of ruins around! ...
/.../yonge/the chosen people/lesson xiii the rebuilding of.htm

Interpretation of Prophecy.
... Exod.3:12); God's threatened judgments upon the house of Eli with the accompanying
sign (1:Sam.2:34); the warning that David received by Urim and Thummim of ...
/.../barrows/companion to the bible/chapter xxxviii interpretation of prophecy.htm

Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary

lights; fires

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Lights (Vulg."doctrina;" LXX. "revelation"). See THUMMIM.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
(n.) A part or decoration of the breastplate of the high priest among the ancient Jews, by which Jehovah revealed his will on certain occasions. Its nature has been the subject of conflicting conjectures.
Urim (8 Occurrences)
...URIM AND THUMMIM. ... Thus, Joshua was to stand before Eleazar who was to inquire for
him after the judgment (decision) of the Urim (Numbers 27:21). ...
/u/urim.htm - 21k

Thummim (6 Occurrences)
... LXX., "truth;" Vulg., "veritas"), Exodus 28:30; Deuteronomy 33:8; Judges 1:1;
20:18; 1 Samuel 14:3,18; 23:9; 2 Samuel 21:1. What the "Urim and Thummim ... See Urim. ...
/t/thummim.htm - 22k

Breastplate (45 Occurrences)
... According to Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65 the Urim and Thummim, which were called
in the priestly pouch, were lost during the Babylonian exile. ...
/b/breastplate.htm - 24k

Fires (8 Occurrences)
... FIRES. firz: In Isaiah 24:15 the King James Version translates 'urim ("lights,"
especially Urim in the phrase "Urim and Thummim") "fires." The Revised Version ...
/f/fires.htm - 9k

Tirshatha (5 Occurrences)
... Ezra 2:63 And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most
holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim. ...
/t/tirshatha.htm - 10k

Breast-plate (22 Occurrences)
... Exodus 28:30 And thou shalt put in the breast-plate of judgment the Urim and the
Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD ...
/b/breast-plate.htm - 12k

Breastpiece (21 Occurrences)
... Exodus 28:30 And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the
Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD ...
/b/breastpiece.htm - 12k

Partake (19 Occurrences)
... Ezra 2:63 The governor said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things,
until there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim. (See RSV). ...
/p/partake.htm - 12k

Decisions (133 Occurrences)
... Exodus 28:30 And in the bag you are to put the Urim and Thummim, so that they may
be on Aaron's heart whenever he goes in before the Lord; and Aaron may have ...
/d/decisions.htm - 35k

Augury (5 Occurrences)
... The Urim and Thummim was simply a case of sortilege, though in this case, as in
the cases enumerated above, God was supposed to control the result. ...
/a/augury.htm - 17k

Bible Concordance
Urim (8 Occurrences)

Exodus 28:30 You shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be on Aaron's heart, when he goes in before Yahweh: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel on his heart before Yahweh continually.

Leviticus 8:8 He placed the breastplate on him; and in the breastplate he put the Urim and the Thummim.

Numbers 27:21 He shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before Yahweh: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation."

Deuteronomy 33:8 Of Levi he said, "Your Thummim and your Urim are with your godly one, whom you proved at Massah, with whom you strove at the waters of Meribah;

1 Samuel 14:41 Then Saul said to the Lord, the God of Israel, Why have you not given me an answer today? If the sin is in me or in Jonathan my son, O Lord God of Israel, give Urim, and if it is in your people Israel, give Thummim. And by the decision of the Lord, Saul and Jonathan were marked out, and the people went free.

1 Samuel 28:6 When Saul inquired of Yahweh, Yahweh didn't answer him, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

Ezra 2:63 The governor said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, until there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.

Nehemiah 7:65 The governor said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, until there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.



Urim and Thummim

Urim and Thummim in the Breastplate

Urim and Thummim were Wanting in the Second Temple

Urim and Thummim: Consulting God By

Urim and Thummim: Eleazar to Ask Counsel for Joshua, After the Judgment of

Urim and Thummim: God to be Consulted By

Urim and Thummim: Illustrative of the Light and Perfection of Christ, the True

Urim and Thummim: Israelites Consult

Urim and Thummim: Only Priests Could Interpret

Urim and Thummim: Placed in the Breastplate of the High Priest

Urim and Thummim: Sometimes No Answer By, in Consequence of the Sin of Those

Urim and Thummim: Withheld the Answer from King Saul

Urim and Thummin

Related Terms

Thummim (6 Occurrences)

Breastplate (45 Occurrences)

Fires (8 Occurrences)

Tirshatha (5 Occurrences)

Breast-plate (22 Occurrences)

Breastpiece (21 Occurrences)

Partake (19 Occurrences)

Decisions (133 Occurrences)

Augury (5 Occurrences)

Directions (100 Occurrences)

Priest (500 Occurrences)

Urinates (6 Occurrences)

Ministering (63 Occurrences)

Bag (52 Occurrences)

Divination (25 Occurrences)

Urijah's (1 Occurrence)

Oracle (57 Occurrences)

Judge (297 Occurrences)

Inquiring (23 Occurrences)

Integrity (46 Occurrences)

Favored (19 Occurrences)

Enters (44 Occurrences)

Ephod (45 Occurrences)

Dreams (34 Occurrences)

Massah (5 Occurrences)

Mer'ibah (8 Occurrences)

Perfection (30 Occurrences)

Pious (18 Occurrences)

Perfect (205 Occurrences)

Contended (24 Occurrences)

Aaron's (53 Occurrences)

Strove (25 Occurrences)

Asketh (40 Occurrences)

Consult (27 Occurrences)

Godly (50 Occurrences)

Meribah (11 Occurrences)

Proved (49 Occurrences)

Elea'zar (72 Occurrences)

High (4559 Occurrences)

Governor (78 Occurrences)

Abiathar (29 Occurrences)

Strive (64 Occurrences)

Inquire (95 Occurrences)

Priest's (75 Occurrences)

Counsel (192 Occurrences)

Tested (80 Occurrences)

Obtain (63 Occurrences)

Inquired (74 Occurrences)

Entire (119 Occurrences)


Whenever (123 Occurrences)

Continually (180 Occurrences)

Tried (96 Occurrences)

Mediator (7 Occurrences)

Eleazar (74 Occurrences)

Prove (83 Occurrences)

Levi (79 Occurrences)

Test (105 Occurrences)

Israelites (468 Occurrences)

Carry (246 Occurrences)

Light (2869 Occurrences)

Community (77 Occurrences)

Placed (297 Occurrences)

Belong (127 Occurrences)


Always (186 Occurrences)

Decision (174 Occurrences)

Dream (82 Occurrences)

Images (158 Occurrences)

Temple (614 Occurrences)

Aaron (343 Occurrences)

Tabernacle (333 Occurrences)

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