Urim and Thummim: Mysterious Ancient Objects

What Are the Urim and Thummim?

Urim and Thummim
Depiction of High Priest performing a wedding, wearing the Urim and Thummim breastplate. Public Domain

The Urim (OOR reem) and Thummim (THOOM meem) were mysterious objects used by the ancient Israelites to determine God's will, and although they are mentioned several times in the Bible, Scripture does not give a description of what they were or what they looked like.

In Hebrew, Urim means "lights" and Thummim means "perfection." These objects were used to illuminate the people about God's flawless will.

Uses of Urim  and Thummim 

Through the centuries, Bible scholars have speculated on what those items were and how they might have been used. Some think they may have been gems the high priest looked at and received an inner answer. Others theorize they may have been stones inscribed with "yes" and "no" or "true" and "false" that were drawn out of a bag, the first drawn being the divine answer. However, in some instances they provided no answer, further confusing the picture.

The Urim and Thummim were used in connection with the breastplate of judgment worn by the high priest in ancient Israel. The breastplate contained 12 stones, each with the name of one of the 12 tribes written on it. The Urim and Thummim were placed in the breastplate, perhaps in a bag or pouch.

We find the first high priest Aaron, brother of Moses, wearing the breastplate over the priestly ephod or tunic, Joshua consulting the Urim and Thummim through the high priest Eleazar, and perhaps Samuel wearing the priest's breastplate.

After the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon, the Urim and Thummim disappeared and were never mentioned again.

The Urim and Thummim were a foreshadowing of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who called himself "the light of the world," (John 8:12) and who became the perfect sacrifice (1 Peter 1:18-19) for humanity's sins.

Bible References

Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6, Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65.

Exodus 28:30
Insert the Urim and Thummim into the sacred chest piece so they will be carried over Aaron’s heart when he goes into the Lord’s presence. In this way, Aaron will always carry over his heart the objects used to determine the Lord’s will for his people whenever he goes in before the Lord. (NLT)

Ezra 2:63
And the governor said to them that they should not eat of the most holy things till a priest could consult with the Urim and Thummim. (NKJV)

Sources: www.gotquestions.org, www.jewishencyclopedia.com, Smith's Bible Dictionary, William Smith; and Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by Trent C. Butler.

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Zavada, Jack. "Urim and Thummim: Mysterious Ancient Objects." ThoughtCo, Feb. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/what-are-the-urim-and-thummim-700686. Zavada, Jack. (2017, February 12). Urim and Thummim: Mysterious Ancient Objects. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-urim-and-thummim-700686 Zavada, Jack. "Urim and Thummim: Mysterious Ancient Objects." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-urim-and-thummim-700686 (accessed March 22, 2018).