Whatever Happened to the Urim and Tumim?
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, March 3, 2012

Whatever happened to the mysterious Urim and Tumim, which HaShem ordered that the High Priest put it in the breastplate "for judgment"? Scripture only records that they came out rarely, and eventually they vanished. It seems that Israel found other, better ways to discern the will of God.

I read Shm'ot (Exodus 28:30) from the Torah. For context, I read Exodus 28:29-30, "Aharon will carry the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate for judging, over his heart, when he enters the Holy Place, as a continual reminder before ADONAI. You are to put the Urim and the Tumim in the breastplate for judging; they will be over Aharon's heart when he goes into the presence of ADONAI. Thus Aharon will always have the means for making decisions for the people of Israel over his heart when he is in the presence of ADONAI."

How many of you find the Urim and Tumim  mysterious? You're not the only ones!

For one thing, no translation renders these words into English, because they don't appear in any contexts other than those mentioning these two objects.  So we just have "Urim and Tumim" (or "Thummim," from translations that preserve the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew letter tav).

Rabbinic tradition has connected the Urim with light  and Tumim with tammam, ?"be whole," hence the plural form gives "Lights and Perfections."

Some scholars derive them the Babylonian terms urtu and tamitu, meaning oracle and command, while others believe they mean cursed or faultless, in reference to the deity's view of an accused-in other words, Urim and Tumim were used to answer the question innocent or guilty.

Between these two words, and many centuries of Jewish scholars, we now have plenty of opinions!

Our portion tells Aaron where to put the Urim and Tumim-somewhere "in the breastplate," possibly in a pouch within the breastplate. 

Our portion also mentions their purpose-"for judging" or making a decision.

In 1 Samuel 14:41, the Scriptures provide the only description of such a judgment or decision:?From the English Standard Version, "Therefore Saul said, "O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Tumim." And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped." (While most other translation stick with the traditional Hebrew Masoretic text, the ESV is based on the Greek Septuagint, which provides more details.)

From the Hebrew verbs used in this verse, scholars believe that Urim and Tumim were a kind of lot-marked stones or sticks.  See 1 Sam. 10:20, "Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot." They were suitable for indicating which of two alternatives was right; hence inquiries to be decided by them were designed to elicit "yes" or "no" answers.?In 1 Samuel 14:41, Urim and Tumim judged whether the guilty party was among Jonathan and Saul or the rest of Israel-and pointed to Jonathan and Saul-it turned out to be Jonathan who violated his father's command to fast for a whole day of battle with the Philistines.

Though the Urim and Tumim proved to be accurate, they were rarely used afterward.

Though the first century Jewish historian Josephus claims that the Urim and Tumim were in use until the era of the Maccabees, Talmudic sources agree that they were lost much earlier, when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem. [s] Ezra 2:6 (and also Nehemiah 7:65), written after Jews returned from Babylonian exile, say that "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 Tumim."

In other words, Ezra, even through he was a priest, could not consult Urim and Tumim, presumably because he didn't have them; they had been lost or hidden.

More spectacular speculations about what the Urim and Tumim looked like and how they functioned developed centuries after they were lost: Josephus (Antiquities 3:217) says that a victory was forecast by the shining of stones in the breastpiece. The Rabbinic talmudists fancied that an oracle was spelled out by a miraculous protruding of letters out of the tribal names engraved on the stones (Yoma 73b).

Many centuries later, Joseph Smith claimed that an angel gave him the Urim and Tumim to translate various sacred texts of the Mormons. I don't know if the Mormons still have their Urim and Tumim any more-may Mitt Romney knows? But Mormons don't claim to consult them any more.

Whatever happened to the Urim and Tumim? Most likely they had fallen into disuse after the early kingdom. From the outset of Israel, the preferred way to discern God's will was through prophecy.

According to 1 Samuel 3:1, when Samuel was a boy, "word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent." That may explain why Saul continued to rely on Urim, as 1 Samuel 28:6, "When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets." Since Samuel refused to talk to him, and as the priest, probably controlled the Urim & Tumim, Saul got desperate and started consulting with a medium or witch.  Bad news!


After Saul, there are no further mentions of consulting with Urim and Tumim (except possibly for establishing the orders of service for the priests-see 1 Chronicles 24:5).?Instead, David had Nathan the prophet (and David himself had prophetic insight, as we see in Psalms.

Subsequent kings consulted more and more with prophets-though they didn't necessarily like what the true prophets of God had to say, so they would other, false prophets more inclined to tell them what they wanted to hear.

David's son Solomon asked God for wisdom and got it.  So divine wisdom was another way to discern God's will-of course, not everyone had God's wisdom. Where do we get the wisdom of God?

Ask and you shall receive! And study the Word of God.

Though the Urim and Tumim fell into disuse and disappeared, the idea of casting lots did not.

In Jonah 1:7, the sailors in the storm said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah."

Esther 9:24, "Haman the Agagite, . the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them." Hence Purim means lots.?Note that in these two stories, it was heathens, not Jews, who cast lots, and Haman (boo!) used them

as part of his evil plot.

Though God could reveal things through lots, Jews understood not to rely on this method much.

Why? Casting lots tends to promote a worldview that events are a matter of inscrutable fate.

The Bible, on the other hand, promotes a worldview in which we can know God and His will.

Do you see the difference? In the story of Jonah, the sailors panicked because of the storm, attributing it to the displeasure of some god, but Jonah was pretty calm, because He knew that ultimately God was in control, even if it meant he had to admit that God wasn't please with him.

In the story of Purim, Haman saw things as just happening by fate or the whim of cruel gods, but Mordecai and Esther saw events revealing the hand of God: "For you have been raised to the kingdom for such a time as this."  Do you see the difference?

It's important. The Biblical worldview is that God offers His people a relationship, in which we can come to know His will.  See, for example, Isaiah 30:21 and Romans 12:2-which we'll study.

Now, we'll take some time to discuss how Urim & Tumim  & how we can know the will of God.

The youth and their leaders may go out to have their own breakout discussion.?

Questions to Ponder

So, what were the Urim and Tumim?

And whatever happened to the Urim and Tumim?

After Saul, why were they used rarely in Israel? What other ways did people use to discern God's will?

What worldview does relying on casting lots (or dice) tend to produce, for example in Haman?

At the end of Acts 1 (which we read before saying the Yeshua the Messiah), the Eleven apostles cast lots to determine a new twelfth. How was this case of casting lots different from the way pagans did?

(Apparently, the two candidates wer equally qualified to them. So they prayed and trusted God's will to the lots. In the counsel of Acts 15, the apostles and elders relied on prophecy and wisdom.)

What worldview does the Bible teach us about knowing God's will?

See Isaiah 30:21, "And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."

What does this Scripture teach us about whether we can know God's will?

What does this Scripture teach us about how we can know God's will?

Do you have a relationship with God where you can hear Him providing this kind of guidance?

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect."

What does this Scripture teach us about whether we can know God's will?

What does this Scripture teach us is a prerequisite for knowing God's will?

Romans 12:1 tells us another prerequisite for knowing God's will.

What are some ways to know God's will (from a discipleship lesson on hearing God):

.    From Scripture (a verse applies to a particular situation)

.    Peace of God (confirming a decision)

.    Prophetic word, dreams (asleep) or visions (awake)

.    Circumstances converging in life

.    Ask God for wisdom (as Solomon did)

.    Wise person or leader giving godly counsel (see Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, and 24:6)

Which ways has God used in your life? Which ways do you especially trust? Why?

Why are long-term covenant relationships help a key ingredient for discernment?