What were the Urim and Thummim?

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The Urim and Thummim were precious stones that were placed on the ephod of the high priest’s garments in ancient Israel. They were used by the high priest to know God’s will in regards to specific situations. The words Urim and the Thummim mean, respectively, “light” and “perfection.”

The Bible mentions the two stones in the description of the breastplate of judgment (Leviticus 8:8). “And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually” (Exodus 28:30).

Through these two stones, God made known His will. A halo of light encircling the Urim was a token of the divine approval on matters brought before Him, and a cloud shadowing the Thummim was evidence of God’s disapproval. The breastplate was to the garments of the high priest what the mercy seat was to the sanctuary itself. On both, God revealed His glory and made known His will (cf. Ex. 25:22; Ps. 80:1; Isa. 37:16).

Moses received counsel directly from God, but Joshua, who came after him, was to go to the high priest as a mediator between him and God. The high priest, in turn, was to consult the Urim (Numbers 27:21). The two stones are mentioned also in Moses’ dying blessing upon Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8). It is likely that the priests used the Urim and Thummim to find God’s will in the following incidents: Joshua 7:14-18; 1 Samuel 14:37-45; 23:9–12; 28:6; 30:7, 8; 2 Samuel 21:1.

It should be noted that though Josephus does not specifically refer to these two stones by name, he does speak of the “shining” of the stones on the breastplate of the high priest, which “shining,” he says, ceased two centuries previously, owing to the prevailing iniquity (Antiquities iii. 8. 9).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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