Urim

For the kibbutz of the same name, see Urim (kibbutz). For the ancient city of Urim see Ur.


In ancient Israelite religion and culture, Urim and Thummim (Hebrew: האורים והתמים, Standard haʾUrim vəhaTummim Tiberian hāʾÛrîm wəhatTummîm) is a phrase from the Hebrew Bible associated with the sacred breastplate, divination in general, and cleromancy in particular. Most scholars suspect that the phrase refers to specific objects involved in the divination. [1]

Name and Meaning

וְתּוּמִים (Thummim) is widely considered to be derived from the consonantal root תּמִם (t-m-m), meaning faultless[2][3][4], while אוּרִים (Urim) has traditionally been taken to derive from a root meaning lights; these derivations are reflected in the Neqqudot of the masoretic text[5]. In consequence, Urim and Thummim has traditionally been translated as lights and perfections (by Theodotion, for example), or, by taking the phrase allegorically, as meaning revelation and truth, or doctrine and truth (it appears in this form in the Vulgate, in the writing of Jerome, and in the Hexapla)[6].

However, although at face value the words are plural, the context suggests they are pluralis intensivus - singular words which are pluralised to enhance their apparent majesty[7]. The singular forms - ur and tumm - have been connected by some early scholars with the Babylonian terms urtu and tamitu, meaning oracle and command, respectively[8]. Many scholars now believe that אוּרִים (Urim) simply derives from the Hebrew term אּרּרִים (Arrim), meaning curses, and thus that Urim and Thummim essentially means cursed or faultless, in reference to the deity's view of an accused - in other words that Urim and Thummim concern the question of innocent or guilty?[9][10].

Form and Function

A passage - 1 Samuel 14:41| - in the Books of Samuel is regarded by biblical scholars as key to understanding the Urim and Thummim[11]; the passage describes an attempt to identify a sinner via divination, by repeatedly splitting the people into two groups and identifying which group contains the sinner. In the version of this passage in the masoretic text, it merely describes Saul and Jonathan being separated from the rest of the people, and lots being cast between them; the Septuagint version, however, states that Urim would indicate Saul and Jonathan, while Thummim would indicate the people. In the Septuagint, a previous verse[12] uses a phrase which is usually translated as inquired of God, which is significant as the grammatical form of the Hebrew implies that the inquiry was performed by objects being manipulated; scholars view it as evident from these verses and versions that cleromancy was involved, and that Urim and Thummim were the names of the objects being cast[13].

The description of the clothing of the Jewish high priest in the Book of Exodus portrays the Urim and Thummim as being put into the sacred breastplate, worn by the high priest over the Ephod[14]. Where the Bible elsewhere describes an Ephod being used for divination, scholars presume that it is referring to use of the Urim and Thummim in conjunction with the Ephod, as the these seem to be intimately connected with it[15]; similarly where non-prophets are portrayed as asking Yahweh for guidance, and the advice isn't described as given by visions, scholars think that Urim and Thummim were the medium implied[16]. In all but two cases[17], the question is one which is effectively answered by a simple yes or no[18]; a number of scholars believe that the two exceptions to this pattern, which give more complex answers, were originally also just sequences of yes/no questions, but became corrupted by later editing[19].

There is no description of the form of the Urim and Thummim in the passage describing the high priest's vestments, and a number of scholars believe that the author of the passage, which textual scholars attribute to the priestly source, wasn't actually entirely aware of what they were either[20]. Nevertheless, the passage does describe them as being put into the breastplate, which scholars think implies they were objects put into some sort of pouch within it, and then, while out of view, one (or one side, if the Urim and Thummim was a single object) was chosen by touch and withdrawn or thrown out[21]; since the Urim and Thummim were put inside this pouch, they were presumably small and fairly flat, and were possibly tablets of wood or of bone[22]. With the view of scholars that Urim essentially means guilty and Thummim essentially means innocent, this would imply that the purpose of the Urim and Thummim was an ordeal to confirm or deny suspected guilt; if the Urim was selected it meant guilt, while selection of the Thummim would mean innocence.

According to Islamic sources, there was a similar form of divination among the Arabs prior to the beginning of Islam[23]. There, two arrow shafts (without heads or feathers), on one of which was written command and the other prohibition or similar, were kept in a container, and stored in the Kaaba at Mecca[24]; whenever someone wished to know whether to get married, go on a journey, or to make some other similar decision, one of the Kaaba's guardians would randomly pull one of the arrow shafts out of the container, and the word written upon it was said to indicate the will of the god concerning the matter in question[25]. Sometimes a third, blank, arrow shaft would be used, to represent the refusal of the deity to give an answer[26].

According to classical rabbinical literature, in order for the Urim and Thummim to give an answer, it was first necessary for the individual to stand facing the fully dressed high priest, and vocalise the question briefly and in a simple way, though it wasn't necessary for it to be loud enough for anyone else to hear it[27]. The Talmudic rabbis, argued that Urim and Thummim were words written on the sacred breastplate[28]; according to someone, the breastplate had to be activated by taking a parchment with the Tetragrammaton inscribed upon it, and inserting the parchment into a slot in the breastplate. Most of the Talmudic rabbis, and Josephus, following the belief that Urim meant lights, argued that divination by Urim and Thummim involved questions being answered by great rays of light shining out of certain jewels on the breastplate; each jewel was taken to represent different letters, and the sequence of lighting thus would spell out an answer (though there were 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and only 12 jewels on the breastplate)[29][30][31]; two Talmudic rabbis, however, argued that the jewels themselves moved in a way that made them stand out from the rest, or even moved themselves into groups to form words[32].

History of Use

A passage of the Books of Samuel mentions three methods of divine communication - dreams, prophets, and the Urim and Thummim[33]; the first two of these are also mentioned copiously in Assyrian and Babylonian literature, and such literature also mentions Tablets of Destiny, which are similar in some ways to the Urim and Thummim[34]. The Tablets of Destiny had to rest on the breast of deities mediating between the other gods and mankind in order to function[35], while the Urim and Thummim had to rest within the breastplate of the priest mediating between Yahweh and mankind[36]. Marduk was said to have put his seal on the Tablets of Destiny[37], while the Israelite breastplate had a jewelled stone upon it for each of the Israelite tribes, which may derive from the same principle[38]. Like the Urim and Thummim, the Tablets of Destiny came into use when the fate of king and nation was concerned[39]. According to a minority of archaeologists, the Israelites emerged as a subculture from within Canaanite society, and not as an invading force from outside, and therefore it would be natural for them to have used similar religious practices to other Semitic nations[40], and scholars suspect that the concept of Urim and Thummim was originally derived from the Tablets of Destiny[41].

The first biblical reference to Urim and Thummim is the description in the Book of Exodus concerning the high priest's vestments[42]; the chronologically earliest passage mentioning them, according to textual scholars, is in the Book of Hosea[43], where it is implied, by reference to the Ephod, that the Urim and Thummim were fundamental elements in the popular form of the Israelite religion[44], in the mid 8th century BC[45]. Consulting the Urim and Thummim was said to be permitted for determining territorial boundaries, and was said to be required, in addition to permission from the king or a prophet, if there was an intention to expand Jerusalem or the Temple in Jerusalem[46][47][48][49]; however, these rabbinical sources did question, or at least tried to justify, why Urim and Thummim would be required when a prophet was also present[50]. The classical rabbinical writers argued that the Urim and Thummim were only permitted to be consulted by very prominent figures such as army generals, the most senior of court figures, and kings, and the only questions which could be raised were those which were asked for the benefit of the people as a whole[51].

Although Josephus argues that the Urim and Thummim continued to be used until the era of the Maccabees[52], Talmudic sources are unanimous in agreeing that the Urim and Thummim were lost much earlier, when Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians[53][54][55]. In a passage from the part of the Book of Ezra which overlaps with the Book of Nehemiah, it is mentioned that individuals who were unable to prove, after the Babylonian captivity had ended, that they were descended from the priesthood before the captivity began, were required to wait until priests in possession of Urim and Thummim were discovered[56]; this would appear to confirm the Talmudic view that the Urim and Thummim had by then been lost[57][58][59]. Indeed, since the priestly source, which textual scholars date to a couple of centuries prior to the captivity, doesn't appear to know what the Urim and Thummim looked like, and there is no mention of the Urim and Thummim in the deuteronomic history beyond the death of David, biblical scholars suspect that use of them decayed some time before the Babylonian conquest[60], probably as a result of the growing influence at the time of prophets[61].

In the Latter Day Saint movement



Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, said he used "interpreters" in order to translate the Book of Mormon from the Golden Plates. The "interpreters" he described as a pair of stones, fastened to a breastplate joined in a form similar to that of a large pair of spectacles. Smith later referred to this object as the Urim and Thummim. In 1823, Smith said that the angel Moroni, who had told him about the Golden Plates, also told him about the Urim and Thummim, "two stones in silver bows" fastened to a breastplate, and the angel intimated that they had been prepared by God to aid in the translation of the Golden Plates.[62] Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, described these Urim and Thummim as being like "two smooth three-cornered diamonds."[63]

Smith and his early Mormon contemporaries also referred to a separate "seer stone", also used for translation;[64] but in some cases it is unclear whether Smith's contemporaries are referring to the Urim and Thummim or to the seer stone, because they seem to have used the terms interchangeably. Smith also said he used these devices to assist him in receiving other divine revelations, including some of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants and portions of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Although many of Smith's associates said they saw him use the devices, only Oliver Cowdery seems to have attempted to use them to receive his own revelation.[65] Mormons believe that Smith's Urim and Thummim were functionally identical to the biblical Urim and Thummim, but there is no evidence that the latter were ever used to translate unknown texts.[66]

References by popular culture

In accordance with the traditional view that Urim and Thummim should be translated as Light and Truth, the Latin equivalent of this latter phrase - Lux et Veritas - has been used for several university mottoes; Lux et Veritas is the motto of Indiana University and the University of Montana, and though Urim and Thummim itself is emblazoned across the open book pictured on the Yale University shield (a legacy of Yale College president Ezra Stiles), Lux et Veritas appears below on a banner.

The Urim and Thummim are also afforded some value as artifacts in some modern fiction:
  • A treasure hunt for the Urim and Thummim forms the central plot of the John Bellairs novel The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost
  • Their apparent desecration by an unknown vandal is a theme in the Arthur Conan Doyle short story The Jew's Breastplate.
  • In the Christian fiction novel The Face of God, by Bill Myers, the pastor Daniel Lawson and terrorist Ibrahim el-Magd race to find the Urim and Thummim, as well as the twelve stones of the sacred breastplate, in order to hear God's voice.
  • In the novel The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, the king of Salem gives the main character - Santiago - two stones that the king calls Urim and Thummim. One of the stones is white, which is said to signify no, and the other is black, and said to signify yes, when the stones are drawn from a bag. The king himself had removed the stones from his shining golden breastplate.
The traditional rabbinical descriptions of the function of Urim and Thummim — transmitting messages by glowing — has been claimed by some proponents of paleocontact hypothesis to be evidence in support of that hypothesis.

See also

  • Cleromancy: the drawing of lots for the purpose of divination
  • Divination: ascertaining information by supernatural means
  • Dice: polyhedral objects used to randomize decisions
  • Oracle: person or object used to obtain information via prophecy or clairvoyance
  • Scrying: obtaining supernatural knowledge by means of an object

Notes and citations

1. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible.
2. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
3. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
4. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
5. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
6. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
7. ^ ibid
8. ^ ibid
9. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
10. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
11. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
12. ^ 1 Samuel 14:37
13. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
14. ^ Exodus 28:13-30|
15. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
16. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
17. ^ 1 Samuel 10:22| and 2 Samuel 5:23|
18. ^ ibid
19. ^ ibid
20. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
21. ^ ibid
22. ^ ibid
23. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
24. ^ ibid
25. ^ ibid
26. ^ ibid
27. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
28. ^ Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Exodus 28:30
29. ^ Yoma 73a-b
30. ^ Yoma 44c in the Jerusalem Talmud
31. ^ Sifre, Numbers 141
32. ^ Yoma 73b
33. ^ 1 Samuel 28:3-6|
34. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
35. ^ ibid
36. ^ ibid
37. ^ ibid
38. ^ ibid
39. ^ ibid
40. ^ Israel Finkelstein, The Bible Unearthed
41. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
42. ^ Exodus 28:30|
43. ^ Hosea 3:4|
44. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
45. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
46. ^ Sanhedrin 16a
47. ^ Yoma 41b (Jerusalem Talmud)
48. ^ Shebbit 2-3, and 16a
49. ^ Shebbit 33d (Jerusalem Talmud)
50. ^ Sanhedrin 19b (Jerusalem Talmud)
51. ^ Yoma 7; Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Exodus 28:30
52. ^ Josephus Antiquities of the Jews (volume 3) 8:9
53. ^ Sotah 9:10
54. ^ Yoma 21b
55. ^ Tamid 65b (Jerusalem Talmud)
56. ^ Ezra 2:63|, which is also Nehemiah 7:65|
57. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
58. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
59. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
60. ^ Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica
61. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia
62. ^ Joseph Smith-History. The Urim and Thummim were said to have been found with the Golden Plates, the aforementioned breastplate, and the Sword of Laban.
63. ^ Smith, Lucy Mack (1853). Biographical sketches of Joseph Smith the prophet, and his progenitors for many generations. (PDF) 101. Brigham Young University Religious Education Archive. Retrieved on 2006-02-02. “It [Joseph's Urim and Thummim]; also at EMD, 1: 328-29.
64. ^ Richard Van Wagoner and Steven Walker, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15:2 (Summer 1982): 59–63
65. ^
66. ^ There are seven references to the Urim and Thummim in the masoretic text (the basis of most English translations of the Old Testament): Exodus 28:30|, Leviticus 8:8|, Numbers 27:21|, Deuteronomy 33:8|, 1 Samuel 28:6|, Ezra 2:63|, Nehemiah 7:65|. The Septuagint version (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament) and some English translations) of 1 Samuel 14:41| also references them.

External links

Urim (Hebrew: אורים‎, lit. Fires) is a kibbutz in the Negev, near the border of the Gaza Strip and about 30 kilometers west of Beersheba.
..... Click the link for more information.
Ur, or ur may refer to:
  • Ur, an ancient city in southern Mesopotamia
  • Hayy Ur, a neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, Iraq
  • Úr , a letter of the Ogham alphabet
  • Ur (rune) ᚢ, a letter of the runic alphabets

..... Click the link for more information.
Israelites were the dominant cultural and ethnic group living in Canaan in Biblical times, composing the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Modern Jewish people claim to be descended from the Tribes of Israel.
..... Click the link for more information.
Hebrew}}} 
Writing system: Alefbet Ivri abjad 
Official status
Official language of:  Israel
Regulated by: Academy of the Hebrew Language

..... Click the link for more information.
Tiberian Hebrew is an extinct oral tradition of pronunciation for ancient Hebrew, especially the Hebrew of the Tanakh, that was given written form by masoretic scholars in the Jewish community at Tiberias in the early Middle Ages, beginning in the 8th century.
..... Click the link for more information.
Hebrew Bible is a generic reference to books of the Bible, originally written in Hebrew, of uncontroversial canonicity. More precisely, it refers to a collection of specific ancient documents viewed as an organic corpus.
..... Click the link for more information.
Hoshen/Choshen is a Hebrew word usually translated as breastplate; in English language contexts it refers to a specific breastplate -- the sacred breastplate worn by the Jewish high priest, according to the Book of Exodus.
..... Click the link for more information.
Divination (Greek μαντεια, from μαντις "seer", anglicized in the suffix -mancy, see also mania
..... Click the link for more information.
Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortilege, casting lots or casting bones in which an outcome is determined by random means, such as the rolling of dice.

In Western culture

Casting of lots occurs frequently in the Bible.
..... Click the link for more information.
triliteral (Arabic: جذر ثلاثي, ǧaḏr ṯalāṯī
..... Click the link for more information.
The root is the primary lexical unit of a word, which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents. Content words in nearly all languages contain, and may consist only of, root morphemes.
..... Click the link for more information.
Niqqud or Nikkud (Hebrew: נִקּוּד, Biblical  נְקֻדּוֹת, Standard  
..... Click the link for more information.
The Masoretic Text (MT) is the Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh). It defines not just the books of the Jewish canon, but also the precise letter-text of the biblical books in Judaism, as well as their vocalization and accentuation for both public reading and private
..... Click the link for more information.
Theodotion (d. ca. 200 A.D.) was a Hellenistic Jewish scholar[1], perhaps working in Ephesus [2], who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Whether he was revising the Septuagint, or was working from Hebrew manuscripts that represented a parallel tradition
..... Click the link for more information.


The Vulgate is an early 5th century version of the Bible in Latin which is largely the result of the labors of Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin
..... Click the link for more information.
Jerome (ca. 347 – September 30, 420; Greek: Ευσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ιερώνυμος
..... Click the link for more information.
Hexapla (Gr. for "sixfold") is the term for an edition of the Bible in six versions. Especially it applies to the edition of the Old Testament compiled by Origen, which placed side by side:
  1. Hebrew
  2. Hebrew transliterated into Greek characters

..... Click the link for more information.
Akkadian}}} 
Writing system: Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform 
Official status
Official language of: initially Akkad (central Mesopotamia); lingua franca of the Middle East and Egypt in the late Bronze and early Iron Ages.
..... Click the link for more information.
Tanakh
Torah | Nevi'im | Ketuvim
Books of Nevi'im
First Prophets
1. Joshua
2. Judges
3. Samuel
4. Kings
Later Prophets
5. Isaiah
6. Jeremiah
7.
..... Click the link for more information.
Biblical criticism is "the study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning and discriminating judgments about these writings."[1] It asks when and where a particlular text originated, how, why, by whom, for whom, and in what circumstances it
..... Click the link for more information.
The Masoretic Text (MT) is the Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh). It defines not just the books of the Jewish canon, but also the precise letter-text of the biblical books in Judaism, as well as their vocalization and accentuation for both public reading and private
..... Click the link for more information.
Saul (שאול המלך) (or Sha'ul) (Hebrew: שָׁאוּל, Standard  
..... Click the link for more information.
David and Jonathan were heroic figures of the Kingdom of Israel, whose intimate relationship was recorded favorably in the Old Testament books of Samuel. There is debate amongst religious scholars whether this relationship was platonic, romantic but chaste, or sexual.
..... Click the link for more information.
Septuagint (IPA: /ˈsɛptuədʒɪnt/), or simply "LXX", is the name commonly given in the West to the Koine Greek version of the Old Testament, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries
..... Click the link for more information.
Kohen Gadol or Kohen ha-Gadol (Heb. כהן גדול "Great Priest") is the title of of early Israelite religion and of classical Judaism from the rise of the Israelite nation until the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem.
..... Click the link for more information.
Tanakh
Torah | Nevi'im | Ketuvim
Books of the Torah
1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5.
..... Click the link for more information.
Hoshen/Choshen is a Hebrew word usually translated as breastplate; in English language contexts it refers to a specific breastplate -- the sacred breastplate worn by the Jewish high priest, according to the Book of Exodus.
..... Click the link for more information.
For ephPod, an iPod manager, see ephPod.
An ephod (pronounced either \ē´fod\ or \ef´od\) was a type of object in ancient Israelite culture, and was closely connected with oracular practices.
..... Click the link for more information.
Yahweh is a proposed English reading of יהוה, the name of the God of Israel, as preserved in the original consonantal Hebrew Bible text. These four Hebrew letters [ i.e.
..... Click the link for more information.
Textual criticism or lower criticism is a branch of philology or bibliography that is concerned with the identification and removal of errors from texts and manuscripts. Ancient manuscripts often have errors or alterations made by scribes, who copied the manuscripts by hand.
..... Click the link for more information.


This article is copied from an article on Wikipedia.org - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. The text was not checked or edited by anyone on our staff. Although the vast majority of the wikipedia encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.