Word Study: The Illuminator and Verifier



Exodus 28:30: “ And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim;”

Exodus 28 goes into great detail about the garment worn by the high priest. Of course today Jesus is our high priest so how the high priest dressed has no meaning for me today except for historical value. But then this is the inspired Word of God. Why is it in the Bible if it has no spiritual significance? Why would God give us a history lesson if He did not intend for it to have some value for us today. Why do we study history today? Is it just because we are fascinated with things about the past and we study just to satisfy our curiosity? Surely God would not give us a book about Himself just to satisfy our curiosity. Every word in that book has meaning for us and is relevant for us in some way. Just as history is not taught just to satisfy one’s curiosity, we study history to learn from the past, to learn from the mistakes of the past. To learn what motivated men and women of the past and drove them to success. Many law students did their undergraduate work in history to prepare them to learn the law because history reveals to us the nature of man and how laws affect mankind.

Ok there is no high priest wearing a robe with an ephod on his breast plate of judgment today. There never will be another High Priest for Jesus is our High Priest. So why mention it in the Bible if there is not some significant relevance for us today? I read this passage today, not as a history lesson but to search for some personal meaning. This led me to the Talmud where I learned some interesting facts.

The Urim and Thummin was on the breast plate of judgement. This is also where the ephod was. Some Christian commentators claim the Urim and Thummin were little sticks that the High Priest carried in a pocket in the breast plate. This is not what the Bible says. The Bible tells us that the Urim and Thummin were placed on or in the breast plate, not a pocket of the breast plate. Note the passage in I Samuel 30:7-8: “And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. (8) And David enquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake [them], and without fail recover [all].”

There are a couple interesting things in this passage. First David did not ask for the Urim and Thummin but the Ephod and he inquired of the Ephod. Note the words Urim and Thummin and Ephod are all transliterations, they are not translated into English. The word Urim means the lights. This would indicate that the Urim would light up. Many Christian scholars believe the Ephod was a container for the Urim and Thummin and that they were some type of ocular devices like a crystal ball. The word Thummin means to verify or perfection as in certainty. In other words whatever the Urim and Thummin said was the perfect will of God. In order to harmonize this Urim and Thummin with the Ephod, which contained the twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, scholars determined there must be pockets in the vestment. However, the conclusion of the Sages as described in the Talmud was different. The Urim and Thummin were not separate items but one and the same with the Ephod. The Urim and the Thummin were the stones on the breast plate of judgment. Rashi in the Talmud taught that it was called the breast plate of judgment because it decided and determined things for the people.

There is something else about this passage. The Urim and Thummin just did not answer yes or no. It went into detail in its answer. For David the Urim and Thummin or the stones on the breastplate told him: “Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake [them], and without fail recover [all].” That is a lot of words for just twelve stones to spell out. The Talmud takes the word Urim literally, that is, Urim is plural for lights and the stones literally lit up. Each stone represented a letter in the Hebrew Alphabet. Oh, but you say, there were only twelve stones and there are 22 letters in the Hebrew Alphabet. This is where the Talmud reveals something that I have never heard in Sunday School, Bible college or seminary. There were actually 24 stones. Twelve for the twelve tribes of Israel and twelve more for the root names of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob which means twelve more stones. Twenty two stones for the Hebrew Alphabet and two stones left over for yes and no.

So when a question was asked the stones would light up and the priest would copy down the letters and you would have God’s direct answer to you. Pretty heady stuff. Wish you had one? Well, I read something else in the Talmud. There were four things missing from the second temple that were in the first. I wrote about this recently. The presence of God, the Holy Spirit, the fire of God (the fire God sent from heaven when the temple was completed) and the power of the Urim and Thummin. Note, it is the power not the Ephod itself. They made another Ephod but the stones never lit up again. The Talmud teaches that these four things will return to the temple when the Messiah is glorified. Remember John 7:39 “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” We hear more than once about the glorification of Jesus. The Talmud teaches that the Messiah to be glorified had to come earth, be tortured and put to death and ascend to heaven. Forty days after he ascends (the day of Pentecost) the Holy Spirit will return (which happened), the presence of God will return (the people were filled with joy), the fire of God will return (the tongues of fire) and the power of the Urim and Thummim will return.

The thing is, it did not return to a building but Paul says in I Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the temple of God. The Holy Spirit came into us at Pentecost, the presence of God came into us, the fire of God (his passion) dwells within us so why not the power of the Urim and Thummin? Well, maybe it does, we just don’t realize it or even use it.