URIM AND THUMMIN
By C.W. Slemming
Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21. Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; 30:7-8; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65.
“And thou shalt put in the Breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummin; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall hear the judgment of the children of lsrael upon his heart before the Lord continually”
We now turn to that which appears too many to be the mystery of all mysteries! How often is the question asked as to what are the Urim and the Thummin. There are numerous answers given both as to their appearance and as to their method of operation. None of these do we purpose to recount here (they may be read in various Commentaries if desired). The majority of ideas are mere speculation without any given reason. It is our desire to propound a further theory but, at the same time, add to it a weight of reason that will at least give it some authority; nevertheless one feels that none of us can speak with a certainty. It appears to be one of the things that God has hidden from us for the time being to be some of that “hidden manna” upon which we shall feast in the eternity when “we shall know even as we are known.”
Before outlining the suggestion of this we are assured that the two words mean – “Urim, Lights; Thummin, Perfection.” We know, too, that Christ is light, for in Him there is no darkness at all. He is the light of life, the light of understanding, and the light of revelation.
Also Christ is perfect. All things were made by Him and for Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of all things. To none other could be committed the work of “judgment.”
One of the first principles of Bible interpretation is to understand that it is an Eastern Book, lived and written in the environment of Palestine life and habit, and also that every illustration used by God in the Old Testament, was an illustration readily discerned by man because of common use. If this were not so then it is not an illustration, for such are always given for clarity not for complication.
The suggestion is made therefore that Urim and Thummin were in the form of a black and white stone deposited within the Breastplate; the black stone being the negative and the white stone being the positive, because the use of the black and white stones was common to those people in those days and therefore they would fully understand their implications.
This can be worked out to an issue both in Eastern custom and in Biblical record. It is to be realized that the casting of lots holds a prominence in the Scriptures. This, of course, does not fall into the same category as the gambling of modern days, and in no wise justifies the luck believed in by a superstitious generation such as ours. There were evil men, like the hard and callous soldiers, who cast lots for the garment of the Lord, there were superstitious sailors who cast lots to find out the cause of the storm in the experiences of Jonah. On the other hand there were the honest and noble disciples who cast lots for the choosing of Matthias for apostleship, as well as the High Priests who, seemingly, sought the mind of the Lord in a similar fashion.
Most of the vices of today are an abuse of something once given for man's use! The action of the apostles was one of prayer, and then belief in Divine Guidance. So much for the casting of lots, now for something of the method employed. In Revelation 2:17 we read: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Here is a Scriptural clue to the black and white stones, for what was this white stone inscribed with a name that was offered to the over comer?
Black and white stones were used in many ways in the East for the giving of a verdict. Here in this country, in the Criminal Court, if a man is found guilty of murder the judge will don the black cap in pronouncing the sentence of death. In a similar way in the East the judge would hand to the guilty prisoner a black stone, meaning condemnation. Should the prisoner be handed a white stone it would mean acquittal. In the election of magistrates and Officers of State, a number of black stones would be put into a bag with one white stone on which the name of the particular office was written. The number of stones would equal the number of nominees. These would draw from the bag and the man obtaining the white stone would gain the office. In a similar way men would be admitted into certain secret societies.
Men would draw stones from a bag for the allocation of portions of land for farming, so that there would be no unfairness in distribution. The white stone was, given to the winner of the ancient sports and races. It brought him his reward. If one paused to comment on this in relationship to the white stone of the over comer in the text of Revelation, it would be to say that those who overcome “by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” will receive the white stone of acquittal - justified; office elected kings and priests; society -brought in His fellowship; land - an inheritance with the saints; reward - a crown of life.
It will readily be seen from the foregoing that these stones brought decision in matters of importance and that their usage was common. This being so there is some reason to suggest that Urim and Thummin, which were used as deciding factors to know the Will of God, might have been in this form. If this were so then the two stones, both of one size and shape, would lie deposited within the doubling of the Breastplate. When the Mind of God was wanted prayer would be offered, guidance sought, and then under that guidance the hand would be put in and a stone withdrawn. It might be well to point out that no conversation is recorded, but usually a positive or negative answer. The clearest Scripture on this point is 1 Samuel 30:7-8: “And David said to Abiathar, the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod (The reason he asked for the ephod when he actually required Urim and Thummin were inside the Breastplate and the Breastplate was joined to the ephod at the shoulders by the shoulder stones. Therefore the whole must be brought so as to keep the Urim and Thummin secreted inside). And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. 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.” In effect, just the positive of the enquiry.
Even today when no Urim and Thummin are required, guidance is sought from the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, Who leads into all truth; and whilst we are sure of His Power and of His guidance, yet He remains indefinable. Therefore, whatever we may reason and however we may speculate, we must ultimately come back to the place in which we trust where we cannot trace.
The following from the pen of Dr. Joseph Parker is of practical and devotional value:
“It what the Urim and the Thummin actually were no man has been able to find out. Whether they were to be used for the used for the purpose of ascertaining the Divine will in critical and perplexing circumstances has been a question which has excited devout attention; but whatever the Urim and the Thummin were, there can be no doubt as to what our Urim and Thummin are. We are not left without light and perfection; we are not destitute of means of discovering the Divine purpose in our life and progress.
Our Urim and Thummin are the Old and New Testaments. Keep these in the heart; be at home with them in all their wondrous variety of speech, of doctrine of song, of inspiration and of instruction of every kind; and then you never can stray far from the path of providential that makes its own course straight up to the God Who started the mysterious outgoing. We have nothing to do with incantation; we do not go to consult the witch of Endor, the sorcerer, or the conjurer; we ask no questions at forbidden places. The whole life course is mapped out in the Old Testament and in the New. The Testaments are never to be separated; they are to be read together, they explain one another; torn asunder, they lose their unity and their music; brought together, you bring flow to the root, you bring the noonday to the dawn, you unite things, forces, ministries that ought never to be dissevered. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Scripture given by inspiration is profitable for all the necessities of life. If we stray, it is not for want of light; if we persist in obeying our own perverted instincts and impulses, we must not be surprised that we end in the bog of despair or in the wilderness of destitution. Do not move without consulting the oracle Divine. Let our motto be, “To the law, and to the testimony”, and what cannot be confirmed by the spirit of the book is unworthy to be admitted into our life as an inspiring and directing force."