Exodus 28:30
And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(30) Thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim.—Comp. Leviticus 8:8. The expression used is identical with that employed in Exodus 25:15; Exodus 25:21 with respect to putting the Two Tables into the Ark of the Covenant, and can scarcely have any other meaning than the literal placing of one thing inside another. It has been already shown (see Note on Exodus 28:16) that the breastplate was a bag, and so capable of being used as a receptacle. The words “Urim and Thummim” mean literally, “lights and perfections,” or, if the plural be one of dignity, “light and perfection” (Aquila and Symmachus translate by φωτισμοὶ καὶ τελειότητεϛ; the LXX., by ἡ δήλωσιϛ καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια; the Vulg. by doctrina et veritas). The question arises, what do these two words, as here used, designate? Do they designate material objects; if so, what objects? In favour of their designating material objects are (1) the expressions, “thou shalt put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim,” “they shall be upon Aaron’s heart,” “he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim” (Leviticus 8:8); (2) the fact that the words are accompanied by the article, on this, the first mention of them, as if they were familiar objects, well known at the time to the people generally; and (3) the explanations of Philo and Josephus, which, while they differ in all other respects, agree in this, that material objects are intended. But, if so, what objects? The two sides of the breastplate, says Philo (De Monarch., ii. 5). But these were not “put in” the breastplate after it was complete, as implied in Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8. The twelve jewels, says Josephus; but the present passage, taken in conjunction with Exodus 28:17-21, distinguishes the Urim and Thummim from them. Some small objects which the bag of the breastplate could hold, and with which the people had long been familiar, can alone answer the requirements of the case. Most modern critics are thus far agreed; but when the further question is asked, what were these objects? The greatest difference appears. Diamonds, cut and uncut; slips of metal, marked with “yes” and “no”; lots, of some kind or other; and small images, like the teraphim (Genesis 31:19), are among the suggestions. A very slight examination of the arguments by which these various views are supported is sufficient to show that certainty on the subject is unattainable. Probability, however, seems on the whole to be in favour of a connection between divination by teraphim and consultation of God by Urim and Thummim (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14; Judges 18:17; Judges 18:20; Hosea 3:4), whence it is reasonable to conclude that the Urim and Thummim were small images, by which God had been consulted in the past, and by which Moses was now authorised to state that He would be consulted in the future. How the consultation was made, and the decision given, is a question still more obscure than that which has been just considered, and one which seems to the present writer to admit of no solution. The reader who is curious upon the point may be referred to Dean Plumptre’s article on “Urim and Thummim,” in Dr. W. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, where the views propounded are ingenious, if not altogether satisfactory.

Exodus 28:30. The Urim and Thummim — By which the will of God was made known in doubtful cases, was put in this breast-plate, which is therefore called the breast-plate of judgment. Urim and Thummim signify light and integrity, or lights and perfections: many conjectures there are among the learned what they were: we have no reason to think they were any thing that Moses was to make, more than what was before ordered; so that either God made them himself, and gave them to Moses, for him to put into the breast-plate when other things were prepared; or, as is most probable, no more is meant but a declaration of the further use of what was already ordered to be made. The words may be read thus: And thou shalt give, or add, to the breast-plate of judgment, the illuminations and perfections, and they shall be upon the heart of Aaron — That is, he shall be endued with a power of knowing and making known the mind of God in all difficult cases, relative either to the civil or ecclesiastical state. Their government was a theocracy; God was their king, the high-priest was, under God, their ruler, this Urim and Thummim were his cabinet council: probably Moses wrote upon the breast-plate, or wove into it, these words, Urim and Thummim, to signify that the high-priest, having on him this breast-plate, and asking counsel of God in any emergency, should be directed to those measures which God would own. If he were standing before the ark, probably he received instructions from off the mercy-seat, as Moses did, Exodus 25:22. If he were at a distance from the ark, as Abiathar was when he inquired of the Lord for David, (1 Samuel 23:6,) then the answer was given either by a voice from heaven, or by an impulse upon the mind of the high-priest, which last is perhaps intimated in that expression, He shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart. This oracle was of great use to Israel. Joshua consulted it, (Numbers 27:21,) and it is likely, the judges after him. It was lost in the captivity, and never retrieved after. Indeed, according to the Jewish doctors, as Calmet observes, the custom of consulting God by Urim and Thummim continued no longer than under the tabernacle; for under the first temple, they say, (the temple of Solomon,) God spake by the prophets, and under the second temple, or after the captivity of Babylon, by bath koll, or the daughter of the voice, by which they mean a voice sent from heaven, as that which was heard at the baptism of Christ, at his transfiguration, and that mentioned John 12:28.

This Urim and Thummim, whatever they were, and in whatever way the will of God was made known by them, were no more than a shadow of good things to come, and the substance is Christ. He is our oracle; by him God in these last days makes known himself and his mind to us. Divine revelation centres in him, and comes to us through him; he is the light, the true light, the faithful witness; and from him we receive the Spirit of truth, who leads us into all truth. The joining of the breast-plate to the ephod signifies, that his prophetical office was founded on his priesthood; and it was by the merit of his death that he purchased this honour for himself, and this favour for us. It was the Lamb that had been slain that was worthy to take the book, and to open the seals, Revelation 5:9.

28:15-30 The chief ornament of the high priest, was the breastplate, a rich piece of cloth, curiously worked. The name of each tribe was graven in a precious stone, fixed in the breastplate, to signify how precious, in God's sight, believers are, and how honourable. How small and poor soever the tribe was, it was as a precious stone in the breastplate of the high priest; thus are all the saints dear to Christ, however men esteem them. The high priest had the names of the tribes, both on his shoulders and on his breast, which reminds us of the power and the love with which our Lord Jesus pleads for those that are his. He not only bears them up in his arms with almighty strength, but he carries them in his bosom with tender affection. What comfort is this to us in all our addresses to God! The Urim and Thummim, by which the will of God was made known in doubtful cases, were put in this breastplate. Urim and Thummim signify light and integrity. There are many conjectures what these were; the most probable opinion seems to be, that they were the twelve precious stones in the high priest's breastplate. Now, Christ is our Oracle. By him God, in these last days, makes known himself and his mind to us, Heb 1:1,2; Joh 1:18. He is the true Light, the faithful Witness, the Truth itself, and from him we receive the Spirit of Truth, who leads into all truth.The Urim and the Thummim - "The Light and the Truth, or perfection."

From the way in which they are spoken of here and in Leviticus 8:8, compared with Exodus 28:15-21, it would appear that the Urim and the Thummim were some material things, previously existing and familiarly known, that they were separate from the breastplate itself, as well as from the gems that were set upon it, and were kept in the bag of the breastplate Exodus 28:16.

By means of them the will of Yahweh, especially in what related to the wars in which His people were engaged, was made known. They were formally delivered by Moses to Aaron Leviticus 8:8, and subsequently passed on to Eleazar Numbers 20:28; Numbers 27:21. They were esteemed as the crowning glory of the tribe of Levi Deu 33:8. There is no instance on record of their being consulted after the time of David.

The opinion has prevailed to a great extent that the Urim and the Thummim were of Egyptian origin, and two small images of precious stone, and that the divine will was manifested through them by some physical effect addressed to the eye or the ear.

Others prefer the view that they were some means for casting lots. Appeals to lots were made under divine authority by the chosen people on the most solemn occasions Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 26:55; Joshua 7:14-18; Joshua 13:6; Joshua 18:8; 1 Samuel 14:41-42; Acts 1:26, and it must have been a truth commonly recognized by the people that though "the lot was cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord" Proverbs 16:33.

30. thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and Thummim—The words signify "lights" and "perfections"; and nothing more is meant than the precious stones of the breastplate already described (compare Ex 39:8-21; Le 8:8). They received the name because the bearing of them qualified the high priest to consult the divine oracle on all public or national emergencies, by going into the holy place—standing close before the veil and putting his hand upon the Urim and Thummim, he conveyed a petition from the people and asked counsel of God, who, as the Sovereign of Israel, gave response from the midst of His glory. Little, however, is known about them. But it may be remarked that Egyptian judges wore on the breast of their official robes a representation of Justice, and the high priest in Israel long officiated also as a judge; so that some think the Urim and Thummim had a reference to his judicial functions. The words Urim and Thummim confessedly signify light, or illuminations and perfections, which may be understood either of two differing things, the one noting the knowledge, the other the perfection, to wit, of virtues and graces, which were required in the high priest, and which were in Christ in an eminent degree, and from him alone communicated to his people; or of one and the same thing, noting perfect light or illumination, by a figure called hendyadis, oft used in Scripture, as Deu 16:18 Matthew 4:16, compared with Job 10:21 John 3:5 Acts 17:25, compared with Genesis 2:7. Which may seem probable,

1. Because the great use of this instrument was to give light and direction in dubious and difficult cases, and not to confer any other perfection upon any person.

2. Because sometimes both these words and things are expressed only by one of them, and that is by Urim, Numbers 27:21 1 Samuel 28:6, which signifies lights. And the name seems to be given from the effect, because hence the Israelites had clear light, and perfect or certain direction in dark and doubtful matters. But the great question is, what this Urim and Thummim was, and in what manner God answered by it; which God having on purpose concealed from us, and not set down the matter or form of it, as he hath done of all the other particulars, it may seem curiosity and presumption for men solicitously to inquire, and positively to determine. Many conceive it was nothing else but the twelve precious stones, wherein the names of the twelve tribes were engraven, and that the answer of God was composed out of those letters which either show more brightly, or thrust themselves further outward, than the rest did; which seems a frivolous and ungrounded conjecture, both because all the letters of the alphabet were not there, and so all answers could not be given by them; and because it was shut up within the duplicature of the breastplate, and therefore could not be seen by the high priest; and there is not a word to signify that he was to take it out thence, and look upon it, but rather the contrary is evident. And that this Urim and Thummim are not the same thing with those twelve stones may be easily proved:

1. Because the stones were set and engraven in the breastplate, Exodus 28:17,21, this was only put into it, which is a word of quite different and more loose and large signification, and therefore probably doth not design the same thing.

2. It is not likely that in such a brief account of the sacred utensils the same command would be repeated again, especially in more dark and general words than it was mentioned before. And how could Moses now put it in, when the workmen had fastened it there before? or why should he be required to put it in the breastplate, when it was fastened to it already, and could not without violence be taken from it?

3. Because the stones were put in by the workmen, Exodus 39:10, the Urim and Thummim by Moses himself, Leviticus 8:8. It is objected, that where the stones are mentioned there is no mention of Urim and Thummim, as Exo 29, and that where the Urim and Thummim are mentioned there is no mention of the stones, as Leviticus 8:8, which shows they were one and the same thing. But that is not necessary, and there is an evident reason of both those omissions; of the former, Exo 39, because he mentions only those things which were made by the workmen, whereas the Urium and Thummim seems to have been made immediately by God, or by Moses with God’s direction; of the latter, Le 8, because the stones are implied in the breastplate as a part of it, and being fastened to it, whereas there he only mentions what was put in by Moses himself. There are other conjectures, as that it; as the name Jehovah, or some visible representations, &c. But such conjectures are as easily denied as affirmed. It is therefore more modest and reasonable to be silent where God is silent, than to indulge ourselves in boundless and groundless fancies. It may suffice us to know that this was a singular piece of Divine workmanship, which the high priest was obliged to wear upon solemn occasions, as one of the conditions upon which God engaged to give him answers; which answers God might give to him either by inward suggestion to his mind, or by a vocal expression to his ear. But which of those ways, or whether by any other way, it is needless now to search, and impossible certainly to discover.

The judgment of the children of Israel. A short speech. As the testimony is oft put for the ark of the testimony, so is the judgment here for the breastplate of judgment, i.e. that breastplate which declared the judgment, or oracle, or mind of God to the Israelites in those cases which they brought to the Lord.

Before the Lord continually, i.e. at all times when he shall appear before the Lord in the holy place.

And thou shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim,.... What these interpreters are at a loss about, both Jewish and Christian; some have confessed their ignorance of them, have conjectured they were only these two words and put in the duplicature of the breastplate; that the name of Jehovah, with other divine were put there and so called; and some have that they were little images, the same with the teraphim, the high priest carried in the folds of breastplate, by which consultation was made; others have thought them to be a work purely divine, of Jehovah's putting there; for my own part I am to follow Josephus (x), who takes them to be the same with the twelve stones; and it is observable that where the stones are mentioned nothing is said of the Urim and Thummim, and where the Urim and Thummim are observed, no notice is taken of the stones, see Exodus 39:10 the use of these was to have the names of the children of Israel engraven upon them, and so be borne on the heart of Aaron when he went into the holy place, as is here said of the Urim and Thummim; and that consultation might be made by them in matters of moment and difficulty, as appears from various other passages of the Scripture, Numbers 27:21 and but in what manner this was done, and in what way the answer was given and understood, are not easily accounted for: some say, by the brightness or protuberance of the letters on the stones; others, by the shining and splendour of the stones, which is more probable; others, by an inward impression on the mind of the priest; and others, by an articulate voice, which seems best of all: the Septuagint render these two words "manifestation and truth"; and Aelianus (y) reports, that the chief and oldest among the Egyptian priests and judges wore an image of a sapphire stone about his neck, which they called "truth": and, according to Diodorus Siculus (z), this image was of more precious stones than one; for he says, the president in the Egyptian courts of judicature had on his neck, hanging on a golden chain, an image of precious stones, which they called truth: but there is no reason to believe that this custom was as ancient as the times of the Israelites in Egypt, or that they borrowed this from them; but rather, that the Egyptians did this in imitation of what the high priest among the Jews wore, which they might learn from the Jews in Solomon's time, or in later ages; the words Urim and Thummim signify "lights and perfections", agreeably to which is the paraphrase of Jonathan;"Urim, which enlighten their words, and manifest the hidden things of the house of Israel, and Thummim, which perfect their works, by the high priest, who seeks instruction from the Lord by them:''they were typical of Christ, in whom all lights and perfections are; all light is in him; the light of nature and reason is from him, as the Creator, and is given to every man that comes into the world; the light of grace is with him, and communicated to all his people at conversion, and in all the after degrees and supplies of it; all light and knowledge in divine things is from him, the knowledge of God, of himself, and of the Gospel, and the truths of it; and the light of glory will be from him: all the perfections of deity, the whole fulness of the Godhead, all human perfections, which make him as man in all things like unto us, but far exceeding us; as Mediator, all the blessings and promises of the covenant are in him; all the gifts of the Spirit, and a fulness of all grace; there are in him perfect righteousness, perfect holiness, all light, life, strength, wisdom, joy, and comfort (a): and these stones, or Urim and Thummim, may be an emblem also of the saints, being made light and perfect righteousness in Christ, from whom they have both:

and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the Lord; either into the holy or into the most holy place, just as the names of the children of Israel on the stones are said to be; see Gill on Exodus 28:29,

and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually; not only bear their names and remember their cases, make intercession for them, and represent their persons, in all which he was a type of Christ, but bear their judgment, have that at heart, and administer it unto them; and in all doubtful and difficult cases inquire of God what was fit and right to do for them, or for them to do: so Christ has the government of his people both at heart and in his hands; all judgment is committed to him, and he is the righteousness of his people now, and will be their Judge hereafter.

(x) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 7. sect. 5. (y) Var. Hist. l. 14. c. 34. (z) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 68. (a) See a Discourse of mine, called Levi's Urim and Thummim, found with Christ, &c. published in 1725.

And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the {n} Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually.

(n) Urim signifies light, and thummim perfection: declaring that the stones of the breastplate were most clear, and of perfect beauty: by urim also is meant knowledge, and thummim holiness, showing what virtues are required in the priests.

30. The Urim and Thummim. These are to be put into the pouch of judgement: they are consequently something quite distinct from the jewels in front of it (v. 17), with which they have often been identified; and from the manner in which they are mentioned elsewhere (esp. 1 Samuel 14:41) there can be little doubt that they were two sacred lots, used for the purpose of ascertaining the Divine will on questions of national importance. We do not know their size or the material of which they were made: they are not described, but introduced as something well known. See further p. 313 f.

the judgement of &c.] The Urim and Thummim are so called as the means by which a Divine judgement, or decision, might be obtained on matters of national importance. Cf. Numbers 27:21 (P).

On the Urim and Thummim

In addition to Exodus 28:30, the Urim and Thummim are mentioned in the "", Leviticus 8:8, and (the Urim alone) in Numbers 27:21 (both P: here Eleazar is to determine for Joshua by their help when Israel is to ‘go out’ and ‘come in’); in the Blessing attributed to Moses, Deuteronomy 33:8 (as a privileged possession of the priestly tribe), in 1 Samuel 28:6 (the Urim alone,—Jehovah answered Saul ‘neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets’), in Ezra 2:63 = Nehemiah 7:65 (‘till a priest should rise up with Urim and Thummim,’ implying they were lost in the post-exilic age); and esp. in the original Heb. text of 1 Samuel 14:41, presupposed by the LXX. which throws the greatest light upon the manner in which they were used, ‘And Saul said, O Jehovah, the God of Israel, why hast thou not answered thy servant this day? If the iniquity be in me or in Jonathan my son, give Urim; and if it be in thy people Israel, give Thummim. And Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, but the people escaped.’ (The Heb. words rendered in RVm. = A.V. ‘Give a perfect (lot)’ are a mutilated fragment of the longer text preserved in LXX., thâmim, ‘perfect,’ differing from ‘Thummim’ only in vocalization.) The priest who cast the lots on this occasion was evidently Ahijah, who just before (vv. 3, 18 RVm.) is mentioned as ‘bearing’ (above, p. 313) an ephod; and a comparison of the other passages in 1 Sam. in which the priest asks for a Divine decision with the help of the ephod, makes it probable that on these occasions also the Urim and Thummim, though not actually mentioned, were in fact employed: see 1 Samuel 14:18 (read as RVm.), 19, 37, Exodus 23:10-12 (see v. 6), Exodus 30:7-8. After David’s time the Urim and Thummim are not mentioned in the history; and though we are naturally not in a position to say that they were never resorted to, yet the increasing importance of the prophets as announcers of the Divine will, and the more spiritual conceptions of God which their teaching brought with it, make it probable that their use fell more and more into abeyance. But the possession of the sacred lots was an ancient and prized prerogative of the priestly caste (Deuteronomy 33:8); the right of using them was doubtless jealously maintained by the chief priest till—through whatever cause—they were lost (Ezra 2:63); and so they naturally found a place in P’s description of the high priest’s official dress, and their original institution was referred back to Moses.

The etymological meaning of ‘Urim and Thummim’ is uncertain. Regarded as two Heb. words, they would naturally signify Lights and Perfections; but as giving the original sense of the expression, this explanation is anything but satisfactory. It is possible that the words are the Hebraized forms of two originally Babylonian technical terms. The LXX. usually express Urim by either δῆλοι (sc. λίθοι), i.e. ‘visible, manifest (stones),’—and so in the Greek text of Sir 33:3 (codd. א A and RV.), Sir 45:10,—or δήλωσις, ‘manifestation, declaration’; and Thummim by ἀλήθεια, ‘truth’ (cf. Sir 45:10): the former rend is a paraphrase of ‘Lights’: the latter—as the translators lived in Egypt—may have been suggested to them by the fact that in Egypt the judge presiding at a trial wore, suspended from his neck, an image of Tme, the Egyptian goddess of truth (Wilk.-B. i. 296, iii. 183 f.; Diod. i. 48, 75). For further particulars on the whole subject, see Kennedy in DB., and Moore in EB., s.v.

31–35 (cf. Exodus 39:22-26). The robe of the ephod. This was a long violet robe woven in one piece, put on by being drawn over the head, with arm-holes (but without sleeves), and with pomegranates worked in colours, and small golden bells, arranged alternately as a border, round the bottom of the skirt

Verse 30. - Thou shalt put in the breast-plate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim. The words Urim and Thummim mean respectively "Lights "and" Perfections," or perhaps "Light" and "Perfection - the plural form being merely a plural of honour. They were well translated by Aquila and Symmachus, φωτισμοὶ καὶ τελειότητες: less well by the LXX. ἡ δήλωσις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια: still worse by the Vulgate, Doctrina et Veritas. What exactly the two words represented is doubtful in the extreme. It has been supposed by some that they were not material objects, but a method by which God communicated his will; e.g., a miraculous light, or a miraculous voice. But such things as these could not have been put by Moses either "in," or "on the breastplate of judgment." Modern critics are generally agreed that the Urim and Thummim must have been material objects of one kind or another. The objects suggested are -

1. The engraved stones of the breast-plate.

2. Two small images, like the teraphim.

3. A gold plate, engraved with the name of Jehovah.

4. Three plates or slips; one blank, one engraved with "yes," and one with "no."

5. Diamonds, cut and uncut, with marks engraved on them.

Against the first of these views it is urged with very great force that the present passage shows the Urim and Thummim to be something quite distinct from the breast-plate - something which was to be added to the breast-plate after all the stones had been set in it; and which Aaron was to bear upon his breast in addition to the breast-plate and its jewels (compare ver. 29 with ver. 30). Against the fourth and fifth, it is sufficient to observe that they are pure conjectures, without any basis of authority, either in Scripture or tradition. The second and the third remain. The third has important Jewish names in its favour, but is open to the objection that it makes a single object correspond to both words. The second alone seems to have any basis in Scripture, which certainly connects the use of teraphim with the use of an ephod (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14, 17, 20; Hosea 3:4). On the whole, while admitting that there is no sufficient evidence to determine the question, we incline to regard the Urim and Thummim as small images, kept in the bag of the "breast-plate" (ver. 16), by means of which the high priest gave a decision when he was consulted. How the decision was arrived at, is an even more difficult problem than the one which we have attempted to solve. Some suppose the two images to have been used as lots, one giving an affirmative and the other a negative answer. Others imagine, that by gazing attentively upon them, and fixing his thoughts on the qualities which they symbolised - illumination and perfection - the high priest was thrown into an ecstatic state which enabled him to prophesy aright. The notion has even been started, that an angel spoke by their lips, and answered any question that was put to them. The truth seems to be that no theory on the subject can be more than a theory - quite arbitrary and conjectural - neither Scripture nor tradition furnishing any hint on the matter. If we knew how men divined from teraphim (2 Kings 23:24; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2), we might thence obtain some inkling of the truth, since there is much probability in the view, that the teraphim were employed as an unauthorised substitute for the Urim and Thummim. (See Judges 17:5; Judges 18:5, 6, 14-20.) But the method of this divination is wholly unknown. It is not however likely to have been a mere casting of lots, which is a very simple process, and requires no images; nor can this explanation of the decision by Urim and Thummim be regarded as having probability m its favour. Perhaps, of all the theories, that which supposes the Urim and Thummim to have been objects gazed at by the high priest until he entered the ecstatic state, is the least objectionable. It must not, however, be considered an essential part of this theory, that the material objects were derived from the religion of Egypt (Plumptre). The objects must have been well known to Moses and to those for whom he wrote; otherwise, they could not have been introduced, without any account of their nature, as," The Urim" and "The Thummim." They had probably been long possessed and consulted by the nation, which was accustomed to believe that it received enlightenment from them. Perhaps they were a sort of teraphim, but unconnected with any idolatrous worship. It is quite conceivable that an old usage, hitherto un-authorised, but not debased by any flagrant corruption, should have been adopted by Divine command into the Mosaic ritual, purified of any evil that attached to it, and consecrated to an important purpose.

CHAPTER 28:31-35 Exodus 28:30Into this choshen Moses was to put the Urim and Thummim, that they might be upon his heart when he came before Jehovah, and that he might thus constantly bear the right (mishpat) of the children of Israel upon his heart before Jehovah. It is evident at once from this, that the Urim and Thummim were to bring the right of the children of Israel before the Lord, and that the breastplate was called choshen mishpat because the Urim and Thummim were in it. Moreover it also follows from the expression אל נתתּ, both here and in Leviticus 8:8, that the Urim and Thummim were not only distinct from the choshen, but were placed in it, and not merely suspended upon it, as Knobel supposes. For although the lxx have adopted the rendering ἐπιτιθέναι ἐπί, the phrase is constantly used to denote putting or laying one thing into another, and never (not even in 1 Samuel 6:8 and 2 Samuel 11:16) merely placing one thing upon or against another. For this, על נתן is the expression invariably used in the account before us (cf. Exodus 28:14 and Exodus 28:23.).

What the Urim and Thummim really were, cannot be determined with certainty, either from the names themselves, or from any other circumstances connected with them.

(Note: The leading opinions and the most important writings upon the subject are given in my Bibl. Archaeol. 39, note 9.)

The lxx render the words δήλωσις (or δῆλος) καὶ ἀλήθεια, i.e., revelation and truth. This expresses with tolerable accuracy the meaning of Urim (אוּרים light, illumination), but Thummim (תּמּים) means integritas, inviolability, perfection, and not ἀλήθεια. The rendering given by Symm. and Theod., viz., φωτισμοὶ καὶ τελειώσεις, illumination and completion, is much better; and there is no good ground for giving up this rendering in favour of that of the lxx, since the analogy between the Urim and Thummim and the ἄγαλμα of sapphire-stones, or the ζώδιον of precious stones, which was worn by the Egyptian high priest suspended by a golden chain, and called ἀλήθεια (Aelian. var. hist. 14, 34; Diod. Sic. i. 48, 75), sufficiently explains the rendering ἀλήθεια, which the lxx have given to Thummim, but it by no means warrants Knobel's conclusion, that the Hebrews had adopted the Egyptian names along with the thing itself. The words are therefore to be explained from the Coptic. The Urim and Thummim are analogous, it is true, to the εἰκῶν τῆς ἀληθείας, which the Egyptian ἀρχιδικαστής hung round his neck, but they are by no means identical with it, or to be regarded as two figures which were a symbolical representation of revelation and truth. If Aaron was to bring the right of the children of Israel before Jehovah in the breastplate that was placed upon his breast with the Urim and Thummim, the latter, if they were intended to represent anything, could only be symbolical of the right or rightful condition of Israel. But the words do not warrant any such conclusion. If the Urim and Thummim had been intended to represent any really existing thing, their nature, or the mode of preparing them, would certainly have been described. Now, if we refer to Numbers 27:21, where Joshua as the commander of the nation is instructed to go to the high priest Eleazar, that the latter may inquire before Jehovah, through the right of Urim, how the whole congregation should walk and act, we can draw no other conclusion, than that the Urim and Thummim are to be regarded as a certain medium, given by the Lord to His people, through which, whenever the congregation required divine illumination to guide its actions, that illumination was guaranteed, and by means of which the rights of Israel, when called in question or endangered, were to be restored, and that this medium was bound up with the official dress of the high priest, though its precise character can no longer be determined. Consequently the Urim and Thummim did not represent the illumination and right of Israel, but were merely a promise of these, a pledge that the Lord would maintain the rights of His people, and give them through the high priest the illumination requisite for their protection. Aaron was to bear the children of Israel upon his heart, in the precious stones to be worn upon his breast with the names of the twelve tribes. The heart, according to the biblical view, is the centre of the spiritual life, - not merely of the willing, desiring, thinking life, but of the emotional life, as the seat of the feelings and affections (see Delitzsch bibl. Psychologie, pp. 203ff.). Hence to bear upon the heart does not merely mean to bear in mind, but denotes "that personal intertwining with the life of another, by virtue of which the high priest, as Philo expresses it, was τοῦ σύμπαντος ἔθνους συγγενὴς καὶ ἀγχιστεὺς κοινός (Spec. leg. ii. 321), and so stood in the deepest sympathy with those for whom he interceded" (Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.). As he entered the holy place with this feeling, and in this attitude, of which the choshen was the symbol, he brought Israel into remembrance before Jehovah that the Lord might accept His people; and when furnished with the Urim and Thummim, he appeared before Jehovah as the advocate of the people's rights, that he might receive for the congregation the illumination required to protect and uphold those rights.

Exodus 28:30 Interlinear
Exodus 28:30 Parallel Texts

Exodus 28:30 NIV
Exodus 28:30 NLT
Exodus 28:30 ESV
Exodus 28:30 NASB
Exodus 28:30 KJV

Exodus 28:30 Bible Apps
Exodus 28:30 Parallel
Exodus 28:30 Biblia Paralela
Exodus 28:30 Chinese Bible
Exodus 28:30 French Bible
Exodus 28:30 German Bible

Bible Hub

Exodus 28:29
Top of Page
Top of Page