And he put the breastplate on him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim.
I. The Urim and the Thummim was something distinct from the twelve stones in the pectoral of the high priest. Evidently the breastplate with its jewels was outward and visible; the Urim and the Thummim were inward, and concealed beneath the ephod, for it is said of the former, "they shall bind the breastplate unto the rings of the ephod, that it may be above the curious girdle of the ephod." With regard to the Urim and the Thummim, on the other hand, it is enjoined "thou shalt put in " (enclose within) "the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be upon" (next) "Aaron's heart when he goeth in before the Lord." Nor is it to be overlocked that, with carefully selected terms, Moses speaks of the stones in the breastplate being "set, or filled in," but the Urim and the Thummim he describes simply as "put in," as if the one had been fixed with elaborate art, the other merely deposited by the hand — dropped in. Nay, it is stated expressly that "Moses put the breastplate upon Aaron," and that, after he had thus put on him the breastplate, all gemmed and finished, "he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim." The artificers, therefore, must have prepared the sacerdotal vestment, even to the stones of the breastplate, whilst Moses provided the Urim and the Thummim.
II. Urim and Thummim are proper names susceptible of a very definite and obvious meaning. "Urim" might have been translated "light," or "manifestation," for it imports "a light or shining thing"; and "Thummim" might have been rendered "truth or perfection," meaning, as it does, "the perfect or the true."
III. If, however, the Urim and the Thummim be not the breastplate of the high priest, and something distinct from the stones thereof; it, likewise, it be entitled to the designations of "light and truth," a "perfect and a shining thing," being thus loftily characterised of God Himself, what else could it mean than the law as given on Sinai, and written by Moses, when he descended from the Mount?
1. It is to be noticed that, when the article is first introduced, Moses refers to it as already in existence, and not as a thing that needed to be prepared. "Thou shalt put within the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim" — all which accords wholly with the idea that the law was meant, it being already in possession of Moses, and known to all the camp.
2. Let it also be taken into consideration that the law received different names according to the light in which it was viewed. It is called " the Ten Commandments" when its moral precepts are numbered. It is designated " the table of covenant " when regarded as the tenure by which Israel held Canaan. It was spoken of as "a commandment" considered as being stamped with Divine authority. It went under the name of "judgment" when adduced as the standard that fixes all moral truth. And it is "a testimony" when meaning a public declaration of what God expects from His creatures. If, however, the law were thus denoted by expressions taken from some of its aspects and properties, there is nothing forced in the supposition that it may also have received the designation of "light and perfection" ("Urim and Thummim") as another formula by which briefly to signify its character as a whole.
IV. And the appellations given both to the breastplate and the Urim and Thummim add probably to this view. The former is entitled "the breastplate of judgment," which can only mean the breastplate including judgment or containing the law. Urim and Thummim are likewise designated as "the judgment," that is, the law of Israel. It enhances the argument to consider that the terms " Urim and Thummim" ("light and perfection") answer precisely to the description God has given of His law: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my paths." Nay, "the law of Jehovah is perfect" (Thummim); "the law of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Urim). This explanation invests the practice of consulting the Urim and the Thummim with dignity and reasonableness. Were the Urim and Thummim a mere ornament of skilful jewelry, it would seem not only unmeaning, but a direct encouragement of idolatry to associate it with the revelation of the Divine mind. But let it be admitted that the law is within the sacerdotal robe, and it is at once apparent that the man who consults by Urim and Thummim is only advising with the high priest as to the statutes of Jehovah, and ascertaining their import from him who had been ordained to interpret them. Taking the Urim and the Thummim to mean the law, this article completes the typical character of the sacerdotal apparel, as pointing out the offices of Christ. The robe and mitre worn by Aaron denoted the priesthood of Christ; the golden plate on the forehead signified the royalty of the Saviour; and the Urim and the Thummim, if interpreted to be the law, would shadow forth the Redeemer's prophetic office. The view now taken throws light on several passages of Holy Writ.
1. To hide a law would, according to usual notions, mean anything but showing it reverence and obeying it with anxiety. Yet "Thy law," says David, "have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee." The phrase, therefore, is strictly a Jewish one, and can only be explained by the custom now illustrated. The allusion is to the high priest depositing the law within his breastplate for the purpose of being consulted.
2. Throughout the whole of Psalm 40. Christ is shadowed forth in reference to the ancient priesthood, and in the words "I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart," the allusion is manifestly to Aaron carrying the law beside his heart within the breastplate. The meaning is, therefore, not simply that Christ is holy. But, first, it is to be understood that, as Priest of the Church, Jesus is prepared to fulfil all that has been typified in the law; and, next, that, as the Prophet of God, He alone can guide and sanctify.
3. The prayer, "O send forth Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me," is just a request that the Urim and Thummim might be David's guide, so that he may not miss his way to God, or come by a forbidden road. But the Urim and the Thummim being the law, the Psalmist's desire was to approach God in the observance of those rites and in possession of that spirit which the law required.
4. The Jew ever turned to his high priest for information on all religious points, and guidance in all perplexing junctures, knowing that in him was hid a source of light and the means of perfection which could neither fail nor mislead. But the apostle asserts that the High Priest of the Christian profession is also thus gifted and benignant. "In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Within His breast there is a spring of knowledge as exhaustless — a law of holiness as authoritative — a beam of light as pure. He will lead in the paths of truth and holiness all who ask counsel at His lips.
5. It may be asked, To what are the Jewish phylacteries to be traced but to the Urim and Thummim of the high priest? There is a Divine command to bind the law as a bracelet on the hand — on the head, as a frontlet, but the practice of inscribing portions of the law on parchment and depositing them in a case is evidently the Urim and the Thummim on a smaller scale. Indeed, the idea of interpreting literally the order of Moses above alluded to must have arisen from observing what the high priest did with the scroll of the law entire, and a desire to imitate his practice. The view taken suggests some practical lessons.
(1) It teaches the sinlessness of Christ; for, let the character of Jesus be surveyed in His type, as bearing the law within His heart, and it must be instantly felt that in One, of whom this was a just and chosen emblem, there could be no unrighteousness.
(2) It shews the manner in which Christ executes the office of a Prophet. It is not by creating a new law, or giving direction independent of the law, for then would He not correspond with His type, the high priest, who drew his responses from the will of God written within his inspired scroll. It is by pointing us to the law which bears upon our case, through the influence of His Spirit, and explaining its precepts, and enforcing its sanctions.
(3) Let the believer, from this statement, understand more exactly what is required of him in point of character as being a priest of God. God has called him to "the royal priesthood "; He has given him at once the crown of royalty and the mitre of priesthood. He must not, however, exult in this distinction without adverting to the qualifications it infers, but remember that, if a priest to God, he must place the law as a candle within his heart, and fasten on what the apostle, in allusion to the sacerdotal equipage, calls "the breastplate of righteousness."
(J. J. Bonar.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim.