The Urim and Thummim
One of the most mysterious aspects of the clothing of the High Priest without any question is the URIM and THUMMIM.
Whereas the Breastplate of the Kohen Gadol was highly visible, the Urim and Thummim were inserted into a pocket behind the BREASTPLATE OF THE HIGH PRIEST – in Hebrew “CHOSEN MISHPAT” meaning – THE BREASTPLATE OF JUDGEMENT. Much mystery surrounds the nature and operation of the Urim and the Thummim. Thus the ‘invisible’ Urim and Thummim have acquired an almost ‘oracle-like’ reputation, as the High Priest, by consulting the Urim and Thummim was able to give a Heavenly answer to the most important questions facing the nation of Israel.
NO PERSON OTHER THAN MOSES AND AARON AND HIS HIGH PRIESTLY SUCCESSORS HAS EVER SEEN THE URIM AND THUMMIM. Today, there is nobody around to tell you what they, or it, might look like! There is a mystical aspect to these sacred artefacts, as they represent God’s Divine interaction with His chosen nation and people. The use of the Urim and the Thummim by the High Priest invariably was miraculous in every sense of the word.
It is worthwhile for us to enquire into this considerable mystery to see what we can learn about these strange holy objects, through which God Himself used to give His Divine answer to the questions that were of national importance to His people Israel.
I BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING GOD HAS WRITTEN IN HIS TORAH IS RELEVANT FOR US TODAY. THE VERY POSITIONING OF THE URIM AND THUMIM BEHIND THE SACRED BREASTPLATE OF THE HIGH PRIEST MUST GIVE THESE A SPECIAL RELEVANCE.
As we examine this most unusual subject we are bound to learn more about our GREAT GOD. Another reason why it is important to cover this subject is for us to pose the rather intriguing question:
COULD IT BE THAT THE URIM AND THUMMIM WILL BE USED AGAIN? MIGHT IT BE THAT THE URIM AND THUMMIM ARE YET TO PLAY A FUTURE ROLE IN THE REUNIFICATION OF THE TWO HOUSES OF ISRAEL?
HaUrim means the “Light.” Note that Messiah Yeshua is referred to as, “the Light of men.”
“In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.”
(John 1:4 NKJV)
HaThummim means “the Perfections” or “complete Truth.” The URIM is mentioned SEVEN times in the Bible and it means “LIGHTS.” At the time of Chanukah, (the festival of Lights), this should therefore have special significance for those of us who are from the House of Judah. The THUMMIM is mentioned FIVE times in the Scriptures and it means COMPLETENESS. The number “seven” itself denotes “completeness” also, whereas the number “five” means “grace.” If we measure the meaning by the number of times the Urim and Thummim are mentioned in the Scriptures we come up with COMPLETE OR PERFECT GRACE. Thus, you see, even the Urim and the Thummim are pointing us to our High Priest Messiah Yeshua. Note also that 7+5 =12 and that the number 12 indicates “Perfect Government.” We know from the prophets that when the Two Houses of Israel are reunited into one Kingdom under the rule of her King Mashiach, perfect government will finally be established on the earth.
“For from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.”
(Isaiah 2:3b Tanach Artscrol Stone Edition)
The Urim and Thummim together therefore speak of COMPLETE/PERFECT LIGHT.
The names of the twelve tribal patriarchs were engraved on the jeweled stones of the Breastplate of the High Priest as a ‘memorial’ or as a ‘remembrance’ so that God will see them and recall their righteousness. (Exodus 28:15-21)
On his chest Aaron, whose name means “Light bearer,” wore an ornament that was called THE CHOSEN MISHPAT OF JUDGMENT – THE BREASTPLATE OF JUDGMENT for two reasons:
1. It atoned for erroneous decisions made by the courts of judgment.
2. In itself it provided clear rulings for the nation through the use of the Urim and the Thummim.
Whenever the Kohen Gadol entered the Sanctuary bearing on his breast the names of Jacob’s twelve sons, God would remember their righteousness and bring blessing upon their offspring according to their merit e.g. obedience to His Torah. Again, can we not see how terribly significant this is? Here we have Aaron, the High Priest of Israel, an Israel that is comprised of all of the Twelve Tribes of Israel; wearing the Breastplate of Judgment ON HIS HEART. He has to wear it on his heart! On this same Breastplate are engraved the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel!
“So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before God continually.”
Remember – this High Priest is merely a symbolic type of that GREAT ROYAL HIGH PRIEST – the Mashiach Ben David that is yet to come! THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL ARE RESTING ON THE VERY BREAST OF THE HIGH PRIEST. CAN WE SEE WHERE GOD’S HEART IS?
The High Priest also wears two stones upon his shoulders that are inscribed with the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. We are speaking here of the High Priest of Israel! Aaron has to wear the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, so that God, looking on from above, can see the names of the Twelve Sons of Jacob written upon the shoulders of His appointed High Priest.
“Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: Six of their names on one stone and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth. With the work of an engraver in stone, like the engravings of a signet, you shall engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall set them in settings of gold. And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.”
(Exodus 28:5-12 NKJV)
The breastplate was folded in half to form a pouch like pocket. Into it Moses was to insert a slip of parchment containing the ineffable and unutterable Name of GOD known as the Tetragrammaton.
“And you shall put in the breastplate of judgement the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD. So Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually.”
According to Ramban, there was more than one Name. This Name was called ‘URIM’ from the word ‘LIGHT,’ because it would cause individual letters of the tribal names on the Breastplate to light up; and it was called THUMMIM from the word COMPLETENESS, because, if read in the proper order, these luminous letters presented complete and true answers to the questions of national import that the High Priest would ask of God.
The process of asking for Divine aid through the ‘Urim’ and ‘Thummim’ was done as follows: When a question of national importance arose, such as, for example, the question of whether or not to go to war – then, the king of Israel (or the commanding army officer) would ask this question of the High Priest. The Kohen Godal (High Priest) would stand facing the ark of testimony, and the questioner stood behind him, facing the High Priest’s back. The questioner did not speak aloud but posed his question quietly, to himself, like someone who prays in silence before His Creator. The High Priest enveloped by the spirit of Divine inspiration, gazed at the Breastplate and, by meditating upon the Holy names of God, was able to receive the answer through a prophetic vision. The letters on the stones of the Breastplate would light up and shine forth with a bright luminous light to spell out the answer to the question. (From: The Holy Temple of Jerusalem, 1997, page 39, by Rabbi Chaim Richman)
Josephus Flavius – the great Jewish historian writes that the jeweled Stones in the Breastplate also shone brilliantly when Israel went forth into battle. This was considered as an auspicious sign for their victory. He writes as follows:
“Yet will I mention what is still more wonderful than this; for Adonai declared beforehand, by those twelve gems which the High Priest bare on his breast and which were inserted into his breastplate, when they should be victorious in battle; for so great a splendour shone forth from them before the army began to march that all the people were sensible of Adonai’s being present for their assistance.”
The twelve precious gems that were worn by the Kohen HaGadol (High Priest) when doing service in the Miskhan (Tabernacle) or the Mikdash (Temple) represented the Whole House of Israel. They also presented Israel as a treasure! If you were to take the twelve precious stones and placed them together in a soft leather pouch in your safety box, they become treasure, and this is exactly what is being symbolically conveyed to us, Israel as a treasure to HaShem. We have affirmation of this in the Torah:
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is mine.”
(Exodus 19:5 NKJV)
King David confirms the same concept in:
“For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.”
(Psalm 135:4 NKJV)
It is through this Breastplate of the High priest that we can discern how important Israel is to God. We can tell from the twelve stones engraved with the names of each of the twelve tribes that God is concerned about all of the descendants of each of the twelve sons of Jacob. Every tribe is a precious gem that contributes to the nation as a whole. Clearly, God is not merely concerned with the Jews alone, but His special concern extends equally to all twelve tribal sons of Jacob. Whereas, the Jews have largely, at least in part remained faithful to His Torah and His Sabbath, the other sheep of His Israelite flock have sadly gone disastrously astray.
The Prophet Jeremiah most emphatically speaks of the day when the LORD promises to, “MAKE A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH.” This is the time not too far ahead of us now, when YHVH, the Holy One of Israel will perform the final act of His redemption:
“I WILL PUT MY TORAH IN THEIR MINDS, AND WRITE IT ON THEIR HEARTS; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”
(Jeremiah 31:31-34 See also Jeremiah 30:3-4)
So, what of this restoration of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, when the House of Israel and the House of Judah are finally reunited into one Kingdom again?
Will the URIM and THUMMIM be employed again? Might it be that the URIM and THUMMIM will one day be re-instated and used again? The Scriptures give us an interesting hint that this may indeed be the case.
The last time the URIM and THUMMIM are mentioned in the Bible is in the Book of Nehemiah. The occasion concerns a group of men returning from their captivity in Babylon who could not identify their father’s house or their lineage, or even whether they were of Israel. (Nehemiah 7:61). Some of them sought their listing by genealogy to no avail and hence they were excluded from the priesthood. The problem was resolved when the governor suggested that the Urim and Thummim should be consulted to determine the issue. (Nehemiah 7:64-65)
Notice that on this occasion they are used not to decide crucial questions of war and peace, but instead they are used to determine the identity and ancestry of Lost Israelites who have lost the knowledge of their true origins. Might this possibly present a pattern for the future? These people here were the re-gathered remnant from the Babylonian exile. Yet the Urim and Thummim are used to help identify true Jews who had completely lost their records and proofs of their identities, and some of them according to the account were even of priestly families. They knew they were Jews but they could not prove it. They had come six to eight hundred miles from Babylon and they desperately wanted to be part of those who were rebuilding Jerusalem.
Think how many millions of Israelites there are in the world today. In their spirit they sense their Israelite ancestry, yet, most of them have no idea from which tribe they originate. Think about that remnant which is prophesied to return to Zion. They will have made their journey whilst being battered by the travails of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble in that Great Second Exodus the prophets have spoken of. They have come through a holocaust more terrible than the first. How many of them will have lost their records, their identities with most of them not knowing who or what they are, yet some of them are Jews, some are of Issachar and Zebulon, whilst others are of Ephraim, Manasseh, Naphtali, or Reuben. Yet all of them are guided by an Unseen Hand which is leading them back to the land of their fathers in Eretz Israel.
One thing is sure; THE WHOLE OF JACOB’S DOZEN ARE COMING HOME!
MIGHT IT THEREFORE NOT BE CONCEIVABLE, especially in view of the precedent that was set in the days of Nehemiah, that the URIM AND THUMMIM WILL BE USED AGAIN TO ASSIST IN THIS FINAL REGATHERING?
To sort out, to clarify, to make sure, without a shadow of a doubt, by this Divinely ordained miraculous process, who is who, from what tribe they originate, and what their genealogical origins are. We know from the example in the book of Nehemiah that it has already been done by this very same method. The pattern is there for us to see. We have seen that the Urim and Thummim were indeed used to establish the ancestry of those Babylonian returnees. Thus we have observed the former fulfilment, who is to say therefore that we are not going to see the latter fulfilment also?
The return in the days of Nehemiah was on a very small scale, less than fifty thousand souls, the second exodus speaks of multiple scores of millions returning, and thus the latter fulfilment is destined to be on a far greater scale.
There are Scriptures, among other places in the last few chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, which indicate that each tribe will be allocated its own tribal territories.
“Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘These are the borders by which you shall divide the land as an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. You shall inherit it equally with one another; for I raised My hand in an oath to give it to your fathers, and this land shall fall to you as your inheritance.’ ”
In those territories some of us may even be given the very same parcels of land that formerly belonged to our ancestors! How can this possibly happen if we do not know who our ancestors are or even which tribe we belong to? One thing we can be sure of and that is that YHVH, the Holy One of Israel has it all in hand. May His will be done!
The following discovery was published by Breaking Israel News on September 14, 2016.
Prophetic Lost Stone From High Priest’s Breastplate Believed Found After 1,000-Year Journey
“And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and grave on them the names of the children of Israel.”
Exodus 28:9 (The Israel Bible™)
Sometimes incredible stories are actually true, and in this case, experts agree that a small onyx stone, claimed to be given to a Knight Templar over 1,000 years ago and handed down through one family from generation to generation, is actually what the present owner claims: a gem from the breastplate of the High Priest in Jerusalem.
A Magical, Prophetic Stone?
The stones of the choshen mishpat, the High Priest’s breastplate, were referred to in the Bible as the urim v’tummim, a phrase that defies translation.
And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aharon’s heart. Exodus 28:30
The Talmud (Yoma 73a) describes how questions were put to the breastplate, and the stones would light up to spell out the answer. The book of Samuel lists the urim v’tummim as one of the three forms of divine communication: dreams, prophets, and the urim v’tummim.
And when Shaul inquired of Hashem, Hashem answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. I Samuel 28:6
According to the Talmud (Yoma 21b), the urim v’tummim were lost when Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians. The Book of Ezra mentions 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 v’tummim were discovered.
The garments of the High Priest. (Library of Congress)
In addition to the 12 stones mounted on the breastplate were two sardonyx stones fixed in gold settings on the shoulders of the High Priest.
And thou shalt put the two stones upon the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, to be stones of memorial for the children of Israel; and Aharon shall bear their names before Hashem upon his two shoulders for a memorial. Exodus 28:12
Experts believe this is one of those stones. If this is so, contained within it is the power of prophecy and it may play an important role in returning the Priestly Caste to serve in the Temple.
Discovery: Too Incredible to Believe
In 2000, Dr. James Strange, a noted professor in religious studies and archaeology, traveled to South Africa. An acquaintance suggested Dr. Strange contact a family she had met there and if he could, help them with a pro-bono appraisal of a gemstone. They were of humble means and Dr. Strange was a certified appraiser whose services were highly sought after.
Dr. Strange met with the family, intending to humor them. Instead, he was astounded by what they showed him. “I was indeed amazed at the gemstone,” Dr. Strange told Breaking Israel News. The stone itself was nothing special. A semi-precious sardonyx, it had little intrinsic worth.
The sardonyx stone, with the inscription visible inside. (Courtesy of owner)
But Dr. Strange was puzzled by the object he held in his hands. “I was unaware that anyone in the late Middle Ages had the technology to cut a hemisphere in such a medium, so I tried to exhaust all other explanations,” he said.
Even more astounding than the cut of the stone was the inexplicable inscription inside the stone, visible through the clear surface: two letters in ancient Hebrew. Dr. Stone wrote in his appraisal of the gem, “There is no modern or ancient technology known to me by which an artisan could produce the inscription, as it is not cut into the surface of the stone.”
Dr. Strange was an expert but when faced with such a mystery, he sought help. He turned to Ian Campbell, Director of the Independent Coloured Stones Laboratory in Johannesburg and a leading South African gemologist. Campbell was equally dumbfounded.
He studied the stone, trying to ascertain its origin. The owner’s story placing it on the High Priest’s breastplate were too incredible. But the family had documentation that traced its descent from a Crusader-period male ancestor who had been in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages and claimed the stone was a reward from the High Priest. Could it be true?
The Thousand-Year Story
According to the Auret family tradition, the ancestor, named Croiz Arneet deTarn Auret, received the stone from “the High Priest” in gratitude for his part in freeing Jerusalem around 1189. The custodianship of the stone was passed on in the Auret family through the male line until the nineteenth century. That tradition was broken when Abraham Auret passed away in 1889, bequeathing the stone to his daughter, Christina Elizabeth.
After her marriage to William James Hurst, the stone left the Auret name, and has been passed on from mother to daughter ever since. Meticulously recorded family trees and genealogical reports corroborate the story. The stone was passed on as an inheritance and is presently owned by an elderly woman in South Africa, who wishes to remain anonymous.
It has been strongly transmitted to each member of the family through the centuries that it was God’s hand that inserted the mysterious inscription inside the stone.
The mystery of the writing remained. Dr. Strange noted that the stone had no external markings, so it clearly hadn’t been set in a ring or a necklace. He was forced to conclude that it had probably been set in a large plate or breastplate. He dated production of the stone to approximately the 5th century BCE.
As an appraiser, Dr. Strange could not erase all doubt, but he could certainly evaluate it as a one-of-a-kind. He appraised the stone’s value at $175-$225 million.
The gemologist, Mr. Campbell, photomicrographed (photographing via a microscope) the stone, confirming it had not been cut open to make the inscription. When asked to estimate the value of the stone, Mr. Campbell wrote, “How does one logically go about putting a value to something like a proven religious artifact that is a ‘one of’ article?”
He estimated that $200 million was a “fair starting point”.
The owner of the stone also consulted Professor M. Sharon from the University of Witwatersrand. The professor, an expert in ancient Hebrew, was given a photo of the stone. The blurry photographs hinted at something astounding but he had to be sure. Intrigued, he asked to examine the actual stone.
In his written report, he said that when he held it to the light, he was amazed to see very clearly inside the stone itself, two letters in ancient Hebrew. The letters seemed to be engraved or burnt into the heart of the stone.
The sardonyx stone. in the papyrus casket in which it was carried (Courtesy of owner)
“Due to the clarity of the letters and their fine definition it would be incredible if they are a coincidental natural formation in the stone,” he stated in his notarized report. “The lack of any apparent sign of interference with the surface makes the existence of the letters inside the stone a real enigma.”
He noted the inscriptions in ancient Hebrew script of what he described as “the equivalent of our ‘B’ and ‘K’.” He identified the style of script, dating it to be from the year 1000 BCE, give or take 200-300 years.
The sardonyx stone. in the papyrus casket in which it was carried (Courtesy of owner)
In 1994, Dr. Joan Goodnick Westenholz, who served as Chief Curator at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, examined the stone. She concluded, “It is a unique object that has no similar or identical counterpart; it is the only one of its kind in the world.”
Dr. Goodnick Westenholz believed that the gem was “priceless”, estimating the date of the stone’s production to be approximately the 7th century BCE. She noted the inscription “in the shape of a possible letter is a ninth century form of an archaic Hebrew letter bet.”
In her notarized report, she observed next to the letter bet “what can be perceived as the image of a wolf.” She noted that the wolf corresponded to the blessing Jacob gave Benjamin.
Binyamin is a wolf that raveneth; in the morning he devoureth the prey, and at even he divideth the spoil. Genesis 49:27
But Is It True?
Dr. Westenholz and Ian Campbell have since passed away, but Breaking Israel News was able to confirm that their statements and documentation were genuine. Campbell’s apprentice, Jeremy Rothon, confirmed the original appraisal and told Breaking Israel News that he was well aware of the stone’s heritage. It had made an enormous impression on Campbell and he had discussed it at length with his student.
Sardonyx Stone from the Breastplate of High Priest Aaron in South Africa
Dr. Strange remembers the stone very well, and is more convinced than ever of its authenticity. “A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then,” Dr. Strange told Breaking Israel News. “I calculated then that if it were a fraud, then one or more very similar others would show up on the international market rather soon, but to my knowledge none has.”
He called for new examination of the gem. “I think this object needs a new appraisal and as many scientific tests as possible to determine whether it is genuine,” said Dr. Strange. “If it turns out to be an artifact important to the history of the Jewish people, then that is truly wonderful. If it turns out to be a masterful fraud, then I will be pained that I was duped.”
The Journey Home
The present owner has contracted with a South African businessman to find investors who are willing to purchase the stone and bring it home to Israel. Both parties prefer to remain anonymous. When he saw the stone and understood what it was, the businessman was dismayed, understanding that it could easily turn into a commodity, an object of greed. He recognized that this small stone was an enormous part of Jewish history and set out to find an investor who would recompense the owner with the intention of bringing it to Israel and donating it to the Temple.
“I’ve been involved with deals like this before,” he told Breaking Israel News. “There are pieces of Egyptian heritage in museums all over the world. People find something and sell it, without thinking about what it is. That is what is done and it is a shame, even more so with this stone. Several people have been trying to buy or sell this stone, turning it into a business. All I really wanted to do was get the stone back to Israel where it belongs.”
Aharon the High Priest. (Wikimedia Commons)
Many people have begun to discount the Jewish connection to Israel and the Temple Mount, claiming the Jewish Temples are fairytale accounts. This small stone and its miraculous engraving that once lit up the High Priest’s breastplate are proof that the Temple stood in Jerusalem, and may signal the return of more artifacts that have been misplaced, waiting to return home.