The following material is part of an unpublished paper entitled "Revelation

through Urim and Thummim" by Trevor Craigen which was presented to

the Post Graduate Seminar in September, 1978 at Grace Theological

Seminary, Winona Lake, IN.  Cited with permission. 


                               URIM AND THUMMIM

                                    by Trevor Craigen




      The etymology of this phrase, of these terms, cannot be established with

any degree of finality.  This has resulted in a wide variety of explanations

regarding both their nature and their use. It would also appear that the

etymology has been determined by the theory that is held, so that if these are

equated with lots, then the words are made to be opposites rather than

similarities.  Nathan Isaacs makes a pertinent comment:


If we turn to etymology for assistance, we are not only

on uncertain ground, but when Bab. (sic) and other

foreign words are brought in to bolster up a theory about

anything so little understood as the Urim and Thummim,

we are on dangerous ground.1


     Basically there are two main views which prevail.

(1) That MyriUx is derived from rUx, therefore meaning "lights," and that

Mym.iTu is derived from MT, thus meaning "Perfections."  The translations

would then be "lights and perfections," or some similar sounding phrase.2  

This, almost hendiadystic concept, appears in the Vulgate and Septuagint

translations as well.3  (2) That MyriUx is derived from rraxA "to curse" and

being thereby an antynonym to Mym>iTu.4  The arbitrary translations of the

various versions could best have been left as transliterations.5  We do not

know what the name meant in ancient times, nor what the objects looked



Direct Biblical References

Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8


     Several facts can be dearly deduced from the text.  (1) Moses was to put

them into (lx, NtAnA) the breastplate.  The setting of the precious stones has

been described in the preceding verses.  They are mounted on the

breastplate, whereas Moses put these "in" after Aaron was dressed in his


Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     2


 high-priestly garments.7  (2) That these are probably two separate objects. 

The definite article and sign of the definite object are used with both nouns.

(3) That these were familiar terms and/or objects to Moses so that no further

explanation was called for, (4) that these were an essential part of the regalia

of the High-Priest when he entered the Holy Place and came into the

presence of the Lord.  Aaron now carries on his person "the judgment of the

sons of Israel over his heart before the Lord continually (NASB)." FPAw;mi

denotes judgment both in the concrete sense of a verdict or decision and also

in the more abstract form of the process of making it.7a


Numbers 27:21


     Here Moses commissions Joshua as his successor:  the new leader of the

nation.  However Joshua was distinctly different from Moses in the

leadership role.  Moses was the law-giver and absolute governor who had a

special relationship with God (cf. Deut. 34:10), whereas Joshua was to

operate through the High Priest in a way in which Moses did not have to do. 

Leon Wood speaks of Joshua having to regularly consult Eleazar.8  Such an

inquiry was to be carried out "before the Lord" by the means of the Urim (an

obvious abbreviation for the compound term).  The next phrase,  yPi lfa  

can refer to either Joshua, Eleazar, or God.  This writer believes that the best

alternative is that of Yahweh, the real king of Israel.  Moses sought for a

leader who would lead the people in and out like a shepherd the sheep (v.

17).  Here was their leader moving at the Divine command!  They followed

their duly appointed shepherd.  One cannot help but think of the military

campaigns to conquer the Promised Land, and the various movements of the

nation as she entered into that Land.  This dearly "intimates its use for the

guidance and direction of Israel."9


Deuteronomy 33:8


     Moses blessed the tribe of Levi, and spoke of the Urim and Thummim

(here inverted in order) as the right of Levi, who had stood loyally, as

represented in Aaron, by the side of Moses at Rephidim (Ex. 17:1-7; Num.

20:2-13), and who had demonstrated, collectively, their loyalty to the Lord

against the golden calf worship at Sinai (Ex. 32:26-29).

      They could thus be classified as God's "holy one," a tribe set apart for

His service.  Even though the Urim was only used by the High Priest, being

in his garment only, it could still be represented as the right of the tribe.

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     3


1 Samuel 28


     The Lord did not answer Saul by any of the means through which His

will was discerned during that period of Israel's history.  This verse cannot

be used as evidence for a "no" answer to an inquiry.10  Saul had already been

rejected as the king of Israel by the Lord, and the Holy Spirit had been taken

from him and had been given to David (1 Sam. 16).  Furthermore the priests

had been slain on Saul's orders at the city of Nob and the successor to the

High Priest, Abiathar, had escaped to David with the ephod.11

      Saul's time and privilege of asking guidance in leading Israel had

apparently come to an end. The parallel passage, 1 Chron. 10:14, states that

Saul did not inquire of the Lord, and died because he inquired of the

medium at Endor.  His attitude, or motive in asking was of such a nature that

according to the Divine interpretation it was as though he had not inquired at


      The Urim was definitely, according to this verse another form of God's

revelation to the leader of the theocratic nation.


Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65


     Zerubbabel ruled that the question of the priests who had lost their

credentials for office could not be decided without the Urim.  They were,

therefore, excluded from the performance of priestly duties.13  Zerubbabel's

words do suggest that he understood the Urim and Thummim to be a means

of discerning God's decision in matters about which the leaders could not

decide because of the lack of information. The matter of appointing priests

was a crucial one because according to the Law they must be of the tribe of

Levi.  No civil leader could ever legislate in this respect, especially if they

were setting out to diligently obey His word.  Why did he not ask of a

prophet?  There is no immediate answer to that question.  Further, why

make such a statement when the various accouterments and regalia for

operating in the Temple had all been destroyed in 586 B.C."

      There certainly was no possibility of a priest in the future standing up

with the Urim.  It was Zerrubabel's way of stating that so far as they could

determine there was no other possible recourse than that those men should

be excluded from the priesthood.


     Inquiries of the Lord


     Besides these direct statements there are other passages in which the use

of the Urim, even though not specifically stated, is possible.  It must be

noted that according to Moses' command Joshua was to inquire through the

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     4


High Priest who bore the Urim and Thummim, so that, at the least, these

two, the Priest and the Breastplate, must be present in such an inquiry.  lxawA

occurs in a number of instances in which the leader, or in the absence of an

appointed leader, the people collectively, sought guidance from the Lord.


David's Inquiries


     There is more of this activity on the part of David recorded in Scripture

than for any other individual leader of any other period of Israel's history.


The High Priest and the ephod14


     Abiathar, whose father, Ahimelech, had been slain by Doeg the Edomite

at the city of Nob, had escaped the massacre and fled to David.  He was now

the legitimate high priest (1 Sam. 22).15  He had brought the ephod with him

to David.  At Keilah David instructs Abiathar to bring the ephod to him, and

he proceeds to ask guidance and counsel of God in regard to the military

activity at Keilah and the threat of Saul's approach.  The ephod should be

considered as identical with the breastplate of judgment because the

instructions for the binding of the breastplate to the ephod were such that the

breastplate was not to be parted from the ephod (garment) (Ex. 28:28;

39:21), so that the term "ephod" could quite conceivably come to embrace

the whole composite unit of ephod and the breastplate affixed to it.  The

question of the man of God to Eli (1 Sam. 2:28) included in the list of

priestly duties the carrying of the ephod before Jehovah.  This could only

mean the breastplate of judgment.  So the presence of the priest and the

ephod (which includes the Urim and Thummim) leaves no alternative but to

classify these inquiries of David as using that God-appointed means of

consultation through the high priest.  Furthermore, it is hard to conceive of

David as deliberately doing that which was in direct violation of the Law

and using an incorrect, unsanctioned instrument to discern the will of God. 

There is no indication of rebuke for these inquiries conducted through the

ephod.16  David actually called for the ephod on two specific occasions

(1 Sam. 23:9f; 30:7f). However, all the inquiries of 1 Sam. 23 are carried

out in the context of the priest and ephod being present.17  Verse 6 is a

supplementary explanation relative to the inquiry of the Lord by David.

     Thus, it is only the 2 Samuel passages which have no indication of the

presence of the high priest and the ephod. But the presence of the introductory

formula hvhyBi dUidA lxaw;y.iva would strongly suggest that a similar procedure

has taken place.  This formula occurs every time, except in

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     5


the middle of the Keilah narrative.  The account, after the command to

bring the ephod, continues with rmaxA which introduces the content of

David's prayer to God.18

     There is only one instance of information sought which was not military

in nature, i.e. where should the new capital of Judah be situated?


The beginning of his inquiries


     When did David begin to make these inquiries of the Lord?  The passages

mentioned above all occur after the arrival of the high priest into David's

camp.  One passage, at first, seems to suggest that David was already

frequently asking of God through the high priest (1 Sam. 22:9f).  The

emphasis is normally placed on the verb "begin" (llaHA and being rendered: 

"Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him?"  But that word

llaHA followed by a construct infinitive can have the emphasis on both the

verb and its succeeding infinitive--"Did I begin to inquire..."--not in the

sense of having done it already but with the sense of asking whether the king

believes that he had made a start of doing it then.  Certainly one could wish

for a more direct and simple answer by Ahimelech.  George Caird refers to

this syntactical format and calls it a common Hebrew idiom reinforcing the

main verb that follows so that it now means, "Have I indeed inquired of God

for him today?"19 This makes more sense in the light of what follows--"Far

be it from me!"

      In effect he states, "I have not begun to inquire at all," which reads better

than, "Far be it from me to do this for the first time today."  He also goes

further to  categorically deny knowing anything of the charge leveled against

him.  Doeg, the Edomite, convinced Saul of the conspiracy by adding what

the narrative in the previous chapter does not even hint at, namely, that

Ahimelech had inquired of the Lord for David.  All the parties to the

interrogation knew the implication of the charge.  If you inquired of God for

him then you are admitting that David is the king and Saul is not.  Perhaps

this explains something of the fear which Ahimelech felt at the presence of

David, and the reason for his carefully worded answer.  Henry Smith in the

ICC really separates the answer into two parts aimed at two parts of the

charge, i.e. the fact of the inquiry is not to be denied, but the intention of

conspiracy is to be strongly denied.20

     However, Ahimelech does seem to have pinpointed the main thrust of the

indictment:  the issue is not aid for David, which he could have given to him

seeing that he was a known official representative of the king (v. 14), but the

issue is the priestly recognition of kingship.

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     6


The position of David

According to 1 Samuel 16, God had rejected Saul as king and had anointed

His new king with the Holy Spirit.  Samuel then on the instructions of the

Lord anoints David as the king in the presence of his brothers. He is the one

now empowered by the Spirit for the assigned task of ruling over God's

people. As such, God's guidance pertains to David and not to Saul.


Other Inquiries

By Joshua

      Joshua and the elders were deceived by the Gibeonites because they had

"not asked for the counsel of the Lord" (9:14 ", UlxAw xlo hvAhy; yPi tx,v;21. 

The only explanation is to look back to the charge given to Joshua--ask

through the Urim.  This was a question of vital importance which had a

direct bearing on their properly fulfilling the commandments of God in

regard to the conquest of the land and the death of the inhabitants.

     The question of Achan will be dealt with under lots.


In the Judges period

     The sons of Israel inquired regarding the continuation of their war against

the Canaanites (1:1-2).  These men were close enough to the time of Joshua,

and under the influence of Phinehas, the high priest, that they would have

followed the procedure used by Joshua (cf. Josh. 24:31).

      Later the sons of Israel would again inquire regarding the civil war with

Benjamin (20:18f), and as to who would lead them into the battle.  The

following facts are obvious:  (1) Phinehas, the high priest, fulfilled the

function of inquirer, even though the people are also spoken of as making

the inquiry, (2) the Ark of the covenant was at Bethel (3) there were three

positive answers:  yet two military failures, and (4) the introductory formula

of  hvhyBi lxawA is used on two occasions, but Myhilox<B, lxawA  on the first

occasion of asking.  Weeping, fasting, and offering of sacrifices were

necessary before they were promised victory.

      A host of questions remain unanswered.  Should they have asked if

victory was theirs despite their overwhelming numbers?  Must there be an

attitude of repentance and humility?  Does the change of the name of God

indicate anything?  Was the accompanying activity, weeping, fasting, etc.,

an attempt to secure God's favor?22

      The presence of the Ark testified to the presence of the Lord, before

Whom the high priest was to stand when making such an inquiry.  After the

Ark was captured by the Philistines, or access to it was not possible, the

presence of the high priest with the ephod was apparently enough.23  For

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     7


Joshua and the people in the judges period the Ark and the Tabernacle were

close at hand.


          By Saul

     Besides the account in t Samuel 28 in which Saul sought revelation in

vain, 1 Samuel 14 is the only other instance of an attempted inquiry by him

as the king and before his rejection by God from that position.  Saul here

commanded Ahijah, the high priest, to bring the "ark of God" to him, or to

that place (v. 18). The Septuagint retroverts as dOpxehA  (prosa<gage to> 

e]fou<d) and this has been taken as the correct reading, thus permitting

scholars to postulate the concept of sacred lots because Saul said to the priest

"Withdraw thy hand."24  A comparison with 1 Kings 2:26 does seem to make

"ephod" read as "ark" because Abiathar certainly did not carry the "ark" for

David while he was a refugee.  However the MT also reads NOrxE at 1 Kings

2:26.  One must wonder then whether Solomon was perhaps referring to that

important move of the Ark from Obed-edom's house to Jerusalem, and a

mover over which Abiathar as the high priest would have presided. 

Furthermore, is it possible that Saul had brought the Ark to the battlefield

instead of going to where it was, and thus he was able to command it to be

brought to him?25  Whatever the answer, at least Saul knew that the symbol

of the right of the high priest to ask of God was a necessary prerequisite

before he could initiate that activity.  The command to withdraw the hand

can be taken as a peremptory, "Cancel that order."26

     Later in this same chapter, Ahijah advises Saul to inquire of the Lord, but

in vain. No answer.27  The mechanics of receiving an answer, or of knowing

that none was forthcoming, still remain shrouded in secrecy.  Was this

silence the result of sin, as Saul intimates in vv. 38f, or was it the result of a

disregard for the proper procedure?

     In addition, Saul had already caused the people to sin by his rashly

uttered oath which prevented them from eating so that now at the sight of

cattle they were driven  to kill and eat the meat with the blood in it.  Further,

Saul had already made up his mind to go and spoil the Philistines and only

the advice of the priest hold's him back to make the inquiry, he is perhaps

already exhibiting that attitude which was defined in 1 Chron. 10:14.28  One

thing is clear and that is that Saul understood that something was wrong.

     The question of Urim and Thummim being equal to lots arises

fundamentally from this passage as it appears in the Septuagint, which reads

(in English):


And Saul said unto Yahweh, God of Israel, "Why hast thou

not answered thy servant this day?  If this inquiry is

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim    8


in me or in my son Jonathan, Oh Yahweh, God of Israel,

give Urim; but if this iniquity is in thy people Israel.

give Thummim."29


     Robertson, and others, favor this rendering and believe it gives credence

to the Urim and Thummim as being utilized to indicate "yes" or "no" to

specific questions.30  The answers are really the result of a sacred lot-casting. 

The idea is that the Urim and Thummim were either thrown on the ground or

pulled out of the breastplate pouch.

     The use of the verbs lyPihi and dkel.Ayi would be the first and only time

that they are used in the context of inquiring of the Lord.  They do appear in

the contexts of lot-casting but never in those clear instances of Urim and

Thummim being used. Further, in every other clear instance of Urim and

Thummim the answers are more than that which is decided by lot-casting

(see below).  Lindblom, interestingly enough, rejects the Septuagint version

and argues for the superiority of the MT, because he feels that Saul has

reverted from priestly lot-casting (which would be Urim and Thummim) to

civil lot-casting.  He determines this on the basis of who was involved in the


It was not particular individual who performed the

lot-casting, it was a group; behind the procedure

stood the leaders of the army, i.e. a group of laymen.

The priest had no function at all.31

     He therefore translates the controversial Mym.iTu hbAha as "give a true

decision."32 The same distinction can be used in another way.  Saul did

inquire through the Urim and Thummim, but when no reply was

forthcoming he switched procedures to that of lot-casting, in order to isolate

the guilty party whom he felt had prejudiced his  inquiry of the Lord.  There

is no reason why he should not have prefaced this activity with a prayer,

especially as he considered it to be such a serious and solemn affair. Thus he

prayed for a true decision to be given by the lots.  When bhayA is used as a

neuter adjective it is equal to a substantive, meaning "what is complete,

entirely in accord with truth and fact."33

     The fact that the lots fell on Jonathan who was the guilty party can be

explained in terms of God's sovereignty (cf. Proverbs 16:33) and not

necessarily in terms of God responding to the prayer of Saul as though this

were the normal procedure in the  land. 

     Admittedly this passage is a problem and any definitive conclusion must

try to take it into account.  But a final conclusion on the nature and use of

the Urim and Thummim, at the same time, cannot rest solely on a textually

debatable passage.34

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     9


By Samuel

      The nature of the answer given by the Lord in 1 Samuel 10:22 is more

suitable to Urim and Thummim than the casting of lots.  Here, too, it was the

people who desired  to know the whereabouts of their newly appointed king. 

The procedure followed until this point of not being able to locate Saul had

been by lot (v. 20  dkel.Ayiv;:  Each tribe, family, etc. was brought near, and

one from among them was taken.  Now the language changes and that

introductory formula appears at the head of the people's question,  hvhy

lxw but  dOf inserted between those two words hvhyBi dOf UlxEw;y.av.

     If this is an adverb expressing a continuance of the previous action then

there is a problem of having to make the process of lots be the same as

inquiring of the Lord, e.g. NASB translation, "Therefore they inquired

further of the Lord."  But if the waw consecutive at the beginning, of v. 22 is

pleonastic35, then the resultant translation can avoid the problem:  "Yet they

inquired of the Lord."  Frankly, there does not appear to have been any need

to have made such an inquiry at all, for they could have sent for Saul and

brought him forward.

     Lindblom concurs that v. 22 cannot be lot-casting and concludes that a

"cult-prophet" was speaking.36


Answers to Sacred Lots?


    Leon Wood reasons that no occasion clearly depicts a message of greater

length than the mere affirmation.37  Although Wood does not accept the idea

of two marked stones representing a "yes" and "no" type reply, he,

nonetheless, prefers no audible reply through the priest, but argues for a

glowing of the stones if the reply was affirmative, otherwise the question

would be rephrased until the affirmative glow occurred.38  How long he went

on trying different variations of that question before deciding that it was in

vain just cannot be known.  It would seem far more likely that the reply was

either immediate or not at all.  There is no occasion of a negative answer in

the Scriptures.

     The answers to all of the inquiries noted above are far more than that

which would be expected by way of a yes/no indication or by way of a yes-

only-and-rephrase-the question-type procedure (see appendix).  Wood's

assessment appears to suggest that the words recorded in the text as being

the actual words of the Lord are a reworked version of an affirmative glow! 

Consistently the passages record the words of the Lord, but always more

than just "yes."

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     10


The identification of the Urim and Thummim with the

sacred lots appears to have some possibility, but

there are serious difficulties with this view due

to the fact that the answers ascribed to the Urim and

Thummim are not always equivalent to a "yes" or "no"

answer ."39


     Leon Wood also adds that the information given in 1 Sam.10:22

("Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage"') could have been given "by

affirmation to a few questions."40  H. Wheeler Robinson adds an interesting

little footnote to the effect that private communication with S. R. Driver

showed that the latter felt that Urim was connected with an Accadian u'uru

(to give an oracular response), but that he did not think of u'uru as ever

referring to lot-casting.41

     This writer finds it difficult to accept the author of 1 and 2 Samuel, and of

Judges 8 introducing into the text a personal reply of Yahweh, in place of

some impersonal mechanically indicated answer.  The words of J. Barton

Payne are most pertinent:


The judgment of the Urim would thus signify the personal

revelation that God granted to the one who wore the high

priestly breastplate.  In such a way God would answer the

official questions that were brought in before the cloud

of His presence.  Those who question the reality of such

supernatural communications generally consider the Urim

and Thummim to have been some kind of dice, a sort of

sacred lottery.  It is true, of course, that lots were

known to Israel at this time as a means of making property

distributions (Num. 26:55, 56).  But dice-casting as a

regular means of divine guidance smacks of magic in a way

that is unworthy of God's word.  1 Samuel 28:6, moreover,

lists Urim in a category that is between dreams and prophets.

It suggests that urim is simply another form of God's personal

revelation, namely, that which is mediated through priests (cf. Deut.

33:8, 10).42


Its Cessation

     There is no further mention of the Urim and Thummim after the time of

David until the post-exilic references in Ezra and Nehemiah.  Several

reasons, which arise from an overview of Israel's history, can be put

forward:  (1) The increased activity on the part of the prophets, to whom the

kings, on more than one occasion, resorted for advice on the affairs of the

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     11


nation.  Indeed the prophets became the "immediate spokesmen of God,

conveying the knowledge of His will to the king."43  (2) The silence of the

prophets in calling the leaders to make use of the Urim and Thummim, not

withstanding that they called all in Israel to obey the statutes and

commandments of the Lord God,  (3) the introduction of pagan idols into the

Temple during the reign of Solomon, and the consequent corruption of the

priesthood and/or rituals associated there with,  (4) the God-given wisdom of

Solomon to rule over the people, no doubt, obviated his need of directing

revelation (cf. 1 Kings 3:5f),  (5) the establishment of the kingdom,

historically, by David brought an end to that form of revelation which

guided the affairs of God's chosen nation through the chosen leaders at times

of national crises.44


     (1)  The Urim and Thummim, whatever their material likeness, were not

images or teraphim, because these were prohibited by God's own Law.

Wood's suggestion that these were precious stones because that would fit the

jewel motif of the ornate breastplate is plausible.45

     (2)  There is not sufficient evidence to support these being used as lots

cast on the ground, or utilized in some other way by being withdrawn from

the pouch formed by the doubled fold of the breastplate.  It is acknowledged

that I Samuel 14 is a problem passage in this regard.

     (3) The consistent pattern is an inquiry of the Lord through the high priest

who had the Urim and Thummim; understanding that ephod can be

identified with the breastplate.

     (4) The persons who asked of God were all divinely-appointed leaders of

the theocratic nation.  The judges period would be the exception in that the

people acted collectively in the absence of an appointed leader.  Yoma 7:5 in

the Mishnah reads, "In these breastplate et al. were the Urim and the

Thummim inquired of, and they were not inquired of for a common person,

but only for the king, for the court and for one of whom the congregation

had need."46

     Indeed there is no evidence of these being used on behalf of a private

individual. The function of the priest as teachers of the Law, and the

establishment of proper procedure for appeal to the Central Sanctuary in the

event of a problem beyond the wisdom of the local priests, and the harsh

penalties for refusal to obey the decision handed down at the Central

Sanctuary, would definitely seem to support this idea (cf. Deut. 17:8-13).47 

Israel was to obey and meditate upon the Word of God in order to make her

way successful and prosperous.  The ordinary man did not need this type of

directing revelation.

      (5) The Urim and Thummim, being in the breastplate, which itself

symbolically represented the right of the high priest to stand before God on

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     12


behalf of His people, was also symbolical.  It represented the right of this

same priest to request guidance for the leader, who could not approach God

directly but had to come via the God-ordained religious structure of the nation. 

After Moses the leadership role functioned at a different level, i.e.

they were no longer the Lawgiver, but had to function within the context of

that Law, and could never be totally independent from it.


Whatever was done with the objects would have been symbolic

and complimentary to the whole process of inquiry.  The

problem of the function of the objects, therefore, remains

unsolved until further archaeological data are forthcoming.48


     (6) The content of revelation, the mode of which cannot be explained,

was precise and pointed, aimed at answering an immediate situation.  "In no

sense did it embody principles of permanent validity applicable to later

situations or capable of reinterpretation."49   Thus it was a directing


     (7) The replies were more than a simple "yes" and were, so far as can be

ascertained, the actual word of God given in reply.  If "at His command" in

Exodus 28:30 does refer to Yahweh, then somehow the priest passed on the

direct command of God, receiving it in the same way as did the prophets.



    Inquiries of the Lord

Ref.                      Question                                                      Reply

Judg.           Who shall go up first for                     Judah shall go up

1: 1-2           us against the Canaanites           behold I have given

to fight against them?                          the land into his hand.


Judg.           Who shall go up first for                     Judah shall go up first.

20: 18          us to battle against the

sons of Benjamin?


1 Sam.         Has the man come yet?                       Behold, he is hiding

10:22           himself in the baggage.


1 Sam.         Shall I go up and attack                      Go, and attack the

23:2             the Philistines?                                    Philistines, and deliver



1 Sam.         Shall I go up and attack                      Arise, go down to

23:4             the Philistines?                                    Keilah for will

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     13


(Repeated by David)                           give the Philistines

into your hand.


1 Sam.         0 Lord God of Israel, thy                             He will come down.

23:10,          servant has heard for cer-

11                tain that Saul is seeking

to come to Keilah to de-

stroy the city on my

account. Will the men of

Keilah surrender me into

his hand? Will Saul come

down just as thy servant

has heard?


1 Sam.         Will the men of Keilah                         They will surrender

23:12           surrender me and my men                   to you.

into the hand of Saul?


1 Sam.         Shall I pursue this                               Pursue, for you

hand? Shall I over-                              shall surely rescue

take them?                                          them all.


2 Sam.         Shall I go up to one of                        Go up.

2:1               the cities of Judah?

Where shall I go up?                           To Hebron.


2 Sam.         Shall I go up against                           Go up, for I will

5:19             the Philistines?  Wilt                            certainly give the

thou give them into my                        Philistines into

hand?                                                 your hand.


2 Sam. (Inquiry not stated)                                     You shall not go

5:23             Troubled at the presence                     directly up; circle

of the Philistines in the                        around behind them

valley of Rephaim.                              in front of the

balsam trees. And it

shall be, when you

hear the sound of

marching in the

balsam trees, then

you shall act

promptly, for then the

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     14


Lord will have gone

out before you to

strike the army of

the Philistines.

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     15




      1 Nathan Isaacs, "Urim and Thummim," In the International Standard

Bible Encyclopedia ed. by James Orr (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939),  p. 3041.

     2  Leon Wood, "Urim and Thummlm," Theolog, (Winter, 1964), p. 25. cf.

also Gustave Friednch Oehler, Theology of The Old Testament, (Grand

Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), p. 218, where he states that the

former term refers to the divine illumination and the latter term to the

unimpeachableness of the divine decision. cf. "Urim and Thummim," In

Cyclopedia of Biblical. Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. X,

ed. by John McClintock and James Strong (Grand Rapids: Baker Book

House, 1970, reprint), p. 676 for the various views and translations.

Eichrodt, Theology of the O.T.,  p. 113 fn. states that "light and truth" is the

easiest interpretation.

     3 Vulgate reads doctrina et veritas (teaching and truth), and the LXX 

dh<lwsij kai>  a]lh<qeia (declaration/revelation and truth).  But the LXX is

not consistent using dh<lwn  Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8; and 1 Sam. 28:6; and

fwti<zonsi in Ezra 2:63; Neh. 7:65, and telei<oij for Thummim in Ezra. 

Similarly the Vulgate in this latter reference uses perfectus.

     4 Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (New

York: The World Publishing Company, 1965), p. 394; and Rowley, Faith of

Israel, p. 291; and Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 26 fn. Isaacs, "Urim and

Thummim," p. 3041, has "lights" and "darkness" inasmuch as there is a host

of Hebrew stems based on the root tm all indicating concealing, closing up,

and even darkness.

     5 Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, Vol. 2, (New York: McGraw-Hill

Book Company, 1965), p.352.

     6 Philip J. Hyatt, "Commentary on Exodus," In the New Century Bible,

ed. by Ronald E. Clements and Matthew Black (hereinafter referred to as

"Exodus"), (London: Oliphants, 1971), p. 283.  The fertile imagination of

men has produced a score of views on what the Urim and Thummim actually

were.  Edward Robertson, "The Urim and Thummim: What were they?"

Vetus Testamentum, 14: 1 (January, 1964), p. 70 lists the following nine

views:  (1) a necklace of gems  (2) three antique stones which represented

three possible answers, affirmative, negative, and neutral  (3) polished and

unpolished diamonds inscribed with the name of the Lord which the high

priest could cast upon the table thereby deducing God's answer based on

their final positions (4) revelation and truth, as interpreted by the Septuagint

(5) explanation and decision (6) light and right (7) light and salvation (8)

taking tmm as meaning "to be without fault" and 'rr "to curse," as opposites

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     16


and as the roots of Urim and Thummim. These then would indicate What

God would or would not permit (9) a message conveyed by inspiration to

the high priest who was wearing the breastplate and the ephod. Cf. also the

Bible dictionaries which all give some of the views put forward by the


      7 The prepositions lx, and lfa are used several times in w. 22-30.  lf is

used 12 times, 11 times locatively, and once combined with the preposition

Nmi (v. 28).  lx, is used only 5 times, 3 times locatively when it explains

where the two gold rings were to be fastened on the breastplate, and twice

terminatively meaning "unto" or "into." See Ronald J. Williams, Hebrew

Syntax: An Outline, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976), p. 51-52,

and comments made by Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 26.  J. Barton

Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan

Publishing House, 1962), p. 48.  His suggestion that these can be identified

with the twelve stones of the breastplate cannot be substantiated.  The twelve

stones are specifically said to be "set in gold filigree" or "interwoven with

gold in their settings" -NASB margin.  A most difficult thing to do while

Aaron was wearing the breastplate.

      7a Friedrich Buchsel and Herntrich Volkmar, "FPAw;me in the Theological

Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol. III (hereinafter referred to as TDNT),

ed. by Gerhard Kittel, trans. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm.

B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 924.

     8 Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 26.

     9 Philip F. Taylor, "A Study of the Urim and Thummim," Unpublished

post-graduate seminar paper, O.T. History, Grace Theological Seminary,

1971, p. 6. cf. also "Urim and Thummim" in McClintock/Strong Cyclopedia,

p. 676 who state that the counsel was to determine the movements of the

host of Israel.

     10 cf. Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 27.

     11 John J. Davis, The Birth of a Kingdom, (Winona Lake: BMH Books,

1970), p. 93.

     12 Ibid.,  p. 92.

     13 C. F. Keil, and F. Delitzsch, "Ezra," In Commentary on the Old

Testament in Ten Volumes, Vol 3, (hereinafter referred to as "Ezra") trans.

by Sophia Taylor, (Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing

Company, 1976, reprint), p. 43. They state that the prohibition to not eat of

the most holy things is a reference to their exclusion from specific priestly

acts, e.g. approaching the altar of burnt offering, but not denying them a

general inclusion among the priestly order, or abolishing a claim to the

priestly revenues, so far as those were not connected with priestly functions.

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     17


    14 This word transliterates from the Hebrew rmox, which is mentioned

numerous times in the O. T. but with different meanings to be determined by

the context. (1) linen priestly garment (2) solid object as image of deity (3)

object used to consult Yahweh. Hyatt, "Exodus," p. 280. cf. also Helmer

Ringgren, Israelite Religion, (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1966),  p. 205

who adds the special vestment of the high priest containing the Urim and

Thummim, and has the making of an inquiry separate from this; as quoted

by Taylor, "A Study of the Urim and Thummim," p. 13.

      15 Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel's History, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan

Publishing House, 1976), p. 255.

     16 Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 31 concurs by stating "But David

loved God and held His law in high esteem.  Accordingly, he would have

been interested in knowing God's decision always, and so would have sought

counsel as we have seen." cf. E. F. de Ward, "Superstition and Judgment: 

Archaic Methods of Finding a Verdict," Zeitschrift Fur Die

Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 89: 1 (1977), 1-19, who separates between

the ephod and the breastplate and associates it with divination, citing 1 Sam.

14:3-19 as proof (?). Yehezkel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel, trans. and

abridged by Moshe Greenberg (New York:  Schocken Books, 1974), p. 88,

who distinguishes between these as well and makes the ephod a further

legitimate means of obtaining oracles. The identification is made by the

following: John J. Davis The Birth of a Kingdom, p. 82; Moshe Greenberg,

"Urim and Thummim," In the Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol 16 (Jerusalem: The

MacMillan Company, 1971),  p. 8; G. L. Archer, "Ephod," in the Zondervan

Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol 2, ed. by Merrill C. Tenney,

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1975), p. 332,

     17 The LXX expands 23:6 to overcome an apparent contradiction in the

chapter kai au]to>j  Daui<d "and he went down with David;" Keil and

Delitzsch, "Samuel," in Commentary on the Old Testament In Ten Volumes,

Vol. 2 trans. by James Martin (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,

1976, reprint), p. 229, have a pertinent comment:  "The words 'to David at

Keilah' are not to be understood as signifying that Abiathar did not come to

David till he was in Kellah but that when he fled after David (ch. xxi 20) he

met with him as he was already preparing for the march to Keilah, and

immediately proceeded with him thither."

     18 I. Mendelsohn, "Urim and Thummim," in The Interpreter's Dictionary

of the Bible, Vol. 4, ed. by George Arthur Buttrick, et.aI. (Nashville:

Abingdon Press, 1962), p. 740 the use of  hvhyb lxw is a technical term

introducing the inquiry. Keil and Delitzsch , "Samuel," p. 260, hvhyb lxw

the term usually employed to signify inquiring the will and counsel of God

through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest.

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     18


     19 Schroeder, john C., George B. Caird, and Ganse Little, "The First and

Second Books of Samuel," In The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 4, (hereinafter

referred to as "Samuel,"), ed. by George Arthur Buttrick, (Nashville:

Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1953), p. 1002-1003.

     20 Henry Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of

Samuel, (Hereinafter referred to as Samuel, ICC) in the International Critical

Commentary. New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909), p. 208.

     21 v. 7 indicates that the elders of Israel were initially suspicious.  The

plausible explanations given by the Gibeonites in w. 9-13 succeeded in

calming their fears and in deceiving them.  The elders did know that peace

could be made with "far off nations, so that it seemed to be all "above

board" and honest.

     22 Keil and Delitzsch, "Samuel," pp. 452-453, wherein they state, "The

congregation now discovered, from this repeated defeat, that the Lord had

withdrawn His grace, and was punishing them. Their sin, however, did not

consist in the fact that they had begun the war itself --for the law in Deut.

xxii. 22, to which they themselves had referred in v. 13, really required this,

--but rather in the state of mind with which they had entered upon the war,

their strong self-consciousness, and great confidence in their own might and

power. They had indeed inquired of God (elohim) who should open the

conflict; but they had neglected to humble themselves before Jehovah the

covenant God, in the consciousness not only for their own weakness and

sinfulness, but also of grief at the moral corruption of their brother-tribe."

     23 cf. Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 28.

     24 Mendelsohn, "Urim and Thummim," p. 740, et al.

     25 The Ark was at Kiriath-jearim and remained there for some twenty

years.  Does this mean that it was never moved temporarily to the

battlefield?  However the moving of the Ark was of such an important event

that if Saul had done this, as e.g. Eli's sons In 1 Sam. 4-5, then the record

would no doubt have included it.

     26 cf. Keil and Delitzsch , "Samuel," p. 141, "Leave off now."

     27 Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 27 errs by classifying this as a "no"

answer. There is not a record of a "no" answer in the Bible.  Either details

are given positively or nothing happens at all.  Mendelsohn, "Urim and

Thummim," states that no answer is tantamount to a "no" answer!?

     28 See p. 5 above.

     29  D. R. Ap-Thomas, A Primer of Old Testament Text Criticism.

(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 49.

     30 Robertson, "Urim and Thummim:  What were they?" p. 68; Kaufmann,

The Religion of Israel, p. 92;  de Ward, Hebrew Text and the Topography of

the Books of Samuel, (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 117;

Craigen:  Urim and Thummim     19


Theodorus C. Vriezen, An Outilne of Old Testament Theology (Oxford:

Basil Blackwell, 1958), p. 269;  Ap-Thomas, Primer of O.T. Text Criticism,

p. 49, who cites this as an example of homioteluton, the scribe's eye having

passed from the first Israel to the third Israel In the expanded text of the

LXX Vorlage, and thus writing down Immediately after the first Israel, "give


     31 Lindblom, "Lot-casting In the O.T." p. 177.

     32 Ibid.

     33 Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and

English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (herein-after referred to as BDB),

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 1071.

     34 Arguments are found for and against the LXX text. Refer to Lindblom,

"Lot-casting in the O.T." pp. 172-178; A. Toeg, "A Textual Note on 1

Samuel XIV 41,11 Vetus Testamentum, 19:4 (October, 1969), 493-498, who

concludes his study with the words "this sheds some light on one of the

techniques of divination in ancient Israel."

     35 Williams, Hebrew Syntax, p. 71.

     36 Lindblom, "Lot-casting in the O.T." p. 165.

     37 Wood, "Urim and Thummim." p. 27

     38 Ibid.; de Ward, "Superstition and judgment," p. 2 also assumes that a

"yes"/"no" applicable.

     39 Davis, The Birth of a Kingdom, p. 93.

     40 Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 28.

     41 H. Wheeler Robinson, Inspiration and Revelation In the Old Testament

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 202 fn.

     42 J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament, p. 48.

     43 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake: BMH

Books, 1976), p. 115.

     44  Ibid., who points out that after Solomon, kings were no longer directly

chosen by God, but take the throne either by inheritance or force. Cf. also

P.J. Budd, "Priestly Instruction in Pre-Exilic Israel, Vetus Vestamentum,

23:1 (January, 1973), p. 3--"It seems therefore that this particular aspect of

priestly ministry disappeared with the establishment of the monarchy... "

     45 Wood, "Urim and Thummim," p. 26.

     46 Herbert Danby, trans. The Mishnah (Oxford: Oxford University Press,

1933), p. 171.

     47 Peter C. Craigie, 'The Book of Deuteronomy," in the New International

Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. by R. K. Harrison (Grand Rapids:

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976), p. 251.

     48 John J. Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt (Winona Lake: BMH

Books, 1973), p. 277.

     49 Budd, "Priestly Instruction in Pre-exilic Israel," p. 3.