URIM AND THE THUMMIM
Into 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 Lev_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 1Sa_6:8 and 2Sa_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. Exo_28:14 and Exo_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 Num_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.