Cover image for The Urim and Thummim: A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel By Cornelis Van Dam

The Urim and Thummim

A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel

Cornelis Van Dam

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$42.50 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-1-57506-406-2

320 pages
6" × 9"
8 b&w illustrations
1997

The Urim and Thummim

A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel

Cornelis Van Dam

This is the first exhaustive study of the Urim and Thummim since 1824, and in this book Van Dam sets out to rectify that lack of attention. He investigates all of the biblical data concerning this enigmatic oracular means of high-priestly revelation and its connection, in the historical books of the Old Testament, with the common phrase “to enquire of Yahweh/God.”

 

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  • Table of Contents
This is the first exhaustive study of the Urim and Thummim since 1824, and in this book Van Dam sets out to rectify that lack of attention. He investigates all of the biblical data concerning this enigmatic oracular means of high-priestly revelation and its connection, in the historical books of the Old Testament, with the common phrase “to enquire of Yahweh/God.”

After surveying the history of interpretation and the treatment of the terms in the various versions and translations, Van Dam examines the implications of similar oracular devices and priestly dress within the larger cultural context of the ancient Near East. He places the Urim and Thummim within the context of divine revelation and human inquiry and the corollary probibition of divination in ancient Israel. He concludes that the breastpiece functioned as a pouch to hold the Urim and Thummim, which therefore clearly were tangible objects. Van Dam traces the use of this oracular instrument through the early monarchy under David—from the time of Joshua through the early monarchy under David—and its apparent disappearance by the time of the “classical” prophets, where a shift to primarily verbal oracles occurs.

Concurrent with his study of the history of the oracle, Van Dam interacts with current discussion on the nature and process of God’s revelation to humankind.

Preface and Acknowledgments

Bibliography of Works Cited by Author’s Name Only

Abbreviations

1. INTRODUCTION

Purpose and Method

Orientation to the Biblical Evidence

Part 1: History

2. INTERPRETATIONS: A TOPICAL SURVEY

Did the Urim and Thummim Have a Physical Identity?

The Urim and Thummim as Allegory, Symbol, and Type

The Urim and Thummim and the Gems of the Breastpiece

The Urim and Thummim and the Name

The Interpretation of the Urim and Thummim as Letters Written on the Breastpiece

The Interpretation of the Urim and Thummim as Gems or Special Objects

Revelation by Light and Letters

Revelation by Divine Inspiration

Revelation by Lot

The Urim and Thummim as Two Means of Revelation

3. INTERPRETATIONS: ANALOGUES FROMTHE ANCIENT NEAR EAST

Lot Oracles

The Urim and Thummim and the Teraphim

Mesopotamia

The Tablet of Destinies

Illumination and Light

Clothing

Abandoned Proposals

Summary

The Hittites

Ugarit

The Term urm

The Terms ttrp and ipd

Possible Analogues from Egypt

Tummim and the Egyptian Pendant of Truth

Pectorals and Breastpieces

The Word ifd and Ephod-Like Garments

Arabia

The Urim and Thummim and the Betyls of the qubba

China

4. THE TERMS URIM AND THUMMIM: THE HISTORY OF TRANSLATION

The Greek Translations

Jewish Interpretations and the Peshitta

Early and Medieval Christianity

From the Sixteenth to the Mid-Nineteenth Century

The Traditional Understanding Questioned

5. CHRONOLOGICAL SUMMARY OF INTERPRETATIONS

Early and Medieval Interpretation

From the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Prospects

Part 2: Biblical Evidence

6. REVELATION AND DIVINATION

Divine Revelation and Human Inquiry in Israel

Methods of Revelation and Inquiry

Excursus: Biqqes and daras and Inquiring of God

Ancient Near Eastern Analogues to Prophecy

The Prohibition of Divination

The Divine Ban on Divination

The Self-Revelation of God and Divination

The Practice of Forbidden Divination in Israel

The Method of the Investigation

7. TERMS AND GARMENTS

The Meaning of the Terms urim and tummim

Evidence in Favor of the Traditional Understanding

Further Considerations

The Urim and Thummim and the High-Priestly Garments

The Ephod

The Breastpiece of Judgment and the Urim and Thummim

8. THE URIM AND THUMMIM AND THE HIGH PRIEST

The Mediatory Position of the High Priest

Joshua and the High Priest

Lipne YHWH ‘Before Yahweh’

The Urim and Thummim and the Levitical Priesthood

Levi and the Thummim and Urim in the Blessing of Moses

The Urim and Thummim and the Teaching and Judging Tasks

9. THE OCCASIONS FOR USING THE URIM AND THUMMIM

Numbers 27:21 and 1 Samuel 28:6

Examples of the Use of the Urim and Thummim

An Investigation into sa’al be YHWH/be lohim

No Answer by the Urim in 1 Samuel 28:6

Summary

10. THE PROCEDURE FOR USING THE URIM AND THUMMIM

Human Involvement

Were the Urim and Thummim a Lot Oracle?

The Context and Text of 1 Samuel 14:41

The Lot Theory Examined

Other Related Hypotheses

Analogues Means

11. HOW DID THE URIM AND THUMMIM FUNCTION?

Revelation by the Urim and Thummim Compared to Revelation by the Lot

The Involvement of Prophecy

Data from Ezra 2:63 (and Nehemiah 7:65)

A Proposal

Concluding Observations on the Identity of the Urim and Thummim

Selective Summary of Key Conclusions

Closing Reflections

12. THE ORIGIN AND DEMISE OF THE URIM AND THUMMIM

The Origin and First Use of the Urim and Thummim

The Demise of the Urim and Thummim

The Urim and Thummim and the Psalms

The Urim and Thummim and Prophecy

The Urim and Thummim and Kingship

The Urim and Thummim and the Priesthood

When and under What Circumstances the Urim and Thummim Ceased to Function

Part 3: Theological Implications

13. REVELATION, OFFICES, AND THE URIM AND THUMMIM

Key Features of the Urim and Thummim

Divine Approval and Demand

The Importance and the Limits of the Urim and Thummim

The Place of the Urim and Thummim in God’s Rule of Israel

The Time of Joshua and the Judges

The Time of Samuel, Saul, and David

Summary

The Place of the Urim and Thummim in God’s Self-Revelation: An Overview

The Urim and Thummim and the Office of Priest and Ruler or King

The Urim and Thummim and the Office of Prophet

The Word Alone

INDEXES

Index of Authors

Index of Scripture

Index of Ancient and Medieval Sources

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