(Lev. 8:8) What are Urim and Thummim?

CLAIM: What are these sacred dice?

RESPONSE: Before the permanent indwelling and vigorous activity of the Holy Spirit in the old covenant, God gave Urim and Thummim to the high priest. These were the sacred dice that were kept in the priest’s ephod breastplate (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8), and they were used to indicate God’s will to the people (1 Sam. 14:41-42). Some of the kings (like Saul) were denied revelation by God in this way (1 Sam. 28:6), while others (like David) were granted it (1 Sam. 23:6ff). G. Earnest Wright notes, “There is no reference to the practice after the time of David; it probably was little used in subsequent ages.”[1]

Critical scholars charged that this is similar to Pagan divination. However, we would have to point out four crucial dissimilarities: First, the use of these sacred dice gave a simple Yes or No answer—unlike the cryptic statements that are most often given in Pagan divination. Second, it gave a clear answer, which everyone could understand. It could be read and interpreted by everyone present—unlike tea leaf reading that takes interpretation (or imagination!) to garner a meaning from. Third, it was used infrequently and in unusual circumstances. Typically, the leadership of Israel was governed by the word of God or by prophets. However, in rare circumstances, they were given this means of ascertaining the will of God. Fourth, this practice stopped occurring after the time of David. Of course, casting lots continued to occur, but this was not the same as these sacred dice.

[1] Wright, G. Ernest. The Old Testament against Its Environment. Chicago: H. Regnery, 1950. 88.