Urim and Tummim

This method of Jewish divination is traced back to the priestly garments.

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Mention of the Urim and Tummim ceases early in the history of Israel, indicating that it was no longer in use at the rise of classical prophecy (eighth century BCE). There is some indication that it was reintroduced briefly during the Persian period, but it again quickly disappears from the records.

Post-biblical sources offer numerous elaborations on the history and operation of the Urim and Tummim, but many of the sources contradict each other, making it difficult to fix on any as a legitimate tradition (Dead Sea Scrolls 4Q376; 4QpIsa; Antiquities 3:8; Yoma 73b; Exodus Rabbah 47; Sifrei Numbers 141; Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Exodus 28; Zohar II 234b; Nahmanides on Exodus 28).

The Urim and Tummim have also become part and parcel of Western occult lore; Joseph Smith (founder of the Latter Day Saints movement, or Mormonism), for example, claimed to have used the Urim and Tummim to read "Reformed Egyptian" language of the golden book given him by the angel Moroni. The seal of Yale University also contains a reference to them.

Geoffrey Dennis is rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound, TX. He is also lecturer in Kabbalah and rabbinic literature at the University of North Texas.

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Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis

Geoffrey Dennis is rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound, TX. He is also lecturer in Kabbalah and rabbinic literature at the University of North Texas.