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Urim and Thummim

The Hebrew words Aurzm, and Thummim, have been variously translated by commentators. The Septuagint translates them, "manifestation and truth"; the Vulgate, "doctrine and truth:" A quila, "lights and perfections" Kalisch, "perfect brilliancy" but the most generally received interpretation is, "light and truth. "What the Urim and Thummim were has also been a subject of as much doubt and difference of opinion. Suddenly introduced to notice by Moses in the command in Exodus (xxviii,30) "and thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim"--as if they were already familiar to the people-- we know only of them from the Scriptural account, that they were sacred lots to be worn concealed in or behind the breastplate, and to be consulted by the High Priest alone, for the purpose of obtaining a revelation of the will of God in matters of great moment. Some writers have supposed that the augury consisted in a more splendid appearance of certain letters of the names of the Tribes inscribed upon the stones of the Breastplate; others, that it was received by voice from two small images which were placed beyond the folds of the Breastplate. A variety of other conjectures have been hazarded, but as Godwyn (Moses and Aaron iv, 8) observes, "he spoke best, who ingeniously confessed that he knew not what Urimand Thummim was."

Whatever may have been the precise forms of these mysterious objects, and there is yet much uncertainty aboutt hem in the minds of scholars, there seems no doubt that they were essential elements of the sacred oracle by which the Hebrews of old endeavored to find out the will of God. Urim has been suggested as meaning guilt, and Thummin, innocence, and these widely contrasting ideas may have had none other than acomprehensive Significance of the scope represented by the two, the Urim and Thummin; all that was light and dark, clean and unclean, stood before the Lord in this appeal for the Divine Guidance.

Perhaps there was associated with the vestment, the ephod, connected with the Urimand Thummim, something of the nature of casting lots, of divination, of an appeal for ajudgment from the God head, seeking a sign, to be exhibited by perhaps committing the question at issue to a sort of inspired ballot. But let the reader examine what is said in the Bible itself where evidently the Urim and Thummim were placed with in the Breastplate of the High Priest. Here they were used to reveal the will of God. The reference in First Samuel (xxvui,6) to dreams and to the Urim and Thurnmim indicate quite clearly the class in which these methods and means are capable of being placed. The verse says,

And when Saul enquired of the L ord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, not by Urim, nor by prophets.

The opinion now almost universally accepted is that the Jewish lawgiver borrowed this, as he did the Ark, the Brazen Serpent, and many other of the symbols of his theocracy, from the usages so familiar to him of the Egyptian Priests, with which both he and Aaron were familiar, eliminating, of course, from them their previous heathen allusion and giving to them a purer signification.

In reference to the Urim and Thummim, we know not only from the authority of ancient writers, but also from the confirmatory testimony of more recent monumental explorations, that the judges of Egypt wore golden chains around their necks, to which was suspended a small figure of Theme, the Egyptian goddess of Justice and Truth. "Some of these breastplates," says Gliddon, Ancient Egypt (page 32),"are extant in European museums; others are to be seen on the monuments as containing the figures of two deities--Ra, the sun, and theme. These represent Ra, or the sun, in a double capacity, physical and intellectual light; and theme in a double capacity justice and truth."

Neither in the ancient Craft nor in Royal Arch Masonry have the Urim and Thummim been introduced; although Oliver discusses them, in his Landmarks, as a type of Christ, to be Masonically applied in his peculiar system of a Christian interpretation of all the Masonic symbols. But the fact is that after the construction of the Temple of Solomon we hear no more of the consultation by the priests of the Urim and Thummim. They seem to have given way to the audible interpretation of the divine will by the prophets. That would necessarily disconnect them from Freemasonry as symbols and these symbols are there fore not to be accepted even by those who place the foundation of the Order at the Solomonic era.

However, they have been introduced as a symbol in to some of the continental high Degrees. Thus, in the last Degree of the Order of brothers of Asia, the presiding officer wears the Urim and Thummim suspended from a golden chain as the jewel of his office.

Reghellini, Esprit du dogme or Genius of Dogma (page 60), thus gives the continental interpretation of the symbols:" The folly of Solomon is commemorated in the instructions and ceremonies of a high Degree, where the Acolyte is reminded that Solomon, becoming arrogant, was for a time abandoned by the Divinity, and as he was, although the greatest of kings, only a mortal, he was weak enough to sacrifice to idols, and thereby lost the communication which he had previously had through the Urim and Thummim. These two words are found in a Degree of the Matre cossais, or Scottish Master. The Venerables or Worshipful Masters of the Lodges and the Sublime Masters explain the legend to their recipients of an elevated rank, as intended to teach them that they should always be guided by reason, virtue, and honor, and never abandon themselves to an effeminate life or silly superstition."

Doctor Mackey concluded that it was undeniable that Urim and Thummim have no legitimate existence as Masonic symbols, and that they can only be considered such by a forced and modern interpretation.

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