Tanak Foundations-Concepts in Exodus-Part 31

The Breastplate of Judgment is called the Choshen Mishpat. It is square (four corners) and it is 9.6 inches square. When unfolded it is rectangular. When the high priest wears it, it is square because it is folded, making a small pouch. It will be 9.6 inches and it had four rows of stones set in it. So, let’s look at these stones and what they symbolize.

The first stone is “Odem” and a ruby, and it stands for the tribe of Reuben and is red. The second stone is “Pitdah” is an emerald and it stands for the tribe of Shimon, and is green. The third stone is “Bareket” and is for Levi. It is a topaz and is red, white and black striped. The fourth stone is “Nophek” and it is for Judah. It is a carbunkle and is bluish green. The fifth stone is called “Sapir” and it is for Issachar. It is a sapphire and is blue. The sixth stone is called “Yahalom” for Zebulon. It is a quartz crystal and clear. The seventh stone is “Leshem” for Dan. It is a jacinth and the color blue. The eighth stone is “Shevo” for Naphtali. It is an amethyst and purple in color. The ninth stone is “Achlamah” for Gad, and is an agate that is grey in color. The tenth stone is “Tarshish” for Asher, and is a aquamarine, blue and green in color. The eleventh stone is “Shoham” for Joseph, which is an onyx, black in color. The twelfth stone is “Yashfeh” for Benjamin, which is an opal, which possessed all colors.

The Temple Institute went to great trouble to research theses stones when making the garments of the high priest, including this breastplate. They said that there is no way they can be definite about all of these because there are 30 or more opinions. The color of each stone is certain and the color matched the background of the flags of each tribe. The stones were arranged three across, and four down. These were also for remembrance (Exo 28.29).

There are two main opinions of how they were arranged. One by Yonaton Ben Uzziel that had it “Reuben-Simeon-Levi”, then “Judah-Dan-Naphtali”, then “Gad-Asher-Issachar”, then “Zebulon-Joseph-Benjamin.” Another Aramaic translation called the Targum Jerushalmi” places the order according to the matriarchs, “Reuben-Simeon-Levi”, then “Judah-Issachar-Zebulon”, then “Dan-Naphtali-Gad”, then “Asher-Joseph-Benjamin.” Both views are held in high esteem, but there are many more views. You can see the actual stones on the internet at the Temple Institute site, and there are others.

There were chains of twisted cord work for the breastplate that were all gold (all God). There were two rings of gold and they were on the two ends of the breastplate (two is the number of witness). These rings were in each corner, the two at the top were joined to the ephod by the twisted chains attached to the shoulder. The two bottom ones were attached by a cord to rings at the point where the straps branch off. This kept the breastplate extended and closed at the middle of the breast (the seat of affection). This breastplate was called the “Breastplate of Judgment” because it contained the Urim v’ Thummim.

There is a good book on the Mishkan called “The Tabernacle of Israel” by James Strong. He is the one who compiled Strong’s Concordance. In this book, Strong has a good and balanced description of the Urim v’ Thummim on page 110-112, which we would like to submit for you to read.

“The Urim and Thummim”
“Finally, the sacred pocket thus suspended over the very heart of the high priest, where it would be inviolably safe, and at the same time accessible at a moment’s notice, was designed, in a manner analogous (as we shall presently see fore fully) to the inmost Ark of the Sanctuary, as a place of deposit for the most priceless blessing of God to his fallen, erring children, a mode of ascertaining his will. The physical instrument of this form of divine communication was the famous Urim and Thummim, Hebrew terms that have greatly vexed the learning and ingenuity of interpreters, with less satisfactory results, perhaps, than any other part of the whole Tabernacle apparatus. The following is a condensed summary of all the positive information that philology and the Scriptures afford on this difficult but interesting topic. Neither Josephus not the Rabbins seem to have had access to anything further, while the conjectures of modern writers are mostly worse than worthless.”

“The words ‘Urim and Thummim’ are not proper names. ‘Urim’ is simply the plural of ‘ur’, which is occassionally used in the singular for ‘light’ (as is its congear ‘or’ constantly) in the sense of flame (Isa 31.9, 44.16, 47.14, 50.11; Ezek 5.2; for it is merely the infinitive of the common verb meaning ‘to shine’), and for ‘Ur’, the birthplace of Abraham; while the plural (besides the distinctive use here considered, occurring singly in Num 27.21; 1 Sam 28.6; and elsewhere in the compound phrase, Exo 28.30; Lev 8.8; Deut 33.8; Ezra 2.63; Neh 7.65) is used for the region of lights, i.e., the East (Isa 24.15, A.V. ‘fires’). ‘Thummim’ likewise is only the plural form of ‘tum’, meaning perfection, and usually rendered, in the singular, ‘integrity’ (Gen 20.5-6; 1 Kings 9.4; Psa 7.8, 25.21, 26.1,11; Psa 41.12, 78.72; Prov 19.1, 20.7), ‘uprightness,’ ‘upright,’ or ‘perfection’ (Psa 101.2; Isa 47.9), ‘simplicity’ (2 Sam 15.11), ‘full’ (Job 21.23), ‘at a venture’ (1 Kings 22.34; 2 Chron 18.33), but in the plural only in connection with the Urim. The plural form of both words does not necessarily imply that there were many of each kind of object, nor even that the two were distinct articles; but rather according to a frequent Hebrew idiom, these peculiarities of the phrase express as follows: the plural, emphasis or quantity; and the duplication, attribution or quality. Thus a free translation would be full light as to amount and perfect as to kind, i.e., complete illumination; in modern terminology, a definite oracle, in distinction from the vague and ambiguous intimations from other sources, whether heathen shrines, providential auguries, or even inspired vaticinations, such as had been the only resource of previous ages and other nations.”

“As to the actual applications of this instrumentality for predicting events, we find various significant facts. The object in question was small, light and non-fragile in order to be easily carried in the pouch of the breastplate. It (or its equivalent) was duplicated freely in the pontifical family (1 Sam 22.18), but the acting high priest alone had the prerogative of consulting it (1 Sam 23.2,4,6). The secret of using it was at length lost even to the hierarchy (Ezra 2.63). The questions put by its means were categorical, and the answers were explicit, although not only always a simple affirmative or negative (1 Sam 23.9-12; 2 Sam 5.23-24); and sometimes refused altogether (1 Sam 28.6). All this implies a material apparatus, a public consultation, and a palpable reply, either by visible or audible signs. It excludes all theories of priest craft, fortunetelling, or legerdemain, making the whole a bona fide supernatural indication of what no mortal could of himself discover or predict. Beyond this everything concerning it is uncertain, and the speculations of scholars are scarcely worth recounting.”

“Without entering in detail into the hopeless discussion on this mysterious object, we may safely say, in brief, that these terms designate some means of oracular response, on questions of public importance, by Jehovah through the high priest. The manner in which they are introduced (‘the Urim and the Thummim,’ like ‘the Cherubim,’ on their first mention), yet without any explanation, shows that they were well known already to the Israelites. This adds force to the presumption, confirmed by an inspection of the monuments, that they were originals of which the symbolical images, known to Egyptologists as those of the double goddess of Truth and Justice, and probably also the idolatrous Teraphim of the early Mesopotamians and later Syrians, were the counterfeits. We risk the opinion that this species of augury was by means of an image (probably of clay rudely modeled) representing truth as the essential attribute of the deity. It was worn on the bosom, which is the Oriental pocket, in order to be always at hand. Like the Cherubim, its purely ideal character relieved it of the charge of idolatry. The only clue to its mode of manipulation for obtaining an oracular response is given in 1 Sam 14.19 (for the ephod and not the ark must be there referred to; comp. v. 3, and Keil on the passage), where the expression ‘withdraw’ (literally ‘gather up’) thy hand’ shows that it was held in the open hand during consultation. It does not seem, however, to have been absolutely necessary in the process at all, for on occasions no mention of it whatever is made (1 Sam 23.2-4; 2 Sam 5.19, 23; 21.1). In one instance at least it was impliedly absent, the priestly vestment itself being an ordinary one of simple linen, such as appears to have been worn by the whole lineage of high priests (1 Sam 23.6; comp 22.18). This lends color to the suspicion that the response was not given by any peculiarity of the object in question itself; but was merely divined through some professional skill acquired by the officiator (comp. John 15.11). Finally, inasmuch as in several of the above cases even the priestly intervention is not positively stated, it may be that the king or any other public functionary was qualified to ascertain divine will by this means.”

“However that may be, we find this mode of divination in use among the Hebrews from this time forward, as it appears to have been in the patriarchal days (Gen 25.22-23), down to a late period of the Jewish commonwealth, when it suddenly and silently disappears altogether from history. This was because it was superseded by the clearer and fuller lights and perfections of personally inspired prophets, whose oral deliverances, afterwards compiled by themselves in permanent documents, have survived the vicissitudes of transcription and denationalization, and still guide and cheer the saints on their march to the heavenly home.”

In Part 32 we will pick up here.

Posted in All Teachings, Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Feasts of the Lord, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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