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The Urim and Thummim, the Ephod, and the Ark of the Covenant: Tools for Priestly Divination

SEUNG IL KANG 1

1한남대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The Urim and Thummim were sanctioned as the official means of divination in ancient Israel. Whereas many studies have delved into the meaning and nature of the Urim and Thummim, there is a significant lack of studies on the possibility that other tools of the priests were used in divination. This essay argues that the Ephod and the Ark of the Covenant along with Urim and Thummim once functioned as tools for priestly divination in the early history of ancient Israel. It is worth noting that Deuteronomy and the Priestly source remain silent on the divinatory function of the Ephod and the Ark. It is suggested that the Ephod was originally a garment for the cult images of the divine used in divination, but later reduced as one of the priestly garments due to the aniconic tendency of normative Yahwism. In a similar fashion, the Ark of the Covenant became simply an wooden receptacle in which the tablets of the covenant were kept. We do not know for sure how these divinatory tools were used. It appears that the Urim and Thummim were used to determine one's culpability. As for the use of the Ark in divination, the earlier strata clearly show that the Ark was once a war oracle. It is more difficult to articulate the way the Ephod played a role in divination. Chances are that the divination through the Ephod was employed in some general questions that can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.