Did Second Temple High Priests Possess the Urim and Thummim?

Lisbeth S. Fried


According to TB Yoma 21b, the urim and the thummim and the
spirit of prophecy were among the things missing from the Second Temple.
According to Ezra 2:61-63 (Neh.7:63-65), they were missing from the time of the
return. Josephus suggests, however, that the urim and thummim stopped shining,
that is they ceased to function, only around 104 BCE, about the time of John
Hyrcanus’ death. According to Josephus, then, second temple high priests
consulted urim and thummim. To decide between these two claims, we examine
second temple texts dated to the period before Hyrcanus’ death. These texts
confirm Josephus and suggest that the contemporary high priest may have used
urim and thummim as an oracular device.

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