Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Urim and Thummim

Started by ephealy, May 01, 2001, 11:24:00 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


I'm not the best when it comes to math / number theory, so I was hoping to bring this up here, and see if someone had any bright ideas.  Anyway, here's what the Urim and Thummim are:

Certain objects essential to the act of divination by which in early times the Hebrews sought to learn the will of God. They seem to have opposite meanings, as "yes" and "no," "light" and "darkness." Scholars are not agreed as to the exact meaning of either word (1 Sam. 28:6). The Urim and Thummim were borne on the breastplate of judgement (Ex. 28:30). It is probable that they were in some way connected with the sacred lot (Lev. 8:8; Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 14:41). From Ezra 2:63; Neh. 7:65, it seems that they were in disuse at that time.

Some have suggested that the Urim and Thummim were white and black stones, respectively - the white meaning 'yes' and the black meaning 'no.' Neither stone was likely black and neither stone was likely white. Both stones were most likely made of onyx or agate, and so would look more like a cameo. If one were ground so only the white was left (if that's even possible without making the stone unusably thin) the other might have been similarly processed to be reddish but not black.

While any dispute was probably stated in Boolean algebra, some have suggested that questions could have been more complex. It is possible that some decision making significance was placed on the six tribes inscribed on either stone (twelve names in all). Nobody has ever given anything beyond speculation on this subject, and it not likely that anything conclusive is possible given the information we have.

For example, it is possible that the high priest selected the stone with the disputant's tribe inscribed on it and somehow discerned an answer, not necessarily even Boolean, from that stone alone. We're talking about cases in which the legal arguments from the Torah, etc.. have been exhausted without a solution. Some combination of the tribe and the gem selected, in a still unknown process (throwing in the air and catching, for example), - might have tipped the scale of the argument one way or the other. There are myriads of such speculations.

These seem tailor made for a game mechanic.  At first glance I said to myself, "Self, don't these have 6 names on them?  Doesn't a d6 have 6 numbers?"  However, just calling the dice by funky names doesn't really add anything to the game / system.

What occurred to me is that 'casting lots' or whatever you want to call them, would bring about a myriad number of different combinations based on how the stones landed in relation to each other, which color(s) were pointing which way, etc...

In the end, I'm stuck and can't get over that important mental hump that would allow this nifty historical thing to be used in a system - either as the whole system or just a divination system.

Anyone feel like crunching numbers, playing around, and putting your thoughts up?



The number crunching thing isn't so hard.  You're talking about a system that already exists though.  Something very similar is used for interpretting the I-Ching. I'm no expert on it, but I know that interpretation is based on casting sticks and using their relationship to devine meaning.

Quite honestly, I've thought that a game set in Judea during the Roman occupation might make a good setting.  It would follow naturally on what you're talking about here.  As far as metaplot goes, occupied Judea is a gold mine.  There's a shaky, isolated official government of occupation, another semi-independent government that is technically under the government of occupation but operates pretty independently (the Pharicies), and revolutionary plots lurking around every corner.

I know that there are a couple of games out there already with this setting, designed specifically with religious themes.  At least one of them uses a very interesting mechanic. The success or failure of an action is dependent upon the player's ability to correctly recite an appropriate bible verse. I'm not sure about playability, but I thought it was a very impressive crossover between education and role playing. The creator, a church youth leader, created the game specifically to counter the negative stereotype of role-playing.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management

Paul Czege

Hey Clay,

Quite honestly, I've thought that a game set in Judea during the Roman occupation might make a good setting.

I've thought exactly the same thing since I read A.N. Wilson's Jesus: A Life. There's something about the historical Galilee being a hotbed of religious militancy, conflicts between pantheism and monotheism, and the pattern of how colonialism becomes undermined when members of the empire "go native" that I think would make for a great setting.

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans


I may have to lay hands on that book.  I also heard tell of a book about Pontius Pilot that sounded interesting.  I don't honestly remember the title, but getting a perspective that doesn't necessarily have Christ at its center is a good idea.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management