DIG (on USA!) episode 5 starts in 30 minutes. (!!!) I don't know when I'll be able to provide my completely inane thoughts, perceptions, and reactions to Episode 5 because I have some intense family obligations to attend to over the next several days. But I will try! I will try.
In the meantime, here's some geeky research I've done about the breastplate, the 12 stones, and the Urim and Thummim. I started out thinking the plate and the 12 stones were the most important focus, but then, as I started to research I hit total frickin' pay dirt regarding the Urim and Thummim, Internet. Do you know about them? I'll tell you about them...in a minute. I think they're going to become fairly important to the story that DIG is telling. Of course, I could always be wrong, and frequently am, but I just became incredibly intrigued by them after I stumbled on several things. Online. (Because if it's ONLINE, it must be true.) (Abraham Lincoln said that.)
First, let's talk about the breastplate and the stones.
So basically, it's something the High Priest would wear to beg God to forgive the children of Israel all their transgressions. Essentially, it was a big ol' iPad to the Lord. It even lit up, in just the right lighting. Super rad, considering it was before microwave ovens and Star Trek had even been thought up.
In Rabbinical literature, the breastplate is called "hoshen ha-mishpat." After the reign of David, the breastplate was lost to antiquity (supposedly; at any rate, it was never mentioned again by any scribes in any religious text). It was created by Moses when he consecrated Aaron and his sons as the first High Priests. Aaron wore it directly over his heart, because his heart was happy and not even a tiny bit jealous God picked his brother Moses to be the one to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (good for YOU, Aaron!). It was made from different colored threads, covered in gold leaf, and inside of it were 12 precious stones and each one had the name of a tribe of Israel engraved on it.
The reason the names were engraved on the stones was to keep God mindful, whenever the High Priest stood before Him, how pious each tribe was. The stones were never to be chiseled, painted, marked on in any way. In fact, the legend goes that the names of the tribes were engraved on the stones via the use of the Shamir. It was the 7th miraculous creation by God. It was created during the evening twilight on the first Friday after the first 6 days of creation. The Shamir was a hard stone, the size of a grain of barley, yet nothing could withstand its hardness. Whenever it was placed on stones, the stones were split apart as easily as the pages of a book. Moses supposedly used it when God created the Ten Commandments, and he kept it in spongy balls of wool, in a lead box filled with bran to keep it safe.
In my research about the breastplate, I kept coming up on stuff about an ephod. There's some argument about what an ephod actually is--some say it's an image that would be brought out and worshiped, others think it's just a covering worn in conjunction with the breastplate, as part of the High Priest's adornments and clothing. If one is of the ephod-image camp, it's the thing that's used as an oracle.
So the breastplate goes on, the ephod comes out (or on, whichever your scholarly self wants to think), and let the holy oracles begin! When King David, for instance, wanted to ask God a question, he'd go to the priest and say: "Bring us the ephod." In King David's time, and probably also previously, this was also called "the ark of God."
There were 3 methods of divine communication for whoever wore the breastplate:
1-a dream oracle
2-oracle by word of the Prophets
3-oracle via the Urim and the Thummim
So. Let's talk about the Urim and the Thummim. Because this is the part I went: "Holy shit!" (and also: "How the hell did these writers keep all this straight in their brains?!")
In English, the words translate, roughly, to "revelation and truth" or "light and perfection," and the Urim and the Thummim (in Judaism) are the two cherubs adorning either end of the top of the Ark of the Covenant. (More on the ark next time.) But they may have also been stones that were part of the breastplate, in addition to the 12 stones, because Aaron was commanded to add these to his breastplate, which he was to wear as a way to continuously carry the judgment of God for the 12 tribes of Israel over his heart.
Definitely in Christianity they became something else. The Urim and Thummim are two stones--a white and a black stone used as part of divination rituals. And you know who REALLY loved to use the Urim and the Thummim to divine God's will?
Joseph "magic underpants" Smith. (You know who he is, right? Mormon guy. Utah desert. Sister-wives. A really kick ass Tabernacle Choir my mom used to play on the record player every Christmas season. Hordes genealogy info on everybody, God only knows why except it does kind of make me nervous--does it you? I wonder why they want to have all that information on every human in America, possibly the planet...)
Basically, Joseph and polygamy pals liked to use the stones to play 20 Questions with God: "Will there be a storm a'comin', O Lord?" (YES) "Will we be driven to the depths of the Utah desert to escape the US government's reach and laws?" (YES) "Will we ever have our day of glory and be Kings of the ENTIRE Planet?" (NO)
(thank you, Jesus).
Joseph Smith said the Urim and the Thummim were the divine dwelling place of God. He claimed they were the earth in a future state, and that the white stone was from the Book of Revelation. He also said before God led him to the Urim and the Thummim, he'd been using a holy seer stone to divine the will of God, to receive divine knowledge and revelations. The seer stone helped him find lost objects and interpret ancient or mystical languages he didn't know (like ancient Egyptian). The combination of the seer stone + the urim + the thummim gave him the "all-seeing eye."
You know where else you'll see the "all-seeing eye?" On Egyptian stuff. Buddhist things. Freemason artifacts. THE FREAKING U.S. CURRENCY IN YOUR WALLET. (that's why it's the "all-seeing eye"--it's everywhere. WATCHING YOU.)
(I mean, don't get paranoid or anything. I just thought you ought to know what you're carrying around in your purse or your pocket. Just think of it as sort of like a holy TSA or something. We're all just travelers through time, man.)
Most scholars say the original Urim/Thummim, like the Ark of the Covenant, are lost to antiquity. But other people--non-scholarly people, typically--who really, really, really, I mean desperately, want to be Masters of the Universe say that Jesus personified the Urim and the Thummim, and that when Jesus comes back to Earth, there will be no need for a physical earth to live on anymore. Because Jesus would be the real indicator of the will of God.
This feels ominous, doesn't it? At least if you're watching DIG. I read all that and went: Crap. Those crazy guys want to bring Jesus down to Earth, don't they? THAT'S what they're doing with the black and white stones. Playing 20 Questions with God, and trying to figure out how to bring Jesus to Earth. (But does Jesus even WANT to come here? I mean, I'm certain some of you believe he's already been...and if this is true, wouldn't that be like going back to a hotel that gave you REALLY bad service--mold on the bed sheets, hair clogged in the sink? Seriously--he was ASSASSINATED. But if you don't believe that was the real Messiah, maybe Jesus is perfectly fine and dandy wherever he is currently...I mean, I don't know if you've noticed or not, but this planet isn't exactly a 5 star resort to live on. Some places on it, maybe, but the vast majority of it...Seriously. I just sat in 1 mile of traffic for over 40 minutes tonight. Seer-see THAT crap away, and then I'll consider what you have to say.)
Where was I? Right--research.
Some things I found particularly interesting that may (or may not) be brought up in the show (or already have been and I've missed them because I've been too busy reading tweets):
Exodus 28:30 - this is the passage in the Bible that details Moses consecrating the breastplate to Aaron. It details how the plate was used to reveal God's judgment. In Numbers 27:21, God reveals to Moses what he wants Israel to do. And that instance (in Numbers 27:21), what God really wanted Moses to do was put Joshua in charge. Now THAT'S interesting. (Isn't it?)
What else was very interesting to me was that I found some information about Tetzaveh, which is Hebrew for "you command." It's the second word in the parashah, which are (in my goyim rough translation) sections of passages in the scrolls of the Torah, and it's really important where you section them or you mess everything up. And then you and God aren't copacetic. The parashah is made up of 5, 430 Hebrew letters, 1, 412 Hebrew words, 101 verses, and takes up about 179 lines in a Torah scroll. Jews read it the 20th Sabbath after Simchat Torah (in February or March). It might be important to the story of DIG because the Tetzaveh encompasses Exodus 27:20-30:10. It also contains all of God's commands on how to make sacred garments for priests.
Also: there are 7 readings of it, and Jews who read the Book of Exodus in accordance to a cycle do so in a triennial cycle--in serial fashion, over a 3 year period. Many Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Renewal Jewish congregations began doing this in the 19th-20th centuries. There's actually a whole lot more to it than that sad bit of tossed out information, but I was raised Presbyterian and that means my brother and I always started games of Tic-Tac-Toe whenever the minister started reading from the Bible. (I can only click on so many links in Wikipedia before my brain goes: Hey! We are NOT a computer! Dial it down! Is what I'm saying to you.)
At any rate, there you go. Breastplate, stones, Urim & Thummim. I want to say that I feel like the Urim and the Thummim are kind of like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum from ALICE IN WONDERLAND, but I'm worried a Mormon out there will come running out of the desert like a bat out of hell, find me, and make me his 253rd Sister-Wife. And all the other sister-wives will shun me, because I can't clean a toilet or cook a roast to save my life.
Up next time I put my researcher-geek on full display for the World Wide Web: the Ark of the Covenant. (I'm saving the Temple Mount for last, because that is some screwed up shit. Seriously, religionists--get. it. TOGETHER. Honestly. I mean, Jeez Louise.)