It appears that the Urim and the Thummim were used in ancient Israel to discern Jehovah’s will in matters that concerned the nation or its leaders. These objects were entrusted to the high priest and were kept in the pouch of the “breastpiece of judgment.” (Exodus 28:15, 16, 30)
Although the Scriptures never describe these objects or their exact method of use, different passages seem to imply that they were employed as lots that would result in either a “yes” answer, a “no” answer, or no answer at all from God.
One example of such use was when David had Abiathar bring to him what was apparently the high priest’s ephod containing the Urim and the Thummim. David addressed two questions to Jehovah: ‘Will Saul chase after me?’ and ‘Will the landowners of Keilah surrender me into his hand?’ To both inquiries the answer was yes, enabling David to make appropriate decisions.—1 Samuel 23:6-12.
Earlier, King Saul used the Urim and the Thummim to determine first, whether guilt lay with the people or with him and Jonathan and second, whether he or his son was the offender. (1 Samuel 14:40-42) Later when Saul had lost divine favor, God no longer gave him guidance “either by dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets.”—1 Samuel 28:6.
According to Jewish tradition, use of the Urim and the Thummim ceased when Jehovah’s temple was destroyed in 607 B.C.E.