The term is believed to apply to the wood from the Diospyros ebenum or similar types of the same genus of trees. The tree grows tall, with simple leaves and bell-shaped flowers. The outer wood is soft and white, but the inner heartwood, which reaches a maximum diameter of about 0.5 m (2 ft), is very hard, close grained, durable, and black or dark brown in color. It takes a very high polish. These qualities make it very desirable for fine furniture, ornamental articles, and for inlay work with ivory. It was also used by the pagans in making idols for worship.
Ebony is mentioned only once in the Bible, at Ezekiel 27:15, where it is presented as an item of commerce. It is suggested that the ebony and ivory there mentioned were brought out of India or Sri Lanka, perhaps across the Arabian Sea and up the Red Sea and then overland, or else from Nubia in NE Africa. It was highly appreciated by the ancient Egyptians, and products of it have been found in Egyptian tombs.