The creamy-white tusks of the elephant, hippopotamus, walrus and other animals. Though hard, and having a density about three-and-a-half times as great as seasoned cedarwood, it is highly elastic and is easily carved or tooled. Its fine grain gives it a pleasing touch and finish that has remarkable durability. The intersecting layers of dentine, alternating in shade, add to its utility a beauty all its own. Non-Biblical writings tell that herds of elephants roamed over the Near and Middle East in the first and second millenniums B.C.E., while archaeological findings confirm the rather extensive use of ivory by the nation of Israel and her neighbors.
Ivory has been associated with the luxuries of life—fine art, elegant furnishings, treasured riches. Solomon’s ships, once every three years, brought great quantities of ivory from faraway places. (1 Ki. 10:22; 2 Chron. 9:21) Befitting his glory and greatness, Solomon “made a great ivory throne and overlaid it with refined gold.” (1 Ki. 10:18; 2 Chron. 9:17) The Psalms mention “the grand ivory palace” in connection with stringed instruments of music. (Ps. 45:8) In the lovely Song of Solomon the writer uses ivory as a metaphor and a simile to express beauty: “His abdomen is an ivory plate covered with sapphires,” “Your neck is like an ivory tower.” (Song of Sol. 5:14; 7:4) King Ahab also built himself a palace using costly ivory, making it a veritable “house of ivory.” (1 Ki. 22:39) In the days of Amos houses and couches were constructed with ivory.—Amos 3:15; 6:4.
Egypt too used this natural “plastic” in making such things as combs, fan handles, dishes, ointment boxes, chair legs, game boards, statuettes and sculptured works of art. The city of Tyre, in her great sea commerce, inlaid the prows of her boats with ivory. Ivory is also listed among the costly things of ancient Tyre’s traders, as well as in the stock of the “traveling merchants of the earth” who weep over the fall of Babylon the Great.—Ezek. 27:6, 15; Rev. 18:11, 12.
[Picture on page 857]
Ivory carving found at Samaria and dated by some to the time of Ahab