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Ivory is a type of dentine (the harder-than-bone material that forms teeth) found in the tusks of elephants. Humans have used ivory since ancient times primarily for artwork, which continued into modern times when it was also used for more mundane things as piano keys and billiard balls (in modern times, the ivory trade is now subject to strict controls or outright bans due to extinction fears for elephants who were slaughtered merely for their tusks by poachers or irresponsible profiteers). Most of the great ancient civilizations used ivory, and during Bible History, the Israelite people were also well familiar with it; King Solomon, the son and successor of King David, had a gold-covered throne of carved ivory.


Solomon's Gold-Covered Ivory Throne Solomon's throne of ivory, which was covered with gold:

"The king also made a great ivory throne, and overlaid it with the finest gold. The throne had six steps, and at the back of the throne was a calf's head, and on each side of the seat were arm rests and two lions standing beside the arm rests, while twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps. The like of it was never made in any kingdom." (1 Kings 10:18-20 RSV)

Solomon obtained the ivory by means of a fleet of trading ships

"For the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom" (1 Kings 10:22-23 RSV)

Later Kings of Israel and Judah (see also Israelite Dynasties) also made use of ivory, including Ahab, the husband of Jezebel:

"Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he built, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?" (1 Kings 22:39 RSV)

When the Israelites were faithful and obedient to God, "ivory palaces" were among the blessings:

"Your divine throne endures for ever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir." (Psalm 45:6-9 RSV)

When the Israelites were unfaithful and disobedient to God, ivory became a contemptible sign of their corruption:

"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion [see also Daughter of Zion], and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel come! ... Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory" (Amos 6:1,4 RSV)

"Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob," says the Lord God, the God of hosts, "that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground. I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end," says The Lord." (Amos 3:13-15 RSV)

Fact Finder: Is the ivory trade mentioned in Prophecy?
Revelation 18:2,11-12

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