King Solomon's Throne

King Solomon’s Throne, James Dabney McCabe, 1842-1883

The Story of Wealth, Decadence and Beauty

The interplay between archaeology and the Bible is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the subject of ivory. The Bible helps us to understand the archaeological artifacts, and the archaeological artifacts help us to understand the Bible.

In the Bible, we are told of King Solomon’s ivory throne (1 Kings 10-18; 2 Chronicles 9-17) and of King Ahab who built an entire house of ivory (1 Kings 22-39). At times, ivory was used as we might use money, for barter, tribute or exchange (Ezekiel 27-15). We learn of the precious ivories brought back from three year voyages by Solomon’s ships plying a trade route between Tarshish and Ophir, ports of uncertain location (1 Kings 10-22; 2 Chronicles 9-21). And we also learn of ivory as a symbol of wealth and decadence- Amos inveighs against Israel lolling on its ivory beds (Amos 6-4). He prophesies in the name of the Lord that the house of ivory will perish and be demolished (Amos 3-15). The beauty of ivory was universally recognized- In the Song of Songs, the lover whose stature is as majestic as Lebanon, stately as the cedars, has a belly like a polished ivory tablet (Song of Songs 5-14); his beloved has a neck like an ivory tower (Song of Songs 7-4).

Read the rest of Ancient Ivory in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.