(Heb. pl. shenhabbim, the "tusks of elephants") was early used in decorations by the Egyptians, and a great trade in it was carried on by the Assyrians (Ezek. 27:6; Rev. 18:12). It was used by the Phoenicians to ornament the box-wood rowing-benches of their galleys, and Hiram's skilled workmen made Solomon's throne of ivory (1 Kings 10:18). It was brought by the caravans of Dedan (Isa. 21:13), and from the East Indies by the navy of Tarshish (1 Kings 10:22). Many specimens of ancient Egyptian and Assyrian ivory-work have been preserved. The word habbim is derived from the Sanscrit ibhas, meaning "elephant," preceded by the Hebrew article (ha); and hence it is argued that Ophir, from which it and the other articles mentioned in 1 Kings 10:22 were brought, was in India.
The word translated "ivory" literally signifies the "tooth" of any animal, and hence more especially denotes the substance of the projecting tusks of elephants. The skilled work-men of Hiram, king of Tyre, fashioned the great ivory throne of Solomon, and overlaid it with pure gold. (1Ã‚Â Kings 10:18
; 2Ã‚Â Chronicles 9:17
) The ivory thus employed was supplied by the caravans of Dedan, (Isaiah 21:13
; Ezekiel 27:15
) or was brought, with apes and peacocks, by the navy of Tarshish. (1Ã‚Â Kings 10:22
) The "ivory house" of Ahab, (1Ã‚Â Kings 22:39
) was probably a palace, the walls of which were panelled with ivory, like the palace of Menelaus described by Homer. Odys. iv. 73. Beds inlaid or veneered with ivory were in use among the Hebrews. (Amos 6:4
- i'-vo-ri ((1) shen, "tooth" (translated "ivory," 1 Ki 10:18
; 2 Ch 9:17
; Ps 45:8
; Song 5:14
; Ezek 27:6,15
; Am 3:15
); (2) shenhabbim; Septuagint odontes elephdntinoi, "elephants' teeth" (1 Ki 10:22
; 2 Ch 9:21
); (3) elephantinos, "of ivory" (Rev 18:12
)): Shen occurs often, meaning "tooth" of man or beast. In the passages cited it is translated in English Versions of the Bible "ivory" (of "crag," 1 Sam 14:4,5
; "cliff," Job 39:28
twice; "flesh-hook of three teeth," 1 Sam 2:13
). Shenhabbim is thought to be a contracted form of shen ha-'ibbim, i.e. ha, the article, and 'ibbim, plural of 'ibbah or 'ibba'; compare Egyptian ab, ebu, "elephant," and compare Latin ebur, "ivory" (see Liddell and Scott, under the word elephas). On the other hand, it may be a question whether -bim is not a singular form connected with the Arabic fil, "elephant." If the word for "elephant" is not contained in shenhabbim, it occurs nowhere in the Hebrew Bible.
Ivory was probably obtained, as now, mainly from the African elephant. It was rare and expensive. It is mentioned in connection with the magnificence of Solomon (1 Ki 10:18,22), being brought by the ships of Tarshish (2 Ch 9:17,21). An "ivory house" of Ahab is mentioned in 1 Ki 22:39. It is mentioned among the luxuries of Israel in the denunciations of Amos (3:15; 6:4). It occurs in the figurative language of Ps 45:8; Song 5:14; 7:4. It is used for ornamentation of the ships of the Tyrians (Ezek 27:6), who obtain it with ebony through the men of Dedan (27:15). It is among the merchandise of Babylon (Rev 18:12).
We do not learn of the use of elephants in war until a few centuries before the Christian era. In 1 Macc 8:6, there is a reference to the defeat of Antiochus the Great, "having an hundred and twenty elephants," by Scipio Africanus in 190 BC. 1 Macc 1:17 speaks of the invasion of Egypt by Antiochus Epiphanes with an army in which there were elephants. 1 Macc 6:28-47 has a detailed account of a battle between Antiochus Eupator and Judas Maccabeus at Bethsura (Beth-zur). There were 32 elephants. Upon the "beasts" theria) there were "strong towers of wood"; "There were also upon every one two and thirty strong men, that fought upon them, beside the Indian that ruled him."
In Job 40:15, the King James Version margin has for "behemoth," "the elephant, as some think."
Alfred Ely Day