International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
i'-vo-ri (1) shen, "tooth" (translated "ivory," 1 Kings 10:18; 1 Kings 22:39 2 Chronicles 9:17; Psalm 45:8 Songs 5:14; Songs 7:4 Ezekiel 27:6, 15 Amos 3:15; Amos 6:4);
(2) shenhabbim; Septuagint odontes elephdntinoi, "elephants' teeth" (1 Kings 10:22 2 Chronicles 9:21);
(3) elephantinos, "of ivory" (Revelation 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 Samuel 14:4, 5; "cliff," Job 39:28 twice; "flesh-hook of three teeth," 1 Samuel 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 Kings 10:18, 22), being brought by the ships of Tarshish (2 Chronicles 9:17, 21). An "ivory house" of Ahab is mentioned in 1 Kings 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 Psalm 45:8 Songs 5:14; Songs 7:4. It is used for ornamentation of the ships of the Tyrians (Ezekiel 27:6), who obtain it with ebony through the men of Dedan (27:15). It is among the merchandise of Babylon (Revelation 18:12).
We do not learn of the use of elephants in war until a few centuries before the Christian era. In 1 Maccabees 8:6, there is a reference to the defeat of Antiochus the Great, "having an hundred and twenty elephants," by Scipio Africanus in 190 B.C. 1 Maccabees 1:17 speaks of the invasion of Egypt by Antiochus Epiphanes with an army in which there were elephants. 1 Maccabees 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
IVORY, TOWER OF
(mighdal hashen): In Songs 7:4 the neck of the Shulammite is compared in whiteness and stateliness to a (or the) tower of ivory. The definite article may suggest that the comparison is with some actual tower in or near Jerusalem; but more probably the language is simply a figure.
TOWER OF IVORY
(mighdal hashen): Occurs only in Songs 7:4. Cheyne would, not unreasonably, emend the text and read the "tower of Shenir" as a parallel to the "tower of Lebanon" in the same verse. If the reading "tower of ivory" is correct, the reference must be to some piece of furniture in the adornment of which ivory was much used, and when we compare the word mighdal here with its use for a "pulpit" in Nehemiah 8:4, we can think only of a reminiscence of something of the nature of the throne of ivory made by Solomon (1 Kings 10:18).
W. M. Christie