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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Ivory (;; ). 'Elephant's tooth,' or simply 'elephant,' is a common name for ivory, not only in the Oriental languages and in Greek, but also in the Western tongues; although in all of them teeth of other species may be included. Elephants' teeth were largely imported as merchandise, and also brought as tribute into Egypt. The processions of human figures bearing presents, etc., still extant on the walls of palaces and tombs, attest by the black crisp-haired bearers of huge teeth, that some of these came from Ethiopia or Central Africa; and by white men similarly laden, who also bring an Asiatic elephant and a white bear, that others came from the East. Phoenician traders had ivory in such abundance, that the chief seats of their galleys were inlaid with it. In the Scriptures, according to the Chaldee Paraphrase, Jacob's bed was made of this substance (); we find king Solomon importing it from Tarshish (); and if was written before his reign, ivory was extensively used in the furniture of royal residences at a still earlier period. The tusks of African elephants are generally much longer than those of the Asiatic; and it may be observed in this place, that the ancients, as well as the moderns, are mistaken when they assert elephants' tusks to be a kind of horns. They are genuine teeth, combining in themselves, and occupying, in the upper jaw, the whole mass of secretions which in other animals form the upper incisor and laniary teeth. They are useful for defense and offence, and for holding down green branches, or rooting up water-plants; but still they are not absolutely necessary, since there is a variety of elephant in the Indian forests entirely destitute of tusks, and the females in most of the races are either without them or have them very small; not turned downwards, as Bochart states, but rather straight, as correctly described by Pliny.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Ivory'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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