The Nimrud Ivories (Amos 6)

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Illustration: Nimrud Ivory Plaque of an Egyptian Sphinx

Amos 6:4 spoke of “beds inlaid with ivory” and attested to the availability of ivory in Israel, as well as to the high esteem in which it was held. Indeed, throughout the Near East elephant ivory was treasured as a medium for artwork. A large collection of carved ivories was discovered in the palace area of Nimrud, an Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris. These ivory carvings were artistic masterpieces in the form of human figures, animals (both real and mythological, plants and abstractions. Many of these carved pieces were originally covered in gold. On the other hand, many of the objects were used for practical purposes. For example, one ivory piece was the handle of a fly-whisk or a fan, and another carving was used as a blinder for a horse.

In 1961 fragments of an ivory plaque were unearthed at Nimrud. Surprisingly, in light of how far removed this site is from Israel, this plaque had a Hebrew inscription. Because of the broken condition of the find, a complete and certain translation is impossible. Even so, the plaque appears to contain the phrases “the great king” (evidently referring to the king of Assyria; 2 Kings 18:19) and “may Yahweh shatter”. The plaque dates to around 750 B.C. and was either part of the tribute given to the Assyrians or taken as booty by the Assyrian army after the Assyrians had destroyed Samaria in 722 B.C.


 

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