Thrones in the ancient world (Psalm 99)

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Illustration: Ancient Egyptian throne

Royal and ritual thrones of the ancient world were typically constructed of wood frames overlaid with precious metals and inlaid with gems. Popular ornamentation included engravings of lions, winged sphinxes and composite mythological creatures. According to artistic tradition throughout the ancient world, these served as images of power and authority. Solomon’s throne was inlaid with ivory and overlaid with gold. It featured a rounded top and a pair of standing lions for armrests. Six steps led up to the royal dais, and each step was flanked by two lions, one on each end (1 Kings 10:19-20).

Aspects of the throne’s design recall other royal furniture of that time and region. For example, an ivory engraving from Megiddo and a sarcophagus (coffin) from Byblos, both dating roughly to the thirteenth century B.C., pictures rulers seated upon thrones with curved-top backs supported by sphinxes, their feet resting on footstools. Footstools typically accompanied thrones and were occasionally engraved with scenes of vanquished foes, an image communicating triumph over one’s enemies (Psalm 110:1). An ancient king literally sought to make his enemies his footstool.

The gods of the ancient Near East are depicted seated either upon thrones or atop animals or mythological beings (e.g. a goddess might be seated astride a lion). The creatures themselves became the seat of divinity. Images of gods carved into the hills along the Tigris River portray deities mounted upon such composite creatures.

The divine throne of Yahweh is envisioned as a living entity composed of fiery creatures whose outspread wings form the chariot upon which He transverses the heavens (2 Samuel 22:11, Psalm 18:10, Ezekiel 10:1). His throne is a spectacle of light, shining with a radiance of jewels (Ezekiel 1:26, Revelation 4;3) and issuing flames of fire (Psalm 104:3-4, Daniel 7:9). Although heaven is God’s throne and earth his footstool (Isaiah 66:1), the temple and Jerusalem (i.e. the temple city) are often referred to as the throne and footstool of God, respectively (1 Chronicles 28:2, Psalm 132:7). This imagery evokes the divine presence of Yahweh and His kingship over His covenant people.


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