[b-hebrew] elephants or ivory ?

Yaakov Stein yaakov_s at rad.com
Wed Aug 20 02:58:45 EDT 2008

In Kings I 10:22 (and the parallel passage in Chronicles)
we read that every three years Hiram sent Solomon

The use of the conjunction and the cantillation marks
separate the good sent into two groups,
namely 1) gold and silver, 2) shenhavim and monkeys and tukim.
The former group consists of inanimate objects,
while two of the three in the latter are animals found in Africa
(without going into a discussion of the precise meaning of tuki).

Is it possible that shenhavim here means elephants rather than ivory ?
This would seem to match the sentence structure better.

The present word for elephant PYL does not appear in the tanach.
Elephants do appear in the first book of Macabees
(having been adopted by the Greek army after its conquest of India)
but unfortunately as the original Hebrew has been lost,
we can't see what word was used.
There are those who believe that the fourth animal in Daniel
is an elephant, but once again no specific Hebrew word is used.

Were ivory intended, why is the word in the plural,
rather than the singular as for gold and silver ?
Of course the proper translation could be "elephant tusks",
i.e. that unprocessed tusks were sent for carving in Israel.
But since there were no elephants in Solomon's Israel,
why would there be artisans skilled in ivory carving there ?

Yaakov (J) Stein

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