Digging Into The Past

Ferrell Jenkins
Temple Terrace, Florida

Ahab's Ivory House

Ahab's building program included an "ivory house" (I Kings 22:39). This is generally understood to mean a house that is decorated with ivory. About a century later the prophet Amos was denouncing the luxury and ritualism of Samaria while injustice was the order of the day for the poor. Note a few of these warnings from the modern English translation by J. t}. Phillips (The Four Prophets):

"I will strike both winter-house and summer-house.

The Ivory-paneled houses will be destroyed,

And the great mansions shall be no more

By order of the Lord!" (Amos 3:15)

You put off the day of reckoning,

Yet bring ever nearer the days of misrule!

You who lie on beds of ivory, And sprawl upon your couches. Eating choice lamb and farm-fed veal." (Amos 6:3-4)

About 200 ivories were found in the excavation of Samaria. Most of these are in the form of plaques or small panels in relief. They were probably attached to furniture or inlaid in wall paneling. "The subjects depicted in the ivories include lotus, 'lilies, papyrus, palmettes, lions, bulls, deer; winged figures in human' form, sphinxes, and figures of Egyptian gods such as Isis and Horus" (Jack Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, p. 188.) One ivory showed the infant Horus sitting upon a lotus, indicating the Egyptian influence on Israel at the time. Wright says that the workmanship of the ivories "was undoubtedly Phoenician and Damascene, and we would assume that they were imported objects of art, or made by imported artists" (G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology, p. 154.)

The Pool of Samaria

Ahab and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, joined forces to take Ramoth-gilead in Transjordan from the king of Syria. This was the occasion when-the prophet Micaiah predicted the death of Ahab. The reader perhaps remembers that Ahab disguised himself when he went to battle, but this did not deliver him. The record says that "a certain man drew his bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the armor" (I Kings 22:34).

The king died and was brought to his capital at Samaria, where, according to the Divine record, "they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria'' (I Kings 22:38L Samaria in Ahab's Time, by J. W. Jack, which bears the subtitle "Harvard excavations and their results with chapters on the political and religious situation," tells of the discovery of a pool at Samaria:

"At the north end of the courtyard is a cemented pool or reservoir for water later the size was lessened) about 20 inches deeper at one end than the other. The bottom and sides have at least two layers of grayish cement (mixed with wood ashes) as hard as the, rock beneath." (p. 23).

Jack, Parrot (in Samaria, p. 61), and others make mention of the fact that Ahab's bloodstained chariot may have been washed at this pool. The Harvard excavations took place between 1908 and 1910; other excavations were made during the seasons of 1931-35. After so many years I found it difficult to locate the "pool of Samaria," and was not able to do so until my second visit there. My guide, a Palestinian Arab who had lived in that territory all of his life, could not believe that there was any such "pool" at Samaria. With the aid of the description and map in Parrot's Samaria, I was able to locate the pool - I am still not sure that the guide believed me! This pool may not have been the precise one where the king's chariot was washed, but it is interesting to know that such pools did exist in the Samaria of Ahab's day.


March 5, 1970