Ebony

EBONY (הָבְנִ֔ים). Only mentioned once (Ezek 27:15)—“in payment ivory tusks and ebony.” This could be the product of various trees, but surely it is that of the Diospyros ebenaster (or ebenus) of the family Ebenaceae—a hard and durable timber. The outside is soft and white, and the central part or heart of the trunk is hard and black. This central portion is often only two ft. in diameter.

The twenty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel mentions the luxury importations from Ceylon and India to Pal., for it is undoubtedly from these countries that the ebony came. Ebony polishes well and even today is used for carvings of elephants and the like.

The Diospyros can be date tree or date plum called D. lotus in W Asia (not the date palm).

All trs. agree on the use of the word “ebony” for hobnim in this single text. The LXX omits the word completely, however. It is obvious that ivory and ebony were used together by the ancient Israelites just as they are today in the E. The pure white ivory goes well as a contrast to the jet-black, polished ebony.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(hobhnim (pl. only), vocalization uncertain; compare Arabic abnus):

Mentioned (Eze 27:15) along with ivory as merchandise of Tyre brought by the men of Dedan. This is the heavy, black, heart-wood of various species of Diospyros, natives of Southern India and Ceylon; the best kind is obtained from D. ebenum.

The sap-wood, being white and valueless, is cut away, but the trunks are sufficiently large to leave blocks of heart-wood 2 ft. in diameter and 10 or more ft. long. Ebony was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, as well as the Phoenicians, for various purposes; it was frequently inlaid with ivory. In Europe it has been a favorite for cabinet-making down to recent times.

See also

  • Plants