Elephantine Island

There are numerous ways to describe the location of Elephantine Island. It is an island in the Nile River at Aswan (= Syene in Ezekiel 29:10 and 30:6). Or we might say that the island is located at the first cataract of the Nile.

According to Budge, the earlier name for Elephantine was Abu. One way of writing the name of the island included the drawing of an elephant (E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, II:51).

Various suggestions have been made regarding the origin of the name Elephantine. Some say the smooth rocks of the first cataract remind one of an elephant back. Others say, the island is shaped like an elephant tusk. Or, the island was the center of ivory trading in the past.

A small granite statue of an elephant has been uncovered on the extreme south end of the island. Aswan, you likely recall, was noted for its granite.

Granite Elephant on Elephantine Island, Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Granite Elephant on Elephantine Island, Aswan, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the Septuagint Old Testament and in the New Testament the word elephantinos is translated ivory. You can think of Samaria’s famous beds of ivory, made from the tusks of elephants (Amos 6:4), or the unsold cargoes of the merchants who could no longer trade with the fallen Babylon [Roman Empire] (Revelation 18:12).

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