Erich Lessing/Israel Museum

Snarling lions from Samaria may have embellished the arms or steps of an ancient throne—as the Bible describes Solomon’s throne: “Two lions stood beside the arms, and twelve lions stood on the six steps” (1 Kings 10:19–20). Dating to the ninth-century B.C.E., the lions are an unusual find in Israel, where most of the extant ancient art is two-dimensional, possibly indicating an intentional avoidance of images carved in the round. As decorative elements (slots in the ivory lions’ backs and holes drilled in their sides allowed them to be fixed securely to furniture), however, the lions would have been acceptable, except, perhaps, as examples of conspicuous consumption: The prophet Amos rails against the decadent wealthy, apparently in Samaria, who “lie on ivory beds, lolling on their couches” (Amos 6:4).