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Tarshish: Two Places, One, or None?
Tarshish was a son of Javan (Genesis 10:4), a name which came to refer to the Phoenicians, with which Tyre was connected. The name may have come in later days to refer to any seafaring merchant power — either to the east or the west of Israel (cp. Jonah 1:3; Ezekiel 27:12; 1 Kings 9:26; 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21). Attempts to identify Tarshish with a single marine power — such as Britain in earlier days, or America in later times — always seem to run afoul of at least some of the Bible evidence. That Tarshish represents a Last Days power or powers is evident from Ezekiel 38:13 and Psalms 72:10. “Tarshish” appears in Ezekiel as an ally of “Sheba and Dedan,” to be broken by God’s power (Isaiah 2:11-17; 23:14). But later it will bring gifts to Christ (Psalms 72:10), including “thy sons” (Isaiah 60:9).
Tarshish in the Bible
Tarshish is used as a name twenty six times in Scripture. It clearly does not have the same referent each time.
Old Testament Idiom: Tarshish
The Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to “show himself approved unto God...rightly dividing the word of truth.” The Greek word translated “rightly dividing” signifies literally “cutting a straight line,” and appears to be a metaphor based on road making. Paul’s exhortation was that Timothy should follow the straight and undeviating line of truth in his exposition of the Scriptures, and there is a suggestion that any other method of exposition would meet with God’s disapproval, even though the ultimate object was the furtherance of the Gospel. In short, the end does not justify the means; the preaching of the Truth must be based on the manifest teaching of Scripture, and must not be sullied by the uncritical citation of Scripture texts wrested from their contexts on the pretext that the language of such texts fits one’s purpose, and seems to support the point one is trying to make.
Tarshish is Not Tarsus
In the Testimony for September, 1945, pp. 175-177, we explained some of the occurrences of the name Tarshish in the Old Testament, and stated that the word itself seems to be derived from Tartessus, an ancient port on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. We also suggested that several of the references to “Tarshish” applied to Tyre, the leading mercantile city of the world in the time of Ezekiel.
The Old Testament Written for One People, One Tongue?
A contrast has been frequently drawn between the New Testament written in Greek, then the most diffused language of the civilised earth, as intended for the instruction of men without restriction as to nation, and the Old Testament written in Hebrew for one people.
A Sanscrit or Aryan word, meaning “the sea coast.”
tar ́shish (תּרשׁישׁ, tarshīsh):
In the genealogical table of the Noachidæ, Tarshish is given as the second son of Javan and is followed by Kittim and Dodanim (Genesis 10:4; 1 Chronicles 1:7). As with all these names, Tarshish denotes a country; in several instances, indeed, it is mentioned as a maritime country lying in the remotest region of the earth. Thus, Jonah flees to Tarshish from the presence of YHWH (Jonah 1:3, 4:2). With Pul, Tubal, and Javan, it is mentioned as one of the remote places that have not heard of YHWH (Isaiah 66:19, comp. 60:9; Psalms 72:10; Ezekiel 38:13). Any large vessel capable of making a long sea-voyage was styled a “ship of Tarshish,” though this did not necessarily mean that the vessel sailed either to or from Tarshish (Psalms 48:7; 1 Kings 10:22, 22:48; Isaiah 2:16; et al.). It seems that in parallel passages referring to Solomon’s and Jehoshaphat’s ships (I Kings l.c.) the author of Chronicles did not understand the meaning of “ships of Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 9:21, 20:36).
Tar’shish, (Heb. תִּרשַׁישׁ, Tarshish’, subdued [Gesen.] or established [Fürst]; Sept. Θάρσεις [but Καρχηδών in Isaiah 23; Καρχηδόνιοι in Ezekiel; θάλασσα in Isaiah 2; 16]; Vulg. usually Tharsis; A.V. “Tharshish,” 1 Kings 10:22; 22:48; 1 Chronicles 7:10; once Heb. תִּרשַׁישָׁה, Tarshishah’, 1 Chronicles 1; 7), the name of three men, of a country, and of a gem.
My Boys! (February 28, 1885)
Japhetite (also Japhethitic, Japhetic) in Abrahamic religions is an historical obsolete term for the peoples supposedly descended from Japheth, one of the three sons of Noah in the Bible. The other two sons of Noah, Shem and Ham, are the eponymous ancestors of the Semites and the Hamites, respectively.
Tarshish (Hebrew: תַּרְשִׁישׁ) occurs in the Hebrew Bible with several uncertain meanings, most frequently as a place (probably a large city or region) far across the sea from the Land of Israel and Phoenicia. Tarshish was said to have supplied vast quantities of important metals to Israel and Phoenicia. The same place-name occurs in the Akkadian inscriptions of Esarhaddon (the Assyrian king, d. 669 BC) and also on the Phoenician inscription on the Nora Stone, indicating that it was a real place; its precise location was never commonly known, and was eventually lost in antiquity. Legends grew up around it over time so that its identity has been the subject of scholarly research and commentary for more than two thousand years. Its importance stems in part from the fact that biblical passages tend to understand Tarshish as a source of King Solomon’s great wealth in metals — especially silver, but also gold, tin and iron (Ezekiel 27). The metals were reportedly obtained in partnership with King Hiram of Phoenician Tyre (Isaiah 23), and the fleets of Tarshish-ships. However, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and there has been so little evidence identified for Solomon and his kingdom, that some modern scholars following Israel Finkelstein have suggested Solomon and his kingdom never existed (see the essays in Schmidt, ed. 2007). The existence of Tarshish in the western Mediterranean, along with any Phoenician presence in the western Mediterranean before circa 800 .B.C has also seemed unthinkable to some scholars in modern times, because there had been no recognized evidence; instead, the lack of evidence for wealth in Phoenicia and Israel during the reigns of Solomon and Hiram prompted scholars to understand the period in Mediterranean prehistory between 1200 and 800 BC as a ‘Dark Age’ (Muhly 1998).