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).

The passages in 1 Kings are inconsistent with the idea that Tarshish = Britain. Any ships sailing from Ezion-Geber cannot possibly arrive in Britain — as there was no Suez Canal at the time. The cargo involved is unlikely to have come from Britain, either. However, Jonah gives us some more geography; which is inconsistent with the geography given above, as it would require Tarshish to be Mediterranean — or even British.

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Author: George Booker

Keywords: Tarshish, Trading, Traders, Maritime power, Western powers, Marine power

Bible reference(s): Gen. 10:4, 1 Kings 9:26, 2 Chron. 9:21, 1 Kings 22:48, 2 Chron. 20:36-37, Ezek. 38:13, Psa. 48:7, Psa 72:10, Isa. 2:16, Isa. 23:1, Isa. 23:6, Isa. 23:10, Isa. 23:14, Isa. 60:9, Isa. 66:19, 1 Kings 10:22, Jonah 4:2, Jonah 1:3, Ezek. 27:12, Ezek. 27:25, Jeremiah 10:9

Source: “Tarshish,” The Agora.

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