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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Tarshish (1)

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TARSHISH is frequently mentioned in the OT, but its position is never definitely indicated. From Jonah 1:3 ; Jonah 4:2 we may infer that it was far from Palestine, probably in the extreme west of the Mediterranean. If Sheba and Dedan stand for the commerce of the East, Tarshish may stand for that of the West ( Ezekiel 38:13 ). The Greeks were in touch with Tartessus in the 7th and 6th cents. b.c. (Herod. i. 163, iv. 152). The inclusion of Tarshish among the ‘sons’ of Javan ( Genesis 10:4 , 1 Chronicles 1:7 ) may refer to this. The Onomasticon speaks of Tharseis hç Baitikç . Bochart ( Phaleg , iii. 7) identifies this with the Andalusian plain in S.W. Spain, watered by the Baetis (mod. Guadalquivir). The Greek name Tartçssos may possibly come through an Aram [Note: ram Aramaic.] , form Tartîsh , from the Phœn. Tarshîsh . It may have denoted a city (Straho, iii. 147 ff.). The name Tarsçion occurs in a commercial treaty (Polyb. iii. 24) referring to a city of the Carthaginians in Spain.

Max Müller (Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , s.v. ) favours a suggestion of Cheyne, that Tarshish may be identical with Tiras ( Genesis 10:2 ). Vocalizing Turshush with Josephus ( Ant. I. vi. 1; he identifies with Cilician Tarsus , which to the present writer appears impossible), we get the Tyrsenians, Tyrrenians, or Etruscans intrepid, piratical people, called Tursha by the ancient Egyptians.

In either case Tarshish would be fitly named with ‘the isles,’ a term covering not only islands in our sense, but also land bordering on the sea (Psalms 72:10 , Isaiah 60:9 ; Isaiah 66:19 ). The wealth of Tarshish consisted of silver, iron, tin, and lead ( Jeremiah 10:9 , Ezekiel 27:12 ).

Ships of Tarshish ’ did not necessarily belong to or trade with Tarshish. The name is used of the ships of Jehoshaphat and Abaziah, which sailed for Ophir from Ezion-geber ( 1 Kings 22:48 , 2 Chronicles 20:36 ). The Chronicler’s explanatory phrase ( 2 Chronicles 20:37 ) is erroneous. The cargo brought by Solomon’s ‘ navy of Tarshish ’ shows that its voyages must have been eastward, not westward ( 1 Kings 10:22 , 2 Chronicles 9:21 ). The name probably denoted specially large merchant vessels, designed for distant voyages ( Psalms 48:7 , Isaiah 2:16 ; Isaiah 23:1 , Ezekiel 27:25 ).

W. Ewing.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Tarshish (1)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/t/tarshish-1.html. 1909.

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