tarshish Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
tarshish in Easton's Bible Dictionary
a Sanscrit or Aryan word, meaning "the sea coast." (1.) One of
the "sons" of Javan (Gen. 10:4; 1 Chr. 1:7).
(2.) The name of a place which first comes into notice in the
days of Solomon. The question as to the locality of Tarshish has
given rise to not a little discussion. Some think there was a
Tarshish in the East, on the Indian coast, seeing that "ships of
Tarshish" sailed from Eziongeber, on the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:26;
22:48; 2 Chr. 9:21). Some, again, argue that Carthage was the
place so named. There can be little doubt, however, that this is
the name of a Phoenician port in Spain, between the two mouths
of the Guadalquivir (the name given to the river by the Arabs,
and meaning "the great wady" or water-course). It was founded by
a Carthaginian colony, and was the farthest western harbour of
Tyrian sailors. It was to this port Jonah's ship was about to
sail from Joppa. It has well been styled "the Peru of Tyrian
adventure;" it abounded in gold and silver mines.
It appears that this name also is used without reference to
any locality. "Ships of Tarshish" is an expression sometimes
denoting simply ships intended for a long voyage (Isa. 23:1,
14), ships of a large size (sea-going ships), whatever might be
the port to which they sailed. Solomon's ships were so styled (1
Kings 10:22; 22:49).
tarshish in Smith's Bible Dictionary
1. Probably Tartessus, a city and emporium of the Phoenicians in the south of Spain, represented as one of the sons of Javan. #Ge 10:4; 1Ki 10:22; 1Ch 1:7; Ps 48:7; Isa 2:16; Jer 10:9; Eze 27:12,25; Jon 1:3; 4:2| The identity of the two places is rendered highly probable by the following circumstances: 1st. There is a very close similarity of name between them, Tartessus being merely Tarshish in the Aramaic form. 2nd. There seems to have been a special relation between Tarshish and Tyre, as there was at one time between Tartessus and Phoenicians. 3rd. The articles which Tarshish is stated by the prophet Ezekiel, #Eze 27:12| to have supplied to Tyre are precisely such as we know, through classical writers, to have been productions of the Spanish peninsula. In regard to tin, the trade of Tarshish in this metal is peculiarly significant, and, taken in conjunction with similarity of name and other circumstances already mentioned, is reasonably conclusive as to its identity with Tartessus. For even not when countries in Europe or on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea where tin is found are very few; and in reference to ancient times, it would be difficult to name any such countries except Iberia or Spain, Lusitania, which was somewhat less in extent than Portugal, and Cornwall in Great Britain. In the absence of positive proof, we may acquiesce in the statement of Strabo, that the river Baetis (now the Guadalquivir) was formerly called Tartessus, that the city Tartessus was situated between the two arms by which the river flowed into the sea, and that the adjoining country was called Tartessis.
2. From the book of Chronicles there would seem to have been a Tarshish accessible from the Red Sea, in addition to the Tarshish of the south of Spain. Thus, with regard to the ships of Tarshish, which Jehoshaphat caused to be constructed at Ezion-geber on the Elanitic Gulf of the Red Sea, #1Ki 22:48| it is said in the Chronicles, #2Ch 20:36| that they were made to go to Tarshish; and in like manner the navy of ships, which Solomon had previously made in Ezion-geber, #1Ki 9:26| is said in the Chronicles, #2Ch 9:21| to have gone to Tarshish with the servants of Hiram. It is not to be supposed that the author of these passages in the Chronicles contemplated a voyage to Tarshish in the south of Spain by going round what has since been called the Cape of Good Hope. The expression "ships of Tarshish" originally meant ships destined to go to Tarshish; and then probably came to signify large Phoenician ships, of a particular size the description, destined for long voyages, just as in English "East Indiaman" was a general name given to vessels, some of which were not intended to go to India at all. Hence we may infer that the word Tarshish was also used to signify any distant place, and in this case would be applied to one in the Indian Ocean. This is shown by the nature of the imports with which the fleet returned, which are specified as "gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks." #1Ki 10:22| The gold might possibly have been obtained form Africa, or from Ophir in Arabia, and the ivory and the apes might likewise have been imported from Africa; but the peacocks point conclusively, not to Africa, but to India. There are only two species known: both inhabit the mainland and islands of India; so that the mention of the peacock seems to exclude the possibility of the voyage having been to Africa.
tarshish in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
TAR'SHISH or THAR'SHISH (rocky ground?). 1 Kgs 10:22; 1 Kgs 22:48. In the genealogies given in Genesis we find "Elishah and Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim. By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands." Gen 10:4-5. We read of "the kings of Tarshish and of the isles." Ps 72:10. Solomon's "ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram; every three years once came the ships of Tarshish, bringing gold and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." 2 Chr 9:21. Tarshish is mentioned with distant places: "The isles afar off." Isa 66:19. It must have been on the seacoast, for we frequently read of the "ships" and the "navy" of Tarshish. See 1 Kgs 10:22; Ps 48:7; Isa 2:16; Isa 23:1, Num 23:14; Isa 60:9; Eze 27:25. It was the seat of a vast and profitable commerce with Tyre. Eze 27:12-25. Jonah embarked from Joppa for Tarshish. Jon 1:3; Num 4:2. Situation. - There has been much discussion as to the site of Tarshish. 1. Some have identified it with Tarsus in Cilicia. There is a similarity in the names, and there has always existed an extensive commerce between Joppa and Tarsus, so that vessels were constantly passing from one port to the other. The Arabs identify Tarshish with Tarsus. But this opinion is very slenderly supported. 2. Most scholars would identify Tarshish with the southern part of Spain and with Tartessus. This was a Phoenician colony, the emporium for the products of Spain as well as the Phoenician depot for the exports from Great Britain. Thus there was an extensive trade in the various products mentioned as carried by the ships of Tarshish. Eze 27:12; comp. Jer 10:9. But from the fact that ships of Tarshish sailed also from Ezion-geber, on the Red Sea, 1 Kgs 9:26; 1 Kgs 22:48; 2 Chr 9:21; 2 Chr 20:36, some have inferred that there was also a Tarshish in the remote East. Others, however, suppose that "ships of Tarshish was the general name for a certain class of vessels fitted for long voyages, like the British East Indiamen, and hence not necessarily trading to an Eastern port of the name of Tarshish.
tarshish in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Tartessus (as Asshur became Athur, Bashan, Batanoea), a Phoenician city S. of Spain; the portion of Spain known to the Hebrew (Psalm 72:10). "The kings of Tarshish ... kings of Sheba," i.e. the wealthy Tarshish in the far W. and Sheba in the S.E. Tarshish was a dependency of Phoenician Tyre. Isaiah 23:6; Isaiah 23:10 ("pass through thy land as a river, O daughter of Tarshish," i.e. Tartessus and its inhabitants would now that Tyre's strength was disabled pour forth as waters, no longer kept working mines for the parent city), 14,18; Ezekiel 26:15; Ezekiel 26:18; Ezekiel 27:12. "Tarshish was thy (Tyre's) merchant ... with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs."
Tarshish was famed for various metals exported to Tyre; most of them were drawn from Spain and Portugal, tin possibly from Cornwall or from Lusitania or Portugal. "Ships of Tarshish" are mentioned often: Psalm 48:7, "Thou brakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind," alluding with undesigned coincidence to the event recorded 2 Chronicles 20:36-37; "Jehoshaphat joined himself with Ahaziah king of Israel to make ships to go to Tarshish ... in Ezion Gaber ... because ... the Lord hath broken thy works," i.e. wrecked thy ships. The ships of Tarshish built at Ezion Geber on the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea (1 Kings 22:48) were intended by Jehoshaphat to trade with Africa and India; but a copyist in 2 Chronicles 20:36 makes them go to Tarshish.
It is possible they were carried across the land to the Mediterranean, but more likely that "ships of Tarshish" mean large vessels, as our phrase "East Indiamen" does not imply the destination but the size; the copyist mistook the phrase for the destination. So in 1 Kings 9:26; 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chronicles 9:21; the "peacocks" point to India, for southern Asia and the isles of the eastern archipelago are their native home. The names too are of Sanskrit etymology, tukki, related to Tamil Iota, "the tailed bird," i.e. peacock. So "apes," kaph, related to Sanskrit kapi. The Greeks received the peacock from Persia, as the Greek taos is the Persian tans. Strabo makes the Boetis or Guadalquivir (great stream) be called Tartessus. An island, a town, and a region bore the name. (On Genesis 10:4, which Rawlinson refers to Tarsus, at the close.) (See TARSUS.)