Tar'shish (Heb. תִּרשַׁישׁ, Tarshish', subdued [Gesen.] or established [Fürst]; Sept. Θάρσεις [but Καρχηδών in Isaiah 23; Καρχηδόνιοι in Ezekiel; θάλασσα in Isa 2; Isa 16]; Vulg. usually Tharsis; A.V. "Tharshish," 1Ki 10:22; 1Ki 22:48; 1Ch 7:10; once Heb. תִּרשַׁישָׁה, Tarshishah', 1Ch 1; 1Ch 7), the name of three men, of a country, and of a gem.
1. Second-named of the four sons of Javan, the son of Japheth (Ge 10:4; 1Ch 1:7). B.C. post 2514. He may have been the founder of the city noticed below. SEE ETHNOLOGY.
2. Sixth-named of the seven sons of Bilhar, the grandson of Benjamin (1Ch 7:10). B.C. post 1875.
3. Fourth-named of the seven "princes" of Persia in the time of Artaxerxes (Es 1:14). B.C. 483. As a Persian name the word stands in relation with Teresh (2,221; 6:2), and with Tirshatha; all probably from the root torsh, severe (Gesenius, Thesaur. s.v.).
4. A famous port or region the location of which has been much disputed. Josephus (Ant. 1, 6, 1) confounds it with Tarsus in Cilicia; and in the Sept. version of Isa 23:1,10-14, it is rendered Καρχηδών, Carthage. A similar rendering is found in Eze 27:12; Eze 38:13, Καρχήδονιοι, Carthaginians, an identification urged by Davis (Carthage, ch. 1). As the Vulg. translates it by "sea" in the passage quoted above, so the Sept. in Isa 2; Isa 16 renders it θαλάσσης, a translation followed by Saadias and Luther. The Targums adopt the same translation in some places, and Jerome apologizes for the blunder by saying that "the Hebrews thought Tharsis was their original term for sea; the noun in common use among them, iam, being a Syriac one." In other places, as 1Ki 22:48, and Jer 10:9, the Targum gives the peculiar rendering of אפריקא, Africa. Most interpreters, however, are agreed that (with the possible exception of the passage in Chronicles) the allusion is to Tartessus in Spain. It seems to have been the source of the precious stone called by the same name.
In the great genealogical table (Ge 10:4-5) it is placed among the sons of Javan; "Elishah and Tarshish, Kittim and Dodanim. By these were the islands of the Gentiles divided." This refers the mind at once to the north-western parts of the Mediterranean. To a similar conclusion does other scriptural language lead. In Ps 72:10 it is said, "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents;" and in 2Ch 9:21 we read, "The king's (Solomon's) ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Hiram; every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold and silver, ivory, and apes and peacocks." Now Hiram's city, Tyre, lay on the Mediterranean coast, and it is easy to see how Solomon's vessels might be associated with his in a voyage towards the west to fetch merchandise. In Isa 66:19 we find Tarshish mentioned in a way which confirms this view: "And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations (or Gentiles); to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan to the isles afar off." These passages make it clear that Tarshish lay at a distance from Judaea, and that that distance was in a north-westerly direction; and the mention of such names as Lud, Javan, and the isles carries the mind to the extreme north- west, and suggests Spain as the place for Tarshish. But Tarshish must have been on the sea-coast, for it was famous for its ships. "The ships of Tarshish" were celebrated under that designation, which may have been used in that wide sense in which we speak of an East India man, reference being made rather to the place whither the vessel traded than to that where it was built; or the phrase may have come to denote a particular kind of vessel, i.e. trading or merchant ships, from the celebrity of Tarshish as a commercial port (1Ki 10; 1Ki 22; Ps 48:7; Isa 2:16; Isa 23:1-14; Isa 60; Isa 9; Eze 27:25). These six times do we meet with the phrase, ships or navy of Tarshish; which of itself shows how noted a seaport we have under consideration, if it does not prove also that in process of time the terms had: come to describe vessels according to their occupation rather than their country, as we say "a slaver," denoting a ship engaged in the slave-trade (comp. Horat. "sevis Liburnis," Cari. 1, 27; "Bithyna carina," 1, 35; "trade Cypria," 1, 1). In Eze 27:12-25 the place is described by its pursuits and its merchandise-" Tarshish (here again in connection with a western country, Javan, ver. 13) was thy (Tyre's) merchant, in all riches with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs. The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market, and thou wast replenished and made very glorious in the midst of the seas." The last words are admirably descriptive of the south-western coast of Spain. How could a Hebrew poet better describe the locality where the songs of the sailors of Tarshish made the name of Tyre glorious? Let the reader turn to the map and cast his eye on the 'embouchure of the Guadalquivir, and say if this spot is not pre-eminently, when viewed from Palestine, "in the midst of the seas." There is a propriety, too, in the words found in Ps 48:7 (comp, Eze 28:26) "Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with, an east wind," if we suppose merchant vessels working eastwardly up the Mediterranean towards Tyre, encountering an east, or rather north-east, gale, which is a very violent and destructive wind to this day. Jer 10:9 tells us that "silver spread into plates" was brought from Tarshish; and from the connection the silver appears to have been elaborately wrought; whence we infer that at one period there was in Tarshish the never-failing connection found between commerce, wealth, and art. An important testimony occurs in Eze 38:13, "Sheba and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? to carry away silver and gold? to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?" whence it is clear that Tarshish was an opulent place, abounding in cattle and goods, in silver and gold. We are not sure that the words "the young lions thereof" are intended to be taken literally. They may refer to the lion-hearted chiefs of the nation; but if they are understood as implying that lions were literally found in Tarshish, they only concur with, other parts of Scripture in showing that the name is to be taken in a wide acceptation, as denoting, besides modern Andalusia, those parts of Africa which lie near and opposite to Spain. Nor is it impossible that a part of, thee trade of arshish lap in these and in other animals; for we certainly know that Solomon's ships brought that prince apes and peacocks: the lions may have been caught in Africa and conveyed in ships of Tarshish to Tyre. Sheba and Dedan, however, are mentioned here in connection with Tarshish, and they were certainly Eastern countries, lying probably on the western side of the Persian Gulf in Arabia. But the object of the writer may have been to mention the countries placed at the extremities of the then known world—Tarshish on the west, Sheba and Dedan on the east. In Isa 23:1-14 we read, as a part of the burden of Tyre, that the ships of Tarshish are called on to howl at her destruction, because Tyre afforded them no longer a commercial port and a haven: words which entirely agree with the hypothesis that makes Tarshish a city on the seaboard of Spain, trading up the Mediterranean to Tyre. Nor are the words found in ver. 6 discordant-"Pass ye over to Tarshish; howl, ye inhabitants of the isles." Let us now turn to the book of Jonah (Jon 1:1-3; Jon 4:2). The prophet was commanded to go and prophesy against Nineveh on the Tigris. For this he should, on quitting Jerusalem, have gone in an easterly direction but he shunned the duty and fled. Of course he naturally fled in a direction the opposite of that in which the avoided object lay; he proceeded, in fact, to Tarshish. Tarshish, then, must have been to the west, and not to the east, of Jerusalem. In order to reach Tarshish, he went to Joppa and took ship for the place of his destination, thus still keeping in a westerly course and showing that Tarshish lay to the west. In Tarshish, indeed, placed in the extreme north-west, he might well expect to be distant enough from Nineveh. It is also worthy of notice that, when he arrived at Joppa, on the coast of Palestine, "he found a ship going to Tarshish;" which fact we can well understand if Tarshish lay to the west, but by no means if it lay on the Red Sea. SEE OPHIR.
Thus far all the passages cited agree, with more or less evidence, in fixing Tarshish somewhere in or near Spain. But in 2Ch 20:36 it is recorded that Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, joined himself with Ahaziah, king of Israel, "to make ships to go to Tarshish and they made the ships in Ezion-geber," that is, on the Elanitic gulf on the eastern arm of the Red Sea. If, then, these vessels built at Ezion-geber were to go to Tarshish, that place must lie on the eastern side of Palestine, instead of the western; for we cannot suppose they circumnavigated Africa; not' because such a voyage was impossible, but because it was long and tedious and not likely to be taken when a nearer and safer way to Tarshish lay from the ports of the Palestinian coast. But in the parallel passage, found in 1Ki 22:49, these vessels are described as "ships of Tarshish" (merchant vessels), which were intended to go to Ophir, not to Tarshish. This removes the difficulty at once, for Ophir was in the East, and accounts for the fact that the fleet was built on the Red Sea, since it was an eastern, not a western, voyage which was intended. The reference appears to be to the same eastern trade of which mention is made in 10:22, where we find Hiram and Solomon importing from the East in ships of Tarshish, or merchantmen, gold and silver, ivory, apes and peacocks. We have not space to enter into the critical questions which this contrariety between the books of Kings and Chronicles suggests for consideration; but we may remark that, in a case in which a diversity appears in the statements of these two authorities, no competently informed theologian could hesitate to give the preference to the former. The alternative of two places by the name of Tarshish, one in Spain and the other in India, was adopted by Bochart, Phaleg, 3, 7, and has probably been the ordinary view of those who have perceived a difficulty in the passages of the Chronicles; but the above reconciliation, which was first suggested by Vitringa, has been adopted by the acutest Biblical critics of our own time, such as De Wette, Introduction to the Old Testament (Parker's translation, Boston, .1843), 2, 267; Winer, Biblisches Realwörterbuch, s.v.; Gesenius, Thesaurus Linguae Heb. et Chald. s.v.; and Ewald, Geschichte des Volkes Israel (1st ed.), 3, 76; and is acknowledged by Movers, Ueber die Chroniken (1834), p. 254, and Havernick, Spezielle Einleitung in das Alte Testament (1839), 2, 237.
It appears, then, clear, from this minute review of the scriptural accounts and allusions, that Tarshish was an old, celebrated, opulent, cultivated, commercial city, which carried on trade in the Mediterranean and with the seaports of. Syria, especially Tyre and Joppa, and that it most probably lay on the extreme west of that sea. Was there, then, in. ancient times any city in these parts which corresponded with these clearly ascertained facts? There was Such was Tartessus in Spain, said to have been a Phoenician colony (Arrian, Alex. 3, 86), a fact which of itself would account for its intimate connection with Palestine and the Biblical narratives. As to the exact spot where Tartessis (so written originally) lay, authorities are not agreed, as the city had ceased to exist when geography began to receive attention; but it was not far from the Straits of Gibraltar, and near the mouth of the Guadalquivir, consequently at no great distance from the famous Granada of later days. The reader, however, must enlarge his notion beyond that of a mere city, which, how great soever, would scarcely correspond with the ideas of magnitude, affluence, and power that the Scriptures suggest. The name, which is of Phoenician origin, seems to denote the district of South-western Spain, comprising the several colonies which Tyre planted in that country, and so being equivalent to what we might designate Phoenician Spain. We are not, however, convinced that the opposite coast of Africa was not included, so that the word would denote to an inhabitant of Palestine the extreme western parts of the world. We seem, however, authorized, by considerations besides those which have already been elicited, in identifying the Hebrew Tarshish with the Spanish Tartessus, whatever may have been the extent of the neighboring country over which the latter held dominion or possessed immediate influence. Among these considerations we mention:
1. That the two names are similar, if they are not the same; the Greek Ταρτησσός with the Aramaic pronunciation would be תרתישׁ, a fact which would of itself-seem to settle the question in the absence of conflicting evidence and claims.
2. Spain was one of the chief seats of Phoenician colonization; and if we unite therewith the north-west of Africa, we shall have some idea of the greatness of the power of Tyre in these parts, for Tyre is reported to have founded not fewer than three hundred cities on the western coast of Africa, and two hundred in South-western Spain (Strabo, 2, 82). Here, then, was found the chief object of the Phoenician sea-trade. These countries were to Tyre what Peru was to Spain. Confining our remarks to Spain, we learn from Heeren that the Phoenician colonies on the European side of the sea were situated in the south of the present Andalusia. Here, with other important places, lay Tartessus, a name which is borne by a river, an island, a town, and a region. Heeren distinctly says that to Orientalists the word indicated the farthest west generally, comprising, of course, many, places. In the commercial geography of the Phoenicians, he adds, the: word obviously meant the whole of their colonial dependencies in Southern Spain. In the, same general way, we use the term West Indies; and thus arose the river, the town, the district of Tartessus, since the country included them all (Heeren, Ideen, 2, 44 sq.).
3. It does much to confirm our view that all the articles reported in Jeremiah and Ezekiel to have been brought from Tarshish might have come from South-western Spain. Here there were mines of gold and silver, and Tartessus is expressly named as affording the latter mineral (Strabo, 3, 157; Diod. Sic.5, 35). Tin was brought by the Phoenicians from Britain into Spain, and thence carried to the Oriental markets. According to Diodorus Siculus (5, 38), tin was procured in Spain also, as well as lead, according to Pliny (Hist. Nat. 3, 4). Pliny's words are forcible: "Nearly all Spain abounds in the metals-lead, iron, copper, silver, gold." We add one or two corroborations of the above identification. Heeren (Ideen, 2, 64) translates Eze 27:25, "The ships of Tarshish," etc., by Spanish ships were the chief object of thy merchandise; thou (Tyre) wast a full city, and wast honored on the seas." The Phoenicians were as eager in their quest of gold and gold countries as were the alchemists and the Europeans of the 16th century. The lust for gold urged them over the deserts of Arabia and the cliffs of the Red Sea as far as Yemen and Ethiopia; and the same passion carried them westwardly to the coasts of Spain and the Pillars of Hercules. "Spain," says Heeren, "was once the richest land in the world for silver; gold was found there in great abundance, and the baser metals as well. The silver mountains were in those parts which the Phoenicians comprised under the general name of Tartessus, or Tarshish. The immeasurable affluence of precious metals which, on their first arrival, they found here so astounded them, and the sight thereof so wrought on the imagination of the people, that fact called fable to its aid, and the story gained currency that the first Phoenician colonists not only filled their ships with gold, but made thereof-their various implements, anchors not excepted." SEE COMMERCE.
In the absence of positive proof, we may acquiesce in the statement of Strabo (3, 148) that the river Betis (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 Tartessus. But there were two other cities which some deem to have been Tartessus; one, Gadir or Gadira (Cadiz) (Sallust,Fragnm. lib. 2; Pliny, Hist. Nat. 4:36; and Avienus, Descript. Orb. Terr. p. 614); and the other, Carteia, in the Bay of Gibraltar (Strabo, 3, 151; Ptolemy, 2, 4; Pliny, 3, 3; Mela, 2, 6). Of the three, Carteia, which has found a learned supporter at the present day (Ersch and Gruber, Encyclop. s.v.), seems to have the weakest claims, for, in the earliest Greek prose work extant, Tartessus is placed beyond the Columns of Hercules (Herodotus, 4:152); and in a still earlier fragment of Stesichorus (Strabo, 3, 148) mention is made of the river Tartessus, whereas there is no stream near Carteia (=El Roccadillo) which deserves to be called more than a rivulet. Strictly speaking, the same objection would apply to Gadir; but, for poetical uses, the Guadalquivir, which is only twenty miles distant, would be 'sufficiently near. It was, perhaps, in reference to the claim of Gadir that Cicero, in a letter to Atticus (7, 3), jocosely calls Balbus a native of that town, "Tartessium istum tuum." But Tartessus was likewise used by poets to express the extreme west where the sun set (Ovid, Maetam. 14:416; Silius Italicus, 10:358; comp. id. 3, 399). See Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. s.v. "Tartessus." See, in addition to the works cited by Bochart and Winer, ut sup., the Journ. of Sac. Lit. Oct. 1851, p. 226 sq.
5. (A. V. "beryl.") A precious stone, so- called as brought from Tarshish, as Ophirisn also put for the gold brought thence (Ex 28:20; Ex 39:13; Eze 1:16; Eze 10:9; Eze 28:13; Song 5:14; Da 10:6). The Sept., followed by Josephus, makes it the "chrysolite," i.e. the topaz of the moderns, which is still found in Spain: so Braun, De Vestitu Sacerd. 2, 17. Others suppose it to be "amber;" but this does not agree with the passages in Exodus, which make the Tarshish to have been one of the engraved stones of the high-priest's breastplate. SEE BERYL.