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English Bible Dictionary

City of Tarshish, Red Sea

 

(established).

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, (1 Kings 22:48) it is said in the Chronicles, (2 Chronicles 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, (1 Kings 9:26) is said in the Chronicles, (2 Chronicles 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, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. 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." (1 Kings 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.

 

* See other occurrences of the same term: Tarshish.

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