Where in the World is Tarshish?

April 17, 2015 by  
Filed under For Him

By R. J. Gunter 

There are more than twenty references in the Old Testament to Tarshish (pronounced as: “Tar-ish”), but where in the world was the land of Tarshish? It’s one of those words that we often skip over because it seems insignificant or hard to pronounce. However, seemingly insignificant things in the Bible are sometimes the key to unlocking its greatest treasures. In this case, knowing the location of Tarshish unveils little known prophecies in Psalms and Isaiah that were not fulfilled until the twentieth century.

If you look up Tarshish in different biblical commentaries, you will get different answers about its location. It seems to be as elusive as Plato’s Atlantis. Experts have positioned it as far away as India in the east and the far coast of Spain in the west. The first century A.D. Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, wrote that it was the same city as Tarsus, in modern day Turkey, which is the Apostle Paul’s hometown. Most modern scholars associate Tarshish with a place known as Tarshishah in southern Spain. My contention is that Tarshish could possibly be the modern day nation of Great Britain.

The Bible definitely gives the indication that Tarshish was far away from Israel. It was believed to be at the ends of the Earth, as far away as one could possibly go in the known world at that time.  The first time it is mentioned in scriptures as a place, it states that King Solomon sent his ships there to trade. It took three whole years to make the trip, and “…the merchant ships came, bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys” (2 Chronicles 9:21 NKJV).

God told the prophet Jonah to go and preach to the people of Nineveh,” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” (Jonah 1:3). He was going in the total opposite direction that God told him to go, on a boat travelling as far as they go.

Another clue comes from Ezekiel in the Lamentation for Tyre:  “Tarshish was your merchant because of your many luxury goods. They gave you silver, iron, and tin for your goods” (Ezekiel 27:12). Silver and iron were minerals that could be found in many locations in the area of the Mediterranean Sea.  However, tin only came from a select few places. Tin was a very important and valuable raw material for the ancient world. In the late Bronze Age and into the early Iron Age, tin was a necessary ingredient for making bronze.

There is a long narrow peninsula in southwest Britain called Cornwall. Sometime in the geological past, great fissures occurred in the granite. Magma from beneath the Earth’s crust welled up into these cracks and crystallized, leaving behind many different minerals. One of these minerals was tin. Archeologists have determined that mining began in Cornwall back in the stone age—maybe as long ago as 2000 B.C. In fact, in ancient times, the British Isles were known as the Cassiterides, which means “Tin Islands.”  

One of the connections with Biblical prophecy is found in Isaiah 60. This chapter is an end time prophecy concerning the re-birth of Israel:
Surely the coastlands will wait for Me; and the ships of Tarshish will come first, to bring your sons from afar, their gold and silver with them, to the name of the Lord your God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you (Isaiah 60:9).

I think this is an amazing Old Testament verse, in the fact that it mentions both God the father and Jesus the son, who is called the “Holy One of Israel.” It is also a prophecy that was literally fulfilled in the last years before 1948. For, it was the ships of Great Britain who brought the first of the Jewish refuges from a war torn Europe, to their promised land in Palestine.

Another example can be found in Psalms 48 where we read that, “Fear took hold of them [the Kings] there, and pain as of a woman in birth pangs, as when You break the ships of Tarshish” (Psalms 48:6-7).  It was the birth pains of a nation being re-born that had not existed in over 2400 years. It was also a victory of sorts over Britain, for it was her sailing ships that left the coast when the United Nations pronounced the independence of Israel. The prophecy of Psalms 48 was fulfilled in 1948.

Copyright© 2009 by Rick Gunter

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