Tarshish (Hebrew: תַּרְשִׁישׁ) occurs in the Hebrew Bible with several uncertain meanings, most frequently as a place (probably a large city or region) far across the sea from the Land of Israel and Phoenicia. Tarshish was said to have supplied vast quantities of important metals to Israel and Phoenicia. The same place-name occurs in the Akkadian inscriptions of Esarhaddon (the Assyrian king, d. 669 BC) and also on the Phoenician inscription on the Nora Stone, indicating that it was a real place; its precise location was never commonly known, and was eventually lost in antiquity. Legends grew up around it over time so that its identity has been the subject of scholarly research and commentary for more than two thousand years. Its importance stems in part from the fact that biblical passages tend to understand Tarshish as a source of King Solomon's great wealth in metals - especially silver, but also gold, tin and iron (Ezekiel 27). The metals were reportedly obtained in partnership with King Hiram of Phoenician Tyre (Isaiah 23), and the fleets of Tarshish-ships. However, Solomon's Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and there has been so little evidence identified for Solomon and his kingdom, that some modern scholars following Israel Finkelstein have suggested Solomon and his kingdom never existed (see the essays in Schmidt, ed. 2007). The existence of Tarshish in the western Mediterranean, along with any Phoenician presence in the western Mediterranean before circa 800 .B.C has also seemed unthinkable to some scholars in modern times, because there had been no recognized evidence; instead, the lack of evidence for wealth in Phoenicia and Israel during the reigns of Solomon and Hiram prompted scholars to understand the period in Mediterranean prehistory between 1200 and 800 BC as a 'Dark Age' (Muhly 1998).

The Septuagint, the Vulgate and the Targum of Jonathan render Tarshish as Carthage, but other biblical commentators as early as 1646 (Samuel Bochart) read it as Tartessos in ancient Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula), near Huelva and Sevilla today.[1] The Jewish-Portuguese scholar, politician, statesman and financier Isaac Abravanel (A.D. 1437–1508) described Tarshish as “the city known in earlier rimes as Carthage and today called Tunis.[2] One possible identification for many centuries preceding the French scholar Bochart (d. 1667), and following the Roman historian Flavius Josephus (d. 100 A.D.), had been with inland town of Tarsus in Cilicia (south-central Turkey).

American scholars William F. Albright (1891-1971) and Frank Moore Cross (1921-2012) suggested Tarshish was Sardinia because of the discovery of the Nora Stone, whose Phoenician inscription mentions Tarshish. Cross read the inscription to understand that it was referring to Tarshish as Sardinia. Recent research into hacksilber hoards has also suggested Sardinia.

Hebrew Bible

Tarshish also occurs 24 times in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible with various meanings:

Other ancient and classical era sources

Identifications and interpretations


See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Tarshish" in the Jewish Encyclopedia, Isidore Singer and M. Seligsohn
  2. 1 2 Thompson, C.M. 2003: 'Sealed silver in Cisjordan and the ‘invention’ of coinage,' Oxford Journal of Archaeology 22.1, 67–107.
  3. 1 2 3 Thompson, C. M. and Skaggs, S. 2013: 'King Solomon’s silver?: southern Phoenician Hacksilber hoards and the location of Tarshish' Internet Archaeology, (35). doi:10.11141/ia.35.6
  4. "Paul". Scriptures.lds.org. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  5. Cecil Torr (1895). Ancient Ships. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 18 February 2010.
  6. Charles F. Pfeiffer (1966). "Karatepe". The Biblical World, A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press. p. 336.
  7. Expository Times, Christian Charles Josias Bunsen and Sayce, 1902, p. 179
  8. "H8658 - tarshiysh - Strong's Hebrew Lexicon (KJV)". Blueletterbible.org. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  9. William Parkin - 1837 "Festus Avinus says expressly that Cadiz was Tarshish. This agrees perfectly with the statement of Ibn Hankal, who no doubt reports the opinion of the Arabian geographers, that Phoenicia maintained a direct intercourse with Britain in later ..."
  10. Metzger, Bruce M. and Roland E. Murphy, eds. (1991), New Oxford Annotated Bible, annotation on Jeremiah 10:9.
  11. Richard Leslie Brohier (1934). Ancient irrigation works in Ceylon, Volumes 1-3. pp. 36
  12. A Dictionary of the Bible by Sir William Smith published in 1863 notes how the Hebrew word for peacock is Thukki, derived from the Classical Tamil for peacock Thogkai: Ramaswami, Sastri, The Tamils and their culture, Annamalai University, 1967, pp. 16, Gregory, James, Tamil lexicography, M. Niemeyer, 1991, pp. 10, Fernandes, Edna, The last Jews of Kerala, Portobello, 2008, pp. 98, Smith, William, A Dictionary of the Bible, Hurd and Houghton, 1863 (1870), pp. 1441
  13. Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, xvi. 104 et seq., Le Page Renouf
  14. Orientalische Litteraturzeitung, iii. 151, Cheyne
  15. J. P. Weethee The Eastern Question in Its Various Phases; p. 293 "The expression is this — "the merchants of Tarshish, with the young lions of Tarshish." Assuming, what we have proved, that England was the ancient Tarshish, and that Great Britain is the Tarshish of Eze. xxxviii. 13, or the chief of both the ..."
  16. Sacred Annals; Or, Researches Into the History and Religion of ... - p. 557 George Smith - 1856 "Heercn fully confirms this view ; shows from Strabo, that the Phenicians not only traded with Spain and Britain, but actually conducted mining operations in the former country ; and is so fully satisfied of the identity of Tarshish and Spain, that he ..."
  17. The Gold of Ophir - Whence Brought and by Whom? (1901)
  18. Burke, Aaron (2006). "Tarshish in The Mountains of Lebanon: Attestations of a Biblical Place Name". Maarav.

Further reading

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