Tarshish in the Bible

Tarshish as an Eponym

The first mention of Tarshish in the Bible is in Genesis 10.  In this chapter the names of the descendants of Noah are given. Each of the descendants is an eponym of a language group.

(Gen 10:1 NKJV)  Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.

The descendants of the three sons of Noah are then given in reverse order starting with Japheth:

(Gen 10:2-5 NKJV)  The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

  • {3} The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.
  • {4} The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.
  • {5} From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.

Javan was the name used for Japan up to about the sixteenth century A. D. So the sons of Javan can be considered to be orientals.

As the descendants interacted with the descendants of Noah’s other sons it well be good to include here the descendants of Ham:

(Gen 10:6-20 NKJV)  The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

  • {7} The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabtechah; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.
  • {8} Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. {9} He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” {10} And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. {11} From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, {12} and Resen between Nineveh and Calah (that is the principal city).
  • {13} Mizraim begot Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, {14} Pathrusim, and Casluhim (from whom came the Philistines and Caphtorim).
  • {15} Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; {16} the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; {17} the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; {18} the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed. {19} And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.
  • {20} These were the sons of Ham, according to their families, according to their languages, in their lands and in their nations.

(1 Chr 1:7 NASB)  And the sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.

Tarshish as a Seafaring Power

(1 Ki 10:22-25 NASB)  For the king had at sea the ships of Tarshish with the ships of Hiram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks. {23} So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. {24} And all the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. {25} And they brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.

(2 Chr 9:21-24 NASB)  For the king had ships which went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks. {22} So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. {23} And all the kings of the earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. {24} And they brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.

(Psa 72:5-10 NASB)  Let them fear Thee while the sun endures, And as long as the moon, throughout all generations. {6} May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, Like showers that water the earth. {7} In his days may the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace till the moon is no more. {8} May he also rule from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. {9} Let the nomads of the desert bow before him; And his enemies lick the dust. {10} Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.

(1 Ki 22:48 NASB)  Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber.

(Psa 48:3-7 NASB)  God, in her palaces, Has made Himself known as a stronghold. {4} For, lo, the kings assembled themselves, They passed by together. {5} They saw it, then they were amazed; They were terrified, they fled in alarm. {6} Panic seized them there, Anguish, as of a woman in childbirth. {7} With the east wind Thou dost break the ships of Tarshish.


A Jewish Tarshish

(1 Chr 7:6-11 NASB)  The sons of Benjamin were three: Bela and Becher and Jediael.

  • {7} And the sons of Bela were five: Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth, and Iri. They were heads of fathers’ households, mighty men of valor, and were 22,034 enrolled by genealogy.
  • {8} And the sons of Becher were Zemirah, Joash, Eliezer, Elioenai, Omri, Jeremoth, Abijah, Anathoth, and Alemeth. All these were the sons of Becher. {9} And they were enrolled by genealogy, according to their generations, heads of their fathers’ households, 20,200 mighty men of valor.
  • {10} And the son of Jediael was Bilhan. And the sons of Bilhan were Jeush, Benjamin, Ehud, Chenaanah, Zethan, Tarshish, and Ahishahar. {11} All these were sons of Jediael, according to the heads of their fathers’ households, 17,200 mighty men of valor, who were ready to go out with the army to war.
Tarshish in Prophecy

(2 Chr 20:34-37 NASB)  Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first to last, behold, they are written in the annals of Jehu the son of Hanani, which is recorded in the Book of the Kings of Israel. {35} And after this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing. {36} So he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. {37} Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat saying, “Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works.” So the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish.

(Isa 2:12-17 NASB)  For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty, And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased. {13} And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up, Against all the oaks of Bashan, {14} Against all the lofty mountains, Against all the hills that are lifted up, {15} Against every high tower, Against every fortified wall, {16} Against all the ships of Tarshish, And against all the beautiful craft. {17} And the pride of man will be humbled, And the loftiness of men will be abased, And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

(Isa 23:1-14 NASB)  The oracle concerning Tyre. Wail, O ships of Tarshish, For Tyre is destroyed, without house or harbor; It is reported to them from the land of Cyprus. {2} Be silent, you inhabitants of the coastland, You merchants of Sidon; Your messengers crossed the sea {3} And were on many waters. The grain of the Nile, the harvest of the River was her revenue; And she was the market of nations. {4} Be ashamed, O Sidon; For the sea speaks, the stronghold of the sea, saying, “I have neither travailed nor given birth, I have neither brought up young men nor reared virgins.” {5} When the report reaches Egypt, They will be in anguish at the report of Tyre. {6} Pass over to Tarshish; Wail, O inhabitants of the coastland. {7} Is this your jubilant city, Whose origin is from antiquity, Whose feet used to carry her to colonize distant places? {8} Who has planned this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, Whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth? {9} The LORD of hosts has planned it to defile the pride of all beauty, To despise all the honored of the earth. {10} Overflow your land like the Nile, O daughter of Tarshish, There is no more restraint. {11} He has stretched His hand out over the sea, He has made the kingdoms tremble; The LORD has given a command concerning Canaan to demolish its strongholds. {12} And He has said, “You shall exult no more, O crushed virgin daughter of Sidon. Arise, pass over to Cyprus; even there you will find no rest.” {13} Behold, the land of the Chaldeans– this is the people which was not; Assyria appointed it for desert creatures– they erected their siege towers, they stripped its palaces, they made it a ruin. {14} Wail, O ships of Tarshish, For your stronghold is destroyed.

{7} Is this your jubilant city, Whose origin is from antiquity, Whose feet used to carry her to colonize distant places?

(Isa 60:1-12 NASB)  “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. {2} “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you. {3} “And nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. {4} “Lift up your eyes round about, and see; They all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, And your daughters will be carried in the arms. {5} “Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will thrill and rejoice; Because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you. {6} “A multitude of camels will cover you, The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the LORD. {7} “All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered together to you, The rams of Nebaioth will minister to you; They will go up with acceptance on My altar, And I shall glorify My glorious house. {8} “Who are these who fly like a cloud, And like the doves to their lattices? {9} “Surely the coastlands will wait for Me; And the ships of Tarshish will come first, To bring your sons from afar, Their silver and their gold with them, For the name of the LORD your God, And for the Holy One of Israel because He has glorified you. {10} “And foreigners will build up your walls, And their kings will minister to you; For in My wrath I struck you, And in My favor I have had compassion on you. {11} “And your gates will be open continually; They will not be closed day or night, So that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, With their kings led in procession. {12} “For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish, And the nations will be utterly ruined.

(Isa 66:10-23 NASB)  “Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, {11} That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom.” {12} For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. {13} “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” {14} Then you shall see this, and your heart shall be glad, And your bones shall flourish like the new grass; And the hand of the LORD shall be made known to His servants, But He shall be indignant toward His enemies. {15} For behold, the LORD will come in fire And His chariots like the whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. {16} For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many. {17} “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things, and mice, Shall come to an end altogether,” declares the LORD. {18} “For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. {19} “And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. {20} “Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. {21} “I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD. {22} “For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD, “So your offspring and your name will endure. {23} “And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD.

(Jer 10:2-11 NASB)  Thus says the LORD, “Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; {3} For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. {4} “They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter. {5} “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good.” {6} There is none like Thee, O LORD; Thou art great, and great is Thy name in might. {7} Who would not fear Thee, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Thy due! For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, There is none like Thee. {8} But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion– their idol is wood! {9} Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skilled men. {10} But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation. {11} Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

Tarshish a Wiseman in Susa

(Est 1:9-15 NASB)  Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the palace which belonged to King Ahasuerus. {10} On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, {11} to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful. {12} But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. Then the king became very angry and his wrath burned within him. {13} Then the king said to the wise men who understood the times– for it was the custom of the king so to speak before all who knew law and justice, {14} and were close to him: Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media who had access to the king’s presence and sat in the first place in the kingdom– {15} “According to law, what is to be done with Queen Vashti, because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?”

Tarshish as a Type of Stone

(Ezek 10:4-9 NASB)  Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD. {5} Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks. {6} And it came about when He commanded the man clothed in linen, saying, “Take fire from between the whirling wheels, from between the cherubim,” he entered and stood beside a wheel. {7} Then the cherub stretched out his hand from between the cherubim to the fire which was between the cherubim, took some and put it into the hands of the one clothed in linen, who took it and went out. {8} And the cherubim appeared to have the form of a man’s hand under their wings. {9} Then I looked, and behold, four wheels beside the cherubim, one wheel beside each cherub; and the appearance of the wheels was like the gleam of a Tarshish stone.

In Ezekiel’s Lament over Tyre

This place Tarshish as a trading partner buying and shipping goods from Tyre. The passage anticipates Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Tyre soon to come.

(Ezek 27:2-36 NASB)  “And you, son of man, take up a lamentation over Tyre; {3} and say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrance to the sea, merchant of the peoples to many coastlands, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’ {4} “Your borders are in the heart of the seas; Your builders have perfected your beauty. {5} “They have made all your planks of fir trees from Senir; They have taken a cedar from Lebanon to make a mast for you. {6} “Of oaks from Bashan they have made your oars; With ivory they have inlaid your deck of boxwood from the coastlands of Cyprus. {7} “Your sail was of fine embroidered linen from Egypt So that it became your distinguishing mark; Your awning was blue and purple from the coastlands of Elishah. {8} “The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your rowers; Your wise men, O Tyre, were aboard; they were your pilots. {9} “The elders of Gebal and her wise men were with you repairing your seams; All the ships of the sea and their sailors were with you in order to deal in your merchandise. {10} “Persia and Lud and Put were in your army, your men of war. They hung shield and helmet in you; they set forth your splendor. {11} “The sons of Arvad and your army were on your walls, all around, and the Gammadim were in your towers. They hung their shields on your walls, all around; they perfected your beauty. {12} “Tarshish was your customer because of the abundance of all kinds of wealth; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they paid for your wares. {13} “Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were your traders; with the lives of men and vessels of bronze they paid for your merchandise. {14} “Those from Beth-togarmah gave horses and war horses and mules for your wares. {15} “The sons of Dedan were your traders. Many coastlands were your market; ivory tusks and ebony they brought as your payment. {16} “Aram was your customer because of the abundance of your goods; they paid for your wares with emeralds, purple, embroidered work, fine linen, coral, and rubies. {17} “Judah and the land of Israel, they were your traders; with the wheat of Minnith, cakes, honey, oil, and balm they paid for your merchandise. {18} “Damascus was your customer because of the abundance of your goods, because of the abundance of all kinds of wealth, because of the wine of Helbon and white wool. {19} “Vedan and Javan paid for your wares from Uzal; wrought iron, cassia, and sweet cane were among your merchandise. {20} “Dedan traded with you in saddlecloths for riding. {21} “Arabia and all the princes of Kedar, they were your customers for lambs, rams, and goats; for these they were your customers. {22} “The traders of Sheba and Raamah, they traded with you; they paid for your wares with the best of all kinds of spices, and with all kinds of precious stones, and gold. {23} “Haran, Canneh, Eden, the traders of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad traded with you. {24} “They traded with you in choice garments, in clothes of blue and embroidered work, and in carpets of many colors, and tightly wound cords, which were among your merchandise. {25} “The ships of Tarshish were the carriers for your merchandise. And you were filled and were very glorious In the heart of the seas. {26} “Your rowers have brought you Into great waters; The east wind has broken you In the heart of the seas. {27} “Your wealth, your wares, your merchandise, Your sailors, and your pilots, Your repairers of seams, your dealers in merchandise, And all your men of war who are in you, With all your company that is in your midst, Will fall into the heart of the seas On the day of your overthrow. {28} “At the sound of the cry of your pilots The pasture lands will shake. {29} “And all who handle the oar, The sailors, and all the pilots of the sea Will come down from their ships; They will stand on the land, {30} And they will make their voice heard over you And will cry bitterly. They will cast dust on their heads, They will wallow in ashes. {31} “Also they will make themselves bald for you And gird themselves with sackcloth; And they will weep for you in bitterness of soul With bitter mourning. {32} “Moreover, in their wailing they will take up a lamentation for you And lament over you: ‘Who is like Tyre, Like her who is silent in the midst of the sea? {33} ‘When your wares went out from the seas, You satisfied many peoples; With the abundance of your wealth and your merchandise You enriched the kings of earth. {34} ‘Now that you are broken by the seas In the depths of the waters, Your merchandise and all your company Have fallen in the midst of you. {35} ‘All the inhabitants of the coastlands Are appalled at you, And their kings are horribly afraid; They are troubled in countenance. {36} ‘The merchants among the peoples hiss at you; You have become terrified, And you will be no more.'”‘”

Again see Tarshish in the lament over Gog, Ezekiel 38 (verse 13).

Tarshish as an Alternative Destination for Jonah

(Jonah 1:1-3 NASB)  The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, {2} “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” {3} But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

Also, Jonah 4:2.

A YouTube documentary equates the ancient city with Cadiz,  Spain. In Jesus time the city was called Gadara. See the video https://youtu.be/bUkr9Ez2fj8.

Exploring History through Ancestry and Literature