The Agora
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Tarshish was a son of Javan (Gen 10:4), a name which came to ref the Phoenicians, with which Tyre was connected. The name may have come in later days to ref to any seafaring merchant power -- either to the east or the west of Israel (cp Jon 1:3; Eze 27:12; 1Ki 9:26; 10:22; 2Ch 9:21). Attempts to identify Tarshish with a single marine power -- such as Britain in earlier days, or America in later times -- always seem to run afoul of at least some of the Bible evidence. (For a more technical discussion, see LGS, Xd 101:401-403.) That Tarshish represents a Last Days power or powers is evident from Eze 38:13 and Psa 72:10. "Tarshish" appears in Ezekiel as an ally of "Sheba and Dedan" (Arab powers: see TofE 58-60), to be broken by God's power (here; Isa 2:11-17; 23:14). But later it will bring gifts to Christ (Psa 72:10), including "thy sons" (Isa 60:9).

All relevant passages:

  1.         1Ki 10:22 / 2Ch 9:21: Ships to Tarshish, with Hiram, bring gold, silver, ivory, apes, peacocks.
  2.         1Ki 22:48 / 2Ch 20:36,37: Ships from Tarshish to Ophir to Tarshish bring gold.
  3.         Psa 48:7: Ships broken by God's east wind in Kingdom.
  4.         Psa 72:10: Ships bring presents in Kingdom.
  5.         Isa 2:16: Ships destroyed by God.
  6.         Isa 23:1,6,10,14: As above, in a Tyre passage.
  7.         Isa 60:9: Ships bring sons, silver to Israel in Kingdom.
  8.         Isa 66:19: Israel sent to Tarshish to declare glory in Kingdom.
  9.         Jer 10:9: Goods of Tarshish nothing to worship of God.
  10.         Eze 27:12,25: Goods of Tarshish, in a Tyre passage.
  11.         Eze 38:13: Talks to Gog about spoil.
  12.         Jonah 1:3; 4:2: Jonah goes to Tarshish.
The passages in 1Ki are inconsistent with the idea that Tarshish = Britain. Any ships sailing from Ezion-Geber cannot possibly arrive in Britain -- as there was no Suez Canal at the time. The cargo involved is unlikely to have come from Britain, either. However, Jonah gives us some more geography; which is inconsistent with the geography given above, as it would require Tarshish to be Mediterranean -- or even British.

Also, there are further problems when considering 1Ki 22 = 2Ch 20 (see above). In 1Ki 22 the ships go from Tarshish to Ophir, while in 2Ch 20 they go to Tarshish, and both passages almost certainly refer to the same ships (see context). Thus Tarshish appears to be in two places at once. There are two possible solutions to these difficulties: (1) More than one Tarshish, or something like a far-flung empire, ie the British Empire -- in effect, that it is many countries throughout the whole world. (2) Tarshish does not ref a single specific place at all.

In fact, an alternative with Scriptural backing is available. Consider: (a) Tarshish is almost always mentioned in connection with ships, and very often in connection with trading. So perhaps Tarshish is to be taken as an adjective meaning 'trading'; usually to mean trading ships, sometimes to mean a port connected with trading. This reconciles 1Ki 22 and 2Ch 20. (b) In Isa 23, Tarshish is repeatedly connected with Tyre. So perhaps Tarshish is the prophet's way of referring to Tyre (for unknown reasons) -- because Tyre is the country of trade, Tarshish means to trade, and so the two are practically identical. Thus, Tyre consistently trades with Tarshish (by definition of Tarshish) -- hence the connection. In summary, then, I claim that Tarshish refers to anything connected with trading, and, for all prophetic purposes, is identical with Tyre.

So to what does Tarshish refer in Last Days prophecy? The easy answer is 'Tyre, geographically; in practice, Lebanon'. However, the salient feature of Tarshish (and Tyre) is its role in trading, and (currently) Lebanon has absolutely no reputation as a trading country. Rather, Tarshish should instead be a country/organization which is primarily noted for trade -- possibly Britain, USA or Japan -- or the WTO, IMF, or 'world opinion' (which is largely determined by multinational corporations, it appears). Why? Isa 66:19; 60:9 suggest that Tarshish does -- and therefore can -- bring the Jews back to their land. Thus Tarshish must have some control over the USA at least; and probably other many nations too.

What will Tarshish/Tyre do in the latter days? Psa 72:10, Isa 60:9 and Isa 66:19 are all quite explicit that Tarshish has a role in the Kingdom, having accepted the rule of Christ. This role includes bringing the Jews back to their land. However, Psa 48:7 is also explicit that God will destroy Tarshish. All of the above are quite definitely latter-day prophecies. How to reconcile them? Considering Tyre (if Tarshish = Tyre) helps to solve this problem. At the time of Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre was condemned by God, for various reasons (Amo 1:9,10; Joel 3:4-8; Eze 26-29; Isa 23: Jer 25:22: Zec 9:2-4). Thus, Tyre was conquered by Babylon (see Eze 29:18; plus the above prophecies). However, this did not last for ever (Isa 23:17,18 -- which is fulfilled in Ezr 3:7, and, perhaps, in Neh 13:16). So, Tyre is condemned, conquered, restored, and worships with Israel in the restoration. (Tyre worshipping with Israel had also occurred much earlier: 1Ki 7:13,14, where Tyre helps Solomon build the temple. There are many similar passages during David's reign.)

How does this fit into the overall picture? Quite well. Perhaps Tarshish = Western opinion, which will turn against Israel.

As a final note, it has been observed (by HAW) that the judgments given against Babylon in Rev 18 are very reminiscent of those against Tyre in Eze 26-28. Is it possible that this is because Babylon = Tyre in latter-day prophecy; or that Babylon is also a major trading power, and thus shares features, and punishment with Tyre?

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