What is Tarshish?
Biblical Tarshish is a coastal city in ancient times that is often connected with ships, also referred to as the Ships of Tarshish. (Strong's Concordance number H8659) In some versions of the Bible, they are merely referred to as "Merchant Ships."
Who is Tarshish?
Tarshish is actually the great grandson of Noah! The line of descendants goes as follows - Noah - Japheth - Javan - Tarshish (see Genesis 10:4; using the NIV English names!).
Where is Tarshish?
Tarshish was one of the maritime peoples (v5) and where he settled received his name. Tarshish was a sea-port and very wealthy (Psalm 72:10; Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:12, 25; Ezekiel 38:13) as most Scriptures refer to ships carrying silver and gold whenever it is mentioned.
The king had a fleet of trading ships manned by Hiram's servants. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons. (2 Chronicles 9:21)
Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs. (Ezekiel 27:12)
Because Tarshish became so wealthy, it relied on its own resources and not on God, and for this reason He cursed it. (Isaiah 23:1, 6, 10, 14; Psalm 48:7; Ezekiel 27:12 - ) A city God curses is utterly destroyed, and little if any of it remains today. Like Sodom and Gomorrah it is totally destroyed and "its place remembers it no more!" For this reason, no one knows where Tarshish is today. Some people refer to Tarshish as being in England, some in America, and some Old Testament scholars are convinced that Tarshish was in India – all of these people have convincing "proofs" of course. Giovanni Schiaparelli put the Greek form of the name, Tharsis, as a region on the planet Mars. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarshish)
The Ships of Tarshish were constructed (at one point-in-time) by Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, in Etzion Geber, but because he allied himself with Ahaziah, king of Israel, God destroyed the ships. (2 Chronicles 20:35-37; 1 Kings 22:48) Etzion Geber is the southern point of today's Israel, known as Eilat, on the Red Sea, which gets its name from the ancient Hebrew Elath. (see Deuteronomy 2:8; 1 Kings 9:23; 2 Chronicles 8:17) But even with the ships being built in Etzion Geber, it is most likely that they sailed in the Mediterranean.
Some say that the Tarshish of the Old Testament is now Tarsus of the New Testament, from where Paul originated. (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3) We know the whereabouts of Tarsus today, being in Asia Minor or modern Turkey. Although it is on the Berdan River, which empties into the Mediterranean, it is not Tarshish, I believe, although the historian Josephus Flavius does make that association. (Antiquities of the Jews) It took the ships three years to return from Tarshish carrying "gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks," (2 Chronicles 9:21) and it would not have taken that long is they were only sailing to today's Turkey.
Bochart, a French reverend in 1646, suggested that Tarshish was the city of Tartessos in Southern Spain. Others, including Hertz (1936), followed his belief. In his prophecy against Tyre, the prophet Ezekiel (27:12) mentions that silver, iron, lead and tin came to Tyre from Tarshish (Trsys). The editors of the New Oxford Annotated Bible suggest that Tarshish is either Tartessos or Sardinia.
Tarshish is most likely situated in ancient Spain. If Jonah was fleeing from God, he would have to flee to the furthest end of the earth – and we know that even that is not far enough. I believe that Jonah wanted to flee to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3) as it was the furthest point west in the world of Jonah's time. This would have been Spain today, or even modern Portugal.
This idea of the "furthest point" is also captured in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, where the Father Mapple gives a sermon on the story of Jonah, identifying the Tarshish to which Jonah flees with the port of Cadiz in Spain, "as far by water, from Joppa, as Jonah could possibly have sailed in those ancient days, when the Atlantic was an almost unknown sea" (Chapter 9, "The Sermon").
What are the Ships of Tarshish?
Although God cursed Tarshish for turning its back on Him, He does offer an End-time hope for Tarshish to redeem himself. God gives an incredible word to the prophet Isaiah when He said foretells that one day the Ships of Tarshish are going to carry His children home from afar, to the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 60:9) Although ships and maritime vessels at different times have brought the Jews to Israel, no-where can anyone point to a fleet of ships and say, "those are the ships of Tarshish, and that is where Isaiah 60:9 has been fulfilled." I do believe that there is coming a time, and it is getting closer, when a fleet of maritime vessels, which will be referred to as the Ships of Tarshish, are going to bring Jews to Israel, enabling people to say "that is where Isaiah 60:9 has been fulfilled."
From where are the Ships of Tarshish?
When asking the Lord where Tarshish was and what the Ships of Tarshish were, He reminded me that Jonah was fleeing to Tarshish – the furthest point west in Jonah's world. I asked myself what was the furthest point west in our world today. If one travelled north they would eventually reach the North Pole and travelling south one would eventually reach the South Pole. But if one travelled west, would they ever reach east?
Thinking about this question I realized that there is a point while travelling west where one would eventually reach east, and that is the International Date line, in the north. After leaving Alaska in a westerly direction one would eventually reach the East (Russia).
From this, I concluded that the Ships of Tarshish will be little boats and martime vessels from around the world, that will be collecting Jews, maybe from eastern Russia but not only, and bring them to Israel.
Ships of Tarshish and Wings of Doves
Because Isaiah 60:8 and verse 9 are in such close proximity, I do believe that the Wings of Doves, or airplanes, and Ships of Tarshish, or maritime vessels, are going to be used in close conjunction to bring His children home. Maybe ships will bring the Jews to places where planes can fly them to Israel, or planes will bring them to a point where boats can bring them to Israel. Or maybe it is a combination of them both planes, boats and planes, or boats, planes, boats.
However, what we do know is this will be a mighty Regathering of the Jews as they come back from the four corners of the world, to their Biblical Homeland, Israel. The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 66:20 uses every form of transport that he knew in his time, "on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels," to explain how every form of transport that we know of today will be used to bring His children home – cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats, as well as sled-teams, camels, horses, helicopters and hovercraft. Yes, they will come home on all and any available transport. And amoung the places from where they will be gathered, Tarshish is mentioned! (v19)
- is for Olim - Jewish Immigrants making their way back to Israel after 2000 years of exile! (Isaiah 11:11, 12)
- is for People - very special people - the Jews, who God is restoring to their Land!
- is for Everyone, (Nations, “Goyim” or Gentiles) who should be helping in their return to Israel! (Isaiah 49:22)
- is for Restoration, which God is doing in these last days with all His heart and soul. (Jeremiah 32:41)
- is for Awesome, for God is about do awesome things to bring His Covenant Peoples Home (Jeremiah 16:14, 15)
- is for Today, that these thousand year old prophecies are being fulfilled before our eyes.
- is for Me! That "I" should get involved and help wherever God would lead me!
- is for Only, referring to the short time which we have left to help the Jews out!
- is for Now, the time we must "fish" the Jews out for the Hunters are coming! (Jeremiah 16:16)
- is for Thanks - to the Lord for the Jews, and we should be helping and blessing them! (Romans 15:27)
- is for Aliyah! This massive Immigration of Jews back to Israel, as God foretold through Moses
- is for Ready! Are we ready to be an instrument in this Aliyah?
- is for Serving, which should be our hearts desire to help restore His People to the Land!
- is for History, or His Story, which He is unfolding before our very eyes!
- is what we should be saying to the Lord, "Here am I..."
- is for Send, which continues on from the last sentence, "... send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)
- is for Home, for the Jews are coming home, never again to be pushed out! (Amos 9:15)