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Tarshish (city)

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{{#set:Settlement type=City}}
Skyline of Seville.

Modern Seville, geographically close to ancient Tarshish.

Location of Tarshish.

Location of Tarshish.

Tarshish was an ancient city located in modern day southern Spain, due north of Gilbratar. Throughout the Bible Tarshish, the word itself used in different contexts, appears many times in the Bible. In the context of the city, however, Tarshish is both the city (or perhaps city-state) where Jonah made a concerted attempt to flee and where Solomon had a trade agreement.

In the Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah reads:

Jonah 1 (1) Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, (2) Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. (3) But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

While on the boat God caused there to be a great wind which caused a frightening storm, and while members of the crew prayed to their gods and idols, Jonah was asleep in the boat. In the ensuing course of events, Jonah was asked to pray to his God to put a stop to the storm. Following this, they cast lots to determine who to blame for the storm, and the lot falls on Jonah, who was thrown off the boat and swallowed up by a whale.

Jonah was in the belly of this great fish (what Jesus called a whale) for three days and three nights before being vomited out by the whale onto dry land. Today the Book of Jonah teaches Christians that God is merciful but also a God who desires the repentance of his people.

Background information

Though Tarshish as a location takes an appearance in the Book of Jonah, there is little more than that, one notable exception being the Tarshish that King Solomon had a trade deal with during his reign, as stated in 2 Chronicles:

2 Chronicles 9 (21)For the king's ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks. And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.

Nora Stone

Nora Inscription.jpg
Little is known about Tarshish itself, however, Tarshish could have been more than a city within a nation, perhaps, it was a nation of its own, which is open for debate because of the discovery fo the Nora Stone. The island of Sardinia (due West of Italy) has a monument bearing an inscription, the Nora Stone. This stone demonstrates the Tarshish had to have had a presence in Sardinia, whether for military or trade exploits. The stone also demonstrates Phonecian style of writing.

The inscription on the stone reads:

He fought with the Sardinians at Tarshish and he drove them out. Among the Sardinians he is at peace, his army is at peace: Milkaton son of Shubna (Shebna), general of Pummay.

Phonecian origins

With both the disperse of mankind in the post-Babel world, coupled with the later exploration endeavors and colonization, in addition to the formation of European ancient empires, Tarshish shows it indeed had a variety of origins, its primary one being Phonecian.


A map of the territory of the Carthaginian Empire at its height.
The Septuagint and Vulgate Bible translations render Tarshish actually the ancient empire of Carthage. Since Tarshish indeed existed in Spain just as Carthage did, and had a pan-Mediterranean presence just as Carthage did, it is likely that Solomon himself traded with the future arch enemy of the not-yet-born Roman Empire! This suggests that Phonecia is the origin country of Carthage, which suggests then, that Tarshish was either Carthage itself or part of Carthage, perhaps a Carthaginian province.

And on the topic of Sardinia, it should be noted that Sardinia was a historical Carthaginian possession, as were many other islands and landmasses in the area. Perhaps the battle discussed in the Nora Stone was a Carthaginian battle.

The Bible and history

It is extremely interesting that from a topic as simple as a vague country such as Tarshish that numerous amounts of information can be acquired, which illustrates the Bible was not a book of myths as some sadly claim, but in fact a book of both historical accuracy, and, of course, a demonstration of God's love for mankind.