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TARSHISH (Heb. תַּרְשִׁישׁ),

(1) A distant port from which silver, iron, tin, lead, ivory, monkeys, and peacocks were brought to Palestine (cf. I Kings 10:22; Jer. 10:9; Ezek. 27:12). The location of Tarshish is uncertain, since the biblical references to it are vague and apparently contradictory. (The word may mean a "refinery," from the Akk. rašāšu, "to be smelted.") According to Genesis 10:4 (cf. Isa. 23:1), it must be a Mediterranean port, since Tarshish is said to be a "son of Javan" (Greece). Some identify it with the mining village in southwestern Spain called Tharsis (Tartessus, which was, according to Herodotus 4:152, "beyond the Pillars of Heracles," and according to Plinius and Strabo, in the Guadalquivir Valley; this is very probable). Jonah, fleeing from his mission in the east (Nineveh), took, from the Jaffa port, a boat going to Tarshish, i.e., westward (Jonah 1:3). On the other hand, Solomon had a "fleet of Tarshish," whose home port was Eẓion-Geber on the Red Sea (I Kings 10:22); some explain the expression "fleet of Tarshish" as a fleet composed of big and strong ships, capable of long voyages (cf. Isa. 60:9), but not necessarily to Tarshish – Solomon's fleet went to *Ophir as well. According to II Chronicles 20:36, however, the fleet of Jehoshaphat intended to sail to Tarshish from the port of Eẓion-Geber, in which case Tarshish would lie somewhere along the Red Sea or the Indian Ocean (cf. II Chron. 9:21; I Kings 22:49).

(2) Tarshish is also the name of a Benjamite, son of Bilhan (I Chron. 7:10), and of one of the "seven princes of Persia and Medea" in Esther 1:14.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.