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
All relevant passages:
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.
-         1Ki 10:22 / 2Ch 9:21: Ships to Tarshish, with
Hiram, bring gold, silver, ivory, apes, peacocks.
-         1Ki 22:48 / 2Ch 20:36,37: Ships from Tarshish
to Ophir to Tarshish bring gold.
-         Psa 48:7:
Ships broken by God's east wind in Kingdom.
72:10: Ships bring presents in Kingdom.
2:16: Ships destroyed by God.
23:1,6,10,14: As above, in a Tyre passage.
60:9: Ships bring sons, silver to Israel in Kingdom.
-         Isa 66:19: Israel sent to Tarshish to declare
glory in Kingdom.
-         Jer 10:9: Goods of Tarshish
nothing to worship of God.
-         Eze 27:12,25: Goods
of Tarshish, in a Tyre passage.
-         Eze 38:13:
Talks to Gog about spoil.
-         Jonah 1:3; 4:2:
Jonah goes to Tarshish.
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?