King's Business - 1962-01

It is next said that Tarshish is Great Britain, because Isaiah 60:9 teaches that Tarshish is to be the restorer of Israel in the last days. Britain, with her many ships and her friendship with the Jews, is said to be fulfilling that mission. It has already been pointed out that the expression “ ships of Tarshish” came ultimately to be used to describe large ocean going ships regardless of the country to which they belonged. Thus the ships that Jehoshaphat built were “ ships of Tarshish” (I Kings 22:48). The great ships used to bring back the children of Israel in the last days would naturally be called “ ships of Tarshish,” but that does not prove Britain is Tarshish. God evidently uses all the nations as His instruments in the restoration of Israel. Jeremiah speaks of the “many fishers” and “many hunters” who will be God’s instru­ ments to bring back his people from all nations (Jer. 16:15, 16). Anti-Semitism will doubtless be as potent as pro-Semitism in causing the return of the Jews. Even if the expression “ ships of Tarshish” in Isa. 60:9 should refer to the ships of some one nation, we have no definite way of identifying that nation. No one can foresee what nation will be the leading maritime power in the last days. But who is Tarshish? There are a number of authori­ ties who say that Tarshish was Spain or a colony in Spain: “It is believed that Tarshish was Tartessus, in the south of Spain, near Gibraltar (Herod. IV 152), and the country of the Turti or Turditani, to which the town belonged.” (Ibid.) “ Tarshish is the name of the' Phoenician colony on the river Tartessus, called also the Baetis, t h e m o d e r n Guadalquiver.” International Standard Bible Ency., article on Tarshish.) “ Tarshish is definitely identified as Tartessus, a mining district or city in Southern Spain, whence the Tyrians secured silver, iron, tin, and lead (Ezek. 27:12). This was the farthest west limit named for the Tyrian seacraft. That Tarsh­ ish was near islands (Isa. 60:9; Ps. 72:10) makes it highly probable that it was in Southern Spain —-possibly near the Balearic isles.” ( The Monu­ ments of the Old Testament, Ira M. Price, p. 136.) The identification of ancient Spain as Tarshish seems more in accord with what little is known of the ancient history of both Spain and the British Isles. It is known that the peoples of the British Isles were barbarians as late as the Roman era and were not known for building great ships or engaging in commerce. On the other hand, Spain has a history of culture and commerce that go far back in history. Spain was a great sea power long before the time of the Spanish Armada, when Great Britain finally became Mistress of the Seas. The Phoenicians traded with Spain long before the time of the Christian era. The evidence that Tarshish was ancient Spain may not be conclusive, but it seems to outweigh far the little evidence that can be produced to indicate Tarshish is Great Britain. But there is more to be said about the Tarshish-Brit- ain theory. The popularity of this theory among English speaking people is enhanced by the assumption that Tarshish will be a friend or defender of the Jews at the time of the northern invasion mentioned in Ezekiel 38. Attention has been called to the fact that Dr. David L. Cooper sees the democracies issuing only a mild protest against the invaders of Israel. On the other hand, W. Lamb and others believe that the Tarshish people will fight for the Jews. As a matter of fact, the language of Ezek. 38:13 does not indicate clearly either a protest or military action. Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of JANUARY, 1962

Tarshish simply ask a question of the invaders the sub­ stance of which is this: “ Art thou come to take a spoil and a prey?” It is interesting to note that many exposi­ tors interpret this as collaboration with the invading forces, e.g.: “These mercantile people, though not taking an active part against the cause of God, are well pleased to see others do it. Worldliness makes them ready to deal in the ill-gotten spoil of the invaders of God’s people.” (Critical and Explan­ atory Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown.) “ ‘Hast thou come to take the spoil of this land?’ Yes he has;' and therefore they wish him suc­ cess. Or perhaps they envy him, or grudge it to him. ‘Hast thou come for riches who are thyself so rich already?’ Or, knowing that God was on Israel’s side, they thus ridiculed his' attempts, foreseeing that they would be baffled and that he would be disappointed of the prey he promised himself. Or, if he come to take the prey, they will attach themselves as camp-followers to the army of Gog.” (The Expositor’s Bible on Ezek. 38:13.) This interpretation is in harmony with the context. Sheba and Dedan were commercial peoples of Arabia. The references to these peoples in the Scriptures feature their interest in commerce (Ezk. 27:15-24). It should be noted, in harmony with this, that the Ezekiel passage mentions only the “merchants of Tarshish” .<— not the nation of Tarshish! Merchants are not known for issuing diplomatic protests or waging war. It would seem that these commercial peoples are interested in the same ob­ jective that attracted the northern invaders — the spoils of the land. Something similar happened in the time of the Maccabees when Antiochus sent his captain, Lysias against the Jews: “And the merchants of the countries heard the fame of them: and they took silver and gold in abundance, and servants: and they came into the camp, to buy the children of Israel for slaves: and there were joined to them the forces of Syria, and of the land of the strangers.” (I Maccabees 3:41.) Obadiah condemns Edom because she was guilty of aiding the destroyers of Israel for selfish purposes in an earlier day (Obadiah 10-14). Dedan was located near Edom (Ezek. 25:13), and may have been guilty of the same offence. Thus Ezekiel 38:13 may refer to the future conduct of Dedan patterned after what had happpened in the past. One wonders if the Tarshish-Britain theory would be popular with prophetic students of the British Com­ monwealth of Nations and of the United States, if the merchants of Tarshish were seen to be selfish collabora­ tors in the invasion of Ezek. 38. That Sheba and Dedan and the “merchants of Tarshish” are to be abettors of the enemies of God’s people in the last days in the in­ terpretation that many have adopted, and it is in harmony with the context and the language of the passage. Whatever may be believed about the attitude of the Tarshish peoples toward the invaders of Israel, it is evi­ dent that the identity of Tarshish is a matter of grave dispute. The idea that Great Britain -is to be identified as Tarshish, and that the United States is one of the young lions, is only a theory; and one which is contra­ dicted by most of the evidence. It would seem to be the part of wisdom not to attempt to identify any modern nation as Tarshish; at least, not until more definite evi­ dence is available.


Made with FlippingBook Online newsletter