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Tarshish occurs in the Hebrew Bible with two meanings:

  1. One of the "sons" of Javan.
  2. The name of a place which first comes into notice in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 10:22). In all probability this was the city of Tarsus in southern Asia Minor [1], which was referred to in Assyrian records from the reign of Esarhaddon as Tarsisi. Prior to this time, the Assyrians referred to Tarsus as Tarzi. Modern research has shown that that the metals that the Old Testament associates with Tarshish existed in the Taurus Mountains north of Tarsus[2]. In addition, Phoenician inscriptions have been found at Karatepe in Cilicia [cf. p. 336 "Karatepe," Charles F. Pfeiffer. The Biblical World, A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Nashville, Tenessee. Broadman Press. 1966]. However, the name is sometimes also used in more general meanings, the bible uses the term ships of Tarshish to denote large ships intended for large voyages whatever their destination, and Jonah's fleeing to Tarshish must probably be taken as 'a place very far away' rather than a precise geographical term. Hertz (1936) identifies Tarshish as the city of Tartessos in Spain.

In the Oracle against Tyre, the prophet Ezekiel (27, 12) mentions that silver, iron, lead and tin came to Tyre from Tarshis (Trsys). They were stored in Tyre and resold, probably to Mesopotamia.

In the Jewish Bible, it is also the name of a gemstone associated with the Tribe of Asher that has been identified as chrysolite or aquamarine. [3]

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