Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tarshish . . . the edge of the world

Rona Lee who has been serving as a nanny for a missionary family all Fall (I think with Mission Nannys) sent me an email that included the following paragraph. . .

I'm just returning from a few days on the Mediterranean coast of Spain where we visited the city of Tarragona, which many believe is the ancient city of Tarshish, so I was fascinated to see that you have started a 4-week series on the book of Jonah. Lord willing I'll be in SLO to hear your last two messages in the series.
Isn't that awesome? She's listening over the internet from Spain where she recently visited Tarshish. How cool is that? The world is flat.

Rona also sent this great background info on the city of Tarshish. . . not sure where she dug it up. For the sake of time, I didn't do much with Tarshish in the message, so I thought I'd post it here.

Some associate the country of Tarshish, as mentioned in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, I Kings, and Jonah, with a locale in southern Spain. In generally describing Tyre's empire from west to east, Tarshish is listed first (Ezekiel 27.12-14), and in Jonah 1.3 it is the place to which Jonah sought to flee from the Lord; evidently it represents the westernmost place to which one could sail. If Tarshish was indeed Spain, Jewish contact with Iberia may date back to the time of Solomon. The relationship would likely have been one based on trade. Ezekiel 27.12 describes such a connection: "Tarshish did business with you out of the abundance of your great wealth; silver, iron, tin, and lead they exchanged with you for your wares", and as much is demonstrated in I Kings 10.22: "For the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks." The link between Jews and Tarshish is clear. One might speculate that commerce conducted by Jewish emissaries, merchants, craftsmen, or other tradesmen among the Semitic Tyrean Phoenicians might have brought them to Tarshish. Although the notion of Tarshish as Spain is merely based on suggestive material, it leaves open the possibility of a very early, although perhaps limited, Jewish presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

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