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The Merchants of Tarshish
Pompeo visits the Biblical Heartland and Canada and the UK make a Trade Deal
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November 21, 2020 - Audio, 27.43 MIN
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Today, November 21 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s final arrival at Provincetown Harbor. The Pilgrims settled on American soil on November 21, 1620, four hundred years ago today. With them was the Geneva Bible. The message of that book has shaped American history and continues to do so today. Welcome to the Bible in the News, at, this is David Billington with you. American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo just wrapped up a visit to Israel. The Washington Post said of the visit, “Pompeo’s Christian Zionism takes center stage”. Pompeo visited an Israeli settlement in the region of the tribe of Benjamin, said to be a first for an American Secretary of State. The winery he visited named a wine after him. There he announced that the US would label goods made in settlements as “made in Israel.” Pompeo visited the strategic Golan Heights where America recognized Israeli sovereignty last year. He said, “This is a part of Israel and central part of Israel”. He condemned those in Europe who believe Israel should return the strategic highlands to Syria. During the visit he also announced that the American government would formally designate the anti-Israel “BDS” boycott movement as “anti-Semitic”. Today, in a message to Iran, the USA has deployed B-52 bombers to the Middle East. According to Fox News, “U.S. Central Command said the U.S. Air Force B-52H “Stratofortress” aircrews conducted the mission on “short notice” to “deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies.””

In other news today, the UK and Canada have agreed to a post-Brexit trade deal. In a Telegraph opinion piece by Liz Truss, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, she makes some interesting comments, here are a few exerts.

“This agreement heralds a new chapter in our long and deep relationship with Canada. Mrs Thatcher was warned by her officials that “the ordinary Canadian tends to think that Britain has turned her back on Canada and is now only interested in Europe”. Our re-emergence as an independent trading nation means we can prove them wrong.”

“Our deal with Canada means the UK has now struck trade deals with 53 countries, from South Africa to South Korea, in under two years. This covers £164 billion worth in trade, as of last year.”

“We are working flat out to reach new gold-standard arrangements with the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.”
Wrapping up the article, she writes: “Our re-emergence as an independent trading nation means we are free to become the ideas factory of the world. I could not be happier to be moving forward, with our Canadian allies, as free trade pioneers.”

American support for Israel and the UK’s “re-emergence as an independent trading nation” are exciting events. There will be bumps and difficulties ahead, especially if Biden comes to power which is looking likely, however, these events confirm our faith and demonstrate the nearness of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In light of these events, we will take a fairly indepth look this week on Bible in the News, as to the identity of Tarshish in the latter days.

When Jonah chose to flee as far as he could from Israel and Nineveh, we are told that he chose Tarshish. He decided to go to Tarshish, went to Joppa on the Mediterranean Sea, and sought out a ship going there. This indicates Tarshish was a place as far away as was known from Nineveh. This location was to the far west of the land of Israel. Tarshish was a place to the west of Israel, which was a destination for the Phoenician traders.

The first place in the Bible in which we find Tarshish, is in the genealogy in Genesis 10, concerning the sons of Noah. Verses 2 thru 5 describe the sons of Japheth, which spread out over Europe. These men’s names became those of the nations which descended from them. Even today, Jews from Europe are known as Ashkenazi Jews, Ashkenaz is a son of Gomer found in verse 3. Tarshish is found in verse 4, and is the name of one of the sons of Javan, from whom came the Greeks. The sons of Javan are also listed as they also spread out and other nations came from them. Verse 5 points this out, “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.” The JPS translation says, “From these the maritime nations branched out.” The word isles here, means, “island, coastland, distant shores”. These are the coastlands and islands of Europe. It is important to notice that in scripture, Tarshish was firstly a European coastland or island nation in the orbit of Europe.

Plying these ancient coastlands and islands of Europe were the merchants of Tyre — the Phoenicians. Tyre and her partners controlled and dominated world trade before and during the early classical era. Many locations throughout the Mediterranean were used by the Phoenicians for trade, including Cyprus, North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia and Marseilles. The Phoenicians traded for gold, silver, copper, tin, pearls, perfumes, spices and the murex shellfish from which they created their exclusive purple dye. The Bronze Age may not even have taken place without Phoenician trade — the Phoenicians had a monopoly on tin, an essential element in the creation of bronze. Ezekiel’s lamentation for Tyrus, in chapter 27, paints a picture of Tyre’s vast trading network throughout the Mediterranean. The lamentation describes the trade with Tarshish: “Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.” Tarshish was the source for metals in the ancient world.

In order to protect their lucrative trade, the Phoenicians kept everything they could as tightly guarded secrets; information about their hull design, sailing rig, their paths through the seas and the art of navigating them. The Phoenicians told fantastic tales to scare anyone from traveling their same routes. Potential competitors such as the Greeks would have loved access to the lucrative source of tin. In fact, the Roman invasion of Britain took place in part for access to the source of tin there. In light of this, it is quite probable that when Jonah boarded the ship to go to Tarshish, he would have had to commit to absolute secrecy and would never have been able to return — which certainly would put an end to any preaching plans in Nineveh — of course God had other plans. While the Phoenicians were very careful to guard their secrets, at the same time, being travellers, they were a way by which ideas and technology spread throughout the world.
However, well guarded their secrets were, there is no question today that a Phoenician source for tin was ancient Britain. This has now been proved with irrefutable evidence, by the discovery of Cornish tin ingots off the coast of Israel. On September 19, 2019 the UK Times posted the story, “Cornish tin found in Israel is hard evidence of earliest trade links.” The article read,

“Tin ingots found in Israel that are more than 3000 years old are of Cornish origin and probably reached the Middle East by way of Greece, experts say.

“Archaeologists said that their chemical analysis provided the first hard evidence for trading of the metal which is used in making bronze, between the west of Britain and the most famous Bronze Age civilisations — over networks covering thousands of miles.

“The 23 ingots from shipwrecks off the coast of Israel date from about the 13th and 12th centuries BC, when Phoenician and Greek traders dominated the eastern Mediterranean, and around the time of the first recorded written mention, by the ancient Egyptians, of the word “Israel”. Tin was a prerequisite for making bronze swords and armour.

“Analysis of the chemical composition of the 10-15kg ingots by researchers at the Curt Engelhorn Archaeometry Centre in Mannheim and other institutions indicates that the metal did not come from central Asia as has sometimes been assumed, based on earlier inscriptions, but from tin deposits in Cornwall or Devon...”

This is not one isolated piece of tin, but 23 tin ingots from shipwrecks off the coast of Israel which date to before the time of King David and Solomon! Ingots, from Phoenician shipwrecks from well before the time of Ezekiel.

The UK Daily Mail, reported: “How Britannia ruled the waves in the Bronze Age: 3000-year-old tin ingots from Devon and Cornwall found in Israel reveal island’s ancient trade routes dating back to 1,300 BC.

A map showing copper mines, lead mines, gold mines, iron mines and tin mines,
in ancient Britain.

In the History of England, by George Macaulay Trevelyan, there is a map showing mining sites in ancient Britain. The map shows copper mines, lead mines, gold mines, iron mines and tin mines. The following are a few excerpts from the book.
“Britain has always owed her fortunes to the sea ... from prehistoric and Phoenician traders to Roman and Norman overlords, successive tides of warlike colonists, the most energetic seamen, farmers and merchants of Europe came by the wave-path to inhabit her...”

“The temptation to invade the island lay not only in the pearls, the gold and the tin for which it seems to have been noted among certain Mediterranean merchants long before the foundation of Rome; temptation lay also in its fertile soil...”
“When, some 2000 years before Christ, the age of bronze gradually began in Britain, followed after more than a thousand years by the age of iron, the metals, too, were found in plenty, with timber at hand to smelt them. Timber grew everywhere for housing and fuel.”

Based on undersea discoveries going back to the fourth century B.C., “A History of Seafaring, Based on Underwater Archaeology”, affirms, “The finds, which point to connections with Sardinia and Sicily on the one hand and the Atlantic regions on the other, confirm an important two-way metal trade stretching from the western Mediterranean though the Straits of Gibraltar and up along the Atlantic coast to Britain.”

Even though these metals mentioned by Ezekiel were rare in the ancient world, Britain had them readily available and the means to smelt them. The island was a primary source of Phoenician tin. It is proven that these metals were traded by Phoenicians in the form of ingots from before the time of King David. The primary location of Biblical Tarshish is to the far west of Israel as shown by Jonah and Genesis 10.  Phoenicians

What about Solomon’s Tarshish, with a fleet of ships, sailing from Eilat on the Red Sea? This Tarshish was clearly located to the south east of the land of Israel and had a very different cargo to that of the original Tarshish far to the west. The only metals mentioned are gold, and silver but the cargo also included ivory, and apes, and peacocks. By this time the Phoenicians already had a vast trading network to the west from their base in Tyre. They were already obtaining tin from their secret location in Britain, as proven by the tin ingots discovered near Haifa. But they did not have access to the east. This joint operation with the kingdom of Israel was patterned on the successful trading the Phoenicians had in the west. The Phoenicians provided the patented ship design and knowledge of the seas, Solomon contributed the port access, gateway to the east and his servants went on the voyages. No doubt they shared the profits. Just like in the west, the destination would have been a closely guarded secret. As everything was patterned on the operation in the west, the ships were called “ships of Tarshish” and the “destination” was also called Tarshish. Jehoshaphat later tried to develop the same trade route, but failed. Research has shown this could have been India. This is why John Thomas in Elpis Israel, wrote concerning the pre-adventual colonization of Palestine that, “They will emigrate thither as agriculturists and traders, in the hope of ultimately establishing their commonwealth, but more immediately of getting rich in silver and gold by commerce with India, and in cattle and goods by their industry at home under the efficient protection of the British power.”
First and foremost Tarshish was in the far west of Israel, a people descended from Javan, from whom “the maritime nations branched out.” The Phoenicians had established trade with Tarshish in tin before the time of Solomon. This trade template was applied as a joint project in the east, but this cannot be used to detract from what Tarshish clearly was in its original application. The term “ships of Tarshish” is only used in these two applications, and there is no evidence to suggest that “ships of Tarshish” only meant big ships, as some have suggested. In fact, the Bible expresses the idea of large ships that travel great distances in other language. Proverbs 31:14 speaks of ships that travel afar as “merchants’ ships” — not “ships of Tarshish”. Isaiah 33:21, uses the term “gallant ship” or “mighty craft” to describe this type of floating vessel, again not “ships of Tarshish”. Daniel 11:30 speaks of the “ships of Chittim”, Chittim or Kittim (Genesis 10:4) was also a son of Javan and brother to Tarshish. Again these are ships of Chittim, not ships of Tarshish. From these passages we see that “ships of Tarshish” is not used commonly in scripture just to describe a large vessel which travels afar. “Ships of Tarshish” primarily describes ships connected to the Phoenician trade with Tarshish in the west, and in a limited sense to the “Tarshish” joint template operation, which sailed for a short time in the east.

A Latter-Day Tyre

Tyre was destroyed and passed away in fulfillment of Ezekiel’s lamentation. “The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee; thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more. ... All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” (Ezekiel 27:36; 28:19) Tyre was most certainly eradicated, yet Psalm 45, which is clearly a Messianic Psalm of the kingdom age (It is quoted in Hebrews 1:8, 9 speaking of the throne of the kingdom), mentions the daughter of Tyre. “And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour.” There is then to be a latter-day form of Tyre, the ancient trading nation, which will bring a gift (Hebrew: Minchah), before the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 72 is another Psalm which is clearly Messianic, revealing a beautiful picture of the kingdom age. Verse 10 says, “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.” The word “presents” is again the Hebrew word “Minchah” as in Psalm 45. There are several interesting points in this little verse. Notice that the kings of Tarshish are linked together with the isles. The word isles means, islands, coastlands and distant shores. These kings then are an alliance of nations, including islands, coastlands or distant shores. Tarshish was closely associated with ancient Tyre and therefore the daughter of Tyre that brings the Minchah gift in Psalm 45, is the same as the Kings of Tarshish and the isles which bring the Minchah gift in Psalm 72. The latter-day Tyre is Tarshish and the isles. The original Tyre was utterly destroyed, yet her trading partners take up the spirit of Tyre and carry on trading. Therefore they are called in their latter day form the daughter of Tyre or the kings of Tarshish and the isles.

Why would these kings of Tarshish and the isles be foremost in bringing a gift to the king enthroned in Zion? The prophecy of Jeremiah in chapter 31 provides an answer. “Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”

This word of Yahweh, declaring the gathering of scattered Israel, must logically go forth before the Jews are gathered. Therefore, the word must go out before the Jews return to the land and before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. It must be then, from our perspective largely historical. When we recognize this historically, it strongly reinforces the interpretation that Tarshish, the later-day Tyre, is Great Britain.

The later-day Tyre is much like its historical counterpart — a great trading nation with worldwide reach, becoming rich by trade, guarding her trade secrets, but at the same time spreading her influence, ideas, philosophies and technology throughout the world.

As the English Bible became available to the common man in Britain, the Spanish Armada was defeated and the age of the British Empire was dawning on the world. Many scholars have equated Spain with Tarshish, yet when the Spanish Armada and planned invasion of Britain were overcome, there was no question who would fulfill the role of the latter-day sea trading nation. With the defeat of the Spanish Armada and with the Bible in hand, Britain was set to rule the waves and fulfill the prophecy of Jeremiah, declaring the message of Israel’s regathering to the nations and isles afar off.
The English Bible and the many books on Bible prophecy that were published in the same era, spread throughout the British Empire, declaring the message of Jeremiah chapter 31, “He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”

Early prophetical expositors in England such as Henry Finch, Joseph Mede, Thomas Brightman, Thomas Newton, Isaac Newton, Alexander Keith and others wrote of the restoration of the Jews. In the early American colonies there were many held a strong belief in the restoration of the Jews. Ephraim Huit, a pastor at Windsor, Connecticut wrote the first exposition of Daniel to appear in the Colonies in 1644. He believed and wrote of the restoration and conversion of the Jews. John Cotton, Increase Mather — president of Harvard and many others, wrote of the restoration of the Jews.
In 1800, James Bicheno wrote a book entitled, The Restoration of the Jews, the Crisis of all Nations, etc., he saw the future restoration of the Jews as a certainty. He wrote, “The prophecies which claim our first attention, are those that give assurance of the future restoration of all the tribes of Israel... Yes, the prophecies assure us, that the whole house of Israel, after a long captivity, shall be restored again, and once more become a great people.” On the basis of Isaiah 18, James Bicheno came close to identifying Britain as the nation which would play a great role in the restoration of the Jews, on this subject he wrote, “From this prophecy we may fairly conclude, I think, that some nation lying far west of Judea, possessing shipping, will be the instruments of bringing about the restoration of the Jews, and that it is likely to be one of the European powers, but whether France, or Spain, or Great Britain, or some other, the prophecy says nothing to enable us to conclude.” On the basis of the same passage, Brother John Thomas was able to conclude that, “The finger of God has indicated a course to be pursued by Britain which cannot be evaded, and which her councellors will not only be willing, but eager, to adopt when the crisis comes upon them.” Robert Roberts also wrote of the role Britain would play in the return of the Jews. In a “Second letter to the elect of God”, February 10th, 1885, Robert Roberts wrote, “If the Turkish empire disappear, which is now almost the daily expectation of politicians, the Holy Land will be liberated from the only obstacle that restrains the full development of impending Jewish restoration under English protection.”

In the mid 1800’s, John Thomas did lecturing tours in the United States and Great Britain and the subject of the coming kingdom and restoration of Israel would have been central themes. Following closely after Robert Roberts traveled extensively throughout the English speaking world, including two trips to Australia and New Zealand, where he lectured extensively and again these themes would have been central to his message.

It is a historical fact that the message that “He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”, was proclaimed throughout the English speaking world, preceding the restoration of the Jews. This clearly defines the isles afar off in Jeremiah 31.

Isaiah 60 prophesies that kings will come to the brightness of the rising of the Lord Jesus Christ, the wealth of the nations will come to him, including the gold of Sheba and the flocks of Kedar will be accepted on the altar. This reminds us the passages in the Psalms with the daughter of Tyre or the kings of Tarshish and the isles and the kings of Sheba bringing a gifts. Isaiah 60 brings the reader into the kingdom age. Isaiah 60:9 says, “Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.”

Jeremiah says that the message that Israel will be regathered will be declared in the isles afar off, we have seen how this took place historically. The effect of this message results in Isaiah 60, that the ships of Tarshish from the isles will be foremost in bringing the Jewish people to the land at the dawn of the kingdom age.

We can then be sure that the latter day daughter of Tyre, and the kings of Tarshish and the isles, are the isles afar off where the message that Israel would be regathered has been declared. This is expressed in Ezekiel 38 as “the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof.” These kings of Tarshish are the merchant powers of the later days, Great Britain and her trading partners, where the message of the regathering of Israel was preached. A message which has effected the current American administration, in particular in regards to Mike Pence and Pompeo. 

We certainly see the hand of the Almighty at work in our world today and the influence of his word. That essential message, that he that scattered Israel will regather them, should be central to our preaching work today. That we continue to speak this great message in the isles afar off! Come back next week God willing to the Bible in the News at

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