1 Kings 10:22
For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
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(22) A navy of Tharshish.—There seems little doubt that the Tarshish of Scripture is properly Tartessus in Spain, which name, indeed, is drawn from an Aramaic form of Tarshish. For (a) Tarshish is first noted in Genesis 10:4 as among the descendants of Javan, the son of Japhet, which probably points to a European position; (b) in some other places (Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 23:6; Isaiah 23:10; Isaiah 23:14; Ezekiel 27:12-13) as here, and in 23:48, it is closely connected with Tyre, of which Tartessus is expressly said by Arrian to have been a colony: (c) from Jonah 1:3; Jonah 4:2, we gather that it was on the Mediterranean Sea; (d) the silver, which was evidently the chief import by this navy of Tarshish, was in ancient times found in large quantities in Spain, as also “the iron, lead, and tin,” mentioned with the silver in Ezekiel 27:12. But the phrase “ships of Tarshish” appears to have become a technical phrase for ships of large size (see Isaiah 2:17; Jeremiah 10:9; Psalm 48:8); hence a “navy of Tarshish” would not necessarily mean a navy going to Tarshish.

Now, the fleet of Solomon here named is not in the text identified with the navy of Ophir, starting from Ezion-geber. Its imports (except gold, which is not distinctive) are not the same, and the separate mention of it seems rather to argue its distinctness. “The sea,” moreover, unless otherwise determined by the context, would most likely mean the Great, or Mediterranean Sea; and in 2Chronicles 9:21 (as also afterwards, in 2Chronicles 20:36) it is expressly said that the fleet “went to Tarshish.” But the difficulty of this view lies in this—that the imports of the fleet, except the silver (which, indeed, is chiefly dwelt upon), point to an Eastern, and probably an Indian origin. Not only do the “peacocks” expressly indicate India, which may be called their native country; but of the names used, koph, for “ape,” is not a Hebrew word, but closely resembles the Sanscrit kapi; and tukki, for “peacock,” is similarly a foreign word, closely resembling the Tamil tôka. (If the ordinary reading, shen habbîm, for “ivory,” stands, this, which is an unusual word for ivory (generally simply shen, “a tooth”), bears resemblance again in its second member to ibha, the Sanscrit name for “elephant.” But it is generally thought that the correction, shen habnîm, “ivory [and] ebony,” should be accepted, especially as we find those two words used together in Ezekiel 28:15.) The only solution of this serious difficulty seems to be the supposition of a circumnavigation of Africa by fleets from Tyre to Ezion-geber, touching in Africa and India. This view also accounts for the emphatic mention of the “three years” voyage, which could not be necessary for going only to Tartessus and its neighbourhood. There is, indeed, something startling in the idea of so daring an enterprise in this early age. But there is a well-known passage in Herodotus (Book iv. 42) which records exactly such a voyage in the days of Pharaoh-Necho, not apparently as a new thing—to say nothing of the celebrated record of the Periplus of Hanno; and it seems clear that the Tyrian seamanship and maritime enterprise were at their height in the days of Solomon.

1 Kings 10:22. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish — Ships that went to Tharshish. For Tharshish was the name of a place, upon the sea, famous for its traffic with merchants, and a place very remote from Judea, as appears from the three years usually spent in that voyage. But whether it was Spain, where in those times there was abundance of gold and silver, as Strabo and others affirm; or some place in the Indies, it is as needless as it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. These words are here added to give a further account how Solomon came to have gold in such abundance: he trafficked for it in another fleet, besides that which went to Ophir. Once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, &c. — It is likely a great part of this time was spent in digging for the gold, or in hunting the elephants, apes, and peacocks, and in other transactions of commerce. And apes — The Hebrew word קפים, kophim, is both by the ancients and moderns translated apes; which creature Pliny calls cephus, and says they were seen but once at Rome in his days, and that they came from Ethiopia. And peacocks — These, being so beautiful a bird, might very probably be brought from foreign countries into Judea as a great rarity, there being none there before.

10:14-29 Solomon increased his wealth. Silver was nothing accounted of. Such is the nature of worldly wealth, plenty of it makes it the less valuable; much more should the enjoyment of spiritual riches lessen our esteem of all earthly possessions. If gold in abundance makes silver to be despised, shall not wisdom, and grace, and the foretastes of heaven, which are far better than gold, make gold to be lightly esteemed? See in Solomon's greatness the performance of God's promise, and let it encourage us to seek first the righteousness of God's kingdom. This was he, who, having tasted all earthly enjoyments, wrote a book, to show the vanity of all worldly things, the vexation of spirit that attends them, and the folly of setting our hearts upon them: and to recommend serious godliness, as that which will do unspeakably more to make us happy, that all the wealth and power he was master of; and, through the grace of God, it is within our reach.This is given as the reason of the great plentifulness of silver in the time of Solomon. The "navy of Tharshish" (not the same as the navy of Ophir, 1 Kings 9:26) must therefore have imported very large quantities of that metal. Tharshish, or Tartessus, in Spain, had the richest silver mines known in the ancient world, and had a good deal of gold also; apes and ivory were produced by the opposite coast of Africa; and, if north Africa did not produce "peacocks," which is uncertain, she may have produced the birds called here "tukkiyim," which some translate "parrots," others "guinea-fowl" - the latter being a purely African bird. The etymology of the Hebrew words here rendered "ivory," "apes," and "peacocks," is uncertain; but even if of Indian origin, the Jews may have derived their first knowledge of ivory, apes, and peacocks, through nations which traded with India, and may thus have got the words into their language long before the time of Solomon. The names once fixed would be retained, whatever the quarter from where the things were procured afterward. 22. a navy of Tharshish—Tartessus in Spain. There gold, and especially silver, was obtained, anciently, in so great abundance that it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon. But "Tarshish" came to be a general term for the West (Jon 1:3).

at sea—on the Mediterranean.

once in three years—that is, every third year. Without the mariner's compass they had to coast along the shore. The ivory, apes, and peacocks might have been purchased, on the outward or homeward voyage, on the north coast of Africa, where the animals were to be found. They were particularized, probably as being the rarest articles on board.

A navy of Tharshish; either, first, the ships of the sea, which may seem to be called Tarshish, as Psalm 48:7 Isaiah 60:9, from an eminent part of the sea near Judea, so called. Or rather, the ships that went to Tarshish; for Tarshish was the name of a certain place upon the sea, famous for its traffic with merchants, as it is manifest from Isaiah 23:6,10 66:19 Jeremiah 10:9 Ezekiel 27:12; and it was a place very remote from Judea, as appears from the three years usually spent in that voyage. But whether it was Spain, where in those times there was abundance of gold and silver, as Strabo and others affirm, or some place in the Indies, it is needless to determine.

For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish, with the navy of Hiram,.... Tharshish was not the place the navy went from, but whither it went to, as appears from 2 Chronicles 9:21 and designs not Tarsus in Cilicia; nor Tartessus in Spain, or Gades, or which was however near it; though it appears from Strabo (s) and Mela (t) that the Phoenicians were acquainted with those parts, and were possessed of them; and particularly, according to Velleius Paterculus (u), the navy of Tyre traded thither before the days of Solomen; and Vitringa (w) is clear in it, that these were ships that traded to Tartessus, with the ships of Tyre; and it is more likely that that place is meant than Carthage, now called Tunis, in Africa; though the Targum here calls it the navy, the navy of Africa; but as Tharshish is sometimes used for the sea in general, here it may signify a particular sea, so called: and which Josephus (x) names the Tarsic sea, the same with the Indian sea; and points to the same country where Ophir was, which was washed by it, and to which the two fleets joined were bound. This is observed, to account for it how Solomon came by so much gold:

once in three years came the navy of Tharshish; it returned in such a space of time; navigation not being improved as now, and sailing by coasts, and what with their stay abroad to sell and purchase goods, and to refit their ships, as well as sometimes contrary winds, they were so long in performing this voyage, which is now done in a few months:

bringing gold and silver; so that silver was accounted of, and used for some purposes, though not for the king's plate:

ivory, and apes, and peacocks; ivory is the elephant's tooth, as the word signifies; some of those are of an almost incredible size; some are said to be of ninety, others one hundred and twenty five pounds weight; Vartomannus (y) says, he saw in Sumatra, where some place Ophir, one that weighed three hundred and thirty pounds; though, according to the Ethiopians (z) the ivory is from the horns; and so say (a) Pausanias and others, see Ezekiel 27:15 but it is commonly supposed to be of the two teeth in the upper jaw that stands out; and whether they are called horns or teeth, they are the same of which ivory is: of elephants there were large numbers in India, bigger and stronger than those in Africa; which latter were afraid of the former, as Diodorus Siculus (b), Curtius (c), and Pliny (d) relate; so Virgil (e) speaks of ivory as fetched from India and Horace (f) also, which must be East India, for there are no ivory nor apes in the West Indies (g): "apes" or "monkeys" were then, as now, brought from those parts. Strabo (h) reports, that when the Macedonians under Alexander were there, such a vast number of them came out of the woods, and placed themselves on the open hills, that they took them for an army of men set in battle array to fight them. Vartomannus (i) speaks of monkeys in the country of Calecut, of a very small price: near Surat apes are in great esteem, nor will they suffer them to be killed on any account (k). There are various sorts of apes, some more like to goats, others to dogs, others to lions, and some to other animals, as Philostorgius (l) relates; and who also says the sphinx is one sort of them, and which he describes on his own sight of it as resembling mankind in many things, and as a very subtle animal; and so Solinus (m) reckons such among apes; but what come nearest in name and sound to the "kuphim" of Solomon here are those Pliny (n) calls "cephi", whose fore feet he says are like the hands of men, and their hinder feet like the feet and thighs of men; and Strabo (o) describes a creature found in Ethiopia, called by him "ceipus" or "cepus", which has a face like a satyr, and the rest of it is between a dog and a bear. There is a creature called "cebus" by Aristotle (p), and is described as having a tail, and all the rest like a man; according to Ludolf (q), "cephus" is the "orangoutang" of the Indians. The word for peacocks should rather be rendered "parrots", so Junius; which are well known to come from India (r), and from thence only, according to Pausanias (s); Vartomannus (t) says, that at Calecut there are parrots of sundry colours, as green and purple, and others of mixed colours, and such a multitude of them, that men are appointed to keep them from the rice in the fields, as we keep crows from corn; and that they are of a small price, one is sold for two pence, or half a souse; and the number of them may be accounted for, because the Brachmans, the priests, reckon them sacred, and therefore the Indians eat them not (u). Curtius (w) designs these, when he says, in India are birds, which are taught to imitate man's voice; and Solinus (x) says, that India only produces the green parrot, that is, the East Indies, the West Indies not being then discovered; though some (y) think they were, and that it was thither Solomon's navy went: certain it is there are parrots of various colours in the West Indies, which P. Martyr of Angleria frequently makes mention of in his Decades. Huetius (z) derives the Hebrew word here used from which he says signifies to "join" or "adhere" to anything, as these birds will; cling to, and hang by their bills and nails on a branch of a tree, &c. so that they are not easily separated from it; the word is used in Deuteronomy 33:3 and, according to some, in this sense. But, after all, if it should be insisted on, as it is by many, that "peacocks" are meant, these also are found in India. Alexander the great first saw them in this country, which so amazed him, that he threatened to punish those severely that should kill any of them (a). Vartomannus (b) makes mention of them as in great numbers in some parts of India; and they are caught and sold at an easy rate at Surat (c), and make part both of their game, and of their grand entertainments (d); Aeianus (e) often speaks of them as in India in great numbers, and in great esteem.

(s) Geograph. l. 3. p. 104. (t) De Situ Orbis, l. 2. c. 6. (u) Hist. l. 1. in principio. (w) Comment. in Jesaiam, c. 23. 1.((x) Antiqu. l. 8. c. 7. sect. 2.((y) Navigat. l. 6. c. 22. (z) Ludolf. Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. c. 10. (a) Eliac. 1. p. 308, 309. Vid. Plin. l. 8. c. 3. Aelian. Hist. Animal. l. 4. c. 21. & 7. 2. & 11. 37. & 14. 5. Varro apud Schindler. Lexic Pentaglott. col. 1905. (b) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 121. So Polybius, Hist. l. 5. (c) Hist. l. 8. c. 9. (d) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 9. (e) "India mittit ebur". Georgic. l. 1. ver. 57. (f) "---Non aurum et ebur Indicum". Carmin. l. 1. Ode 31. Manetho. Apotelesm. ver. 297. & l. 4. ver. 149. Philo. de Praemiis, p. 924. (g) Manasseh Spes Israelis, sect. 2. p. 21. Ortel. Thesaur. Geograh. Varrerius de Ophyra. (h) Geograph. l. 15. p. 480. (i) Navigat. l. 5. c. 20. (k) Ovington's Voyage to Sarat, p. 360, 361, 596. (l) Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 11. (m) Polyhist. c. 40. (n) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 19. (o) Ut supra, (Geograph.) l. 17. p. 559. (p) Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 8, 9. (q) Ethiop. Hist. l. 1. c. 10. (r) Aelian. de Animal. l. 16. c. 2. "Psittacus eois ales mihi missus ab India". Ovid. Amor. l. 2. Eleg. 6. (s) Corinthiaca, sive, l. 2. p. 136. (t) Ut supra. (Navigat. l. 5. c. 20.) (u) Aelian de Animal. l. 13. c. 18. (w) Ut supra. (Hist. l. 8. c. 9.) (x) Polyhistor. c. 65. (y) Erasm. Schmid. de America Orat. ad. Calc. Pindari, p. 261. Vatablus in loc. & in c. 9. 28. Hornius de Gent. Americ. l. 2. c. 6, 7, 8. (z) De Navigat. Solomon. c. 7. sect. 6. (a) Aelian. ut supra, (de Animal. l. 16. c. 2.) & l. 5. c. 21. Curtii Hist. l. 9. c. 1.((b) Navigat. l. 6. c. 7. (c) Ovington's Voyage to Surat, p. 268, 269. (d) lbid. p. 398. (e) De Animal. l. 11. c. 33. & l. 13, 18. & l. 16. c. 2.

For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of {h} Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.

(h) By Tharshish is meant Cilicia, which was abundant in the variety of precious things.

22. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish] i.e. Of ships such as were used in the trade with Tarshish (cf. 1 Kings 22:48). These would probably be of the largest build then possible. Tarshish is most likely Tartessus in the south of Spain, with which place the Tyrians had considerable trade, and it is not difficult to understand how such a class of traffic would give a name to the vessels that bore it, just as we say now ‘an East Indiaman.’ Josephus explains the name by saying they were ships which plied ἐν τῇ Ταρσικῇ λεγομένῃ θαλάττῃ ‘in the Tarsic sea as it is called.’ But it is clear that the articles brought in Solomon’s fleet could not be found in the country about Tartessus, except perhaps some gold. It is better therefore to understand the name as derived from the character of the craft rather than from the place to which they sailed.

once in three years came the navy] The voyage here alluded to was most likely the voyage to Ophir mentioned in 1 Kings 9:28. The time consumed between voyage and voyage would be partly spent in loading and unloading, and in traffic at the various marts at which the fleet touched. Josephus explains that the things brought were procured by barter, though neither he nor the text tells us what was taken in the fleet when the voyage commenced.

ivory, and apes, and peacocks] The words used for the two first of these are most likely of Sanskrit origin, the second entirely, the first in part; and as peacocks are natives of India these names point to India as the source from which Solomon’s imports were drawn. Whether the ships visited India or collected their cargoes on the coasts of Arabia and in the Persian Gulf it is not easy to decide. The time occupied is enough for even a ship of that period to have coasted round India.

In the LXX. after 1 Kings 10:22 is inserted great part of the substance of that long omission noticed above from 1 Kings 10:15-25, in chapter 9; though there is no mention made of Pharaoh’s expedition against Gezer, nor of the daughter of Pharaoh coming out of Zion to dwell in the house built for her, nor of Solomon’s sacrifices thrice in the year.

Verse 22. - For [Reason why silver was so lightly esteemed. It was because of the prodigious quantity both of gold and silver brought in by the fleet] the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish [It has been much disputed

(1) whether this was a second fleet, or the same as that mentioned 1 Kings 9:26-28, as trading to Ophir, and

(2) whether this fleet, if it were not the same, went to Ophir or to Tartessus in Spain. Keil and Bahr contend that there was Out one fleet, first, because there is no mention of a second fleet at 1 Kings 9:28, and, secondly, because the cargoes were practically the same. I incline (with Rawlinson, al.) to think there were two separate navies, for the following reasons:

(1) The expression "navy of Tarshish" (in 2 Chronicles 9:21 expanded into "ships going to Tarshish," which Keil and Bahr are compelled to set aside as a mistake on the part of the writer), taken in connexion with the following words, "with (עִם, together with, as well as) the navy of Hiram" (i.e., as we conclude from ver. 11, the navy manned, or, it may be, owned, by Hiram) points to a separate fleet;

(2) the cargoes, so far from being the same, strike me as being altogether diverse. The Ophir fleet brought in "gold, almug trees, and precious stones." The navy of Tarshish "gold and silver ivory, apes, and peacocks." See below.

(3) Even if we understand here by the "navy of Hiram" a Phoenician fleet, still a second fleet is indicated. But this leads us to consider the destination of these ships. The term, "fleet of Tarshish," does not in itself prove anything, for the expression, "ships of Tarshish," is almost a synonym for "merchant vessels." In 1 Kings 22:48 we read, "Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir," and they "were broken at Ezion-geber" (cf. Psalm 48:7; Jonah 1:3). It is probable that in Jewish lips the words were a nomen generale for all vessels going long voyages (Isaiah 2:16; Psalm 48:7; compare our "East Indiaman," "Greenlander"). But the words "in the sea," בַּיָּם, are most naturally understood of that ocean which the Jews called par excellence "the sea," or "the great sea" (Numbers 34:6, 7), i.e., the Mediterranean, though the term הַיָּם is undoubtedly used of the Red Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea. And the more so as we know that the Tyrians had an extensive commerce with Tartessus, which was a great emporium of trade from the earliest times. Bahr objects that "no gold is found in Spain, but few peacocks, and little ivory;" but Rawlinson, on the other hand, affirms that "Spain had the richest silver mines known in the ancient world, and had a good deal of gold also" (Plin., Nat. Hist. 3:4), while "apes and ivory were produced by the opposite coast of Africa" (Herod. 4:191. As to peacocks see below). And it is a powerful argument in favour of Tartessus that it is the plentifulness of silver in Solomon's days has suggested this reference to the fleet. For though silver "was found in the land of the Nabataeans, according to Strabo, 16:784" (Keil), yet it was to Tartessus that the ancient world was chiefly indebted for its supplies of that metal. On the whole, therefore, it seems probable that second fleet, trading with the Mediterranean seaports, is here described. And Psalm 72:10 is distinctly in favour of this conclusion. When Ewald says ("Hist. Israel," 3:263) that the Phoenicians would hardly tolerate a rival in the Mediterranean, he surely forgets that they had been admitted by the Jews to share the trade of Ophir] with the navy of Hiram; once in three years [This period agrees better with a voyage to Spain than to Southern Arabia. And if we understand it of Spanish voyages, it removes one difficulty in the way of placing Ophir in Arabia. It has also been urged that "the Hebrews reckoned parts of years and days as whole ones" (Kitte); but this hardly would apply to the expression "once in three years"] came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold and silver ivory [Heb. tooth of elephants, LXX. ὀδόντες ἐλεφάντινοι. It is noteworthy that the name for elephant used here is derived from the Sanskrit (Gesen.), and an argument has been drawn hence in favour of placing Ophir in India, and of identifying the Tarshish fleet with the navy of Ophir. But such conclusions are extremely precarious. The name may have first come to the Jews from India, in which case it would be retained, from whatever quarter the commodity was subsequently derived. See Rawlinson, p. 546], and apes [קופis in like manner identified by Gesenius, al., with the Sanskrit kapi. Sir J. Emerson Tennant ("Ceylon," 2 p 102) says "the terms by which these articles (ivory, apes, and peacocks) are designated in the Hebrew Scriptures are identical with the Tamil names by which some of them are called in Ceylon to the present day"], and peacocks. [So the the ancients interpret the original word, though some of the moderns would understand "parrots." But the root תכי appears in several Aryan tongues (cf. ταῶς, from ταρως, and pavo) as indicating the peacock (Gesen., Max Muller, al.) which originally came from India. Whether it was also found in Africa is uncertain. Aristophanes (Birds, 485) says, καλεῖται Περσικὸς ὄρνις. Wordsworth very justly sees in the mention of these curious beasts and birds a symptom of declension in simplicity and piety, a token that "wealth had brought with it luxury and effeminacy, and a frivolous, vainglorious love for novel and outlandish objects.' 1 Kings 10:22The drinking vessels of Solomon also were all of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon of costly gold (סגוּר: see at 1 Kings 6:20). Silver was counted as nothing, because the Tarshish fleet arrived once in three years, bringing gold, silver, etc. (see at 1 Kings 9:28).
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