Word of Wisdom: Running to Tarshish
תַּרְשִׁישׁ – Tarshish
We’ve all heard big fish stories. Perhaps you’ve even told one or two. Growing up in Michigan, surrounded by lakes, I heard many big fish stories as a child. “The fish was this big!” the fisherman would say. And each time he’d tell the story, the fish would be bigger.
Tarshish and the Story of Jonah
The biggest fish story of all time is that of a fish so large it swallowed a man whole. The man spent three days alive in the belly of the fish and then it vomited him up onto dry land.
That fish story, of course, is the story of Jonah. Often, it is referred to as “Jonah and the Whale” since it’s hard to imagine a fish big enough to swallow a man whole unless that fish was actually a whale.
Fish stories are usually fabrications or at least exaggerations, but this blog is not to discuss whether or not the story of Jonah and the Whale is true. It is to look at a word of wisdom found in this Biblical tale.
That word of wisdom is Tarshish.
In the story, Jonah is told by God to go to a city called Nineveh. Instead of going to Nineveh like he is supposed to, Jonah runs and jumps onto a ship heading for Tarshish.
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Tirtsah (teer-tsaw’) is the transliteration of the Hebrew word/place name that is read as Tarshish in the book of Jonah.
Tirtsah was a place, but the word also has a meaning. It means delightsomeness. Its root is the Hebrew word transliterated as ratsah (raw-tsaw’) which means to be pleased with; specifically, to satisfy a debt:–(be) accept(-able), accomplish, set affection, approve, consent with, delight (self), enjoy, (be, have a) favour(-able), like, observe, pardon, (be, have, take) please(-ure), reconcile self.
Okay, stay with me; I’m done with definitions. Back to the story and how Tarshish becomes a word of wisdom for us to think about.
Jonah is on a ship heading for Tarshish when a terrible storm hits. The mariners are freaking out. Not only are they in danger of losing the goods they’re shipping, but they’re thinking they’re going to lose their lives.
Jonah tells them that the storm is upon them because of him. They ask who he is and what his occupation is and Jonah has an interesting answer.
“I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” says Jonah.
I’m getting to the point here. Jonah says his job is to fear or revere God. However, Jonah is in the very process of running away from God, disobeying God.
Instead of doing his job, Jonah is trying to skip ahead to a place of delightsomeness. He’s trying to go to a place of accomplishment without accomplishing his task, a place of satisfied debt without paying his debt, and a place of pleasure without doing his work. He’s trying to go to Tarshish without going to Nineveh.
Jonah and the Fish – Modern Technology Analogy
Modern technology has made it so we often expect instant gratification. We want what we want and we want it now.
Many of us graduate college or even high school and think we should immediately get a house like our parents have in a nice neighborhood like they live in. Then we go into debt over our heads to get it instead of working hard for years to get to that point like our parents did.
Many of us expect to jump right into a great, high-paying job right out of school instead of starting at an entry-level job and working our way up to better positions.
Many of us want incredible marriages and happy families but don’t realize the work it takes to build strong relationships. Then our marriages fall apart when we haven’t put the work into them and we blame it on marrying the wrong person.
Almost everyone dreams of the delightsomeness of having it all right away without having to work for it. We’re trying to run to Tarshish, skipping the part where we have to work for it. Skipping the part where we go through Nineveh.
That’s the draw of things like get-rich schemes and gambling. There’s no bank account of cash from that Nigerian prince emailing you. These things are all big fish stories.
Before you’re swallowed up by one of these big fish, take a word of wisdom from Jonah. You can’t go to Tarshish before going through Nineveh. We can’t have all the things we want without working hard for them.
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