“Then the mariners
To his own god.
That was in the ship
Into the sea,
To lighten it
The sailors on this ship were afraid during the sea storm. They each cried to their own god, since these sailors were from all different regions and countries. They also threw overboard some of the cargo on board to lighten the ship.
“The oracle concerning Tyre.
O ships of Tarshish!
Your fortress is destroyed.
When they came in
They learned of it.”
Tyre was a Phoenician costal island city that still exists in southern Lebanon. Known for its maritime trade and purple dye, it was actually in the Israelite territory of Asher. The ships of Tarshish are mentioned 24 times in the biblical books, most notably when speaking about the wealth of King Solomon, in 1 Kings, chapter 10. Tarnish must have been someplace where there was a lot of metal, such as silver, probably some distance away, since speculation continues as to its exact location. The fortress or the houses of Tyre would be destroyed. Apparently these Phoenician sailors from Tyre were coming back from the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, when they learned about this destruction.
One preparing to sail,
About to voyage over raging waves,
Calls upon a piece of wood
More fragile than the ship that carries him.
It was desire for gain
That planned that vessel.
Wisdom was the artisan who built it.
But it is your providence,
That steers its course.
Because you have given it a path in the sea,
A safe way through the waves.
You show that you can save it from every danger.
Thus even a person who lacks skill
May put to sea.
It is your will
That works of your wisdom
Should not be without effect.
Therefore people trust their lives
Even to the smallest piece of wood.
They pass through the billows
On a raft
So that they come safely to land.”
Apparently there was a custom to put a wooden idol on the front or the prow of the ship to protect them. Even today we see some sort of decoration on the front of ships. Obviously, this decorative idol was less firm than the whole ship. However, this author points out that it was the wisdom (σοφίᾳ) of the carpenter and the desire for gain that built the ships. God was the providence (πρόνοια) and father (πάτερ) of all who steered their course through the waves of the sea. Once again, this is a Greek philosophical and biblical concept about providence guiding the world. Thus even those who lacked skill were still protected by divine wisdom (τῆς σοφίας). People put trust in the tiniest piece of wood to guide them through rough patches on the sea.
“King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who were familiar with the sea, together with the servants of Solomon. They went to Ophir. They imported from there four hundred twenty talents of gold. They brought it to King Solomon.”
Solomon went into the ship building business. He immediately got his good friend Hiram from Tyre, the Phoenician, to help with his ships since they were good seamen. Eloth was a seaport in the land of Edom on the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba. Ophir is difficult to locate, but there was a huge gold mine there. There is a mention of this in Genesis, chapter 10, when showing how the earth was populated after the great flood. The descendants of Shem, Noah’s son lived in the Persian Gulf or the Indian Ocean area and they mention the town of Ophir. So both authors were familiar with this town and its gold. This time the gold haul is 420 talents of gold. As we discussed in chapter 9, the value of a gold talent, this gold delivery to Solomon would be 4 times the value that Hiram gave him. That would put its value around 2 billion USA dollars, $2,000,000,000.00, quite a large amount of money or wealth for anything, even for 3,000 years ago.