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Ship, shipping

The Hebrews were at no period a seafaring people and usually regarded the sea with vague terror (Prov. 23:34). Though some parts of the seacoast of Palestine were at one time or another inhabited by Israelites (Gen. 49:13; Judg. 5:17), shipping on a large scale was almost exclusively in the hands of the Phoenicians. Hence Solomon required the help of Tyrians when he built his navy at the northeastern extremity of the Red Sea, near Elath, for the purpose of carrying on trade with southern Arabia (1 Kgs. 9:26–28). In later times attempts were made to renew this very profitable traffic (1 Kgs. 22:48; 2 Kgs. 14:22), until the Syrians took final possession of Elath in the days of King Ahaz (2 Kgs. 16:6). Large vessels were called by the Hebrews “ships of Tarshish” (Isa. 2:16), ships like those used by the Phoenicians for long voyages, Tarshish (Tartessus in the southwest of Spain) being the extreme limit of Israelite geography (Jonah 1:3). Our knowledge of what the earliest Phoenician ships were like is derived from Assyrian pictures of about 800 B.C. One painting represents a war galley, with upper and lower tiers of oarsmen, with mast, yard, and fore and back stays, and with double steering paddle. Some vessels were provided with three tiers of rowers. The Romans, who learned their shipbuilding from the Phoenicians, built much larger vessels, which in New Testament times were frequently propelled entirely by means of sails (see Acts 27).