Ships and Boats
|| I. THE HEBREWS AND THE SEA
II. SHIPS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT AND THE APOCRYPHA
1. Among the Hebrews
(1) In Early Times
(2) During the Monarchy
(3) In Later Times
2. Among Neighboring Nations
(2) Assyria and Babylonia
3. General References
III. SHIPS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. In the Gospels
2. In the Ac of the Apostles
3. In Other Books
In thethe following words are found:
(1) The word most commonly used in Hebrew for "a ship" is ’oniyah (
The collective term for "a navy of ships" is ’oni (
(2) tsi (
In Apocrypha ploion, is the usual word (14:1; Ecclesiasticus 33:2, etc.), translated "vessel" in The 14:1, but "ship" elsewhere. For "ship" The Wisdom of Solomon 5:10 has naus. "Boat" in 2 Macc 12:3,6 is for skaphos, and "navy" in 1 Macc 1:17; 2 Macc 12:9; 14:1 for stolos. In The Wisdom of Solomon 14:6 Noah’s ark is called a schedia, a "clumsy ship" (the literal translation "raft" in the Revised Version (British and American) is impossible).
In thethere are four words in use:
(1) naus (
(2) ploiarion, "a little boat" (
(3) ploion, "boat" (
(4) skaphe, "boat" (
I. The Hebrews and the Sea.
The Hebrews were a pastoral and agricultural people, and had no inducements to follow a seafaring life. They were possessed of a considerable seaboard along the Mediterranean, but the character of their coast gave little encouragement to navigation. The coast line of the land of Israel from Carmel southward had no bays and no estuaries or river-mouths to offer shelter from storm or to be havens of ships. Solomon landed his timber and other materials for the Temple at Joppa, and tradition has handed down what is called "Solomon’s Harbor" there. The builders of the second temple also got timber from Lebanon and conveyed it to Joppa. It was
II. Ships in the Old Testament and Apocrypha.
1. Among the Hebrews:
(1) In Early Times.
In the early books of the Old Testament there are references connecting certain of the tribes, and these northern tribes, with the activities of the sea. In the "Blessing of Jacob" and in the "Blessing of Moses" Zebulun and Issachar are so connected (
(2) During the Monarchy.
It is not till the time of the monarchy that the Hebrews begin to figure as a commercial people. Already in the time of David commercial relations had been established between Israel and Tyre (
From Solomon’s time onward the kings of Judah retained their hold upon Eloth (
(3) In Later Times.
As Solomon had the cooperation of Hiram in securing material and craftsmen for the building of the first Temple, so Joshua and Zerubbabel by the favor of Cyrus obtained timber from Lebanon, and masons and carpenters from Sidon and Tyre for the building of the second. Again, cedar trees were brought from Lebanon by sea to Joppa, and thence conveyed to Jerusalem (
From Joppa Jonah fled to avoid compliance with God’s command to go to Nineveh and preach repentance there (
It was in the time of Simon, the last survivor of the Maccabean brothers, that Joppa became a seaport with a harbor for shipping--"Amid all his glory he took Joppa for a haven, and made it an entrance for the isles of the sea" (1 Macc 14:5). When Simon reared his monument over the sepulcher of his father and brothers at Modin, he set up seven pyramids with pillars, upon which were carved figures of ships to be "seen of all that sail on the sea" (1 Macc 13:29). About this period we hear of ships in naval warfare. WhenEpiphanes planned his expedition against Egypt, he had with other armaments "a great navy," presumably ships of war (1 Macc 1:17); and at a later time speaks expressly of "ships of war" (1 Macc 15:3).
2. Among Neighboring Nations:
The Egyptians, like other nations of antiquity, had a great horror of the open sea, although they were expert enough in managing their craft upon the Nile. Pharaoh-necoh built up a powerful navy to serve him both in commerce and in war.
Of explicit references to Egyptian ships in the Old Testament there are but few. Isaiah speaks of "vessels of papyrus upon the waters" of the Upper Nile, on board of which are the messengers of Cush or Ethiopia returning to tell the tidings of the overthrow of Assyria to the inhabitants of those remote lands (18:2 the King James Version has "bulrushes" instead of "papyrus"). Ezekiel also, foretelling the overthrow of Egypt, speaks of messengers traveling with the news on swift Nile boats to strike terror into the hearts of the "careless Ethiopians" (30:9). When Job compares his days to "the swift ships" ("the ships of reed" the Revised Version margin), the allusion is most likely to Egypt’s, these being skiffs with a wooden keel and the rest of bulrushes, sufficient to carry one person, or at most two, and light, to travel swiftly (9:26).
(2) Assyria and Babylonia.
The Assyrians and Babylonians were mainly an inland people, but their rivers gave them considerable scope for navigation. The Assyrian monuments contain representations of naval engagements and of operations on the seacoast. When Isaiah pictures Yahweh as a better defense of Judah than the rivers and streams of Assyria and Egypt are to their people he says, "There Yahweh will be with us in majesty, a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars (’oni shayiT), neither shall gallant ship (tsi ’addir) pass thereby. .... Thy tacklings (ropes, cables) are loosed; they could not strengthen the foot of their mast, they could not spread the sail" (
It was from the Phoenicians that the Mediterranean peoples learned seamanship and skill in navigation. It is fitting, therefore, that in his dirge over the downfall of the mistress of the sea, Ezekiel should represent Tyre as a gallant ship, well built, well furnished, and well manned, broken by the seas in the depths of the waters, fallen into the heart of the seas in the day of her ruin. Ezekiel’s description (chapter 27, with Davidson’s notes) brings together more of the features of the ship of antiquity than any other that has come down to us. Her builders have made her perfect in beauty with planks of fir or cypress, mast of cedar, oars of the oak of Bashan, benches or deck of ivory inlaid with boxwood, sail of fine linen with broidered work from Egypt, and an awning of blue and purple from the coastlands of Elisha (possibly Sicily). She is manned with oarsmen of Sidon and Arvad, pilots of the wise men of Tyre, calkers from Gebal to stop up the cracks and seams in her timbers, mariners and men of war from other lands who enhanced her beauty by hanging up the shield and helmet within her. She is freighted with the most varied cargo, the produce of the lands around, her customers, or as they are called, her traffickers, being Tarshish in the far West, Sheba and Arabia in the South, Haran and Asshur in the East, Javan, which is Greece, and Togarmah, which is Armenia, in the North. One or two of the particulars of this description may be commented upon.
(a) As regards rigging, the Phoenician ships of the time of Ezekiel, as seen in Assyrian representations, had one mast with one yard and carried a square sail. Egyptian ships on the Red Sea about the time of the Exodus, from reliefs of the XIXth Dynasty, had one mast and two yards, and carried also one large square sail. The masts and yards were made of fir, or of pine, and the sails of linen, but the fiber of papyrus was employed as well as flax in the manufacture of sail-cloth. The sail had also to serve "for an ensign" (lenes,
(b) As regards the crew, in the two-banked Phoenician ship the rowers of the first bank work their oars over the gunwale, and those of the second through portholes lower down, so that each may have free play for his oar. The calkers were those who filled up seams or cracks in the timbers with tow and covered them over with tar or wax, after the manner of the instruction given to Noah regarding the Ark: "Thou .... shalt pitch it within and without with pitch" (
(c) As regards cargo, it is to be noted that "the persons of men," that is, slaves, formed an article of merchandise in which Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, countries to the North, traded with Tyre.
3. General References:
Of general references to shipping and seafaring life there are comparatively few in the Old Testament. In his great series of Nature-pictures in
III. Ships in the New Testament.
1. In the Gospels:
It is the fishing-boats of the Sea of Galilee which exclusively occupy attention in the Gospels. In the time of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee the shores of the Sea were densely peopled, and there must have been many boats engaged in the fishing industry. Bethsaida at the northern end of the Lake and Tarichea at the southern end were great centers of the trade. The boats were probably of a size and build similar to the few employed on the Lake today, which are between 20 and 30 ft. in length and 7 ft. in breadth. The word "launch," of putting a boat or a ship into the sea, has disappeared from the Revised Version (British and American), except in
2. In the Ac of the Apostles:
It is Paul’s voyages which yield us the knowledge that we possess from Biblical sources of ships in New Testament times. They are recorded for us in the Ac by Luke, who, as Sir William Ramsay puts it, had the true Greek feeling for the sea (St. Paul the Traveler, 21). In Luke’s writings there are many nautical terms, peculiar to him, used with great exactitude and precision.
When Paul had appealed to Caesar and was proceeding to Rome in charge of Julius, the centurion, along with other prisoners, a ship of Adramyttium, a coasting vessel, carried the party from Caesarea along the Syrian coast, northward of Cyprus, past Cilicia and Pamphylia, to Myra of Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, one of the great corn fleet carrying grain from Egypt for the multitudes of Rome. (After the capture of Jerusalem the emperor Titus returned to Italy in such a vessel, touching at Rhegium and landing at Puteoil.) The size of the vessel is indicated by the fact that there were 276 persons on board, crew and passengers all told (
Of those engaged in handling the ship we find (
Of operations belonging to the navigation of the vessel in the storm there were
(1) the taking on board of the ship’s boat and securing it with ropes (
(2) the undergirding of the ship (
(3) the lowering of the gear (
(4) throwing freight overboard and later casting out the tackling of the ship (
(5) taking soundings (
(6) letting go four anchors from the stern (
(7) further lightening the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea (
(8) cutting the anchor cables, unlashing the rudders, hoisting up the foresail to the wind, and holding straight for the beach (
Of the parts of the ship’s equipment there are mentioned "the sounding lead" (bolis, though it is the verb which is here used), "the anchors" (agkurai, of which every ship carried several, and which at successive periods have been made of stone, iron, lead and perhaps other metals, each having two flukes and being held by a cable or a chain), "the rudders" (pedalia, of which every ship had two for steering, which in this case had been lifted out of the water and secured by "bands" to the side of the ship and unlashed when the critical moment came), "the foresail" artemon, not the mainsail, but the small sail at the bow of the vessel which at the right moment was hoisted to the wind to run her ashore), and "the boat" (skaphe, which had been in tow in the wake of the vessel, according to custom still prevalent in those seas--coasting-vessels being sometimes becalmed, when the crew get into the small boat and take the ship in tow, using the oars to get her round a promontory or into a position more favorable for the wind). The season for navigation in those seas in ancient times was from April to October. During the winter the vessels were laid up, or remained in the shelter of some suitable haven. The reason for this was not simply the tempestuous character of the weather, but the obscuration of the heavens which prevented observations being taken for the steering of the ship (
3. In Other Books:
In Hebrews the hope of the gospel is figured as "an anchor .... sure and stedfast, and entering into that which is within the veil" (6:19, especially with Ebrard’s note in Alford, at the place). James, showing the power of little things, adduces the ships, large though they be, and driven by fierce winds, turned about by a very small "rudder" (pedalion), as "the impulse of the steersman willeth" (
The usual books on Greek and Roman antiquities furnish descriptions and illustrations. Works on the monuments like Layard, Nineveh, II, 379 ff; Maspero, Ancient Egypt and Assyria; Ball, Light from the East, and Reissner, Cairo Museum Catalogue, "Models of," 1913, contain descriptions and figured representations which are instructive. On shipping and navigation in classical antiquity Smith of Jordanhill, , is still the standard authority.