Looking for Eden (Genesis 2)

The name Eden might have had one of two origins: the Sumerian word eden, which means “steppe” or “open field”, or the identical Semitic word, denoting “luxury” or “delight”. In Scripture, Eden is not only the name of the garden in which the first humans resided but also a metaphorical representation of the Garden of God (i.e. Yahweh’s dwelling place, Isaiah 51:3, Ezekiel 28:12-15, 31:8-18).

Eden’s precise location remains a mystery. Genesis 2:8 indicates that the Lord planted the garden “in the East, in Eden”. This suggests a location east of Canaan. In addition, the Bible associates four rivers with Eden, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates (verses 10-14).

The Tigris and the Euphrates are undoubtedly the two Mesopotamian rivers that still bears those names today. The Gihon (possibly Hebrew for “to gush”) and Pishon (usually understood to be a form of the Semetic verb “to spring up”) are more difficult to identify.

A spring named the Gihon waters Jerusalem, but this location does not match the description of its route through the land of Cush (verse 13). Many scholars identify the Gihon as the Nile, since Cush is sometimes associated with Nubia, south of Egypt. If this association is correct, it is all but impossible to make sense of the description of Eden’s location, since this region nowhere converges with the Tigris and Euphrates.

Others identify Cush as the land of the Kassites, east of the Tigris, also known as Kush during ancient times. This theory makes better geographical sense. Finally, still other scholars posit that the Gishon and the Pishon were canals or contributaries of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Another challenge is determining the relationship of the four rivers to the single river that flowed through and watered Eden. Most scholars that they were downstream of the river in Eden, implying that all the four rivers shared a common source and placing Eden in northern Mesopotamia or Armenia.

This supposition poses a problem, however, since the Tigris and Euphrates lack a common source. To suggest that the four rivers were upstream of the river of Eden makes some sense because these two rivers converge in southern Mesopotamia before entering the Persian Gulf. In this scenario Eden may still, as above, have been located in northern Mesopotamia or in the mountains of Armenia, from which the Tigris and Euphrates spring. Another possible setting would have been southern Mesopotamia where they converge and end.

Personal addition:

All these theories have their problems as there is no place one great river that runs through Eden (or any current country) and splits into four major rivers. The way Genesis 2 says it, this doesn’t fit current typography.

Personally, I believe the explanation offered by Institute for Creation Research. If these four rivers existed before the flood in Noah’s days, and the flood totally changed the typography of the land, the world after the flood might hav been totally changed, and Eden wiped off the earth completely. Don’t forget that cherubims were guarding the entrance to the garden, so that man could not return there. We can not find this garden today. It is gone. When Noah’s descendents were naming the new world after the flood, they simply used two of the names that were in use before the flood. This is no different from USA having some of the same names on some of their cities as they had i England where they came from.

I think this explanation makes more sense, but it requires a verbal, litteral interpretation of the Bible. We cannot know where the Garden of Eden is, because God has removed it. We can not go there again and find the tree of life.

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