Dear Aebi ...

"Where Was The Garden Of Eden?"

Charles J. Aebi

The Garden of Eden is usually thought to have been somewhere in the Middle East, possibly in Iraq, though many areas and even other continents have been suggested. Eden was before the flood, and there is evidence that before the flood the whole earth had a warm climate. Many things may have been different before the flood, including climate, atmosphere, topography, and man's life span potential; but, suppose that things have not changed that much where would that put Eden? One theory places Eden in Armenia or Turkey, at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates, and supposes that some unknown river fed these and two other rivers. Another puts Eden in the lower Tigris and Euphrates Valleys in Babylonia (Iraq or Kuwait today) where the two rivers come together today, then divide into the delta at the head of the Persian Gulf; this is more likely if the topography has not changed much.

The word Eden is thought to come from either Hebrew (in which it would mean "delight" or "paradise") or from Assyrian (in which it would mean "plain"). Eden is found 19 times in the American Standard Version, sometimes referring to the name of a person, as in 2 Chronicles 29:12. The garden was "eastward in Eden," referring either to the eastern part of whatever region was called Eden early in human history, or to some area east of where Moses was when he wrote Genesis, that is, east of the Sinai Peninsula.

Clues in Genesis 2:8-14 include the statement that a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, which may suggest an arid country that needed irrigation from a river. This is true of most of the Middle East. It also says Eden's river divided into four rivers which are named, and two of the names correspond to two known rivers of the Middle East, the Tigris (called "Hiddekel" in the King James Version) and the Euphrates. Those rivers may or may not be the Tigris and Euphrates we know today. The flood of Noah's day could have changed the locations of what we now know as the Tigris and the Euphrates, as could have earthquakes or geologic uplifts. The division of a river into four branches might suggest a delta, and other geographic features also are possible as explanations of this phenomenon.

Genesis 2:8-14 names the Pishon River and says it flows around the whole land of Havilah. Havilah perhaps was in what we now know as Arabia, but another option is the Sinai (Genesis 25:18). Havilah and Cush, in the table of nations in Genesis 10, seem to have been located in Africa. The second river, the Gihon, is said to flow around the whole land of Cush, which at times was between Egypt and Ethiopia, in northern Africa, although "Cush" may sometimes describe parts of Ethiopia, Arabia, or even Mesopotamia. Cush is mentioned about a dozen times in the Old Testament, depending on which translation is used.

If the Tigris and Euphrates in Genesis 2 are the current rivers of that name, Eden could have been either in southern Iraq where the delta now is or elsewhere in the Tigris-Euphrates Valleys. The Tigris is said in Genesis 2:14 to flow east of Assyria (at the time when Moses wrote); in later Old Testament history the Tigris flowed through Assyria. Gold, onyx, and bdellium were present around Havilah. These things certainly suggest the Middle East. The Tigris and Euphrates meet today in southern Iraq and then split into rivers flowing through the delta in Kuwait into the Persian Gulf. If the delta has formed farther out into the Persian Gulf than in earlier times, the Gulf could have been farther northwest than it now is, which would put Eden somewhere in southern Iraq.

Since God made it impossible for man to return to Eden (Genesis 3:24), perhaps (as with Moses' burial place) He did not want later generations to know its precise location. - 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784.


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