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“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” Genesis 2:8

If you study the location of the Garden of Eden, your journey will take you across the globe according to whomever you happen to reading at the time. For thousands of years, men have pontificated and have tried to pinpoint the precise location where the Biblical Eden existed. Some have placed Eden as distantly as Mongolia, Ethiopia, Arabia, India–believing that the Ganges must be one of the noted rivers mentioned in Eden’s description found in the second chapter of Genesis, to even, ready for this?: the Florida-Georgia-Alabama border of the United States. Gorgeous country to be sure…but Eden?! We know from cultures around the world that legends of a garden paradise, a golden age when men lived very long lives, and a worldwide flood all corroborate the Biblical account.

But what do the Scriptures say about Eden?

8 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

Sumerian artifact depicting Adam and Eve by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with the serpent whispering to Eve. Dated approximately 2200 BC

“Of” verses “In”

8 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

The first thing to notice is that there actually isn’t a Garden “of” Eden, but instead what we find from the source material is that God created a Garden “in” Eden. While this might sound like a difference in semantics, the difference is quite significant. A Garden “of” Eden would seem to indicate that the entire area called Eden was comprised of a garden. Therefore, using techniques such as LANDSAT space imagery to locate fossil rivers and ancient areas of lush vegetation will not necessarily indicate a correct location. A Garden “in” Eden however, lends itself to the reality of a garden within the greater confines of a much larger area known as “Eden”, according to the Scriptures.

Reverse Water Cycle

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

The single greatest tip-off regarding Eden’s location is centered around the identity and location of the four headwaters described between verse ten and verse fourteen. What we don’t know is whether these rivers are in the midst of Eden, the garden or serve as borders enveloping the landmass.

Here in verse ten, we have another observation which is easy to miss if read too quickly. Evidently, before the worldwide flood in the days of Noah, the breaking up of the “fountains of the deep” (Genesis 7:11), and the loss of the water or ice canopy that surrounded earth’s atmosphere (Genesis 1:6-7, 2 Peter 3, Psalm 148:4), the water cycle was the opposite of the one we find today. Today, headwaters flow into larger rivers which usually and eventually flow into lakes and seas. Originally, however, one main river broke off into multiple headwaters which is the reverse of today’s water cycle. This consideration alone ought to make us tread lightly against making hasty generalizations regarding locations.

The Euphrates Red Herring

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. 13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

It seems that here, amidst these verses, we find the geographical “jumping-off” point regarding the location of Eden. Therefore, a misunderstanding concerning the location of these rivers has in my view, caused the greatest deal of confusion regarding the garden’s placement. Despite the mystery surrounding the first three rivers in verse eleven, thirteen, and fourteen, most Eden seekers latch on to the word “Euphrates” and immediately assume this means today’s Euphrates River which is in ancient Mesopotamia or modern day Southeastern Iraq. They then conjecture the identity of the other three rivers based on their proximity to today’s Euphrates River, such as assuming that the Hiddekel necessarily means the “Tigris”. While there does seem to be some relationship in the Hebrew between Hiddekel and “the rapid Tigris” (Daniel 10:4), this too, could simply be the result of a post-flood renaming.

However, we need to remember two important points. First, just because the Tigris borders Assyria to the east post-flood, doesn’t mean that was the location of Assyria or the river pre-flood. Secondly, during the approximately year-long, worldwide Noahic Flood, and precipitated by the bursting forth of the great water basins beneath the earth’s crust through what we today call fault lines, the entire real estate of the earth got dramatically busted up like an egg shell, was moved around and drastically altered. Scripture itself bears witness to this fact when we read for instance in the Psalms that the waters stood above the mountains and at the end of the flood, that the mountains arose, the valleys sunk down and the waters rushed off. (Psalm 104:6-8) The scar-filled earth today as well as marine fossils found on tops of mountains all over the world stand as silent witnesses to this testimony.

Therefore, the likelihood that the river we call the “Euphrates” today is the same one from Genesis Chapter Two is an assumption–a proposition accepted without evidence–and not necessarily verifiable. What may have occurred was, Noah or one of his sons, saw this new river after the flood waters subsided and said, “This reminds me of the old river Euphrates, and that’s what I’m going to call it.”, the same way the British landed in the New World and named “New” Jersey and “New” York after places they remembered back home in England.

Therefore, placing all of your geographical eggs in one basket based by assuming the modern location of the River Euphrates contains the key to pinpointing the Garden of Eden is no water-tight guarantee, especially if the reality is that the Garden itself only comprises a modest percentage of the overall real estate known as “Eden.”

Cole Thomas’ “The Garden of Eden”, 1828

Next up: In Search of Eden: Part II

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