The Garden of Eden is the first location mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 2), and is the backdrop for one of the most iconic histories of the Bible: The lives of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace. Whether or not you believe this to be true history or a purely symbolic or legendary account, it seems undeniable that the Bible itself treats the Garden as a real place.
The Garden is said to have been located in the land called Eden, which was in the East. The Bible names four rivers that watered the garden known as the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates (Genesis 2:10-14), the other lands that these rivers flowed to and even what some of those lands were famous for. This Garden in Eden had a real location. So where is it?
“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.”
There are two basic ways that interpreters have dealt with these physical descriptors:
The first takes the text seriously and uses the Tigris and Euphrates rivers today as a place to begin. These rivers maintain their ancient names, and by and large still follow the same course beginning in the mountains of Turkey, joining together in modern Iraq and then emptying into the Persian Gulf. In this scenario the location of Garden of Eden is believed to be in the now flooded northern section of the Persian Gulf. Genesis 2:10 says, “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.” This is interpreted as meaning that four rivers joined into one and then that one river flowed through the Garden and emptied into the Gulf. Interestingly there are candidates for the other two rivers.
The Gihon is identified with the Dez and Karun rivers that flow through Western Iran and still meet up with the Tigris and Euphrates. Genesis links this Gihon river with the land of Cush, which in this view is tied to the Kassites (it is also noted that Nimrod son of Kush reigned in Mesopotamia in Genesis 10 – so there may have been a few lands named “Cush” in ancient times).
In 1994 satellite radar images of northern Arabia revealed a long dried river that provides evidence for a possible Pishon river. In Genesis this river Pishon is connected to the land of Havilah, and its abundant gold. This dried up river flowed from western Arabia that had ancient gold connections and may be identifiable as Havilah, it flowed east towards the Tigris and Euphrates whom it joined before flowing into the Persian Gulf.
The second view also takes the text seriously, but interprets Genesis 2 in light of (Genesis 6-8) Noah’s Flood. If the Bible is accurate, and this flood was a global event then the landscape in which the Garden of Eden existed is no more. There’s no real way of telling how much the geography of the world changed. Are mountains, canyons, rivers and gulfs now how they were before the Flood? It is unknown. How then does this theory account for the Tigris and Euphrates still existing? The survivors of the Flood rebuilt, and named their new surroundings after what once was.
Corie Bobechko | January 1, 2020 – 9:33 AM EST