A Few Leading Clues
For many years theologians, historians, and scientific thinkers have disputed about the story of the Garden of Eden. Is it actual and historical? Is it allegorical or a myth? Or is it just plain fantasy? That it may have allegorical meaning, we will not deny. But one thing we do wish to point out is that, taken at face value, treated as if historical, some really astonishing things begin to come to light.
We begin to discover a strange alliance to certain actual
facts which the new science of archaeology is unearthing, a fitting
together of known facts; so much so that even the doubter is
made to stop and wonder if some reality does not lie behind the
ancient story. The Biblical account and description of Eden,
rightly and fairly treated, not only makes sense with itself
but harmonizes astonishingly well with the geography of ancient
times. That this should be so, we think, lends support to 'The
historical view" though others may dissent. Nevertheless,
let us set forth our findings for what they are worth, hoping
that others will pick up the good points therein and make further
That these subjects simply bristle with difficulties we know only too well, but we believe that what we have to say will remove at 1east some of them and will assist in establishing a good foundation for future study.
A Geographical Description
The Lord Jesus Christ and the New Testament writers always treat the Genesis account of Eden as historical. This alone is final and sufficient authority for a large number of people. However, it will do no harm to enquire into the story itself for self-evidence of actuality and historical genuineness.
The text itself runs as follows, each sentence and section dea1ing with specific places and things.
The River of Eden
Clue No. 1. Postdiluvian Names are Used
One glance at the known place-names in this list strikes us at once with an important factor. They appear to be names used in later history, definitely postdiluvian names, not antediluvian names, as evidenced by the Biblical record itself. They are names which came into use only after the Flood. The importance of this can scarcely be over-emphasized. "Assyria," (Hebrew, "Asshur") is a name which the Hebrews understood to derive from Asshur a son of Shem born after the Flood (Gen.1O:22). Therefore, in the Hebrew concept the name simply did not exist before the Flood. The same is true of others. "Havilah" is a postdiluvial name (Gen.l0:29); so is "Ethiopia'" ("Cush"), (Gen.l0:6). This proves conclusively that the writer was using names in current use known and recognized geographically at the time he was writing. In short, he quite expected his readers to be able to identify the locality by his description. It follows that the place was real at least. We are, at the moment, concerned with finding that place which the writer had in mind. But let us keep firmly in mind the essential factor that we are dealing with place-names in current use at the time Genesis was written.
Clue No.2. Eden was in Babylonia
The people who lived in the day when Genesis was written were
not such ignoramuses as to think the Euphrates and the Nile had
a common source or were anywhere connected. If they were aware
of the Ganges River at all, they would be stupid beyond comprehension
to imagine it somewhere linked on to the Tigris which they were
acquainted with from source to mouth.
Now as to the general whereabouts of Eden, Dr. George A. Barton in 'Archaeology and the Bible' (p.541, IVth ed., 1925, published by American Sunday School Union, Philadelphia), notes that Ezekiel uses the name as belonging to an actual locality existing in his day. When listing the countries which traded with the city of 'Tyre, Ezekiel names "Eden" as one of them. Dr. Barton says: "Ezekiel seems to have called southern Babylonia Eden. In ch. 27:23, in enumerating the places that had traded with Tyre, he begins at Haran, then mentions Canneh (a corruption of Calneh of Gen.10:10 identified by the Talmud with Nippur), Eden, and the traffickers of Sheba. He places Eden "in the series exactly where southern Babylonia lies." This is a clue from Scripture itself where to start looking for the Land of Eden.
Constructing a "Treasure Map"
Now we have something we want to find. We want to find out just where the Land of Eden was in Adam's day. We youngsters never had a treasure map to help us find Captain Kidd's hidden hoard. If had only had such, how we would have studied it! We would have had no rest until we had mastered its details and set out to discover the exact spot. Such is the enthusiasm of even the young for this world's wealth! But here in the Scriptures we are given a meticulous and careful description of the location of the Land of Eden. God did not give that unusual and detailed description without purpose. I am sure He wanted us to be able to find that location -- otherwise He wasted words to no purpose, and that is not like God. No, we may rest assured He intended us to be able to locate from this description just where man's original home really was, the place where our first parent's which lived in innocence until the first sin entered and man fell; after which he needed a Saviour, the promised "seed of the woman."
So precise and exact is the description of the rivers of Eden that we feel it is possible to pick up the details from the Scripture text and begin to place them on paper. This should assist us greatly. Therefore, with the locating of Eden as a "treasure" we want to find, let us start drawing a theoretical "treasure map" to assist us in our hunt. These sketches are based on a step-by...step solution to the Eden question which the writer submitted to the late Dr. William Bell Dawson of Montreal years ago. It is an attempt to explain the text simply, and without any geographical changes other than what are natural and scientifically recognized or at least acceptable in our present state of knowledge. Dr. Dawson immediately pronounced it the best approach to this subject he had seen. Some improvement has been made in these sketches and maps, as new light has come in, but basically the approach is the same.
Notice then, the first geographical feature given.
Take a sheet of paper and draw on it a fair sized circle. Then print in it the word "Eden." We do not know what shape Eden was, but this circle will represent the region to us until we can add sufficient details to do away with the fixed, exact circle.
Now the text informs us the garden was "eastward in Eden." The top of your paper will be north, so the easterly side will be the right side. Draw a smaller circle inside the larger circle, but close to the right side. Mark this "the Garden." We now have the Land of Eden and the Garden placed on our treasure map.
The next geographical feature found in our text reads: "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden." Genesis 2:10.
To show this river on our "treasure map", draw a wavy line from the center of our larger circle, which represents Eden, making the line run easterly through the middle of the smaller circle which stands for the garden, and continue the wavy line far enough easterly to just pass outside the boundary of Eden, for the text states the river "went out of Eden." This river is not named in the text but for the sake of clarity and simplicity will hereafter call it, "The River of Eden."
The next step in the description is of great importance. We feel it is at this point that so many other attempts at explanation have failed. Note the words of the text carefully.
"And from thence it was parted, and became into four heads." Genesis 2:10.
So many have taken this to mean that the river divided and became four rivers, like the dividing of a river at its delta, that it is difficult to shake the idea, although it always lands the expounder into difficulties. But stop and consider. Such an explanation makes four rivers with but one head, and that is definitely not what the text states. The text explicitly uses the terms, "a river' (singular) having "four heads."
Four rivers with but one head would be a most unnatural phenomena.
There are, indeed, a very few Cases of a stream or river dividing
and not re-uniting aside from delta formations. One such is on
the Great Divide or height of land between the Provinces of Alberta
and British Columbia in western Canada. Here a little stream
divides into two; one branch goes down the eastern watershed
to Atlantic waters, the other down the western watershed to end
in the Pacific. These two streams have only one head. For one
river to split into four, is, I believe, absolutely unknown anywhere
in the world, though if such a case were found, it would still
be a case of four rivers with one head, and thus could not be
a parallel to our text. Thus we must turn back to the text to
seek a different explanation.
Where did this lovely river come from? He looks upstream from his position in the Garden. "From thence," he says, that is, from Eden, from the only place so far definitely named in the text, from "thence" it was parted into four "heads. His eye has looked upstream and has discerned in a masterly way the four main sources of this Edenic river.
Once a person has grasped this upstream look, at once the text begins to make common sense. One river with four heads is sensible, it is a common sort of fact all us; but four rivers with one head is contrary to the facts of geography.
Now if we are correct in the foregoing explanation, then we should find that this explanation should lead to further discovery harmonious facts. To test this out let us immediately transfer our explanation of four heads making one river onto our diagram.
Now our diagram shows "four heads" and "one" river of Eden in a way that begins to look more like reality. By means of these few leading clues we have gained the start of our "treasure map." In the next chapter we will begin examining the four river-heads.
End of Chapter One
|Chapter One||A Few Leading Clues|
|Chapter Two||The Rivers Euphrates and Hiddekel|
|Chapter Three||The River Pison|
|Chapter Four||The River Gihon|
|Chapter Five||The Changing River Courses|
|Chapter Six||Eden in Relation to Geology|
|Chapter Seven||Eden and Biblical Chronology|
|Chapter Eight||Cain's City of Enoch|
|Appendix A||Are the names in Genesis 2 Postdiluvial?|
|Appendix B||Maps, sketches and notes|