Thus far we have made positive identifications of two of the Edenic river-heads, and have made a suggestion for one other which seems reasonable, pending further on-the-spot research. This leaves us with but one river-head yet to identify, the River Gihon. Of this the description simply states:
"And the name of the second river is Gihon, the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia." Genesis 2:13.
The reference to "Ethiopia" in this passage has puzzled more than one reader. "Ethiopia is a name we see on maps of Africa. It is a well known kingdom, and a country to which we have been sending missionaries. In that country lies one of the sources of the Nile: the Blue Nile rises in the Ethiopian mountains. How can the Nile, or any other river for that matter, skip over the intervening seas, mountains and deserts, to leap from Ethiopia in Africa to Babylonia in Asia. You say no river can do that! We agree! For the explanation let us more closely examine the text.
All Bible Dictionaries agree that the name "Ethiopia" in our English Old Testaments is 'Cush' in the Hebrew. This is so, not only in the verse before us, but in every instance throughout the Old Testament. The truth is that the Hebrews called Ethiopia "Cush" in their own tongue. But what has not been so well recognized is that the Hebrews used this name 'Cush' of more than one place. The name is derived from Cush the son of Ham, the son of Noah, in Genesis 10:6.
Before proceeding with our study, may we lay down a principle
or axiom regarding the names of the peoples and nations listed
in Genesis 10 and in other parts of the Old Testament. We English
readers always want to tie the names to a fixed locality: we
look upon them as essentially "PLACE-NAMES." This was
not so to the Hebrew readers. To the Hebrew mind these names
are next after the individual who originally bore them, family-names
for the descendants. They thus stand for family groups, tribes,
and nationalities. The names are essentially RACE-NAMES. Wherever
the race goes the name goes with them. The names are attached
to the people rather than the place.
If students of the books of prophecy would remember this, that the names appearing in the prophecies are largely race-names, belonging to ethnic groups of humanity, and applicable whosesoever the ethnic group may move, settle, migrate again and re-settle, it would save them from many an error in trying to tie the name to a place, even though that ethnic group may once have resided there.
If such an ethnic group split, and became two groups in different places, each could still bare the original name. It is possible this is what happened to "Cush." The descendants of Cush may have split, one part remaining in Asia, the other migrating to Africa to become the Ethiopia we still know to this day. In any case, we do know that more than one "Cush" existed.
Beside the Cush (Ethiopia) in Africa, the Bible definitely speaks of Cushites in Asia. Cush is named as the father (perhaps, "ancestor"), of Nimrod, the first one called a "king" in Scripture (Gen.l0:8-l0). He reigned in Babylonia. At that time, here was a "Cush" or "Ethiopia" right Babylon.
The name "Cush" crops up in many places. There is today a "Hindu-Kush" in Afghanistan and on the border of Pakistan by the Russia. Quite possibly some of the descendants of Cush migrated eastward.
But where was "Cush" at the time when Genesis was written! Our difficulty is that with a name which appears to have moved about as much as "Cush" has, we may do better to try to locate this "Cush" by the river than try to locate the river by the wandering name "Cush."
The River Diyala
Now, the upper or first part of this river circles the mountain range called, "Pushti-Kuh." (Is "Pushti" possibly a relic of 'Cush'?) This mountain was the home of the "Kassites" or "Cossaeans" about 1400 and 1500 B.C., the approximate date when Moses lived. Unger* in his "Bible Dictionary" suggests that these Kassites are the Cush of our text and the Cush of Genesis 10:8. This river makes a great loop around the north-east, north and westerly sides of the land of the Kassites, and thus certainly "compasseth the whole land of Cush" or this eastern Ethiopia. It therefore admirably fits into our text and falls exactly into place according to our "treasure map." The river in earlier times was called the "Gyndas," a name which reflects some of the consonants appearing in "Gihon." We have little hesitation in proposing that the D1yala or Gyndas is the Hebrew "Gihon." (*Merril F. unger's "Bible Dictionary," .1957, under heading, "Cush, Land of.")
So far our treasure hunt has seemed to meet with a good measure of success. River after river seems to fit neatly with our theoretical treasure map; names fall in to place naturally without straining, as Assyria, Havilah (Ha'il), Ethiopia or Cush (Kassites). However, we have one serious difficulty to face as yet, which we will take up in our next chapter.
End of Chapter Four
|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|