The four river-heads we have suggested in the preceding chapters fit our "treasure map" beautifully except for one vital point. Our theoretical map requires the four rivers to join into one river, the River of Eden as we called it, in a relatively small area, the Land of Eden. Our great difficulty at the moment is that while the Diyala (Gihon) joins the Tigris (Hlddekel), and the river-bed Wadi Ubaiyidh (Pison)links onto the Euphrates near the same region, the Euphrates and the Tigris after coming near each other diverge again and do not unite until something like 200 miles further on. This distorts the entire picture and makes it utterly unlike our "treasure map." The requirement of our text is that the four river-heads, looking upstream from the Garden of Eden should divide from the one locality, the Land of Eden, into the four distinct heads. The one locality would scarcely be a great stretch of country 200 miles in length! At first glance this fact would seem to utterly destroy our theory. However, if we but look into this a little further we will discover not only a most satisfactory solution to this problem, but the solution itself seems to strengthen our theory and add to its certainty.
It is a known fact now, that enormous changes have been taking place in the configuration of the Babylonian plains. A generation ago the extent of these changes was not realized. The changes are due to the huge quantities of silt which the Euphrates and Tigris river systems have been depositing in the plains, producing change after change. So rapid is this depositing of silt that the head of the Persian Gulf is receding southeasterly at the astonishing rate of something like 72 yards per year!
This factor alters the whole picture immediately. It means
that about 3,500 B.C. the shoreline of the head of the Persian
Gulf must have been around 200 miles inland from where it is
now, and not very far below the region where the Euphrates and
Tigris near each other, and the Dlyala and the Wadi Ubaiyidh
come in on either side. It also means that the point at which
the Euphrates and the Tigris now join was then deep under the
waters of the Persian Gulf! It is a bit startling to realize
that at that early date the Euphrates and the Tigris evidently
did not join at all. Each seems to have emptied into the Persian
Gulf separately quite some miles apart.
Speaking of the older identifications proposed for Eden by Friedrich Delitzsch and A.H. Sayce and others, Unger's Bible Dictionary comments "under the heading, "Eden": "Such identifications are now impossible. Both the Tigris and the Euphrates have shifted their river beds in the course of millennia and enormous deposits of silt have drastically changed the entire configuration of lower Babylonia."
It is very interesting to note that the changes in the two rivers mentioned above was in each case a moving farther apart. The Euphrates has moved westerly, the Tigris easterly. Was there an earlier move which separated these rivers the one from the other? The suggestion is not unreasonable. It is in harmony with the known fact that the rivers have altered their courses many times and agrees with such evidence as we have gleaned from the Scripture record.
The Past and Present Tenses
Surely it is evident that, while he could use the present
tense in respect of the four river-heads, he could not do so
in respect of the River of Eden. That part had altered. The four
river-heads sti11 existed in his day, but evidently the River
of Eden did not. The four river-heads no longer united to form
one, but had at some time parted company. Therefore he could
not use the present tense when dealing with the River of Eden.
How the Four Rivers United
We suggest that the Euphrates left its present channel at
or near about Burmah and Sirriyah Bunds, about 10 miles above
Falujah, and flowed easterly through what is now the Gurmah or
Sirriyah Channel into the west side of the now dry, small lake
Aqarquf. This lake bed is about 10 miles in length, lying north-westerly
and south-easterly. The south east extremity is approximately
only six miles from the Tigris, and probably overflowed into
the Tigris. The overflow might have followed the course of the
Washshash Drain, which empties into the Tigris just below the
city of Baghdad. This would bring these two main rivers into
Whatever the course of the other river (the Pison) on the Arabian side, its waters would simply have to seek the main channel of drainage being followed by the other three rivers. Any other course appears most unlikely. The Pison River in all likelihood flowed from El Wadian through a present dry wadi, then past Shitatah in the Shamiyah Desert. Shitatah is about 45 miles west of the ruins of Babylon. Continuing eastward over the Shamiyah Desert it would flow through the tiny Abu Dibis Lake (now dry), and follow the wadi from there to Kerbala, then east-north-east along the route of the present day canal to where it meets the Euphrates channel, near the Hindiyah Junction. Beyond that the ancient path of the river is most conjectural. The Euphrates was not at this point in earliest times, but, as suggested above, seems to have united with the Tigris. But the Pison may well have next run down what is now called the Babylon Channel, then followed the Nil Channel from Babylon past Kish and into the Kutha Channel.
Now about 15 miles below the juncture of the Diyalah and Tigris rivers, the Tigris River makes a remarkable bend southward, southerly from Bulman Pak and the striking ruins of Ctesiphon. It is possible that this long loop may mark the place where the Tigris left its present channel to join the Kutha Channel. In any case, this is the closest the Tigris at present approaches to the Kutha Channel. The mingled waters of the Euphrates, Tigris and Diyalah would then follow down the Kutha Channel until joined by the Pison coming in from the west below Kish, thus bringing all four rivers together.
"Its Assyrian equivalent was Zeru, corresponding to the Arabic Zor, the name still applied to the depression between the Tigris and Euphrates."
Thus we find that the region we are driven to by examination of the text of the Scripture in relation to the four river-heads, as being the location of Eden, is confirmed and supported from the cuneiform writings of ancient Babylonia.
The river courses we have suggested above are set out on the map below.
However, the reader is warned that these are suggestive only,
pending light from further research and study. Nevertheless,
whatever illumination may be gathered in the future on the subject,
the degree of support from every direction for our theory seems
strongly indicative that we must be at least close to the truth.
Turning back to our text in Genesis, we find that this is precisely the order in which the ancient writer named the four sources: He not only names the four in the same order, but actually numbers them, as if to make us recognize that he is giving them in the exact order in which they will be met when following up the river.
I must confess that the fact of the numbering of the river-heads in the text had no meaning for me until I first sketched the map above. Then it dawned upon me that the branches from the river were in the same order as in the text. Needless to say, it was most thrilling and elating to discover this quite unexpected confirmation.
More than a Myth
Is it not moving to be so very close to putting our finger on the very spot on the map which was the beautiful home of our first parents? To consider that here the first little sin was committed? It was such a "little sin", just to eat a bit of fruit from one forbidden tree. Yet that "little sin wrecked the world. The little fox spoiled the vine.
When our first parents disobeyed their Creator, when sin first entered the human heart, it was almost the greatest and most heart-breaking tragedy ever to occur. "Almost" the greatest? Yes, almost, not quite. There is one greater tragedy.
Contemplation of the Eden story leads us to another story, the story of Calvary. There the Lord Jesus Christ took our sins in His own body on the tree and provided the only remedy for the sin story which began in Eden. His precious blood! He is the propitiation for our sins (the sins of His followers), and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I. John 2:2). Was Calvary the greatest tragedy? No. Calvary, love's supreme sacrifice and proof, was not a tragedy but a conquest. Calvary appears as a tragedy to those who have forgotten Eden. Without the tragedy of Eden, if man did not fall into sin, Calvary would be only a tragedy, and the greatest; but with the tragedy of Eden fully in view, that the human race is a fallen race and requires redemption, Calvary becomes the greatest triumph. What then is the greatest tragedy? It is this, to pass through life and miss the remedy of Calvary. Here every man who wills may find not only pardon for his sins, but an inward renewal to purity with the strength to withstand sin so that the tragedy of Eden will never be repeated within him. To miss that is the greatest tragedy, for, having lost this one and only chance, there is not another sacrifice that can be made. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). How good of God to provide Calvary as the answer to Eden.
End of Chapter Five
|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|