Of All The Questions Raised By War, None Is More Intriguing Than Location Of Eden
By Michael H. Brown
Where is the Garden of Eden? Is it really -- was it really -- in Iraq?
Let's start out by saying that no one knows. Boundaries in ancient times were much different than today. What's called "Mesopotamia" may once have meant something significantly different. Even rivers may have run different courses.
Here's what we do know: the Bible tells us in Genesis that "a river rises in Eden" and "beyond there it divides and becomes four branches."
The name of the first was "Pishon." It was one that wound through the land of Havilah ("where there was gold"). The second river was called the Gihon, and it wound through the land of Cush. The third was the Tigris -- which we can readily identify in our own day. It flows from Turkey to Iraq, splitting right down that war-torn nation. The fourth is also identifiable as the famous Euphrates that likewise splits down the interior of Iraq -- passing by ancient Babylon and also originating to the north in Turkey and Syria.
This is what brings us to Iraq. If one were standing at the Persian Gulf -- in the southern part of that nation -- it would look like a river that branches a ways inland and forms the Euphrates and Tigris.
That branching takes place just north of a town made famous this week: Basra. It is not far from where Israel's patriarch, Abraham, is said to have hailed from.
Many thus believe that the Garden of Eden was about 150 miles north of the present-day Persian Gulf (which back then stretched further northward).
The word Eden in Hebrew means delight, luxury, pleasure, as well as paradise. However, a similar word (in Sumerian E.DIN and in Akkadian Edinu) means plain, such as the flat area between two rivers. This seems to fit the bill. Near Basra, we are talking of a plain. Moreover, there is a widespread region of vegetation amid what is otherwise desert. But was Eden really an earthly place -- or a place on another level of reality that was then brought down to physical form by the transgressions of Eve and Adam? What was the "knowledge of good and evil"?
Many intriguing questions are raised by this passage in Genesis. It is said that the two were told not to eat of trees in the Garden, but did so to gain wisdom. This seems to speak of another reality, a reality that fits descriptions of paradise. It was also at this instant that the Lord may have prefigured the Blessed Mother -- telling the serpent that as a result of tempting Eve in the Garden, He would "put enmity between you and the woman." Henceforth, her children would battle with evil spirits.
Did that battle really form here, just as a military battle now takes shape in this very vicinity? What about the Gihon? What about Pishon?
Some believe that satellite images have identified an old riverbed that flowed through Arabia and modern day Kuwait -- ending up just about where the mouth of the Euphrates was 6,000 years ago. Evidence seems to indicate that the area then was grassland, with some scattered trees, small lakes, and the one river, which according to an orthodox Judaic scholar named Alyza bat Bitzalel v'Rut is thought to be Pishon. Again, this is difficult stuff: the flow of such rivers may take us even further south. Havilah may be in what we now call Saudi Arabia.
But the clues remain in those four mysterious rivers. The Gihon? It's said to run through Cush, and according to Bitzalel v'Rut, "since Cush is used as a name for Ethiopia also, some believe this to be the Nile. However, considering the Tigres, the Euphrates, and the Pishon all flow into the Persian Gulf, I believe this to be unlikely (only God knows for certain). The Oxford Companion to the Bible states that 'in Genesis 2:13 Cush probably refers to Babylon, which was occupied by Kassites...' Genesis 10:7-8 states: 'The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush also begot Nimrod, who was the first man of might on earth.' (JPS Tanakh). Notice that Cush in the early days was associated with Havilah (Arabia), and Nimrod, who built in Mesopotamia. Thus, the Gihon was probably in the same area as the other three rivers."
Of course, Babylon was in Iraq, and one of its leaders was Nimrod.
There is no denying the importance of this region.
As another scholar, Dr. David. L. Brown, points out, "Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But, do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq! However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are Babylon, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means between the two rivers, more exactly between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers."
Thus do we see a convergence in the Middle East, a tremendous tension between the two power spots of Iraq and Israel. As the Plainview Daily Herald recently pointed out, "the allied bombing campaign has been targeting the cities of Mosul, in extreme northern Iraq, and Kirkuk and Tikrit in north-central Iraq" -- the exact spots where significant parts of the history of early Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament, take place.
Why is it that these cities are such a focus of conflict? Is it mere coincidence? Is it a coincidence that most of the attention last week was on Basra near the very spot where most think the Garden was? Or that the Tower of Babel may have been near Umm Qasr -- also highlighted in the news during the invasion? And also that there were major battles at Karbala -- hard by the ruins of Babylon?
No, it is no coincidence. What happened in the Garden, the spirit, remains. This is a spot of tremendous supernatural activity. The area of Umm Qasr is also near Ur -- which as we have been saying is the birthplace of Abraham!
There is more here than meets the eye. But the question resurfaces: Is this really the land where the incredible Garden was, where the Lord spoke, where an angel blazed forth, where there were the delights God originally had in store for mankind?
Really, no one is sure
where the Gihon was located, and for that matter there's debate about where the
Euphrates, Pishon, and Tigris were that long ago. Did their courses change after
the Flood? Was it a reference to other rivers? Others variously believe Eden was
in the Horn of Africa, on the Seychelles Islands (in the Indian Ocean), on the
edge of the Sinai Desert, or in northern Iraq. One major biblical sleuth,
Michael Sanders, argues that it was in Turkey, where there are also four ancient
rivers, and where the Euphrates and Tigris begin.
But Iraq remains the frontrunner and the possibility is tantalizing: that the battles fought as we speak, that the current American invasion, is rolling over or right by the biblical Garden and then past Babylon on the way to Baghdad.
The Tigris might match up with the Bible's Hiddekel River, the Karun River in Iran might correspond to the Pishon, and the Gihon River would be the Wadi al-Batin river system that once drained the central part of the Arabian peninsula.
What does that have to say about the current war? What does it have to say about the future?
Let's stick to archeology for now. It's too intriguing: that there at the southern part of Iraq, mankind was created and Satan made his first appearance.
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