Genesis 2:14 — Was Eden a forerunner of the “New Jerusalem”?
“A river went out from Eden to irrigate the garden; and from there it was scattered, and became the source of four headwaters. The name of the first is Pishon: it flows through the whole land of Chavilah. The name of the second river is Gihon. It is the same river that flows through the whole land of Kush. The name of the third river is Chiddekel. This is the one which flows in front of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:14)
It is impossible to pinpoint the locations of the Pishon and Gihon Rivers with absolute certainty. In order to propose a theory on these locations, I assume the following:
1) As I previously proposed, the original water source of Eden was scattered (not “parted”) in accordance with the common meaning of the Hebrew word yiPared. The four rivers mentioned in Genesis 2:14 became four new “heads” after the Great Flood. There are other references to the pre-Flood world from a post-Flood perspective throughout Genesis 2, including Genesis 2’s introductory sentences.
2) I assume there was both a greater region of Eden, and a lesser “Garden in Eden”. I assume the four rivers which came from a now-defunct original source filled the greater region of Eden, which would make Eden a fairly sizable place.
3) I condone the scholarship of Farouk El-Baz and James Sauer, the former of whom discovered the now-defunct river system of the Wadi al-Batin and Wadi Al-Rummah, and the latter of whom argued for this ancient river as the Pishon. This river, which flows through Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, passes through a land in which is found gold, gemstones (including onyx), and indigenous trees having bedolach (gum resin). Additionally, it fits the geographic disposition described in Genesis 25:18 and 1 Samuel 15:7, as both sources cite a “Chavilah” situated between Egypt and ancient Assyria (modern-day Iraq). This area corresponds to modern-day Kuwait.
4) I also agree with Juris Zarins’s conclusions associating Iran’s Karun River with the Gihon. There are two “Kush” families mentioned in Scripture; one is in Ethiopia and the other is in Mesopotamia – where lived the Kassites, who originated from the ancient civilization of Elam. Associations with Ethiopian “Kushites” lead many to associate the Gihon with the Nile; however, the Nile is far removed from the Tigris and Euphrates, while the Karun empties into the Euphrates delta. Additionally, known communities of dispersed Jews still live beyond the Karun, which matches descriptions in Isaiah 18:1-7 and Zephaniah 3:10. Therefore, the “Kush” described by these verses must lie between Israel and Persia, the latter being the known site of the Babylonian Diaspora. Even today, the cities of Hamadan and Susa both lie “beyond the Karun” with respect to Israel, and host the shrines of Esther and Daniel, respectively. When all the facts are weighed, the Mesopotamian “Kush” – the Kassites – is the only civilization which had a dynasty in the region of the Tigris and Euphrates, and was situated between modern-day Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
If these assumptions are correct, I imagine that Eden was a sizable place filled with rivers – perhaps a delta teeming with life, as each of the four rivers previously identified still have several tributaries feeding them. In fact, the three extant rivers comprise the lush “Fertile Crescent” as it’s known today. This area is still filled with gold, gemstones, trees which produce aromatic resin, and edible fruit. This area, at least at one time, also contained fertile soil from nearby volcanic activity.
Interestingly, the distance between the head of the Pishon (Kuwait River?) – located near Medina, Saudi Arabia – and the head of the Karun – located in Bakhtiari Province, Iran – is only about 950 miles. The distance from the northernmost head of the Euphrates – near Erzurum, Turkey – to the southernmost tips of the Karun or Kuwait Rivers is just shy of 1,100 miles (no matter which waypoint is used).
Even if I assume the borders of Eden lay at the northernmost points of the Euphrates in Turkey, the Eastern and southernmost points of the Wadi-al-Rummah in Arabia, and at the westernmost point of the Karun River in Iran – the entire area could lie within a 1,200 mile square wall. In actuality, the entire Fertile Crescent, stretching from the Eastern Persian Gulf to West of the Nile, could fit into a 1,400 mile square, perhaps looking something like this:
What’s interesting is that the above photo was a 1,400 mile scale not of the distance around Eden or the Fertile Crescent, but of “New Jerusalem”- as measured in Revelation 21:16. This 1,400 mile-scale is a conservative estimate, as other interpretations determine a 1,500-mile measurement!
The eerie thing to me is the similarities in descriptions of Eden and the New Jerusalem. Both areas contain gold, gemstones including “onyx”, rivers, trees of life, new names, trees for food, and most importantly, the Presence of the One True God. If that were not enough, both areas seem to be comparable in size, at least when assuming the boundaries of Eden’s four rivers.
This may all be my vivid imagination at play, but I like to believe that the description of New Jerusalem is a picture of a type of ‘Second Eden’ – perhaps larger than the first, but nevertheless a Paradise with plenty of room. Perhaps what God is saying through His word is that His Paradise is a place where everyone can have a spot on the river, surrounded by resins smelling like frankincense and myrrh, a perfect climate, with fruiting trees and fellowship among all peoples.
This past year (2014-2015) has seemingly been the exact opposite of this promise: There is no healing of the nations, though there have been plenty of riots among the races! There is no new titles given to anyone, though plenty have their good reputations tarnished! I don’t read about perfect climates anymore, although today I read news about heat waves and floods claiming many lives! I only read about gold and gemstones when they’re robbed or sold swindled, so I don’t know about you, but going home to a Second Eden sounds pretty good right about now!
So be it! King Yeshua, maranatha! (O Lord, Come!)♦