In Genesis 2:10-14, the lost but not forgotten Eden is described in a post-Flood landscape contemporary to the author. It seems no one knew the whereabouts of the Garden, and the author gave a “best guess” of where Eden was last known to exist.
Looking closer at the passage, there are two lines that don’t fit the rest of the story. Without them, the passage reads something like this:
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 Havilah. The name of the second river is Gihon. It is the same river that flows through the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel. This is the one which flows in front of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
Without the missing passage, this is simply a geographical description. However, the missing phrase further describes Chavilah, “where gold is, and the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and onyx are also there.” This seems a strange “nugget” of information. No other land in the passage is described by anything other than its name. Chavilah, on the other hand, is described as a land full of gold, bdellium (bedolach – an aromatic resin from tree sap like frankincense and myrrh), and the shoham stone (onyx). [N.B.: There are alternate interpretations of shoham and bedolach. Shoham might be the generic term for ‘gemstone’ and bedolach may be another type of stone, but I think the evidence agrees with the general consensus: shoham is onyx and bedolach is an unknown type of fragrant resin.]
Previously, I surmised that Eden was buried by the Great Flood, somewhere in the region of these four new rivers (vv. 10-14). According to verse 12, gold and onyx were in the same region, as were indigenous trees which produced bedolach. Assuming indigenous trees survived the Flood, it appears gold, shoham, and resin were abundant in the territory of Eden. Furthermore, other scriptures hint that these treasures were abundant in Eden:
You were the seal of full measure, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, emerald, chrysolite, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and beryl. Gold work of tambourines and of pipes was in you. They were prepared in the day that you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers. Then I set you up on the holy mountain of God. You have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until… (Ezekiel 28:12-15)
The above lamentation was directed against the king of Tyre, but it made several references to “Paradise”: the Garden of Eden, beauty, full measures, wisdom, gemstones, gold, music, anointing oil, and volcanoes. All are symbols of perfection. (N.B., volcanic activity produces gemstones and rich soil for crops.) Within Yizqiyahu’s (Ezekiel’s) description of “Paradise” were references to the three treasures found near Eden: gold, onyx, and the resin-based anointing oil (ref. Exo. 30:23-24).
According to Ezekiel’s description, it just may be that Eden was more than just vegetation, it may have been surrounded by gates, walls, and ready-made constructions containing gold and gemstones!
I don’t believe in coincidences, especially with the Word of God, so the “aside” of Genesis 2:12 is a clue. These materials DO have something else in common – they are associated with the presence of God! Gold, onyx, and resin-based perfumes (specifically, anointing oil and incense) are always near the Presence; this has been true since Eden, where YHVH walked in the cool of the day (ref. Gen. 3:8). For this reason, these treasures were found together in the Tabernacle of Meeting. God commanded these resources – gold, gems, and aromatic resin – as offerings for the Tabernacle (ref. Exodus 25:3-7). Immediately afterward He says, “and make me a sanctuary, and I will reside in the midst”, for the Tabernacle/Temple was designed to be a place of God’s Presence. Specifically, these three treasures passed through the veil to the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement): golden braces held the onyx memorial stones worn on the high priest’s shoulders, while resin-based incense emanated from his censer (cf. Exo. 28:9-14, 3o:34-35, Lev. 16:3-4, 12).
The last line of Exodus 25 reads “See that you build (the tabernacle) according to the pattern that I show you…” If this is a reflection of the true Tabernacle in Heaven (ref. Heb. 8:5), we’d expect the Presence to also be accompanied by gold, gemstones, and incense in Heaven. This is exactly what the Apostle Yochanan (John) recorded in Revelation – on the throne, God continually surrounds Himself with incense, golden crowns, and precious stones (Rev. 4:4-6, 8:3-4).
There are two differences between the earthly and heavenly Tabernacles; the first is of course that the earthly Tabernacle had a veil, where the heavenly tabernacle did not (see Rev. 11:9). In places of eternal life, there is no veil to protect from death because death is a non-entity. However, the relationship of sin with death required a veil; God does not entrust sinners “who know the difference between right and wrong” (Gen. 3:22) with the same freedoms we might enjoy in eternal life. Therefore, the veil was necessary to prevent death.
The second obvious difference is that the Temple in heaven is ready-made. There are implications that mankind will one day enter the Heavenly Temple (Rev. 15:8), but we do not lift a finger to build it. Similar to how Eden was planted without work, we await to enter a Temple made without the offerings of men. However, in this life, all materials to build the earthly temple have to be bought, sought, or caught! Gold, onyx, and resins are among those that are sought – these treasures are hidden, they must be found in scattered ore deposits (gold), veins of volcanic lava (onyx), and stands of trees (resin). These materials must be found.
Due to these treasures being association with the Divine Presence – especially within the Tabernacle, God hints at the extent of what was really lost in the Garden in Genesis 2:12. Mankind lost fellowship with the Divine Presence, when we – in the loins of our common ancestor Adam – met God in the cool of the day, when He “tabernacled” among us and was our God. Today, this is our destiny we await, as one day God will again meet us at “Eden 2.0”, a place watered by a river and hosting the Tree of Life (Rev. 22:1-2), a city adorned with gold and onyx (Rev. 21:18-20), and the sweet smelling incense around His throne (cf. Rev. 4:4-5, 22:1).
Eden wasn’t just a garden of trees and fruit – the scriptures indicate there were many more assets. “Paradise” is gone and buried, but God reveals through an “aside” that His Presence was available in Eden. By hinting at the treasures common to the tabernacle and Holy of Holies, it is as if God shows that Eden itself was the Most Holy, the chosen place of a whole planet God called “good” (Gen 1:27). Without the consequence of sin and death, we could have enjoyed a continual, unveiled Presence of God!
If we read to the end of the story we can see obvious comparisons to Eden in the book of Revelation, but none more important than “God Himself will dwell among them and be their God (Rev. 21:3)”. However, without Revelation, what would we know? We would have known we had free access to the Presence but lost it, and the closest replication to Eden was a veiled sanctuary in the Tabernacle that no one could enter!
However, we who know Messiah Yeshua will find the way back to “Eden” in the world to come. Yeshua is the way back to the Tree of Life, and a future paved with gold, gemstones, and sweet incense! Like the hidden materials of Genesis 2:12, He must be “found”. When He is found, there is confidence knowing that all the materials needed for the Presence of God are acquired.♦