Pishon, Eden, Ophir

Peter Kirk peter_kirk at sil.org
Sun Jan 23 00:19:54 EST 2000

Yes, Poti is a plausible link with Phasin, and the Rioni is the 
largest river of Georgia flowing into the Black Sea. Although it is 
not a long river, it is probably an impressive one as it drains the 
glaciers and well-watered mountains of the North Caucasus. This might 
suggest an Eden in the North Caucasus. The local name of Georgia is 
Sakartvelo, and ancient names includes Colchis and Iberia, all of 
these could be linked to Havilah. But then maybe that just shows how 
easily this name game can be played. And no gold was being mined in 
the Soviet period.

David Rohl identifies Dilmun as Bahrain island, and makes a strong 
case for this. Part of his evidence is the astonishing number of 
ancient tombs on Bahrain (more than 150,000!) suggesting that 
Sumerians wanted to be buried in their paradise. That would also make 
sense as a location for Eden, the paradise of the Israelites - if and 
only if (to get back to some Hebrew) we can understand Genesis 2:10 in 
the sense that Eden was at the mouth of the four rivers rather than at 
their sources. Coincidentally, Niels today mentioned "common Semitic 
*tiham(at), "Sea"... dualis thmtm, the place of El's abode"; "Bahrain" 
is of course also the dual form of a Semitic (Arabic) word for "sea", 
and Rohl finds significance in this as the meeting place of the 
subterranean waters (which well up in Bahrain) with the real sea.

Could "apyros" be derived from "Ophir", with the meaning "fireless" a 
later popular etymology explaining the form "apyros" rather than 
"opyros"? But I don't see Ophir as linked to Eden - there was not 
necessarily just one ancient source of gold. Incidentally, surely 
chemical analysis of ancient gold can determine its source - has this 
been done?

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Pishon, Eden, Ophir
Author:  <mattfeld at mail.pjsnet.com> at Internet 
Date:    21/01/2000 21:53

Mr. Kirk asked about the Phasin which I suggested might be related to the 
Pishon. Today it is called the Rioni, and it joins the Black Sea at the town 
of Phasis near modern Poti. Some viewers may be more familiar with this 
river as the Phasis, but Phasin is an alternate rendering in Greek.


Of course there were other places besides South Arabia that were suggested 
by the Jewish commentators. My research on Eden suggests that underlying the 
story is the Epic of Gilgamesh and its mythical Dilmun, a paradise on earth 
set aside for the righteous flood hero Utnaspishtim. Dilmun is described as 
lying at the mouth of the rivers, suggesting for me, the marshlands south of 
the Tigris and Euphrates harbored this make-believe island.  Ezekiel seems 
to suggest Eden is in the Lebanon, while Genesis' mention of the Pishon and 
the land of Havilah and its gold, suggests Arabia. Sabaean texts mention 
Haulan in the northern Yemen, suggesting Havilah for some, while the 
classical port of Avalites in Ethiopia is preferred by others. Sheba is 
believed to have extended its territories across the straits into Ethiopia 
so this may account for conflicting proposals.  The only proven gold source 
in Arabia is Mahd ed Dahab, "the Cradle of Gold", to the east of Medina, 
where a gold mine is operating even today. Ophir has been identified with 
the Afar of Ethiopia (called Danakil by the Arabs), and the Mahd ed Dahab 
area, or the seacoast near it.

For the Hebrews the gold of Ophir was the finest, it being evidently stones 
or pebbles not gold dust (cf. Job 22:24). The Greeks raved about the 
"apyros" gold of Arabia. Apyros means "fireless", that is the gold was in 
pebble form, it did not need to smelted from a gold dust form to solidify it 
into a workable shape. I wonder if there might be a relationship here ophir 
and apyros ?

All the best,

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg

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