[b-hebrew] Re: Eden's Four Rivers (article)

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Mon May 9 17:39:48 EDT 2005

Dear Karl,

You are right _all_ proposals om Eden's one river becoming four are in the 
end only "speculations." I recall some scholars suggesting wadi Batin from 
Saudi Arabia being the Pishon connecting with the Euphrates near the Shatt 
al Arab and then the Euphrates itself along with the Tigris empty into the 
Shatt al Arab, then the Karkun (Gihon according to some) from Iran's Zagros 
mountains also connects with the Shat al Arab. However these "four" rivers 
are not coming _out of one river_, they are flowing _into it_ just the 
"opposite" of Genesis' scenario.

As regards Noah's Flood destroying the Edenic river courses- this is a 
pretty common understanding since Renaissance among some scholars.

The problem ? A Mesopotamian text of the 2d millennium BCE has the flood at 
a city called Shuruppak in Sumer, its king, called Ziusudra (also called 
Atrahasis and Utnapishtim) is warned by his god Enki to build a boat and 
save himself, family and animals. He does.

Shuruppak has been identified as present day Tell Fara. When excavated a 
"flood layer" of two feet of clay was found and dated to circa 2900 BCE. It 
was the _only_ flood deposit found at the city. It appears at the end of 
Jemdat-Nasr phase and above it lies a new era called Early Dynastic I. The 
residents of Shuruppak rebuilt their city after the flood but "nearby" 
rather than directly over the flooded site. Microscopic anaylsis of the 
aluvial sediment overlying "Jamdet-Nasr" Shuruppak was determined to be 
caused by a flooding Euphrates, not a world wide flood.

Many scholars who study the Mesopotamian account are struck by the 
"parallels" between the Shuruppak flood and the Genesis' flood. Both heroes 
are warned by a god to save themselves by building a boat. The flood occurs 
at the "end" of a _600_ year cycle for Ziusudra; Noah is _600_ years old (Ge 
7:11) when the flood occurs. Both heroes are given seven days notice before 
the flood's arrival; After the flood both send out birds to find evidence of 
land appearing above receding waters; both offer a burnt offerings sacrifice 
after the flood. The god (Enlil) who sent the flood gives the survivors of 
the flood (on the boat) a blessing; Yahweh gives a blessing to Noah after 
the flood too. A god (Enlil) swears he will never send another flood to 
destroy all of mankind; so too Yahweh. The biblical chronology for the Flood 
suggests for some scholars a date circa 2348 BCE, in the 3rd millennium BCE. 
Archaeologists dated Shurupakk's flood layer to the 3rd millennium BCE, 
circa 2900/2800 BCE. Other flood layers have been found at other cities in 
Sumer, but they are of different periods of time. Not finding any evidence 
of a flood destroying _all_ the cities of 3rd millennium BCE Sumer, some 
scholars, understandably, have reservations about the biblical account of a 
3rd millennium BCE Flood.

As you are probably aware, some scholars understand the biblical flood is 
recalling the Shurupakk flood event because of above noted similiarities in 
the two accounts, Mesopotamian and Biblical. Because they also understand 
the Shuruppak flood did not encompass the world,  they therefore seek the 
river of Eden and its four "heads" (Hebrew: rasim) somewhere in the confines 
of a 5th through 3rd millennium BCE Mesopotamia (The world being created by 
Yahweh ca. 4004 BCE according to the biblical chronology worked out by a 
Christian scholar Bishop Usher). To date, archaeologists have failed to find 
evidence of world wide flood in the 5th-3rd millenniums BCE in Mesopotamia, 
Syria or Canaan. They date some settlements in Sumer to the Ubaid period of 
circa 4900 BCE, specifically the ancient city of Eridu (modern Abu Shahrein 
near Ur of the Chaldees), which in Mesopotamian myths was the very first 
city built by the god Enki. This myth has the world covered in water, then a 
freshwater stream eurpts from the depths of the ocean, land forms about it 
and Enki builds the first city Eridu. Of course in the Bible the first city 
is built by Cain and called Enoch after his son (Ge 4:17). So, it is clear 
that Genesis' author understands at least _one city_ was engulfed by Noah's 
3rd millennium BCE flood, but the archaeological evidence does not support 
this notion.

I personally favor Shurupakk as the flood being recalled in Genesis, and 
thus "my interest" in finding a river in a 3rd millennium BCE Mesopotamian 
context which divides into "four heads". I noted in my article that in the 
3rd millennium BCE the Euphrates did divide into four heads or streams as it 
fanned out over edin-the-plain (Sumer) between Sippar and Nippur (as shown 
on the archaeological map). If someone knows of any earlier scholarly 
articles proposing the Euphrates as a "possible" river of Eden that divides 
into four streams I would be much obliged to receive, off list, a 
bibliography for my further studies.

Regards, Walter
Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.
mattfeld12 at charter.net

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "kwrandolph" <kwrandolph at email.com>
To: "Hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 4:34 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Eden's four rivers (article)

> Walter:
> Your admission of "_might_" below underscores the whole problem of
> historical reconstruction-too much information has been lost so that
> we really don't know.
> Another explanation that I have heard is that when Noah and his sons
> stepped off their ship, they faced a completely reworked landscape
> where all the familiar landmarks were replaced. They named the first
> two major rivers they came across by names they were familiar with in
> pre-flood geology, but these were not the same rivers. Much the same
> way that migrants named new locales after ones that they left, such
> as Pittsburg California named after Pittsburg Pennsylvania, or Newark
> California after Newark New Jersey, and so forth, so Noah and his
> sons reused old names for new locales.
> Secondly, wasn't Ur of the Chaldeas a different city than Ur of the
> Sumerians? I thought that was a reference found among the Ebla
> tablets. Correct me if I am mistaken, but my understanding is that Ur
> of the Chaldeans was a city to the north east of Ebla whose ruins
> have yet to be found, while Ur of the Sumerians was to the south east.
> But without more solid data, all of this is speculation based on too
> few facts either way.
> Interesting article, by the way.
> Karl W. Randolph.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Walter R. Mattfeld" <mattfeld12 at charter.net>
>>  For an article arguing that Eden's four rivers arising from one
>>  _might_ be recalling the "four heads" of the Euphrates crossing
>>  "edin-the-floodplain" of ancient Sumer cf. the following url:
>>  http://www.bibleorigins.net/EdensFourRivers.html
>>  Regards, Walter
>>  Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.
>>  mattfeld12 at charter.net
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