[b-hebrew] Eden & Rivers - Genesis 2:10

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Fri May 13 00:06:40 EDT 2005


Hi people,

I completely agree with Chris' analysis below, but I would like to point out
one thing: the river's splitting into four "heads" has nothing to do with
what in English one would call its "headwaters". A river's "headwaters" are
its source, the spring or lake at which the river originates. The rivers'
"four heads" are its destination - think of a snake's head.

Yigal


> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Heard, Christopher" <Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu>
> To: "b-hebrew" <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 4:52 PM
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Eden & Rivers - Genesis 2:10
>
> > Hello everyone,
> >
> > First, a "thank you" to Jack Tladatsi for drawing us back to the
> > actual wording of the text. Proposals that locate Eden in southern
> > Mesopotamia must of necessity "rewrite" the Genesis 2:10-14
> > description in order to locate Eden at the *confluence*, rather than
> > the *origin*, of the Euphrates and Tigris.
> >
> > As Jack wrote according to Genesis 2:10, the river from Eden
> > "separates" or "diverges" [Heb פרד = PRD] into four "head(waters)."
> > However near together the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates
> > might be--according to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the headwaters
> > are "within 50 miles of each other"--there is no single river that
> > "separates" or "diverges" to become these two.
> >
> > Moreover, the other two rivers present almost insuperable difficulties.
> >
> > No such river as the Pishon is mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.
> > According to Gen 2:11, the Pishon "is the one that surrounds" or "is
> > the one that flows around" [Heb הוא הסבב = HW) HSBB] the whole
> > land of Havilah. Notice, if you please, that the narrator acts as if
> > the readers know this river; the narrator does not say "the Pishon
> > flows around ..." but "the Pishon, that's the one that flows
> > around ..." Oddly, though, the Pishon is not mentioned anywhere else
> > in the Hebrew Bible. In the two other verses where Havilah is used in
> > the Tanakh as a toponym, it is in the phrase "from Havilah to
> > Shur" (Gen 25:18; 1 Sam 15:7). Both verses specify that Shur is east
> > of Egypt; both have the conceptual starting point of "from Havilah to
> > Shur" as southern Palestine (the contexts are Ishmael's wandering/
> > settling, from Beersheba southwestward, and Saul's pursuit of the
> > Amalekites); both thus suggest that Havilah is somewhere in the Negeb
> > or the northern Sinai peninsula. The other Biblical references to
> > "Havilah" use this as a personal name of one of Noah's descendants, a
> > son of Cush and brother of Seba, uncle of Sheba and Dedan. If the
> > personal name were transferred to a toponym, this would draw Havilah
> > farther south, into southwestern Arabia. In either event, there is no
> > river that "flows around" or "surrounds" either place. Going with the
> > Gen 25:18/1 Sam 15:7 location of Havilah, one might, I suppose,
> > suggest that the Biblical נהל מצרים = Nahal Mizraim ("Wadi of
> > Egypt") could constitute a "river[bed]" that flows "through" Havilah,
> > but this would not fit the verb סבב = SBB, nor would this river
> > originate from a common source shared with the Tigris and Euphrates.
> >
> > Finally, there is the Gihon. The only water source known elsewhere in
> > scripture as Gihon is the spring outside of Jerusalem. This Gihon
> > certainly does not "flow around" (again, סבב = SBB) the whole land
> > of Cush, whether you associate this Cush with southern Arabia,
> > Ethiopia, or the land of the Kassites. There is no river that "flows
> > around" or "surrounds" Cush-as-southern-Arabia or Cush-as-Ethiopia,
> > nor indeed Cush-as-the-land-of-the-Kassites. Even if you follow
> > Delitzsch and others in locating the origins of the Kassites up in
> > the Urartu region, perhaps along the Araxes river that Jack
> > mentioned, rather than the Zagros highlands, there still is no river
> > that "surrounds" that region. And the Araxes does not split off from
> > a source common to it, the Euphrates, and the Tigris.
> >
> > So we have in Genesis 2:10-14 a description of a single river that
> > splits to become four rivers: the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Pishon
> > (which flows around Havilah) and the Gihon (which flows around Cush).
> > The Pishon and Gihon are completely unidentifiable from these
> > descriptions; no such rivers exist, and if they did, they wouldn't
> > share headwaters with the Tigris and Euphrates. In fact, the Tigris
> > and the Euphrates don't issue from a common source river. The
> > geography of the rivers is quite impossible, if we actually take the
> > narrator's description at face value. We are drawn northward by the
> > Tigris and Euphrates but southward by the Pishon and Gihon. Unless
> > (a) the narrator is using the toponymns Havilah, Gihon, and Cush in a
> > way that departs radically from all other biblical uses of those
> > toponyms, *and* (b) these waterways have been radically altered in
> > the course of recent (since the narrator's day!) geological history
> > such that they once originated from a common "ur-river" but now have
> > individual headwaters, albeit "within 50 miles of each other" for the
> > two rivers we can actually identify, then the geography is simply
> > impossible.
> >
> > Eden is nowhere.
> >
> > And the narrator knows it, and expects readers to realize it too. The
> > geography of the rivers, which has no substantial function in the
> > plot, has as at least one of its major functions to signal to the
> > reader not to look for Eden on a map. I suggest (this is not yet well-
> > developed enough to call it an argument) that this geography is
> > analogous the chronological "confusion" in the books of Daniel and
> > Judith. As is well known, the storyline of the book of Judith is
> > "hopelessly confused" from an historical point of view: in it,
> > Nebuchadnezzar, King of Assyria in Nineveh, makes war on one
> > Arphaxad, who ruled the Medes in Ecbatana, as well as Arioch, king of
> > Elam (see Gen 14:1). Similarly, the book of Daniel begins by
> > displacing Nebuchadnezzar chronologically, suggesting that
> > Nebuchadnezzar (who ruled Babylon 605-562 BCE) raided the Jerusalem
> > temple in the third year of Jehoiakim (606 BCE--before
> > Nebuchadnezzar's accession to the throne of Babylon) whereas all
> > other biblical references to this event place it in the 11th and last
> > year of Jehoiakim's reign (597 BCE). These chronological
> > displacements are not, in my judgment, simple mistakes; they are
> > intentional disorientations that signal to discerning readers not to
> > read these works as "histories" but to look for other value.
> > Similarly, it seems to me quite clear that the narrator of Genesis 2
> > takes a moment to locate Eden precisely nowhere, in an impossible
> > geography, so that readers will not spend their valuable time trying
> > to find it on a map, but will attend to other purposes in the narrative.
> >
> > Chris
> >
> > --
> > R. Christopher Heard
> > Assistant Professor of Religion
> > Pepperdine University
> > Malibu, California 90263-4352
> > http://faculty.pepperdine.edu/cheard
> > http://www.iTanakh.org
> > http://www.semioticsandexegesis.info
> > _______________________________________________
> > b-hebrew mailing list
> > b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> > http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew
> >
> >
>





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