[b-hebrew] Eden

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Oct 10 06:47:31 EDT 2005

On 08/10/2005 23:13, Yigal Levin wrote:

>3. Of the four rivers mentioned, the only two that are known are the Tigris 
>and the Euphrates. Whatever one thinks that "head" means, this refers to 
>Mesopotamia. The Gihon and the Pishon are not known. Identifying them with 
>the White and Blue Nile is pure conjecture.

The name "Gihon" should not be so mysterious. It is clearly equivalent 
to the Arabic name "Jeyhun" which has at different times been given to 
the rivers Araxes=Araz and Oxus=Amu Darya. The Araz, which now forms the 
southern border of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the northern border of 
western Iran, seems a likely candidate, for its sources are in the same 
region as those of the Euphrates and Tigris. It is also associated with 
Cush if understood as the land of the Kassites, as suggested in Harold's 
quotation from "HAL", presumably (the English version of) Koehler and 
Baumgartner's Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament.

As for the Pishon, it has been suggested that this is the river Kizil 
Uzan on north-west Iran, which also rises in the same region. The areea 
through which it winds rather a lot could well have been called Havilah, 
and I think there is gold there - I don't know about bdellium and onyx. 
This would point to a location for Eden between the headwaters of these 
rivers and so in the region of Lake Urmia.

>4. The end of ch. 3 makes it clear, that after man was banished from the 
>garden, God made it unfindable, and guarded it with a cherub and a flaiming 
>sword. Anyone who takes the biblical story literally enough to search for 
>the garden in "real" geography, should take this litearlly as well. In my 
>opinion, what the book is saying, is that the garden is NOT in our "real 
>world", so don't bother to look for it.

The flaming sword could also be a real phenomenon, a natural flame from 
a gas vent. These occur now in the general region, for example near 
Baku, Azerbaijan. Possibly the author had in mind a geographical 
location, real or imaginary, which was inaccessible because of such a 
flame blocking the only access e.g. to a valley. Of course that may have 
been a very ancient tradition or legend.

>5. Once again, those who take the story literally, should remember that 
>there was a great flood which probably wiped out most landmarks, anyway.
>6. For those who don't take the story literally, the only "historical" 
>question is not where the garden was, but what ancient traditions influenced 
>the author when he composed his story.
There is something more which can be answered by those who don't take 
the story literally. The author clearly set his story in specific 
geographic location. He didn't have to say anything about where Eden 
was. But he chose to give this rather detailed description. This 
suggests, to me at least, that he had in mind not a totally fictional 
setting but some real place, which he believed to have been the original 
home of humanity, or perhaps which he considered to be a suitable 
setting for a fictional account. Of course he was very likely influenced 
by ancient traditions, but there remains a real question of what place 
those ancient traditions were pointing to.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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