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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
e'-d'-n (`edhen, "delight"; Edem):
(1) The land in which "Yahweh God planted a garden," where upon his creation "he put the man whom he had formed" (Gen 2:8). In the Assyrian inscriptions idinu (Accadian, edin) means "plain" and it is from this that the Biblical word is probably derived. Following are the references to Eden in the Bible, aside from those in Gen 2 and 3: Gen 4:16; Isa 51:3; Ezek 28:13; 31:9,16,18; 36:35; Joel 2:3. The Garden of Eden is said to be "eastward, in Eden" Gen (2:8); where the vegetation was luxurious (2:9) and the fig tree indigenous (3:7), and where it was watered by irrigation. All kinds of animals, including cattle, beasts of the field and birds, were found there (2:19,20). Moreover, the climate was such that clothing was not needed for warmth. It is not surprising, therefore, that the plural of the word has the meaning "delights," and that Eden has been supposed to mean the land of delights, and that the word became a synonym for Paradise.
The location of Eden is in part to be determined from the description already given. It must be where there is a climate adapted to the production of fruit trees and of animals capable of domestication, and in general to the existence of man in his primitive condition. In particular, its location is supposed to be determined by the statements regarding the rivers coursing through it and surrounding it. There is a river (nahar) (Gen 2:10) which was parted and became four heads (ro'shim), a word which (Jdg 8:16; Job 1:17) designates main detachments into which an army is divided, and therefore would more properly signify branches than heads, permitting Josephus and others to interpret the river as referring to the ocean, which by the Greeks was spoken of as the river (okeanos) surrounding the world. According to Josephus, the Ganges, the Tigris, the Euphrates and the Nile are the four rivers, being but branches of this one river. Moreover, it is contended by some, with much show of reason, that the word perath translated Euphrates is a more general term, signifying "the broad" or "deep" river, and so may here refer to some other stream than the Euphrates, possibly to a river in some other region whose name is perpetuated in the present Euphrates, as "the Thames" of New England perpetuates the memory of the Thames of Old England. In ancient times there was a river Phrath in Persia, and perhaps two. It is doubtful whether the phrase "eastward, in Eden" refers to the position with reference to the writer or simply with reference to Eden itself. So far as that phrase is concerned, therefore, speculation is left free to range over the whole earth, and this it has done.
1. Central Asia:
Columbus when passing the mouth of the Orinoco surmised that its waters came down from the Garden of Eden. It is fair to say, however, that he supposed himself to be upon the East coast of Asia. The traditions of its location somewhere in Central Asia are numerous and persistent. Naturalists have, with Quatrefages, pretty generally fixed upon the portion of Central Asia stretching East from the Pamir, often referred to as the roof of the world, and from which flow four great rivers--the Indus, the Tarim, the Sur Daria (Jaxartes), and the Ainu Daria (Oxus)--as the original cradle of mankind. This conclusion has been arrived at from the fact that at the present time the three fundamental types of the races of mankind are grouped about this region. The Negro races are, indeed, in general far removed from the location, but still fragments of them both pure and mixed are found in various localities both in the interior and on the seashore and adjacent islands where they would naturally radiate from this center, while the yellow and the white races here meet at the present time in close contact. In the words of Quatrefages, "No other region of the globe presents a similar union of extreme human types distributed round a common center" (The Human Species, 176).
Philology, also, points to this same conclusion. On the East are the monosyllabic languages, on the North the polysyllabic or agglutinative languages, and on the West and South the inflectional or Aryan languages, of which the Sanskrit is an example, being closely allied to nearly all the languages of Europe. Moreover, it is to this center that we trace the origin of nearly all our domesticated plants and animals. Naturally, therefore, the same high authority writes, "There we are inclined to say the first human beings appeared and multiplied till the populations overflowed as from a bowl and spread themselves in waves in every direction" (ibid., 177). With this conclusion, as already said, a large number of most eminent authorities agree. But it should be noted that if, as we believe, there was a universal destruction of antediluvian man, the center of dispersion had in view by these naturalists and archaeologists would be that from the time of Noah, and so would not refer to the Eden from which Adam and Eve were driven. The same may be said of Haeckel's theory that man originated in a submerged continent within the area of the Indian Ocean.
2. The North Pole:
Dr. William F. Warren has with prodigious learning attempted to show that the original Eden was at the North Pole, a theory which has too many considerations in its support to be cast aside unceremoniously, for it certainly is true that in preglacial times a warm climate surrounded the North Pole in all the lands which have been explored. In Northern Greenland and in Spitzbergen abundant remains of fossil plants show that during the middle of the Tertiary period the whole circumpolar region was characterized by a climate similar to that prevailing at the present time in Southern Europe, Japan, and the southern United States (see Asa Gray's lectures on "Forest Geography and Archaeology" in the American Journal of Science, CXVI, 85-94, 183-96, and Wright, Ice Age in North America, 5th edition, chapter xvii). But as the latest discoveries have shown that there is no land within several hundred miles of the North Pole, Dr. Warren's theory, if maintained at all, will have to be modified so as to place Eden at a considerable distance from the actual pole. Furthermore, his theory would involve the existence of "Tertiary man," and thus extend his chronology to an incredible extent, even though with Professor Green (see ANTEDILUVIANS) we are permitted to consider the genealogical table of Gen 5 as sufficiently elastic to accommodate itself to any facts which may be discovered.
Much also can be said in favor of identifying Eden with Armenia, for it is here that the Tigris and Euphrates have their origin, while two others, the Aras (Araxes) emptying into the Caspian Sea and the Choruk (thought by some to be the Phasis) emptying into the Black Sea, would represent the Gihon and the Pishon. Havilah would then be identified with Colchis, famous for its golden sands. But Cush is difficult to find in that region; while these four rivers could by no possibility be regarded as branches of one parent stream.
Two theories locate Eden in the Euphrates valley. Of these the first would place it near the head of the Persian Gulf where the Tigris and Euphrates after their junction form the Shatt el-'Arab which bifurcates into the eastern and the western arm before reaching the Gulf. Calvin considered the Pishon to be the eastern arm and the Gihon the western arm. Other more recent authorities modify theory by supposing that Gihon and Pishon are represented by the Karum and the Kerkhah rivers which come into the Shatt el-'Arab from the east. The most plausible objection to this theory is that the Biblical account represents all these branches as down stream from the main river, whereas this theory supposes that two of them at least are up stream. This objection has been ingeniously met by calling attention to the fact that 2,000 years before Christ the Persian Gulf extended up as far as Eridu, 100 miles above the present mouth of the river, and that the Tigris and the Euphrates then entered the head of the Gulf through separate channels, the enormous amount of silt brought down by the streams having converted so much of the valley into dry land. In consequence of the tides which extend up to the head of the Gulf, the current of all these streams would be turned up stream periodically, and so account for the Biblical statement. In this case the river (nahar) would be represented by the Persian Gulf itself, which was indeed called by the Babylonians nar marratum, "the bitter river." This theory is further supported by the fact that according to the cuneiform inscriptions Eridu was reputed to have in its neighborhood a garden, "a holy place," in which there grew a sacred palm tree. This "tree of life" appears frequently upon the inscriptions with two guardian spirits standing on either side.
The other theory, advocated with great ability by Friedrich Delitzsch, places Eden just above the site of ancient Babylon, where the Tigris and Euphrates approach to within a short distance of one another and where the country is intersected by numerous irrigating streams which put off from the Euphrates and flow into the Tigris, whose level is here considerably lower than that of the Euphrates--the situation being somewhat such as it is at New Orleans where the Mississippi River puts off numerous streams which empty into Lake Pontchartrain. Delitzsch supposes the Shatt el-Nil, which flows eastward into the Tigris, to be the Gihon, and the Pallacopas, flowing on the West side of the Euphrates through a region producing gold, to be the Pishon. The chief difficulties attending this theory pertain to the identification of the Pishon with the Pallacopas, and the location of Havilah on its banks. There is difficulty, also, in all these theories in the identification of Cush (Ethiopia), later associated with the country from which the Nile emerges, thus giving countenance to the belief of Josephus and many others that that river represented the Gihon. If we are compelled to choose between these theories it would seem that the one which locates Eden near the head of the Persian Gulf combines the greater number of probabilities of every kind.
(2) A Levite of the time of Hezekiah (2 Ch 29:12; 31:15).
Dawson Modern Science in Bible Lands; Friedrich Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? (1881); Sayce, HCM, 95 ff; Hommel, Anc. Hebrew Tradition, 314; William F. Warren, Paradise Found, 1885.
George Frederick Wright
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'eden'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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