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Discovery Magazine 1/1/1999

Rivers in Eden

Four rivers flowed through a region known as Eden where God placed the garden in which Adam and Eve originally lived. Genesis 2:11-14 says:

"The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that skirts the whole land of Havilah…. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel [also known as the Tigris]; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates."

What do we know about Eden and its rivers? First, the Bible tells us that Eden was a real place. It is mentioned not only in Genesis 2, but in Isaiah 51:3, Ezekiel 28:3, and Joel 2:3. Second, there was a garden in its eastern section. Third, a river from Eden flowed through the garden to irrigate it, and eventually turned into four separate rivers upon leaving the garden. Fourth, each of these rivers is called by name, and we are told where three of them could be found.

People often have wondered where Eden was located. Some have observed that Moses (who wrote down for God the material in Genesis) mentions the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. And, since rivers of those same names exist today, then we should be able to pin down Eden’s location. But there are several problems with this idea.

First, the suggestion that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of today are the same ones mentioned by Moses does not agree with what the Bible says about these rivers. Moses said that one river turned into four. However, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of today do not branch from a common source, but arise from separate sources in the Armenian mountains.

Second, remember that Genesis 6-8 tells us that God sent a flood to destroy the entire world. Genesis 7:19 says: "And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered." We refer to the flood as a "global" or "worldwide" flood because the Bible says that it covered the entire Earth. We understand today the damage that a local flood can do. Just imagine the damage that a global flood could do! Such a flood no doubt would have changed the Earth’s surface drastically, and would have erased all evidence of Eden and its garden paradise. Knowing what we do about how floods alter the Earth’s surface, we cannot assume that the rivers of the Earth today are in the exact same spot they were before the Great Flood.

Third, what we know about the Tigris and the Euphrates today does not match the description given in Genesis 2. This would make sense, considering the damage caused by the Genesis Flood. Finding four rivers that branch off from a common source does not help us, since this happens in many parts of the world.

Apparently, we never will know exactly where Eden was. There is not enough information in God’s Word to allow us to locate the exact position of Eden before the Flood. It is better for us to look forward to living in a heavenly paradise with Jesus one day, instead of wasting our time searching for an earthly paradise that we’ll never be able to find.



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