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TITLE: Biblical Arguments for Eden to have been Located in Israel
By Bruce Paul
12/16/04
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For those who believe that the story of Eden is much more than just a creative metaphor providing a literary vehicle to enlighten people in an existential way; who believe Eden is a chronicle of beginnings that reflects events which happen as they appear in the Bible, the following overview will be entirely compelling. It's hard to say why so many Bible scholars have glossed over these many points and in doing so, have overlook a central ingredient of their faith, and a vital proposition in the interpretation of scripture.

Direct Bible Refferences Associating Eden & Israel

Gen.13:10: "And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it [was] well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, [even] as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar." - Upon entering into the land, Abraham & Lot saw the region and compared the area to the Garden of Eden.

2Kings 19:12 "Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; [as] Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which [were] in Thelasar?" - It states that Cain went to the land of Nod, East of Eden after he was judged for murdering his brother (Genesis 4:16). Here we see the Children of Eden in Thelasar, which was a province captured by the Assyrian and appears in Assyrian inscriptions as Tilasuri. This area just happens to be due east of Israel.

Jeremiah 31:12 "Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all." - The restoration of Israel will be like returning to the Garden of Eden.

Lamentations 2:6: "And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as [if it were of] a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest." - Jeremiah was lamenting that Israel was being destroyed just as the Garden of Eden had before it.

Ezekiel 31:16, 18 "I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth . . . To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised with [them that be] slain by the sword. This [is] Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD." - Lebanon, representing by Assyria (possibly because of the famous Assyria epic of Gilgamesh and his heroic trip to Cedar Mountain in Lebanon), would be cut down together with the trees of Eden, represented by Judah and their alliance with the Pharaoh of Egypt. This prophecy would ultimately be fulfilled by the kingdoms of Babylonia and Persia.

Ezekiel 36:35 "And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities [are become] fenced, [and] are inhabited." - Disobedient Israel experiences the same fate as the Garden of Eden.

Amose 1:5 "I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the LORD." - The Syrians who had sovereign rule over Israel at that time are said to, “holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden”

Luke 23:43 "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." - The Greek word here for paradise is paradeisos and comes from the Hebrew word, pardace which means "an orchard or and enclosed garden”. Jesus was telling the thief that he was going to be taken to Eden.

Back to Paradise

Eden was a special place prepared by God for earth’s human inhabitants to experience His presence, His provision and His pleasure. “Eden is the biblical paradigm of the original state of accord between God, man, and nature. It represents a state of harmony and peace that, since the hour its gates were closed, the world has never known” Rabbi Dovid Sears. In the same way, the Promised Land was given to Abraham and his decedents as a special dowry, authenticating the covenant relationship God was making with this, His chosen people. Through this land, God intended to bless His people with His presence, His provision and His pleasure, making them a light to the rest of the world, but they failed just as their forefathers did.

As Adam and Eve sinned and were sent out of the Garden, and then later Cain sinned and was sent away from the land of Eden altogether, so the Israelites are pictured as being expelled from their land of promise over and over again. When the Hebrew people turned back to God, His promise was always clear: “For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” (Isaiah 51:3)

It is not necessary that they follow, but it would be reasonable to maintain that the very ground which saw the first sin & fall, be the very place of redemption and restoration. Why else would Israel be the Promised Land? Why else would God call Abraham from the east to this land if his purpose was not to defeat evil on the grounds of it’s’ victory?

The Mountain of God

It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to come to the conclusion that the river from Eden had to flow down from a mountain, as it ended up feeding the headwaters of four other rivers. If this is the case, where was this mountain? The presence of God is often associated with mountains as: Moses retrieved the Decalogue from Mt. Sinai, Elijah shames the 400 prophets of Baal by bringing down fire from Heaven on Mt Carmel (Hebrew word for Carmel means orchard), and Jesus was transfigured on a high mountain (possibly Mt Hermon at the northern end of Israel by Lebanon). Mount Moriah is the King of the mountains as: a) God provided a substitute for Abraham’s son here (Genesis 22), b) Solomon built the first temple here (2 Chronicles c) Ezekiel had a awesome vision of God and the wheel within a wheel here (Ezekiel 8-10) d) It was here that a remnant of Israel returned from captivity in Persia (Ezra) e) It was here that Jesus was whipped and beaten like Ornan's threshing floor, shedding his blood for a sinful and rebellious world.

Mount Moriah is present in scripture as “God’s Holy Mountain”, and during Ezekiel’s prophecy against the King of Tyre in (Ezekiel 28:13, 14), Eden is tied together with the “holy mountain of God”. Other verses that seem to tie “God’s Holy Mountain” together with Eden are: Joel 2:1-3, and Micah 4:1-4, and the future propagation of this mountain (or Eden) throughout the rest of the world is also tied together with the Kingdom of God (Isaiah 25:6-9; 56:3-8, Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45)

Eden in the Temple

Dr Ernest L. Martin seems to be one of the first Bible scholars to have associated the Garden of Eden with the tabernacle God had Moses build, and the temple on Mt. Moriah. You can see this brilliant scholar’s perspective on this issue HERE, but we will take a slightly different take on the issue. We believe that Eden’s river flowed from the alter rock in the temple area, or what was Ornan’s Threshing Floor (a picture of the rock that Moses struck in the desert, and of Jesus being whipped and beaten) and went out into the Garden, which was in the Mt of Olives. The tree of life in Eden would have been located where Jesus died on a cross, or in Bethany where Jesus made his home in Judea, not in the Holy of Holies.

Another difference in our perspective with Dr Martin’s Eden temple is the inclusion of the Genesis 1 account. We also see the temple carrying the physical representative of this first creation account, as:
Day 1 - Structuring of space (light/darkness)
Day 2 - Structuring of the sky and sea.
Day 3 - Structuring of the land.
Day 4 - Patterning of space's residents (Sun, Moon, stars).
Day 5 - Patterning of the sky and sea’s residents (birds, insects, fish).
Day 6 - Patterning of the land’s residents (animals and humans).
Day 7 – Focus on God’s rest (Heaven)
Each of these spheres of creative powere and life are all the areas in which God extends His dominion. We see the expresion of the various spheres in the tabernacle/temple as: outside the temple is representative of the dwelling place of humanity (or the earthy sphere of God’s creation), the outer courts of the temple are open to the sky with a giant bowl called “The Sea” representing the realm of the atmosphere and sea, the inter courts are represented by space with images of the sun, moon and stars sewn into the fabric of the temple’s veil, and the Holy of Holies is representative of the very dwelling place of God (Heaven).

Also, as Dr Martin points out, the temple is a physical representative of the Eden account in Genesis 2, as:
- The Tabernacle and the Temple always faced east as did the entrance to Eden, and the eastern gates of the Temple were prophesied to be sealed until the restoration of all things by the Messiah.
- The veil in the temple which separated the inter court from the Holy of Holies had two cherubim's embroidered into the cloth, along with a blossoming almond tree. There are only two places in all of scripture where cherubim are seen guarding the entrance of anything, and blossoming almond tree clearly represents the Tree of Life.
- The analogy of a tree is a pervasive metaphor throughout scripture. Rebellious Israel is always pictured as a fruitless fig tree, and the obedient believer is viewed as a productive vine. The Bible differentiates between what are consistently considered to be good trees and bad trees, with the palm and olive trees always representing good, and evergreens always representing evil (the Israelites placed their idols and sacrificed to them under these trees). The great cedar in Ezekiel 31 is evil personified and represents both Satan, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So it is no coincidence that the temple was made out of cedar, with palm trees carved into the wood. These two trees represented the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, symbolising the redemptive process of God, transforming that which was evil into life.

Water, Trees, Fire and Rocks

The elements in Eden’s orchard not only act as essential members of the tabernacle & temple, they are pervasive images observed throughout scripture that hold their own unique significance and meaning. Each of these elements also point to Eden being associated with Israel in the following ways:

The First Living Water

There are many metaphors in the Bible that provide helpful descriptions of the Holy Spirit, like: The breadth of God, the wind, or the dove we see as we read about Jesus being baptized. The most pervasive metaphor throughout scripture, however, is water or "Living Water". Jesus said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, From within him will flow rivers of living water. Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39). The river in Eden is the Bibles first expression of this Living Water, and this together with the four rivers mentioned in Genesis 2 can be viewed as God’s work of restoration, preparing the whole land for its human inhabitants.

After an honest reading of the Genesis 2 account, the description of these four rivers mentioned here seems far to elaborate to be anything but a detailed report of where these four rivers were understood to have emanated. The location of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are undisputed. The problem scholars have had through the years is accepting the clearly defined location of these other two rivers. So where are these rivers?

The name of the river Pishon itself is not very helpful, but the name of the people Havilah identifies the area. The people are Arabian, as the Havilah are referenced in Genesis 25:18, and 1 Samuel 15:7, and are thought to be one of the Joktanean tribes in northern Arabia. The name of the second river is Gihon; it runs through the entire land of Cush (Genesis 2:13). This word Cush or Kuwsh in the Hebrew means black, is mentioned 29 times in scripture, and invariably refers to the area just south of Egypt. The Gihon is also mentioned by Josephus, and the book of Jubilees to be the Nile.

You can see the Bible scholar's dilemma! How do you connect rivers with headwaters in eastern Turkey, Arabia, and Africa? The key to solving this problem is Genesis 2:6 “Springs would well up from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground" So if we can envision Eden’s River acting as the initial water resource, flowing down below the earth's surface to eventually feed the springs of every main river resource known to the Hebrew people. Centrally located in the middle of these four rivers is Israel, which is not surprising because Eden's river was a type of the Holy Spirit, breathing life into the whole region surrounding the orchard with the tree of life.

We see this same river in Ezekiel 47 when in a vision, Ezekiel saw water flowing from the temples alter and flowing toward the Dead Sea in the east. The vertical descent of Eden’s river was astonishing, flowing from Ornan’s threshing floor at the top of Mount Moriah at about 2400 ft above sea level, down to the Dead Sea, the lowest elevation on the face of the earth at about 1400 ft below sea level, and then further down another 1200 feet to the bottom of the sea. This is 2 ½ times the vertical drop of the highest water falls in the world, and gives us an image of the Holy Spirit being sent down from heaven to the nations - as salt water represents sin & death, and the sea is a figurative term in the Bible for the nations.

A Sword in the East

God placed two Cherubs and a burning sword on the east side of Eden’s orchard to keep man from eating fruit from the tree of life. "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim's, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24). The word flaming here is "lahat" and might also be translated burning. The word used to describe how this burning sword moves around is, "haphak", and is used in Job 37:12 speaking of churning clouds, and also in Judges 7:13 speaking of a tumbling roll of bread.

So to locate our burning sword, we need to find a geographical barrier that would act as a deterrent to anyone attempting to access the tree of life, burns like fire, and churns like clouds or tumbles like a roll of bread. A body of water certainly churns like clouds and tumbles like a roll of bread, and you could even imagine how the waves on the surface could be perceived to be like swords moving back and forth. If our Genesis 3 burning sword is a body of water, the Dead Sea would be a good candidate because its waters burn your eyes, nose and throat like fire. Also, as incredible as it may sound, a topographic map of the Dead Sea area show the body of water looks just like a sword. See HERE!

The waters of the Dead Sea couldn't hold any more salt than they do. They're absolutely saturated with about 1/3 of the waters content containing salt. This makes the water so heavy that even small waves hit the side of boats like hammers, and its density forces bobbing swimmers who attempt to dive down under the water back to the surface. Despite the high saline content of the Dead Sea, metal objects which you would expect to corrode quickly in a brackish environment like this, never seem to rust because there's absolutely no oxygen in the water.

Fish that are swept down from the Jordon River die without delay as they enter into this sea, and there's a continual commotion of birds flying down from the sky to feast on their flesh as their dead bodies rise to the surface. The fish are people and the birds are, "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens" (Ephesians 6:12), and as we enter into the realm of sin, we die spiritually and become helpless victims to the forces of evil. If it were not for the river of life, this drama of death and enslavement to Satan scheme would play out forever.

We might even propose that the location of the Dead Sea is where Satan fell, and God was in the process of restoring this ground with "living water" before the fall of man. The Dead Sea rift is the deepest scar on dry land, and the tectonic plates under the ground are splintered like nowhere else in the world. Brimstone and flammable tar still rise up from the deep, checkering the surface of this pungent sea and together with the heat of the surrounding desert we see the Biblical lake of fire personified.

This is also the region that Jesus was lead to be tempted by the devil after he was baptized by John in the Jordon River. Perhaps it was Mt Tabor that Jesus was lead to by Satan to gaze into the Dead Sea and be shown all the nations of the world in a moment’s time (Luke 4:5), as this was the very peek that kept Moses from actually moving into and possessing the Promised Land. Even Moses, the conveyor of the covenant and the most humble man on earth, could not pass the fiery test of this burning sword. Moses failed to speak God’s word to the rock, and wanted the water instead. Eden would have to wait! It would be Jesus the Messiah, who wanted God’s words more than bread in this desolate place, and would not contemplate worshiping any other God, that was able to pass by these burning waters to his final test. For here in Jerusalem, Jesus’ final test in what was Eden, was Adam’s original sin and point of falure, and in passing this criterion Jesus would be qualified to act as the sacrifice and redeemer for all humanity.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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