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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Eden, Garden of

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EDEN, GARDEN OF . Genesis 2:1-25 f. relates how God planted a garden in the East, in Eden. A river rose in that land, flowed through the garden, and then divided into four streams. Within the enclosure were many trees useful for food; also the tree of life, whose fruit conferred immortality, and the tree of knowledge, which gave power to discriminate between things profitable and things hurtful, or, between right and wrong. The animal denizens were innocuous to man and to each other. When the first man and woman yielded to the tempter and ate of the tree of knowledge, they were expelled, and precluded from re-entering the garden.

In this account Genesis 2:10-14; Genesis 3:22; Genesis 3:24 seem to be interpolations. But the topographical data in Genesis 2:10-14 are of especial importance, because they have supplied the material for countless attempts to locate the garden. It has been almost universally agreed that one of the four rivers is the Euphrates and another the Tigris . Here the agreement ends, and no useful purpose would be served by an attempt to enumerate the conflicting theories. Three which have found favour of late, may be briefly mentioned. One is that the Gihon is the Nile, and the Pishon the Persian and Arabian Gulfs, conceived of as a great river, with its source and that of the Nile not far from those of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Another regards Eden as an island not far from the head of the Persian Gulf. near the mouths of the Euphrates, the Tigris. the Kerkha. and the Karun. The third puts Eden near Erldu (once the seaport of Chaldæa on the Persian Gulf), and takes the Pishon to be the canal afterwards called Pallakottas, and the Gihon to be the Khoaspes (now Kerkha). In support of the last-named view a cuneiform tablet is quoted which speaks of a tree or shrub planted near Eridu by the gods. The sun-god and ‘the peerless mother of Tammuz’ dwell there: ‘no man enters into the midst of it.’ But the correspondences with the Biblical Eden are not sufficiently striking to compel conviction. At the same time it can hardly be doubted that the Biblical writer utilized traditional matter which came originally from Babylonia. The very name Eden , which to him meant ‘delight,’ is almost certainly the Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] çdinnu = ‘plain.’ The Bab. [Note: Babylonian.] author would conceive of the garden as lying in a district near his own land, hard by the supposed common source of the great rivers. And this, to the Hebrews, is in the East.

Eden, or the garden of Eden, became the symbol of a very fertile land (Genesis 13:10 , Isaiah 51:3 , Ezekiel 31:9; Ezekiel 31:16; Ezekiel 31:18 , Joel 2:3 ). The dirge over the king of Tyre ( Ezekiel 28:13 ff.) is founded on a Paradise legend which resembles that in Gn., but has a stronger mythological colouring: the ‘garden of God’ ( Ezekiel 28:13 ) is apparently identified with the well-known mythical mountain of the gods ( Ezekiel 28:14 ); the cherub and the king of Tyre are assimilated to each other; the stones of fire may be compared with the flame of a sword ( Genesis 3:24 : see also Enoch 24.16). In later literature we find much expansion and embellishment of the theme: see Jubilees 3:9, 4:26, Enoch 24f., 32, 60, 61, 2Es 8:52 , Assump. Mos. ix ff., Ev. Nic. xix. etc. NT thought and imagery have been affected by the description of Eden given in Genesis 2:1-25 f.: see Luke 23:43 , 2 Corinthians 12:4 , Revelation 2:7 . The Koran has many references to the garden of Paradise Lost, and the gardens of the Paradise to come (ix, xiii, xlvii, lv, lxviii, etc.).

J. Taylor.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Eden, Garden of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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