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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Eden

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Garden of, the residence of our first parents in their state of purity and blessedness. The word Eden in the Hebrew denotes "pleasure" or "delight:" whence the name has been given to several places which, from their situation, were pleasant or delightful. Thus the Prophet Amos 1:5 , speaks of an Eden in Syria, which is generally considered to have been in the valley of Damascus, where a town called Eden is mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy, and where the tomb of Abel is pretended to be shown. This has in consequence been selected by some as the site of the garden of Eden. By others, the garden has been placed on the eastern side of mount Libanus; and by others again, in Arabia Felix, where traces of the word Eden are found. But the opinion which has been most generally received on this subject is that which places the garden on the Lower Euphrates; between the junction of that river with the Tigris and the gulf of Persia. This is Dr. Well's opinion; in which he is supported by Huetius, Grotius, Marinus, and Bochart. To this it is replied, that, according to this scheme, the garden was intersected by a great branch of the Euphrates, in the lower and broadest part of its course; which will give it an extent absolutely irreconcilable with the idea of Adam's "dressing" it by his own manual labour, or even of overlooking it: beside that all communication would be cut off between its different parts by a stream half a mile in width. Its local features, too, if in this situation, must have been of the most uninteresting kind; the whole of that region, as far as the sight can reach, being a dead, monotonous, sandy, or marshy flat, without a single undulation to relieve the eye, or give any of the beauties which the imagination involuntarily paints to itself as attendant on a spot finished by the hand of God as the residence of his creatures in a state of innocence; whose minds may be supposed to be tuned to the full enjoyment of the grand and beautiful in nature. How different will be the aspect and arrangement of this favoured spot, if it be placed where only, according to the words of Moses, it can be placed; namely, at the heads or fountains of the rivers described, instead of their mouths.

The country of Eden, therefore, according to others, was some where in Media, Armenia, or the north of Mesopotamia; all mountainous tracts, and affording, instead of the sickening plains of Babylonia, some of the grandest, as well as the richest scenery in the world. A river or stream rising in some part of this country, entered the garden; where it was parted into four others, in all probability, by first falling into a basin or lake, from which the other streams issued at different points, taking different directions, and growing into mighty rivers; although at their sources in the garden, they would be like all other rivers, mere brooks, and forming no barrier to a free communication between the parts of the garden. Dr. Wells, in order to support his hypothesis of the situation of Eden on the lower parts of the Euphrates and Tigris, after giving these rivers a distribution which has now no existence, makes the Pison and Gihon to be parts of the Tigris and Euphrates themselves: an arrangement at perfect disagreement with the particular description of Moses; beside, that the Gihon thus called, instead of compassing the whole land of Cush, can only be said to skirt an extreme corner of it. It appears, indeed, that in the time of Alexander, the Euphrates pursued a separate course to the sea; or, at least, that a navigable branch of it was carried in that direction: in the mouth of which, at Diridotis, Nearchus anchored with his fleet. But what reliance can be placed on the ever shifting channels of a river flowing through an alluvial soil, and over a perfect level divertible at the pleasure of the people inhabiting its banks? Or, what theory can be founded on their distribution, which will not be as unstable as the streams them selves? This very channel, so essential to the hypothesis which places Eden in this situation, was annihilated by the Orcheni, a neighbouring people; who directed the stream to water their own land, and thus gave it a shorter course into the Tigris, which it has ever since preserved. But it is only the lower parts of the Euphrates and Tigris, as they creep through the plains of Babylonia, which are thus inconstant: higher up in their courses, they flow over more solid strata, and in deeper valleys, unchanged by time. It is here that their conformity with the Mosaic account is to be sought; and it is here that they may be found, in the exact condition in which they were left by the deluge, and, indeed, according to Moses, in which they existed before that event. It is true, that the heads of the four rivers, above described, cannot now be found sufficiently near, to recognize thence the exact situation of paradise; but they all arise from the same mountainous region; and the springs of the Euphrates and Tigris, as already mentioned, are even now nearly interwoven. Mr. Faber supposes the lake Arsissa to cover the site of Eden; and that the change which carried the heads of the rivers to a greater distance from it, was occasioned by the deluge. But it is far more probable that this change, if we may infer from the account given by Moses that the courses of all the streams remained unaltered by the flood, may have taken place at man's expulsion from the garden: when God might choose to obliterate this fair portion of his works, unfitted for any thing but the residence of innocence; and to blot at once from the face of the earth, like the guilty cities of the plain, both the site and the memorial of man's transgression,—an awful event, which would add tenfold horrors to the punishment.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Eden'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/e/eden.html. 1831-2.

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