Is this Cain's homeland?
In the garden of Eden narratives we find clues as to the cultural contexts of the narrators. The term Eden derives from the Akkadian term edinu, which refers to a fertile plain. The Hebrew word gan (garden) is related to the Kushite term egàn, which refers to a virgin forest. The Akkadian edinu describes the fertile plain of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. The Kushite word egàn describes the forests of the Nile Valley before the desertification of the Sahara. The early chapters of Genesis are layered like an onion.
Which of these layers is the older context?
Here is a clue: Cain was a sent-away son who came to establish his territory "east of Eden" which is to say that he moved to the east side of the virgin forests of the wet Sahara.
If the Biblical writer intends Eden to be the land of Israel, east would place Cain in Mesopotamia, in the territory of the Kushite kingdom builder Nimrod. Abraham was a descendant of Nimrod, the son of Kush (Genesis 10). If the Biblical writer intends Eden to be in Mesopotamia, east of that would place Cain in Pakistan. That is not likely.
The phrase "east of Eden" in the Hebrew text is "quimat-Eden" and appears to be a Nilotic reference. Originally, the word was probably qma, and ancient Egyptian word that refers to bulrushes. So it is possible that Cain went to the place of bulrushes, which would be the Nile Valley. In Exodus 2:1-10, we read the story of how Moses; mother hid her infant in the bulrushes of the Nile.
Perhaps Eden simply refers to a well-watered region, just as the Hebrew word gihon (Genesis 2) refers to a gushing spring. On of the rivers that bounded Eden to the south is called the Gihon. It is likely one of the rivers at the source of the Nile in the Ethiopian highlands. The earliest human populations settled by major water sources which sustained them.
Abraham's ancestors were Nilo-Saharans
The book of Genesis contains the oldest layers of information about Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors who ruled territories along the Nile when the Sahara was wet (Neolithic Subpluvial). At that time the water systems of the Sahara were larger and largely interconnected. This has been confirmed by geological and hydrological studies of Central Africa and by discovery of proto-Saharan petroglyphs of boats and cows.
It has also been attested by the discovery of an 8000 year old black mahogany dugout in Dufuna in the Upper Yobe valley along the Komadugu Guna River in Northern Nigeria. The Dufuna boat (shown above) is about 2500 years older than the oldest known boat in Egypt.
The area shaded in red is the location of biblical Eden. It was said to be a well-watered area. Today this is one of the driest regions on earth, but during Noah's time and before it was vastly wetter. Abraham's ancestors came from this region. It is the point of origin of the Habiru (Hebrew) who preserved for us in the Biblical record the traditions, beliefs and practices of their ancestors.
|Biblical Eden had forests, sustained large herds in the grasslands. |
The region was well watered by extensive, inter-connected water systems
including the Nile, Lake Chad, Lake Victoria and the Benue-Niger Trough
Mega-Nile was once comparable in surface area to Lake Michigan (22,394 sq miles) in the US, Lake Tanganyika (12,703 sq miles) in East Africa, and Lake Baikal (12,248 sq miles) in Siberia. Here is the latest information on the vast expanse of the Nile during the last interglacial period.
Between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago the Nile filled with waters from the Angolan Highlands. Before this time, the streams of the Ugandan highlands flowed west to join the Congo River, which drains into the Atlantic. Geological uplift about 12,000 years ago tilted the region to create Lake Victoria and direct its excess flow north into the White Nile. The waters of the White Nile provide most of the Nile's water during the dry season. Essentially the entire Albertine Rift was a vast flood plain extending 3,700 miles from Syria to central Mozambique.
Likewise, the now dry Botswanan lake basin in southern Africa was once a sea, filled by water from the Angolan Highlands. Thousands of manmade stone tools have been found in the area dating to between 80,000 and 100,000 years.
Between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago Lake Chad filled its present drainage basin and spilled southwest out the Benue River to the Atlantic. It was called "Lake Megachad" and during that time it was the world's largest lake with a surface five times larger Lake Superior.
Genesis 2:10-14 says that Eden was watered by four rivers: the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Pishon and the Gihon. Two are in Mesopotamia and two are in Africa. This is the place of origin of the ruler-priests and of "him that holds the scepter from the house of Eden" (Amos 1:5). They are "the mighty men of old" who spread across this region. This is the point of origin of the practices associated with the priests of ancient Yisrael/Israel: circumcision, animal sacrifice, two-wife marriage pattern for rulers, sent-away sons, and the Holy Name YHWY.
The Ethiopians identify the Gihon with the Abay River, which encircles the former African kingdom of Gojjam (where Ge'ez was spoken, the language of the Ethiopian Orthodox church). The Pishon "flows through the whole land of Havilah" (Gen. 2:11) which was rich in gold. Havilah was a son of Kush (Gen. 10:7) and the "Kushites" lived in the upper Nile region and the Sudan. Kushite kings also ruled in Egypt and were the first to unite the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile.
The description of Eden as a well-watered region is supported by climate and geological studies. These four rivers encompass the heart or Eden of the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion which was ruled by a network of chiefs who were priests. They controlled the major water systems and built shrines along the rivers.
Related reading: Boats and cows of the Nilo-Saharans; Noah's Flood: Where and When?; The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y; The Etymology of the Vav; The Gold of Ophir; Sudan is Archaeologically Rich