Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What the Bible Says About Eden

Alice C. Linsley

The Eden described in the Bible was a vast well-watered region that extended from the source of the Nile to the Tigris-Euphrates (Genesis 2). The biblical description comes from writers who lived long after the time that this region (shown in red) was wet.

Rock paintings of boats, people fishing and herding cattle have been found around the Sahara. These tell the story of life during the African Humid Period (the Aqualithic) when the wet Sahara sustained large herds.

Memory of Eden is preserved in Akkadian documents and ancient Egyptian texts. According to Genesis 13:10, the Garden of the Lord was well watered, like “the land of Egypt.” The Afro-Asiatic word for garden or virgin forest is egan, and the Hebrew word gan for garden, is cleared related. In Akkadian, the region is called Edinu and the word is derived from the Akkadian word edû - flow, spring (a Sumerian loan word). E. A. Speiser believed that the Sumerian word eden refers to a plain or a steppe (The Anchor Bible, Genesis, p. 16). However, the biblical description is of a flood plain, not an arid plain.

The Paradise of Eden is described as a well-watered garden. This was not a small garden that could be managed by a single gardener. It was God's garden. Today the region shown on the map is one of the driest on Earth.

If you are a gardener (as I am), you recognize the value of water, especially in hot weather. The text says that springs came up from the earth. This suggests that the biblical writer is making a play of words Eden = edû , meaning "flow" or "spring."

Genesis 2 gives the account of 4 major rivers: the Gihon and the Pishon in Africa, and the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia. The Ethiopians identify the Gihon with the Abay River, which circles the former African kingdom of Gojjam. Genesis 2:13 states that the Gihon "winds through all the land of Kush." The Pishon "winds through the whole land of Havilah" (Gen. 2:11). Havilah is both a place name and the name of one of Kush's sons (Gen. 10:7). This identifies the Gihon and Pishon with the Upper Nile region.

This ancient paradise supported forests (Gen. 2:9). Some believe that the earliest of Abraham’s ancestors were forest dwellers. This pushes those ancestors to a time before memory, and yet the Paradise they enjoyed is remembered. Jung might suggest that the Paradise of Genesis reflects the collective memory of Abraham’s Proto-Saharan ancestors.

Many discoveries, such as the 8000 year Dufuna boat, ancient petroglyphs of boats and cows in the  Sahara, and 9000-10,000 year burial sites provide evidence of extensive water systems and human populations. The paleoanthropologist, Paul Sereno, unearthed 9,700 year skeletons at Gobero in Niger. These were buried on the edge of a paleolake on the northwestern rim of the Chad Basin. The Gobero site is the earliest known cemetery in the Sahara and the skeletons found there indicated that some of the people were at least 6 feet tall.

Gobero skeleton (G3B8) measures 6 feet, 6 inches
Photo: Mike Hettwer, courtesy Project Exploration

At the time of the Gobero population, humans were dispersed globally, and during the time of Noah these populations were not destroyed. 

Many peoples have their point of origin in archaic Eden. This is the point of origin of the biblical Hebrew clans. The oldest identified Horite Hebrew shrine cities were Nekhen and Nekheb on the Nile. These twin cities date to 3,800 BC.

Painted tomb at Nekhen

The rulers of Tyre, an ancient seat of wisdom, are traced back to Eden. "Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created." (Ezekiel 28:11-18)

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