John’s brow wrinkled. He said, “I think the next part might be easier.
After describing a river that parted into four heads, it just repeats what was
already said, that God took man and placed him in the garden:
(Gen. 2:10) And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence
it was parted, and became into four heads.
(11) The name of the first [is] Pison: that [is] it which compasseth
the whole land of Havilah, where [there is] gold;
(12) And the gold of that land [is] good: there [is] bdellium and the onyx stone.
(13) And the name of the second river [is] Gihon: the same [is] it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
(14) And the name of the third river [is] Hiddekel: that [is] it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river [is] Euphrates.
(15) And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
John continued, “Although this J-Account doesn’t deal with time sequences,
it does deal with location quite clearly. This passage locates the Garden of Eden
very clearly in the ‘fertile crescent’ between the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, a bit south of present-day Baghdad.”
“I’m trying to understand this section,” Dan said.
“The easiest river is the Euphrates, since there’s a river by that name in
Iraq today. So, that’s probably it. But what do you think about the others?”
Shannon moved her laptop in front of her and started working.
John leaned back in the green patio chair, which flexed under his weight.
“Some say Hiddekel is an early Hebrew name of the river known today as the
Tigris. It parallels the Euphrates, clearly marking Mesopotamia, the area constantly
mentioned as the cradle of civilization. The Pison and the Gihon don’t match
present-day names, but I understand they’re probably tributaries of the Tigris
and the Euphrates. The Garden of Eden was next to these rivers, which simply have four major heads, or sources.”
Dan leaned back too. “Sorry, John, I have a bit of trouble with that conclusion.
The text clearly talks about Ethiopia. Ethiopia is not in the ‘Fertile Crescent’
at all, but in Africa, about 1,500 miles away; there’s no doubt about that. The
major river there is the Nile, the longest river on earth, running north from Ethiopia
through Egypt and creating one of the most fertile river valleys in the world.
Are we forgetting the very successful Egyptian civilization and the enigma of the
Pyramids under the protective watch of the ancient Great Sphinx? I would suggest
that the Gihon is actually the Nile. It runs all through Ethiopia.”
He leaned forward and reread the verse from this computer screen.
And the name of the second river [is] Gihon: the same [is] it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
Shannon clicked her mouse. “That theory matches very well, far better than
the claim that the river was a tributary in Iraq. Now, if Gihon is really another
name for the Nile way over in Ethiopia, I see no reason why the river identified
as the Pison would need to be just a tributary of the Tigris and Euphrates. Why
can’t it also be a major river?” She looked over the top of her notebook computer.
“In that same verse, it talks about onyx. I just did an Internet search on
onyx, it says:
Onyx is a striped, semiprecious variety of agate, with white, black, brown or red alternating bands. The main sources of onyx are India and South America, but it is also found in China, Madagascar, Mexico and the U.S.A.
“If we assume modern archeologists are correct, another
important cradle of civilization was the Indus river valley, in western India.
India is listed as the prime source of onyx,” she said.
“You’d have to consider the Amazon River valley in South America as well,” Dan said.
“It was mentioned in that Internet article.”
“True, but there’s more. The other product mentioned in scripture for this
area was Bdellium. An Internet search provides some corroborative information.
First of all, we’re pronouncing it wrong. It’s pronounced delm. That’s
at least easier to pronounce. It says here it’s ‘a fragrant gum resin
obtained from plants of the bursera (balsam) family and is similar to myrrh in
color and shape but not smell.’
“I’m scrolling down...yes, here is the location. This tree is found in
Arabia and... India.” She slapped her hand down on the table.
“Yes, India would be a possibility, but not South America. Therefore, I
claim that the Indus River valley correlates well with the river named Pison in the Genesis text.”
Shannon was getting excited. “John, you say the name Hiddekel is the early
Hebrew name of the Tigris River. But, it also says that it goeth toward the east.”
“Right,” he said. “Here is the verse again.”
And the name of the third river [is] Hiddekel: that [is] it which goeth toward the east of Assyria...
“The problem here is that the Tigris River doesn’t run toward the east, but mainly north to south.
Sure, it runs a little to the east, but if you wanted to explain this river, you
wouldn’t say it runs to the east. It is a bit to the east of the Euphrates River,
but including it in this list is obviously redundant. The Euphrates River itself
clearly explains the Fertile Crescent. We don’t need the Tigris to explain that again.
I have an alternative explanation.” Shannon was clearly enjoying this.
“What is it?”
“The better fit for this would be the Huang He or
‘Yellow River’ in China. It runs due east, taking a circuitous route
over some 3,400 miles. Archaeologists agree that this was one of the main cradles
of civilization. I could easily imagine the name Huang He could get mistranslated
into Hiddekel by Hebrew scribes making sense of this story, not knowing Chinese
and never having visited that river in China.”
Shannon clicked a few more times. “It says here that the Yellow River valley
is the cradle of the very successful Chinese civilization starting with the
Xia—-that is, ‘Shaw’—-dynasty, who were descendants of the Neolithic
culture known as the Longshan, with artifacts dated at about 9,000 BC.
It’s clear that science supports the notion that the Yellow River should be
linked to the mysterious river that ‘runs to the east.’
“So, instead of one river with four forks, we’ve got four distinct
rivers and their associated valleys suitable for the establishment of life. Indeed,
these rivers connect in the oceans, as do all other rivers on earth. I think this
is the reason you could say that the water splits into four forks. Scientists
agree that the cradles of early human civilization were in the fertile
Indus, Nile, Huang He, and Euphrates river valleys, an identical match to what
is found in biblical literature! If this interpretation is correct, garden
represents these garden-like river valleys, and Eden represents that they were
where human civilizations would be established.”
“There are four letters in the word EDEN too,” John said, finger in
the air. “Maybe each letter represents one of the four river valleys.”
“Maybe if you spelled it I-H-E-N,” Dan suggested. “Indus, Huang He,
Euphrates, Nile. We just need a better name for the Yellow River that starts with
the letter D, and we’d be in business.”
“I give,” John admitted.
“This idea certainly challenges the usual Middle-Eastern centric interpretation,”
Dan said. “Especially for Europeans, it would be almost unthinkable for
mankind to have originated in Africa, India, or China. The Middle-East is hard enough!”
“This is amazing,” Shannon said. “First, we read that ‘God’
is plural, perhaps a whole group of people, then that Adam is really mankind,
another whole group, and now, that the single ‘Garden of Eden’ is
more likely four separate birthplaces—-not the single holy site near Babylon
that’s so often fought over. I like this. I like the way we are correlating
what’s known by science with the statements in the scripture.
I wonder what else we’ll find.”