Where Was the Garden of Eden?
THE beautiful garden or park that Jehovah God provided as a home for the first human pair, Adam and Eve, was situated in a section of the region known as Eden. It was therefore called the “garden of Eden.” Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve were expelled from their paradisaic home. And return to this garden home was barred by cherubs and the flaming blade of a sword, evidently until the surging waters of the Flood obliterated the garden.—Gen. 2:8, 15; 3:24.
Regarding the location of Eden’s garden, Moses wrote: “Now there was a river issuing out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it began to be parted and it became, as it were, four heads. The first one’s name is Pishon; it is the one encircling the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. . . . And the name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one encircling the entire land of Cush. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one going to the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”—Gen. 2:10-14.
The regions Cush, Havilah and Assyria (Asshur) existed in the post-Flood period, evidently deriving their names from Noah’s descendants. (Gen. 10:7, 22, 29) As a geographical designation, the name “Cush” at an early date became virtually synonymous with Ethiopia. The region of Havilah appears to have embraced the northwest portion of the Arabian Peninsula and extended to or near the Sinai Peninsula, where the wilderness of Shur was likely located. (Gen. 25:18; 1 Sam. 15:7) The Genesis account speaks of the Hiddekel or Tigris as “going to the east of Assyria.” (Gen. 2:14) This may mean that, in the period referred to, Assyria occupied considerable territory west of the Tigris, possibly including Babylonia.
Thus the evidence suggests that Moses employed terms familiar in his day to indicate the location of Eden’s garden. Of course, the Genesis account does not say the garden of Eden covered all this area. The references to Cush, Havilah and Assyria (Asshur) serve to identify the courses of the rivers. Nevertheless, their mention would have been helpful to Moses’ contemporaries in getting a picture of the relationship of the garden to these named areas. But for us today the regions themselves do not provide much assistance in determining the location of the garden of Eden.
As to the rivers, the Pishon and the Gihon cannot now be identified. This is understandable. If this part of Moses’ description relates to the time before the Flood, the Deluge itself may well have contributed to eliminating or changing the courses of the Pishon and Gihon Rivers. But if the rivers were ones existing in the post-Flood period, other natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, may since have altered their courses. More recent happenings illustrate that such changes can take place. For example, in 1950 a powerful earthquake in the region of Assam, India, caused some rivers to disappear and others to change their courses.
However, the Euphrates is well known, and Idiqlat (Hiddekel) is the name used for the equally well-known Tigris in ancient Akkadian (Assyro-Babylonian) inscriptions. These rivers provide a real clue as to the location of Eden’s garden. The Hebrew word translated “heads” at Genesis 2:10 has a bearing on the matter. It would favor placing the garden of Eden in the mountainous region near the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates. As The Anchor Bible states in its comment on Genesis 2:10: “In Heb[rew] the mouth of the river is called ‘end’ (Josh xv 5, Jos xviii 19); hence the plural of ro’s ‘head’ must refer here to the upper course. . . . This latter usage is well attested for the Akk[adian] cognate resu.”
Both the Euphrates and the Tigris have their present sources in the mountainous region to the north of the Mesopotamian plains. Although opinions vary, numerous scholars would locate the garden of Eden in this area, a few miles south of Lake Van, in eastern Turkey.