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The Garden of Eden (Hebrew גַּן עֵדֶן, Gan Eden; Arabic: جنة عدن, ) is described in the Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden (Gen. 2:8). This garden forms part of the creation and theodicy of the Abrahamic religions, often being used to explain the origin of sin and mankind's wrongdoings.

The location of the Garden of Eden remains the subject of much controversy and speculation. The creation story in Genesis relates the geographical location of both Eden and the garden to four rivers (Pishon, Gihon, Tigrismarker, Euphrates), and three regions (Havilah, Assyria, and Kush). There are hypotheses that place Eden at the headwaters of the Tigrismarker and Euphrates (northern Mesopotamia), in Iraqmarker (Mesopotamia), Africa, and the Persian Gulfmarker. For many medieval writers, the image of the Garden of Eden also creates a location for human love and sexuality, often associated with the classic and medieval trope of the locus amoenus.


The origin of the Hebrew עדן, which in translates to "delight", may derive from the Sumerian term EDIN. The Sumerian term means steppe, plain, desert or wilderness, so the connection between the words may be coincidental. This word is known to have been used by the Sumerians to refer to the arid lands west of the Euphrates. Alan Millard has put forward a case for the name deriving from the Semitic stem dn, meaning "abundant, lush".

The story from Genesis


God charges Adam to tend the garden in which they live, and specifically commands Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is quizzed by the serpent concerning why she avoids eating off this tree. In the dialogue between the two, Eve elaborates on the commandment not to eat of its fruit. She says that even if she touches the fruit she will die. The serpent responds that she will not die, rather she and her husband would "be as gods, knowing good and evil," and persuades Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then Adam eats from it too. It's at this point that the two become aware, "to know good and evil," evidenced by an awareness of their nakedness. God then finds them, confronts them, and judges them for disobeying.

It is at this point that 'God expels them from Eden', to keep Adam and Eve from also partaking of the Tree of Life. The story says that God placed cherubim with an omnidirectional "flaming sword" to guard against any future entrance into the garden.

In the account, the garden is planted "eastward, in Eden," and accordingly "Eden" properly denotes the larger territory which contains the garden, rather than being the name of the garden itself: it is, thus, the garden located in Eden. The Talmud also states (Brachos 34b) that the Garden is distinct from Eden.


The Book of Genesis gives no location for the Garden, beyond that it is "in Eden, in the East." Internally, it has the form of an enclosed space with a single entrance facing East.


There have been a number of claims as to the actual geographic location of the Garden of Eden, though many of these have little or no connection to the text of Genesis. Most put the Garden somewhere in the Middle East.

In the Middle East

Sumer and Dilmun (Bahrain)

Some of the historians working from within the cultural horizons of southernmost Sumer, where the earliest surviving non-Biblical source of the legend lies, point to the quite genuine Bronze Age entrepôt of the island theorized by some to be Dilmun (now Bahrainmarker) in the Persian Gulf, described as 'the place where the sun rises' and 'the Land of the Living'. The setting of the Babylonian creation myth, Enûma Elish, has clear parallels with the Genesis narratives. After its actual decline, beginning about 1500 BC, Dilmun developed such a reputation as a long-lost garden of exotic perfections that it may have influenced the story of the Garden of Eden. Some interpreters have tried to establish an Edenic garden at the trading-center of Dilmun.


Another possibility was proposed by archaeologist David Rohl who states that there were two gardens of Eden, one in pre-flood Iranmarker which was the original garden of Eden and one that existed after the flood in Bahrain. According to him, the Garden was located in a vast plain referred to in ancient Sumerian texts as Eden (lit. "Plain", or "Steppe") east of the Sahand Mountainmarker, near Tabrizmarker. He cites several geological similarities with Biblical descriptions, and multiple linguistic parallels as evidence. In the Sumerian texts, an emissary is sent north through "Seven Gates", also known as Mountain passes in ancient texts. Hebrew lore includes references to Seven layers of Heaven, the 7th being the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. Just beyond the seventh gate, or pass, was the kingdom of Aratta. The region today is bound by a large mountain range to the North, East and South, and marshlands to the west. The eastern mountain region has a pass leading in and out of the Eden region. This fits with the Biblical geography of Eden containing marshlands to the west, and the Land of Nod to the east, outside the Garden.


Several religious traditions identify the location of the garden of Eden with the city of Jerusalemmarker, in particular Gihon Springmarker.


Eden as paradise

"Paradise" (Hebrew פרדס PaRDeS) used as a synonym for the Garden of Eden shares a number of characteristics with words for 'walled orchard garden' or 'enclosed hunting park' in Old Persian. The word "paradise" occurs three times in the Old Testament, but always in contexts other than a connection with Eden: in the Song of Solomon iv. 13: "Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard"; Ecclesiastes 2. 5: "I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits"; and in Nehemiah ii. 8: "And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's orchard, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me." In the Song of Solomon, it is clearly "garden;" in the second and third examples "park." In the post-Exilic apocalyptic literature and in the Talmud, "paradise" gains its associations with the Garden of Eden and its heavenly prototype. In the Pauline Christian New Testament, there is an association of "paradise" with the realm of the blessed (as opposed to the realm of the cursed) among those who have already died, with literary Hellenistic influences observed by numerous scholars. The Greek Garden of the Hesperides was somewhat similar to the Christian concept of the Garden of Eden, and by the 16th century a larger intellectual association was made in the Cranach painting (see illustration at top). In this painting, only the action that takes place there identifies the setting as distinct from the Garden of the Hesperides, with its golden fruit.

Alan Millard has hypothesized that the Garden of Eden does not represent a 'geographical' place, but rather represents 'cultural memory' of "simpler times", when man lived off God's bounty (as "primitive" hunters and gatherers still do) as opposed to toiling at agriculture (being "civilized"). Of course there is much dispute between Judeo-Christian and secular scholars as to the plausibility of this idea - the refuting claim being that cultivation and agricultural work were present both before and after the "Garden Life".

The Second Book of Enoch, of late but uncertain date, states that both Paradise and Hell are accommodated in the third sphere of heaven, Shehaqim, with Hell being located simply " on the northern side:" see Seventh Heaven.

Eden as a Kingdom

The structure and order defined by God in the Garden of Eden is also believed to have been the early structure for the Kingdom of God. Immediately following the creation of Man, God commands them to "fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" ( ). The obvious references to domination are important to the Christian view of Man's relation to nature and Man's role in the Kingdom of God.

Later, in Chapter 3, the "Fall of Man" is followed by the pronouncement of a curse. This curse contains references to the enmity between the Kingdom and its subjects—as had been described in 1:28—that would affect the kingdom unto the present day: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers."

In art

Garden of Eden motifs most frequently portrayed in illuminated manuscripts and paintings are the "Sleep of Adam" ("Creation of Eve"), the "Temptation of Eve" by the Serpent, the "Fall of Man" where Adam takes the fruit, and the "Expulsion". The idyll of "Naming Day in Eden" was less often depicted. Much of Milton's Paradise Lost occurs in the Garden of Eden. Michelangelo depicted a scene at the Garden of Eden in the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

See also


  2. "Kush" is often incorrectly translated as Ethiopia, which was also known as Cush, but in this case thought to be referring to Cossaea which, unlike Ethiopia, does lie within the region being described. See E. A. Speiser, The Rivers of Paradise, reprinted in R. S. Hess & D. T. Tsumura (eds.), I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood, Eisenbrauns, 1994.
  3. See p. 200 n. 31)
  4. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Rev. Ed. of: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.; Includes Index. (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).
  5. D. R. W. Wood, New Bible Dictionary (InterVarsity Press, 1996, c1982, c1962), 289
  6. David Rohl, In Search of Eden, TV Documentary, 2002
  7. David Rohl, In Search of Eden, TV Documentary, 2002 (note: the marsh reference does not appear to be in the Bible. Rohl does not clarify exactly where this description comes from)
  8. For example, Aryeh Kaplan, Jerusalem Eye of the Universe. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. (1993). ISBN 1879016125.
  9. Freedman, David Noel; Allen C. Myers; Astrid B. Beck Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000. ISBN 9780802824004. p.371 [1]
  10. Gibson, Walter S. Hieronymus Bosch. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1973. p. 26. ISBN 0-5002-0134-X

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