“Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden, he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. The first branch, called the Pishon, flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there. The second branch called the Gihon, flowed around the entire land of Cush. The third branch, called the Tigris, flowed east of the land of Asshur. The fourth branch is called the Euphrates.”
Genesis 2:8-14 (NLT)
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Moses, the writer of Genesis, painted a lovely and inviting picture of the Garden of Eden that for many Christians, it remains as the ideal of paradise: lush, well-watered, abundant in food, and free from sin. It was Adam and Eve’s first home until they were driven out as a result of their disobedience. Since then, the Garden of Eden faded into obscurity until it became nothing more than just an allegory or an idealized place. It was overshadowed by many other Biblical locations—yet, the mystery lingers.
So where can we find the Garden of Eden? Or perhaps, is it even possible to know its general location?
The clues can be found in the Bible itself and the rivers mentioned in Genesis 2:10-14 are the keys to finding the famed garden that was Adam and Eve’s first home. Two of the most prominent, Euphrates and Tigris, retained their original names even after thousands of years had passed. These two rivers still run through a land once known as Mesopotamia, which corresponds to parts of present day Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. Satellite photos also show dry waterways on the plain north of the present-day Kuwait, which means that apart from the Tigris and Euphrates, the plain was once watered by other rivers that were perhaps Pishon and Gihon.
But the Pishon and Gihon rivers are more problematic as the names completely disappeared from history. For example, Gihon was described as a river that “flowed around the entire land of Cush” and this is where it gets confusing. The place name “Cush” is associated with the land of Kush in Ethiopia, which is almost geographically impossible since the African nation is nowhere near Mesopotamia. Another ancient city which seemed like a probable candidate for the “land of Cush” is the Mesopotamian city of Kish. It was situated right in the middle of both the Euphrates and Tigris, which made sense if it was, indeed, the Cush in the book of Genesis. Other candidates were the Hindu Kush for the “land of Cush” (according to some Arab scholars), as well as the Nile for the Gihon river (according to Jewish historian Flavius Josephus).
Another mysterious river is the Pishon, described as a river that “flowed around the entire land of Havilah, where gold is found. The gold of that land is exceptionally pure; aromatic resin and onyx stone are also found there.” According to Flavius Josephus in his book The Antiquities of the Jews, “Phison, which denotes a multitude, running into India, makes its exit into the sea, and is by the Greeks called Ganges.” Josephus, however, did not present other evidence to back his claims.
Another possible location of the Pishon was presented in recent years by Missouri State University archaeologist Juris Zarins and Boston University geologist Farouk El-Baz. They claimed that the fossilized river that ran through the Arabia peninsula into modern Kuwait and emptied to the Persian Gulf was the location of the Pishon. For them, the key Biblical phrase they used to find the Pishon river was “Havilah, where gold is found” and there is only one place in Arabia where gold can be mined: the Mahd adh Dhahab in the Hejaz area. The dried riverbed (possible Pishon river) once flowed northeast of the Madh adh Dahb, which in Arabic means the Cradle of Gold and a likely candidate for the land of Havilah.
Picture By No machine-readable author provided. Kmusser assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=323268
Bauer, Susan Wise. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.
“Has the Garden of Eden Been Located at Last?” Has the Garden of Eden Been Located at Last? Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.ldolphin.org/eden/.
Josephus, Flavius, and William Whiston. The Antiquities of the Jews. London: Routledge.