Monthly Archives: July 2016

Four Rivers

Studies in Genesis 2

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14 ESV)

God waters His garden with a river or stream. This stream is the head waters for four rivers which part from it once the stream flows out of the Garden of Eden. We have no name for the river which flows through the Garden of Eden. God does name the four rivers which come from the river of Eden.

Speculation about the place of the Garden of Eden revolves around the geographical location of the source of these four rivers. There is little evidence of where these four rivers are let alone where they began. They are named, as are the lands through which they flow, by God. But to suggest the names we have now correspond to the names given by God presupposes He wants us to know where these lands and rivers are and where the Garden of Eden was. If we knew we would turn the area into a shrine and worship it and not the Creator of it.

God named the first river the “Pishon” and it flows through the land of “Havilah.” He also specifically tells us there is “gold” in that land and that the “gold of the land is good” followed by a note saying “bdellium and onyx are there.” Pishon is named only once in Scripture and may mean dispersion or increase. Havilah means circle. There are several places and at least two men with this name. Havilah is a place of gems and metals. Bdellium is probably a resin from the sap of trees that gives a delightful fragrance then hardens into amber. Onyx is a gem. Now, men place financial value on gold and precious or semi-precious gems. God simply says the gold of Havilah is “good,” the same word He uses to describe His work in creation. Everything God creates is good.

The second river is named “Gihon” and is supposed to encompass the entire land of “Cush” which may be Ethiopia. Gihon may mean bursting forth. Gihon is also the name of a spring near Jerusalem. Cush also means black.

Two other rivers are named. One is the “Hiddekel” or Tigris and the other is the “Euphrates.” Hiddekel means swift or rapid and is commonly referred to as the Tigris and either flows “east of Assyria” or flows toward the “east of Assyria.” There are two rivers which flow almost parallel through the land of Assyria toward the Persian Gulf. Both rivers begin in the mountains of Turkey and merge before flowing into the Persian Gulf. They have historically carried the names of Tigris and Euphrates.

I want to make two assumptions about why God tells us about these rivers, places, metals, resins and gems. First, God names real places and things. He names light Day and the dark Night. He named the expanse above the earth Heaven, the dry land He called Earth and the waters He called Seas. He did not name the stars, the days or season, the plants or animals. He named Eden, the home for the man He created. He did not name the river which watered Eden but did name the four rivers which parted from the river of Eden after it left the Garden. He named Havilah, Gihon, Cush, or Ethiopia, and Assyria. God does not simply arbitrarily name things but the reasons for the names given may not be obvious to us.

Eden is a real place. Or was a real place.

Secondly, in making Man in His image God gave Man authority over the earth. Everything He created is good, which means useful, not just tasty or pretty. God wanted man to fashion the gold and resin and other metals and use the gems and other stones. By stating the gold is good God is giving permission for man to use and make and create. Man’s ability to imagine and fashion that which is attractive and useful is part and parcel to the image of God given. God’s image in Man is as real as the physical places and things God created.

River Eden

Studies in Genesis 2

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. (Genesis 2:10 ESV)

Eden was watered by an unnamed stream. From this stream came four named rivers. God determined the names of the rivers and tells us but He does not give us a name for the stream which watered Eden. We do not know the exact location of the Garden of Eden nor of the rivers God mentions.

God, created the universe and the Earth to operate within specific laws, obviously placed the Garden of Eden high in altitude. The stream He used to water the Garden was the headwaters for four rivers. We cannot know for certain but the stream probably began as a spring or series of springs gushing out of the side of a mountain, growing as other streams merged with it finally breaking off into four directions. With this stream God watered the entire Garden.

“Watered” means to drink or irrigate. Every living creature, whether flora or fauna, needs water to survive and flourish. On the second and third day of creation God made an atmosphere for the planet then collected the waters on the face of the earth in low areas making oceans and seas. Yet, He also made rivers and streams to water the ground, for the next day He would create all the plants, herbs and trees. He surrounded the earth with an atmosphere and covered the earth with vegetation. While He could have easily sustained life through His will, He instead created an environment to sustain life. Most probably, the whole earth was well watered and filled with vegetable life. And the water was pure.

While God planted a Garden, a paradise named Eden, in the East, we can surmise He desired the entire planet would be a paradise. Relative to the small stature of Man, the Earth is huge, and God did not just dump Man somewhere but gave him a home. His home was filled with every kind of tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food. He had pure water to drink, delicious food, and a comfortable and beautiful home. People were blessed to fill the earth and subdue it.

Eden had physical boundaries though probably not surveyed and marked with signs that said “leaving the Garden of Eden.” Perhaps the boundaries were physical mountains surrounding a large valley with an opening through which the river flowed. We do not know and we should not allow our imaginations to dictate an unverifiable perception of reality. However, Eden was a true place with a true geography, filled with real trees and plants. An actual river flowed from Eden. God placed a real, historical Man in that Garden. Though we cannot state emphatically what Eden looked like we can use our imaginations to help us understand. Trying to imagine eternity and heaven is futile. Imagining the Garden of Eden is not because we can go to places and see and experience what may have been. Eternity is an unimaginable paradise.

As the river of Eden flowed out of the Garden it split into four rivers. God does not concentrate on Eden to the exclusion of the rest of the Earth. As the plants and animals, and especially people, reproduce, multiple and fill the Earth God readies the earth for His complete blessing.

Two Trees

Studies in Genesis 2

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9 ESV)

God made a paradise on Earth, an enclosed garden named Eden, in which He created and caused to grow trees from the smallest to the largest. These trees had one or both of two characteristics. First, they were “pleasant to the sight” and a delight to look at. The word “pleasant” means desirable. Many, if not all of the trees, bore fruit or food for Man. Every kind and type of food that was “good” or beneficial for Man’s well-being and growth. Eden was both beautiful and practical.

“Every” tree in the garden was “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” “Every” means the totality of and all. There was not a tree in the garden that was ugly, by God’s standard, or did not fulfill its God designed purpose of providing food.

Somewhere, deeply embedded in the Garden of Eden, were two trees given special purpose. We know the names of these trees and by their names the purpose of each. One is the “tree of life” and the other is the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” These, like all the other trees, were pleasant to gaze upon and their fruit was good for food. There is nothing in the Garden of Eden dangerous to Man, or poisonous to touch or consume.

“Life” is a noun and means that which is born, grows and is active in some way. Plants and trees have life because they begin life as a seed and grow and, by their nature, actively produce that for which they were created, fruit with seeds. Animals have life because they are born and grow and are active, naturally fulfilling their purpose. Yet, for person created in the image of God life carries the ability to consciously fulfill the purpose for which they are created. Man’s nature is found in the image of God. That the food of the trees of the garden of Eden were given to sustain life is part of their purpose just as it is part of the purpose and design of people to consume food designed specifically for them. All living things already have life. So, for Man, the fruit gives more than simple physical life but a life beyond life.

“Knowledge” can mean perception, skill, discernment, wisdom and understanding. “Good” carries the idea from pleasant to beneficial, excellent, appropriate, valuable or bounteous. Conversely, “evil” carries the exact opposite meaning of “good.” That which is evil is anything unpleasant, harmful, corrupted, inappropriate, worthless and unable to provide anything that is good. Thus, it is the intellectual and intimate understanding and wisdom that comes with knowing, in the fullest sense of the word, the applicable difference between that which is good and that which is evil.

Both trees were pleasant to look and good for food. Yet, these trees were given by God something eternally different than any other tree in the Garden. It is not that there was something magical about the fruit of these trees. It is, ultimately, the purpose and active will of God which imbues the fruit of these trees with qualities God placed on them.

Man’s Home

Studies in Genesis 2

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8 ESV)

God gave the Man He created in His image a home. Though Man was given dominion over the whole planet there was a specific place that was home.

God set an area apart from the rest of the planet and established, or fixed in place, a garden. “East” or “eastward” suggests God is speaking from a fixed place on the planet and planted the garden toward the rising sun. However, the word translated “East” may also mean in front, or that which is before. Regardless, the garden is in a fixed place, with boundaries, a geography, and a specific purpose.

God names the garden “Eden” which means pleasure or paradise. God gave Man a home. “He put the man whom He formed” in the garden of Eden.

We do not know where Eden is. Many assume it is in Mesopotamia. People have tried to locate and discover the boundaries of the ancient paradise of the first Man, Adam. If we look at these words from the point of view of the Hebrews led out of Egypt by Moses, the author of Genesis, then Eden is a place of safety, peace and rest, where all their needs are met and no one is over them but God. To the East of Egypt and Israel lays a vast desert. Beyond the desert was a place of fertile soil and abundance. It is also the place from which Abraham came. Moses, trained in the courts of Pharaoh, would know this.

God’s garden is not a safe place in the sense we think of as safe, though there was no danger. Man was given dominion over creation. Adam was in control. He was not created in a dangerous place where anything could harm him. Without the knowledge of danger is there an emotion of feeling safe? Yet, he was at peace with God and the world in which he was placed. None of the animals fled from him. He was told what he could eat and was surrounded with an abundance of food.

Was the rest of the world dangerous, outside of and surrounding the garden of Eden? Probably not. Though Eden is described as a paradise it is not the only beautiful place of peace and abundance. God covered the Earth with plants, herbs and trees. He filled the sky with birds and the waters with fish and other creatures. He created the land animals and Man to rule over them all. For the first two people our Earth is huge. And the whole Earth was at peace.

God did not contain them in a garden. He gave them a home. And He told them, like He blessed all living things, to be fruitful and multiple and fill the Earth. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). Eventually, I assume without knowing for sure, the whole Earth would have been the garden of Eden.

Breath of Life

Studies in Genesis 2

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7 ESV)

God filled Man’s nostrils with a puff of His breath and the dry clay and dust He formed into the shape of a Man came alive. That which was not alive, lived.

Ezekiel had a vision of a valley of dry bones. It was not uncommon for a victorious army to take their captives to the top of a cliff and throw them off. Exposed to the weather and the carrion it would not take long for the flesh to be stripped off the bones and the sun to bake them dry. God showed Ezekiel a pile of that which had lived but was now dead.

God’s question suggests a “yes or no” answer. “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’” But that is not the answer Ezekiel gives. “And I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know’” (Ezekiel 37:3 ESV). Ezekiel cannot bring these who have died back to life. No one created by God can bring back to life that which has died. Does he think God cannot? Though we carry the image of God we are not God. Only God can give life.

Then God tells Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones. A prophet tells the truth, whether about what is before them or about the future. Only God can give the truth about the future. When God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy He was telling him to tell the truth about what will happen to these dead, dry bones.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:4-6 ESV)

 God assembled the bones into people and covered them with muscle and flesh. But they were not alive. They were still dead.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9 ESV)

“Breathe on these slain, that they may live.” “Breathe” is the same word used in Genesis 2:7. “Live” is closely related to the word “living” used in Genesis 2:7.

God told Ezekiel to tell the truth about what God was going to do and then did. Only God gives life. Yet, God uses people to deliver His truth and act upon His will.

Jesus, when He sent out the twelve, instructed them to tell the truth about the coming of the kingdom of heaven. He told them to announce “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7 ESV). He then gave them authority to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:8 ESV). His disciples raised the dead. Those who died and could not live were given the breath of life and lived.

God tells us the truth throughout Scripture. He took a handful of dust and breathed on it and Man lived. Adam, the first Man, knew God. He told Ezekiel to tell the truth and those who were slain were given life. When they were raised they knew God. “And you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:6 ESV).  Jesus gave His disciples authority to tell the truth and raise the dead. Jesus told the truth about His death and His resurrection. All of the circumstantial evidence, from the beginning of the history of Man to now, tells us the truth of His resurrection and validates every word God has said. Jesus’ disciples know God and are His witnesses of truth to the world.