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.