Where was the Garden of Eden actually located? Is it possible archeologist will find it one day? Don’t the Eden rivers still exist? Don’t the lands that surrounded it still exist? Where might be the best place to start looking?
I see these questions raised often by Christians, and even by some prominent Christian scholars.1 But those of us who believe and trust the Genesis record, know that a search for Eden, today, is futile. When God flooded the earth, the entire landmass was submerged below the sea (Gen. 7:20). God not only determined to destroy all land-dwellers in the Flood (Gen. 6:17), but even the land itself.
Gen. 6:13 And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (bold and underline mine)
The word translated earth in this passage is the Hebrew ‘erets, which means land (Gen. 1:10). Being completely submerged under the violent waters, all landmasses and river channels would have been rearranged. The typography of the land would not have survived. As John Morris, of Institute for Creation Research, points out:
The key is in recognizing that through the Flood of Noah’s day, “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (II Peter 3:6). As described in Genesis 6-9, the Flood would have totally restructured the surface of the globe. It would have done what major floods do—erode the land surface in one area and redeposit those sediments elsewhere. Biblically, the Flood covered the planet with processes operating at rates, scales, and intensities far beyond those possible today. No place on Earth could have survived untouched.2
Scripture even suggests the heights of the mountains and valleys may have been altered to accomplish the Flood. See: Where did all the water go?3 for more on this.
But one might object: What about the cities and rivers which are mentioned before and after the Flood in the Bible? What about the Tigris and Euphrates which exist on both sides of the Flood? What about, Hivilah, Cush and Ashur which exist on both sides of the Flood? Isn’t this proof that some regions on the earth survived?
Recycling of Names
The existence of names on both sides of the flood is not evidence that some cities and rivers survived. It’s only evidence that some humans survived (specifically 8), with memories of these places. Humans have been recycling names from the beginning of time. Ever heard of Paris, Texas? Mars, California? Hell, Michigan? We see recurring names of places all over the world. Here’s an exhaustive list of places in the United States named after places in England. There are 113 just in the state of Massachusetts alone!
In addition, children are often named after places. Ever met an Austin, Sydney, Brooklyn, or London? Conversely, it’s also common to name places after people—particularly those involved in their founding. According to one source, there are 23 places in the United States named after Christopher Columbus. And how many ancient cities bear the name Alexandria, after Alexander the Great? Names of people and places have been used and reused throughout the ages. It should, therefore, be no surprise certain names reappeared after the Flood.
Insights from the Table of Nations
Here is a scenario for your consideration. Before the Flood in Genesis, we’re told about the land of Havilah—a land filled with gold and precious stones (Gen. 2:11). It was watered by one of the Edenic rivers—the Pishon. After the Flood, in the Table of Nations, we find out that Cush named one of his sons Havilah (Gen. 10:7)—no doubt in remembrance of this land. Cush’s father, Ham, lived in the antediluvian world nearly a century and no doubt was familiar with this land. He may have been there personally that he could give his son Cush a firsthand account. Interestingly enough, Cush himself was named after another antediluvian land near Eden—the land of Cush, which was watered by the Gihon river (Gen. 2:13, 10:6). It would seem Ham chose this name for his firstborn for similar reasons. Shem also joined in this custom, naming one of his sons Ashur, after the land of Ashur which was said to be west of the Hiddeqel (Tigris) river (Gen. 2:14, 10:22). Later in Shem’s line we see that the name Havilah was used again—given to one of his descendants by his father Joktan (Gen. 10:29).
Many of the early postdiluvians named their children after antediluvian locations. These children then matured and went on to populate the earth, and establish new cities and nations, some of which now bear their names. We know that Noah’s earliest descendants bore the names of several great ancient civilizations. Javan (Greece), Cush (Ethiopia) and Egypt all happen to be the names of Noah’s grandchildren.
Gen. 10:2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Mesheke and Tiras…….6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan. (NIV-11)
Javan, the son of Japheth (and grandson of Noah), is the transliterated Hebrew word for Greece. Everywhere the word Greece is found in English Bibles, it is translated from this word (Is. 66:19, Ezek. 27:13, Dan. 8:21, Dan. 10:20, Dan. 11:2, Zech. 9:13). Cush, a grandson of Noah through Ham, is the Hebrew word for Ethiopia and you’ll find it translated as such in various Bible versions (2Kings 19:9, Esth. 1:1, Esth. 8:9, Job 28:19, Psa. 68:31, Psa. 87:4, Is. 18:1, Is. 20:3-5, Is. 43:3, Jer. 46:9, Ezek. 29:10, Nah. 3:9, Zeph. 3:10). Some versions favor one name over the other, while others use Cush and Ethiopia interchangeably. Mizriam is another grandson of Noah (through Ham), who bears the name of the most famous ancient civilization of all. Mitsrayim (sometimes transliterated Mizriam in English Bibles) is the Hebrew word for Egypt, and all occurrences of Egypt in English Bibles are from this Hebrew word. Some Bible versions translate this word Egypt for both the man (Noah’s grandson) and the nation (NIV-11 and ESV), while others use the transliteration Mizriam for Noah’s grandson (NJKV and NASB). But, in the Hebrew, they are identical and there should be little doubt that these ancient civilizations were named after these grandchildren of Noah. And given the long lifespans of the early postdiluvians, it would seem these may have actually had a hand in establishing them, themselves.4
Thus, a likely scenario of how these names reappeared after the Flood unfolds. Before the Flood, certain lands were given names, such as Havilah, Cush and Ashur (Gen. 2:10-14). After the Flood, some of Noah’s early descendants named their children, Havilah, Cush and Ashur (Gen. 10:6-7, 29), after these lands. These children then matured, went out into the world and established cities which now bear their names (Havilah-Gen. 25:18, 1Sam. 15:7; Cush-Esth. 1:1, Job 28:19, Psa. 68:31, Is. 11:11, Jer. 46:9, Ezek. 29:10, Nah. 3:9, Zeph. 3:10; Ashur-Gen. 25:18, 2Kings 15:19, 29, 2Kings 17:23). Such a scenario makes perfect sense, and would also explain why these lands are no longer in proximity to one another and, in some cases, on separate continents.5
Regarding the rivers, it would appear the descendants of Noah, at some point, simply named some new postdiluvian rivers after the destroyed Edenic rivers. Four rivers are mentioned in the Eden account and we see that 2 of those names were reused after the Flood—the Hiddekel (Tigris) and Euphrates (Ex. 23:31, Dan. 10:4). These rivers are still known by these names today. But we can also see that the typology of these rivers is completely different from the originals and could not possibly be the same. Mark Looy of Answers in Genesis points out:
…a closer examination of Genesis 2 reveals that the topography in and around Eden was different than today. Four rivers had once come out of Eden; today, however, only two major rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, cut through Iraq. Also, one of the four rivers, Gihon, is described in Genesis 2:13 (KJV) to “compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia”; but the modern-day country of Ethiopia is over 1,000 miles from Iraq (and across water: the Red Sea).
In fact, the modern rivers are actually flowing the wrong way, converging instead of splitting and flowing away from one another. 6
Rivers today rarely split as is described in Genesis 2, but rather converge and gain size and strength as they come together. The modern Tigris and Euphrates rivers converge in Iraq. But the rivers of Eden did just the opposite. They were said to have originated from a single river that ran though Eden and then split into smaller rivers. Instead of running together, they ran apart from one another. And instead of originating in high ground from precipitation, as is normally the case today, the Eden river may have had a subterranean origin, which was common before the Flood.
Gen. 2:6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.
They are clearly completely different rivers systems that share some common names.
Where was Eden located? The question itself shows a lack of familiarity, or perhaps faith, in what Genesis reveals about it. There is no modern day location of Eden in regard to geography or land typography. God destroyed the land (Gen. 6:13). Every bit of dry land on our globe was submerged below violent flood waters to a minimum depth of 15 cubits (Gen. 7:20). And every bit of dry land under the entire heavens was covered (Gen. 7:19). The world that existed then—from its landmasses, to its water channels, to its manmade and natural structures—was deluged and destroyed (2Pet. 3:6). This is the clear testimony of God’s word. Any attempt, therefore, to find Eden, today, would be akin to denying the very word which testifies of it in the first place.
Was the Garden of Eden Located in Iraq?
by Mark Looy (Answers in Genesis)
Where Was the Garden of Eden Located?
by John D. Morris, Ph.D. (Institute for Creation Research)
1. Perhaps the most popular of these scholars is John H. Sailhamer—professor of Old Testament at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. In his book “Genesis Unbound” (which we reviewed here) he suggests that the promised land of Israel and the land of Eden are one in the same. He likens the entire creation account of Gen. 1 after verse 2, to the creation of the land of Israel, the seas that surround it, and sky that is directly above it.
2. John D. Morris, Ph.D., “Where Was the Garden of Eden Located?,” http://www.icr.org/article/where-was-garden-eden-located (Acts & Facts. 28 (12), 1999)
3. Tas Walker, “Where did all the water go?” http://creation.com/where-did-all-the-water-go, (Creation 30(3):41, June 2008)
4. Noah’s grandson Arphaxad (the son of Shem) is recorded to have lived 438 years (Gen. 11:12-13), and his great grandson Eber, 464 years (Gen. 11:16-17). If this is any indication of the lifespans of that generation, it’s likely their cousins, Javan (Greece), Cush (Ethiopia) and Mizriam (Egypt), enjoyed similar lifespans and outlived their descendants by several generations. This could have made them appear as gods to their descendants and granted them much esteem and influence to build great cities.
On a side note, if Mizriam lived as long as his first-cousin Arphaxad, he may have actually been the Pharaoh who meet with Abraham and attempted to take Sarah for his wife.
5. Ethiopia is located in Africa over 1,000 miles away from the present day Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq.
6. Mark Looy, “Was the Garden of Eden Located in Iraq?, ” https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/garden-of-eden/was-the-garden-of-eden-located-in-iraq (October 21, 2003)