Thursday, September 11, 2008
“Genesis 2 describes a verdant paradise-like garden in which Adam and Eve lived and worked. There has been a tendency to regard the Eden episode as legend or myth, that is, not as a historical account, and to view Eden as a symbolic place rather than a real location. Archaeology cannot settle this question, but Genesis 2:10-14 surely offers a specific location for the garden by naming the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The English name Tigris is actually the Greek vocalization of the ancient Sumerian name id-dikaltu, which means River Diklatu. The Hebrew preserves the Sumerian as Hiddekel. Euphrates echoes the Akkadian name of the river—purattu. These are real rivers whose names were known in ancient cuneiform texts, and whose names survive to this day. Little is known of the other two rives, the Pishon and the Gihon (Genesis 2:10-13). The former is said to flow through the land of Havilah, a Hebrew term for northern Arabia. The idea that a river once flowed across the deserts of Arabia, and somehow connected with the Tigris and/or Euphrates River, seems far-fetched. But this all changed when evidence for such a river came from satellite radar images taken during the 1994 mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Boston University geologist Farouk el-Baz, who studied the images, noticed that traces of a defunct river that crossed northern Arabia from west to east were visible beneath the sands, thanks to the ground-penetrating capabilities of the radar technologies. He called it the ‘Kuwait River,” for that is where it apparently connected with the Euphrates or emptied into the Persian Gulf. Some scholars have proposed that this is the Pishon River of Genesis 2. Environmental studies in the region suggest that this river probably dried up sometime between 3500 and 2000 BC when an arid period was experienced. This new evidence suggests that the Bible has preserved a very ancient memory that predates the era of Moses. By the mid-second millennium BC, this river had already turned to desert 1,000 years or more earlier,” J. Hoffmeier, The Archaeology of the Bible (Lion Book 2008), 34-35.