Genesis 2: 9-17 (Adam gets a place to live and a job)
9 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.
10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[d] of it you shall surely die.”
Here is the tool I am using to evaluate translations: https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/gen/2/1/s_2001
The verses above are relatively straight-forward translations – or so it seems to me, at least. The words of interest are mostly words that we have looked at before. However, please use the tool kit linked above and look for yourself.
So what is the deal with those two trees?
According to David Guzik‘s study guide of these verses:
d. The tree of life…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: These two trees were among all the other trees God created and put in the Garden of Eden.
ii. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the “temptation” tree. Eating the fruit of this tree would give Adam an experiential knowledge of good and evil. Or, it is possible that it is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil not so man would know good and evil, but so God could test good and evil in man.
We will be revisiting these trees, and when we do they will play a more central role in the narrative. Therefor… I will revisit the study of them in more detail in later verses.
Are these verses referring to places where *other* people live outside the Garden? The Bible refers here to Havilah, Cush, and Assyria. It might be that the author – many hundreds of years later – is providing geographic context to his present-day readers by naming these places. Or the verses might be telling us that other people were living outside of the Garden. We will have increased evidence that the latter is true after the Fall and the eviction from the Garden.
There are a few schools of thought regarding the location of the Garden of Eden. I will include some maps below:
And of course there are other views in addition to these three. The reality, though, is that we do not know where the Garden was located with any certainty. We have a general idea derived from the Genesis description – and all of the above suggested locations are not too far from one another. However, if an actual Garden of Eden did exist, archaeologists have not yet been able to identify and agree on its location.
The Sumerian people – whose culture dates as far back in time as archaeology can currently reach with any sense of comfort – had a similar account of a place like Eden. In Sumer, Eridu was the first settlement.
The Sumerian Kings List begins:
When kingship from heaven was lowered,
the kingship was in Eridu
Another location, known as the Garden of the gods, is believed to be a predecessor to Eden.
Tying the two predecessors together, British assyriologist, Theophilus Pinches, (1856 – 6 June 1934) believed that the Garden of the gods and Eridu were one and the same.
Does an earlier culture referring to Eden -or a place like Eden- diminish the Genesis Eden account? In my opinion, no. It strengthens the story by providing archaeological evidence in support of a place like that having existed. “But, the Hebrews copied the Sumerians and Babylonians!” Well, maybe. Maybe they were all talking about the same place. It might be that the passage of time obscured and changed the history from the more accurate and earlier Sumerian account. Or it might be that the Sumerian account was itself a remembrance. The Hebrew account purports to be given to Moses by God who was presumably present when the events occurred. Perhaps God corrected the historic accounts for Moses?
That is of course a question of personal opinion and faith.