Where is Eden? No one really knows, but there are two possibilities. The first is Mesopotamia in modern Iraq, which was part of the Fertile Crescent and the cradle of civilization (“Eden” 187). The traditional site of Eden is Eridu, the first and oldest city in Mesopotamia (“071”). It lay next to the Euphrates and was adjacent to Ur. However, Eden was a garden rather than a city, so Eridu is more likely Enoch, which was built by Cain (Genesis 4:17). The second possibility, the one I now lean toward, is Armenia in modern Turkey (“Eden” 187).
The Bible says a single river flowed out of Eden “and became four riverheads” (Genesis 2:10). These four are the Hiddekel (Tigris), Euphrates, Gihon, and Pison (2:11-14). The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow into the Persian Gulf, but they begin in Turkey (“Euphrates, “Tigris”). Since the Gihon circled Cush, or Ethiopia, it may be the Nile in Egypt and the Pison may be the Indus in India (Genesis 2:14, “Eden” 188). We don’t know what the earth looked like before the flood, but these rivers must have a common origin. I think it’s Turkey, not Mesopotamia, which means “land of two rivers” (“Tigris”).
Why does the location of Eden matter? I learned a long time ago that when God judges a nation or an individual, he takes them back to the beginning and shows them their origins. God wants them to remember what they were and where he brought them from in the day of redemption. Only then can they learn who God is and who they are, in him, so they can begin again in faith. This new hope for the future always lies with a remnant, thanks to God’s mercy and grace.
When God judged Israel in 586 B.C., he didn’t take her to Egypt but to Mesopotamia. God called Abraham to leave Ur 1500 years before (Genesis 11:28, 31). This city lay along the Euphrates in southern Iraq. When Israel returned to Mesopotamia, the major city was Babylon, many miles up the river. God symbolically took Israel back to the beginning, to the land of her nativity. A holy remnant returned to Judea decades later. They had given up idolatry for good.
When God judged Israel again, he took her to Bethlehem. Yes, Jesus Christ was born in the city of David in order to fulfill divine prophecy (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1-8). He was the “offspring” or “son” of David (Matthew 9:27, Revelation 22:16). Yet the Messiah’s birth was also an act of divine judgment. Time was up when Jesus came, for God “now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). He has appointed Jesus as the righteous judge (17:31). Israel’s physical kingdom began in Bethlehem when Samuel anointed David as king (1 Samuel 16:12-13). God’s spiritual kingdom began here too, when Jesus was born “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).
Now let’s apply these truths to Eden. Many biblical events happened in Turkey, including Paul’s four missionary journeys, but the most famous one is the flood. After the rain stopped, Noah’s ark rested on the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4). This volcanic mountain lies “between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea … at the borders of Turkey, Iran,” and Russia (“Ararat”). Streams forming the Tigris and Euphrates rivers also flow from this region (“Ararat”).
When God judged the world with a flood, he took Noah and his family back to the beginning, where life began in Eden (Genesis 6:13, 17-18, 7:1). His creating the world, then Adam and Eve, and putting them to work in Eden were all acts of grace. God’s saving Noah and his family as a remnant was also grace. “Ararat” actually means “curse reversed” (H780). Eden itself means “delight” or “pleasure” (H5731). Its four rivers also have rich meaning: “fruitfulness” (Euphrates, H6578), “bursting forth” (Gihon, H1521), “rapid” (Tigris, H2313), and “increase” or “overflow” (Pison, H6376). These words sound like life in the Spirit. They’re a promise of eternal life in heaven, but few people experience it. They prefer sin and self. Therefore, divine judgment isn’t over.
We know that the “days of Noah” will be like “the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37). Sinners will die unprepared. Does this parallel have other meanings? During and after the Great Tribulation – Armageddon, Gog and Magog – will God take this sinful world back to the beginning? After judgment, a holy remnant will enter heaven for eternity. The New Jerusalem will have a “river … of life” and a “tree of life” (Revelation 22:1-2). It sounds like Eden to me!
“Ararat.” Nelson’s Compact Bible Dictionary. 55.
“Eden.” Nelson’s Compact Bible Dictionary. 187-88.
“Euphrates.” Nelson’s Compact Bible Dictionary. 212.
Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Nelson’s Compact Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.
“071. Tell Abu Shahrain (ancient: Eridu).” U.S. Department of Defense.
“Tigris.” Nelson’s Compact Bible Dictionary. 614.