Where is the Garden of Eden?

Here’s an interesting point in Genesis 2…

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A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10–14)

As far as I know, there isn’t a clear identification for Havilah.

But Cush is an ancient kingdom in Southern Egypt / Northern Sudan / Northern Ethiopia (i.e. a long way south of Israel), and the Tigris and Euphrates are in modern Iraq (and to travel there you go north from Israel, through Lebanon / Western Syria, rather than going east through the desert).

The main geographic clues in the text itself point in opposite directions, and to different continents!

That rather raises the question of whether the garden was ever intended to be understood as a literal place. Maybe it was, and the whole region was massively reconfigured by the Flood. Or maybe it was only ever meant to be symbolic. In either case, it’s rather tricky to find.

And yes, there’s lots I could then say about Eden symbolism in the Temple as pointing to the fact that humanity’s exclusion from Eden wasn’t permanent, and to the way that the Most Holy Place points a way beyond Eden, but that can wait for another time…

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