Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Genesis 2:8-14

Genesis 2:8-14

XI. The Garden

8. גן  gan "garden, park," παράδεισος  paradeisos, "an enclosed piece of ground." עדן‛ēden "Eden, delight." קדם  qedem "fore-place, east; foretime."

11. פישׁון  pîyshôn Pishon; related: "flow over, spread, leap." חוילהchăvîylâh Chavilah. חולchôl "sand." חבל  chebel "region."

12. בדלם  bedolam, ἄνθραξ  anthrax, "carbuncle," (Septuagint) Βδέλλιον  bdellion, a gum of eastern countries, Arabia, India, Media (Josephus, etc.). The pearl (Kimchi). שׁהם  sohām  πράσινος  prasinos, "leeklike," perhaps the beryl (Septuagint), ὄνυξ  onux, "onyx, sardonyx," a precious stone of the color of the nail (Jerome).

13. גיחון  gîychôn Gichon; related: "break forth." כוּשׁ  kûsh Kush; r. "heap, gather?"

14. חדקלדגלא  dîglā'chîddeqel Dijlah, "Tigris." חדק  chād, "be sharp. rapidus," פרת  perat Frat, Euphrates. The "sweet or broad stream." Old Persian, "frata," Sanskrit, "prathu," πλατύς  platus.

This paragraph describes the planting of the garden of Eden, and determines its situation. It goes back, therefore, as we conceive, to the third day, and runs parallel with the preceding passage.

 

Genesis 2:8 "And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed."

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden to the east. - It is evident that the order of thought is here observed. For the formation of man with special allusion to his animal nature immediately suggests the means by which his physical needs are to be supplied. The order of time is an open question so far as the mere conjunction of the sentences is concerned. It can only be determined by other considerations.

Here, then, the writer either relates a new creation of trees for the occasion, or reverts to the occurrences of the third day. But though in the previous verses he declares the field to be without timber, yet in the account of the third day the creation of trees is recorded. Now, it is unnecessary, and therefore unreasonable, to assume two creations of trees at so short an interval of time. In the former paragraph the author advanced to the sixth day, in order to lay before his readers without any interruption the means by which the two conditions of vegetative progress were satisfied. This brings man into view, and his appearance gives occasion to speak of the means by which his needs were supplied.

For this purpose, the author drops the thread of events following the creation of man, and reverts to the third day. He describes more particularly what was then done. A center of vegetation was chosen for the trees, from which they were to be propagated by seed over the land. This central spot is called a garden or park. It is situated in a region which is distinguished by its name as a land of delight. It is said, as we understand, to be in the eastern quarter of Eden. For the word מקדם  mîqedem "on the east" is most simply explained by referring to some point indicated in the text. There are two points to which it may here refer - the place where the man was created, and the country in which the garden was placed. But the man was not created at this time, and, moreover, the place of his creation is not indicated; and hence, we must refer to the country in which the garden was placed.

And put there the man whom he had formed. - The writer has still the formation of man in thought, and therefore proceeds to state that he was thereupon placed in the garden which had been prepared for his reception, before going on to give a description of the garden. This verse, therefore, forms a transition from the field and its cultivator to the garden and its inhabitants.

Without the previous document concerning the creation, however, it could not have been certainly known that a new line of narrative was taken up in this verse. Neither could we have discovered what was the precise time of the creation of the trees. Hence, this verse furnishes a new proof that the present document was composed, not as an independent production, but as a continuation of the former.

 

Genesis 2:9 "And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."

Having located the newly-formed man of whom he had spoken in the preceding paragraph, the author now returns to detail the planting and the watering of the garden. "And the Lord God made to grow out of the soil every tree likely for sight and good for food." We look on while the ornamental trees rise to gratify the sight, and the fruit trees present their mellow fare to the craving appetite. But pre-eminent among all we contemplate with curious wonder the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These will come under consideration at a future stage of our narrative.

 

Genesis 2:10 "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads."

Here is a river the source of which is in Eden. It passes into the garden and waters it. "And thence it was parted and became four heads." This statement means either that the single stream was divided into four branches, or that there was a division of the river system of the district into four principal streams, whose sources were all to be found in it, though one only passed through the garden. In the latter case the word נהר  nâhār may be understood in its primary sense of a flowing of water in general. This flowing in all the parts of Eden resulted in four particular flowings or streams, which do not require to have been ever united. The subsequent land changes in this district during an interval of five or six thousand years prevent us from determining more precisely the meaning of the text.

 

Genesis 2:11,12 "The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone."

The Pishon waters in its subsequent course the land of Havilah. This country is noted for the best gold, and for two other products, concerning which interpreters differ. Bedolach is, according to the Septuagint, the carbuncle or crystal; according to others, the pearl, or a particular kind of gum. The last is the more probable, if we regard the various Greek and Latin forms of the word: Βδέλλα  bdella, Βδέλλιον  bdellion, Josephus Ant. iii. 1, 6; οἱδὲμάδελκον  hoidemadelkon, οἱδὲΒολχὸνκαλοῦσι  hoidebolchonkalousi, Dioscor. i. 71; alii brochon appellant, alii malacham, alii maldacon, Pliny H. N. 12, 9. Pliny describes it as black, while the manna, which is compared with it (Numbers 11:7), is white; but עין  ‛ayîn the point of resemblance may refer not to color, but to transparence or some other visible quality. This transparent, aromatic gum is found in Arabia, Babylonia, Bactriana, Media, and India. Shoham is variously conjectured to be the beryl, onyx, sardonyx, or emerald. The first, according to Pliny, is found in India and about Pontus. As the name Pishon means the gushing or spouting current, it may have been applied to many a stream by the migratory tribes. The Halys perhaps contains the same root with Havilah; namely, הול  hvl (Rawlinson's Her. i., p. 126); and it rises in Armenia (Herod. i. 72). The Chalybes in Pontus, perhaps, contain the same root. The Pishon may have been the Halys or some other stream flowing into the Black Sea.

 

Genesis 2:13,14 "And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates."

Gihon, the second river, flows by the land of Kush. It is possible that the name Kush remains in Caucasus and in the Caspian. The Gihon is the stream that breaks or bursts forth; a quality common to many rivers. The name is preserved in the Jyhoon, flowing into the sea of Aral. Here it probably designates the leading stream flowing out of Armenia into the Caspian, or in that direction. Hiddekel, the third, goes in front, or on the east of Asshur. The original Asshur embraced northern Mesopotamia, as well as the slopes of the mountain range on the other side of the Tigris. Perath, the fourth, is the well-known Frat or Euphrates.

In endeavoring to determine the situation of Eden, it is evident we can only proceed on probable grounds. The deluge, and even the distance of time, warrant us in presuming great land changes to have taken place since this geographical description applied to the country. Let us see, however, to what result the simple reading of the text will lead us. A river is said to flow out of Eden into the garden. This river is not named, and may, in a primary sense of the term, denote the running water of the district in general. This is then said to be parted into four heads - the upper courses of four great rivers. One of these rivers is known to this day as the Frat or Euphrates. A second is with almost equal unanimity allowed to be the Dijlah or Tigris. The sources of these lie not far asunder, in the mountains of Armenia, and in the neighborhood of the lakes Van and Urumiah. Somewhere in this region must have been the celebrated but unnamed stream. The Hiddekel flowed east of Asshur; the primitive portion of which seems therefore to have been in Mesopotamia. The Gihon may have flowed into the Caspian, on the banks of which was the original Kush. The Pishon may have turned towards the Euxine, and compassed the primitive Havilah, lying to the south and east of that sea.

It may be said that the Kush and Havilah of later times belong to different localities. This, however, is no solid objection, on two grounds:

First. Geography affords numerous examples of the transferrence of names from one place to another along the line of migration. Thus, Galatia in Asia Minor would be inexplicable or misleading, did not history inform us that tribes from Gallia had settled there and given their name to the province. We may therefore expect names to travel with the tribes that bear them or love them, until they come to their final settlements. Hence, Kush may have been among the Caucasian glens and on the Caspian shores. In the progress of his development, whether northward or southward, he may have left his mark in Kossaea and Kissia, while he sent his colonies into southern Arabia Aethiopia and probably India.

Second. Countries agreeing in name may be totally unconnected either in time or place. Thus, in the table of nations we meet with two persons called Havilah (Genesis 10:7, Genesis 10:29); the one a Kushite, who settled probably in the south of Arabia, the other a Joctanite, who occupied a more northerly locality in the same peninsula. A primitive Havilah, different from both, may have given his name to the region southeast of the Euxine.

The rivers Pishon and Gihon may have been greatly altered or even effaced by the deluge and other causes. Names similar to these may be found in various places. They cannot prove much more than resemblance in language, and that may be sometimes very remote. There is one other Gihon mentioned in Scripture (1 Kings 1:33), and several like names occur in profane history. At first sight it seems to be stated that the one stream branched into four. If so, this community of origin has disappeared among the other changes of the country. But in the original text the words "and thence" come before the verb "parted." This verb has no subject expressed, and may have its subject implied in itself. The meaning of the sentence will then be, "and thence," after the garden had been watered by the river, "it," the river, or the water system of the country, "was parted into four heads." We cannot tell, and it is not material, which of these interpretations correctly represents the original fact.

According to the above view, the land and garden of Eden lay in Armenia, around the lakes Van and Urumiah, or the district where these lakes now are. The country here is to this day a land of delight, and very well suited in many respects to be the cradle of the human race. There is only one other locality that has any claim to probability from an examination of Scripture. It is the alluvial ground where the Euphrates and Tigris unite their currents, and then again separate into two branches, by which their waters are discharged into the Persian Gulf. The neck in which they are united is the river that waters the garden. The rivers, before they unite, and the branches, after they separate; are the four rivers. The claim of this position to acceptance rests on the greater contiguity to Kissia or Susiana, a country of the Kushites, on the one side and on the other to Havilah, a district of Arabia, as well as its proximity to Babel, where the confusion of tongues took place. These claims do not constrain our assent. Susiana is nearer the Tigris itself than the present eastern branch after the separation. Havilah is not very near the western branch. If Babel be near, Armenia, where the ark rested, is very far away. Against this position is the forced meaning it puts on the text by its mode of accounting for the four rivers. The garden river in the text rises in Eden, and the whole four have their upper currents in that land. All is different in the case here supposed. Again, the land of Shinar is a great wheat country, and abounds in the date palm. But it is not otherwise distinguished for trees. It is a land of the simoon, the mirage, and the drought, and its summer heat is oppressive and enfeebling. It cannot therefore claim to be a land of delight (Eden), either in point of climate or variety of produce. It is not, consequently, so well suited as the northern position, either to the description in the text or the requirements of primeval man.

It is evident that this geographical description must have been written long after the document in which it is found might have been composed. Mankind must have multiplied to some extent, have spread themselves along these rivers, and become familiar with the countries here designated. All this might have taken place in the lifetime of Adam, and so have been put on record, or handed down by tradition from an eye-witness. But it is remarkable that the three names of countries reappear as proper names among the descendants of Noah after the flood.

Hence, arises a question of great interest concerning the composition of the document in which they are originally found. If these names be primeval, the document in its extant form may have been composed in the time of Adam, and therefore before the deluge. In this case Moses has merely authenticated it and handed it down in its proper place in the divine record. And the sons of Noah, from some unexplained association, have adopted the three names and perpetuated them as family names. If, on the other hand, these countries are named after the descendants of Noah, the geographical description of the garden must have been composed after these men had settled in the countries to which they have given their names. At the same time, these territorial designations apply to a time earlier than Moses; hence, the whole document may have been composed in the time of Noah, who survived the deluge three hundred and fifty years, and may have witnessed the settlement and the designation of these countries. And, lastly, if not put together in its present form by any previous writer, then the document is directly from the pen of Moses, who composed it out of pre-existent memorials. And as the previous document was solely due to inspiration, we shall in this case be led to ascribe the whole of Genesis to Moses as the immediate human composer.

It must be admitted that any of these ways of accounting for the existing form of this document is within the bounds of possibility. But the question is, Which is the most probable? We are in a fair position for discussing this question in a dispassionate manner, and without any anxiety, inasmuch as on any of the three suppositions Moses, who lived long after the latest event expressed or implied, is the acknowledged voucher for the document before us. It becomes us to speak with great moderation and caution on a point of so remote antiquity. To demonstrate this may be one of the best results of this inquiry.

I. The following are some of the grounds for the theory that the names of countries in the document are original and antediluvian:

First, it was impossible to present to the postdiluvians in later terms the exact features and conditions of Eden, because many of these were obliterated. The four rivers no longer sprang from one. Two of the rivers remained, indeed, but the others had been so materially altered as to be no longer clearly distinguishable. The Euxine and the Caspian may now cover their former channels. In circumstances like these later names would not answer.

Second, though the name Asshur represents a country nearly suitable to the original conditions, Havilah and Kush cannot easily have their postdiluvian meanings in the present passage. The presumption that they have has led interpreters into vain and endless conjectures. Supposing Kush to be Aethiopia, many have concluded the Gihon to be the Nile, which in that case must have had the same fountain-head, or at least risen in the same region with the Euphrates. Others, supposing it to be a district of the Tigris, near the Persian Gulf, imagine the Gihon to be one of the mouths of the united Euphrates and Tigris, and thus, give a distorted sense to the statement that the four streams issued from one. This supposition, moreover, rests on the precarious hypothesis that the two rivers had always a common neck. The supposition that Havilah was in Arabia or on the Indian Ocean is liable to the same objections. Hence, the presumption that these names are postdiluvian embarrasses the meaning of the passage.

Third, if these names be primeval, the present document in its integrity may have been composed in the time of Adam; and this accounts in the most satisfactory manner for the preservation of these traditions of the primitive age.

Fourth, the existence of antediluvian documents containing these original names would explain in the simplest manner the difference in the localities signified by them before and after the deluge. This difference has tended to invalidate the authenticity of the book in the eyes of some; whereas the existence of antiquated names in a document, though failing to convey to us much historical information, is calculated to impress us with a sense of its antiquity and authenticity. And this is of more importance than a little geographical knowledge in a work whose paramount object is to teach moral and religious truth.

Fifth, it is the habit of the sacred writers not to neglect the old names of former writers, but to append to them or conjoin with them the later or better known equivalents, when they wish to present a knowledge of the place and its former history. Thus, "Bela, this is Zoar" (Genesis 14:2, Genesis 14:8;) "Kiriath-Arba, this is Hebron" (Genesis 33:2); "Ephrath, this is Bethlehem" (Genesis 35:19).

Sixth, these names would be orignally personal; and hence, we can see a sufficient reason why the sons of Noah renewed them in their families, as they were naturally disposed to perpetuate the memory of their distinguished ancestors.

II. The second hypothesis, that the present form of the document originated in the time of Noah, after the flood, is supported by the following considerations:

First, it accounts for the three names of countries in the easiest manner. The three descendants of Noah had by this time given their names to these countries. The supposition of a double origin or application of these names is not necessary.

Second, it accounts for the change in the localities bearing these names. The migrations and dispersions of tribes carried the names to new and various districts in the time intervening between Noah and Moses.

Third, it represents with sufficient exactness the locality of the garden. The deluge may not have greatly altered the general features of the countries. It may not be intended to represent the four rivers as derived from any common head stream; it may only be meant that the water system of the country gathered into four principal rivers. The names of all these are primeval. Two of them have descended to our days, because a permanent body of natives remained on their banks. The other two names have changed with the change of the inhabitants.

Fourth, it allows for primeval documents, if such existed of so early a date. The surviving document was prepared from such preexisting writings, or from oral traditions of early days, as yet unalloyed with error in the God-fearing family of Noah.

Fifth, it is favored by the absence of explanatory proper names, which we might have expected if there had been any change known at the time of composition.

III. The hypothesis that Moses was not merely the authenticator, but the composer of this as well as the preceding and subsequent documents of Genesis, has some very strong grounds.

First, it explains the local names with the same simplicity as in the preceding case (1).

Second, it allows for primeval and successive documents equally well (4), the rivers Pishon and Gihon and the primary Havilah and Kush being still in the memory of man, though they disappeared from the records of later times.

Third, it notifies with fidelity to the attentive reader the changes in the geographical designations of the past.

Fourth, it accounts for the occurrence of comparatively late names of localities in an account of primeval times.

Fifth, it explains the extreme brevity of these ancient notices. If documents had been composed from time to time and inserted in their original state in the book of God, it must have been a very voluminous and unmanageable record at a very early period.

These presumptions might now be summed up and compared, and the balance of probability struck, as is usually done. But we feel bound not to do so. First. We have not all the possibilities before us, neither is it in the power of human imagination to enumerate them, and therefore we have not the whole data for a calculation of probabilities. Second. We have enough to do with facts, without elevating probabilities into the rank of facts, and thereby hopelessly embarrassing the whole premises of our deductive knowledge. Philosophy, and in particular the philosophy of criticism, has suffered long from this cause. Its very first principles have been overlaid with foregone conclusions, and its array of seeming facts has been impaired and enfeebled by the presence of many a sturdy probability or improbability in the solemn guise of a mock fact. Third. The supposed fact of a set of documents composed by successive authors, duly labelled and handed down to Moses to be merely collected into the book of Genesis, if it was lurking in any mind, stands detected as only a probability or improbability at best. The second document implies facts, which are possibly not recorded until the fifth. Fourth. And, lastly, there is no impossibility or improbability in Moses being not the compiler but the immediate author of the whole of Genesis, though it be morally certain that he had oral or written memoranda of the past before his mind.


Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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