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From EDEN a river

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went out to water the garden and from there it was parted

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and became

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four heads.

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This place called DELICATE DELIGHTS was the source of the abundance and prosperity of life; it provided those things within the enclosure, and from there it went out and became the source of all other sources of abundance and prosperity.



1: “A river”

At this point the author changes gears and starts painting a picture of a different aspect of this protected enclosure. A river was universally associated with abundance and life in the minds of the early readers of the text because “river” meant “abundance” and provided for life. Although the word “abundance” is not used in the text, I have inserted it into the paraphrase because it would have been in the mind of the original audience just because it was a river.

2: “was parted”

During the description of the four rivers that follow we must remember that the world-wide flood of Noah’s day changed the lay of the land and even the shape of continents; we cannot be sure of the pre-flood location of anything. Even if we did know their locations, the meaning of the names would be just as, if not more important than their identity and location. We must also remember that, when people migrate, they take ideas for names with them and often ascribe names to locations in their new lands that are the same as the names for locations in their former lands. For instance, we see places in America, Africa and Australia named after places in England. So when it mentions the names Euphrates, Tigris, Cush, and Assyria we should not assume those are the things we know by those names, but only the same names which were applied in the post-flood world to new locations.

Some might argue that Moses, who wrote Genesis in its final form, knew that the locations were different, but he was copying older texts (or possibly writing down oral traditions) from the pre-flood era. I would agree, and I would also say it is still the meaning of the names that matters, for those names without locations would be meaningless. Notice that God gave Moses no explanation that would connect the pre-flood locations and the post-flood locations. Thus their location must not be important.

A focus on the meaning is the only thing that makes sense.


The Hebrew says “and became into.”

4: heads

Although the Hebrew word used here is simply “heads,” the context tells us it means what we call in English “headwaters.” To the people of ancient times, water represented life and rivers represented abundance and prosperity, therefore, they would have been inclined to see Eden as the source of those things to the rest of the world. This does not mean that the rest of the world was ugly or barren; it was their way of saying that all other places in some way depended on Eden for the things that are important to life. From a human perspective it makes sense; while the rest of the world had plant life and animal life, the highest form of life, man, had not yet spread to other places. There are many factors that effect prosperity, but the nonphysical elements God provided to man in the garden were indispensable. We cannot deny the importance of a connection to God; true prosperity and happiness do not come from things but from being connected to God.