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14 The name of the third river is HIDDEKEL,

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it goes toward ASSYRIA

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toward the East. The fourth river is the PERATH

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The name of the third river was the ARROW which GOES STRAIGHT AHEAD, IN RIGHTNESS, BRINGING BLESSING AND GUIDING toward the source of all life.

The fourth source of blessing, prosperity, abundance and life was the ONE WHICH BREAKS FORTH INTO A GREAT STREAM.


1: Hiddekel”

The meaning of this river’s name appears to have been “arrow,” and the meaning of the name is the important thing here, since none of the rivers remained in the same place after the Flood. The name Tigris (also Tigra) is considered equivalent to Hiddekel through a convoluted series of changes of spelling and pronunciation. But once again, the meaning of the name is what is important. Far too many Bible scholars come to this passage and launch into long discussions about the rivers which today bear the names Tigris and Euphrates, but their present location is irrelevant because the Flood changed everything.


“Assyria” most likely comes from a word that basically means “to guide” and can mean a number of related things, such as “to go straight, to advance, to guide, to do right, to be blessed.” We must remember that, while the name is the same as a kingdom we know of from history, the identity and location were likely different because of The Flood.


The name “Perath” is a variation on the name Euphrates (if you take away the vowels you end up with “prth” and “phrts”). Various sources give various meanings for “Euphrates” but they tend to follow a general theme. Some of those meanings are “the great stream” (Easton), “to break forth” (Strong), “the good and abounding river” (Smith), “to make fruitful” (Hitchcock). This river was a source of prosperity and bounty, and it was a large source that would not easily be depleted. Instead of trying to choose just one meaning for the name I have chosen to include a descriptive phrase because all of the above were probably accurate descriptions of the river, and all of them were likely understood by some people at certain times as one of several meanings for “Euphrates.” The Euphrates of today got its name because it had similar qualities to the pre-flood river known by that name.


It is not uncommon in Scripture to see several images, names or other literary tools used in concert with each other to communicate one major message in a powerful way. That appears to be the case here, for there is a common theme coming from all four of these rivers.

First of all the text says there was a source of prosperity and abundance of life (a river) which provided those things within the garden and then delivered them to places outside the garden as well. The details of the four rivers will prove that statement to be true.

The Pishon was the “Spreader” and it spread its abundance throughout an entire land which had soil which was just right for growing crops (Havilah), and was known to be very prosperous, with products like gold, onyx and useful tree gums. In the mind of the ancient people of Mesopotamia and the Near East (we now call it the Middle East) the following implication was understood: the spreading influence of the river produced a prosperous land. If the river did not directly produce gold, there was an indirect connection implied, as if the author is saying, “See how prosperous that land was, it even had very good gold.”

The Gihon “burst forth” from its source to spread its abundance into a land full of water and sun. The sun was seen as the source of life itself, and water was also seen as the source of life. Early readers of this text would have thought the message to be obvious—that all life originated in, and continues to flow from, this protected enclosure called the garden of Eden.

The Hiddekel (or Tigris) is like an “Arrow,” it goes straight ahead, in rightness, bringing blessing and guiding toward the source of all life. That also fits the theme the other two have established—that life comes from Eden. The word picture of “straight as an arrow” should not be taken as a physical description; it does not mean that the river went straight without any bends. It meant that, in delivering the abundance of life and serving as a source of life, it was unhindered and uncompromising. Notice that the garden was in the East and this river flowed toward the East. We hear that and think of directions on the compass. Ancient people heard that and thought of levels of importance, or priorities. This source of life and abundance came from the source of life (the East) and it guided people to the source of life (the East). One is not further East than the other, for this was not about location, but about the meaning of life (see below).

The fourth source of favor, abundance, prosperity, and life possessed the same name as the river we know as the Euphrates. From its source it “burst forth as a mighty stream,” to do what a river does, provide life, abundance, prosperity, and blessing to those near it. Notice that nothing is said about which land the Euphrates flowed into. This is because by this time in the concert of word pictures the message had been communicated with force. Keeping it simple for the last river actually added more power. This source of life does what it does wherever it goes. It can be seen as a general summary statement.

What does all this mean? All these rivers worked in concert as one major word picture to communicate this message: life flows from the protected enclosure God has designed for people to live in. They all spread life and abundance and blessing, but only because they originated at the source of true life, a place where closeness with God was the highest priority. Although there were living plants and animals, and eventually living men, outside the garden, true and meaningful life can come only from what was found inside that enclosure. The garden represents a direct connection with the Creator God. One could live physically apart from that connection for a “short” time, but such a life would lack meaning, purpose, and joy.

To ask questions about the identity and location of those rivers and the lands they flowed into is useless because the Flood changed everything, and it takes us away from the message that was intended. Even though we no longer have access to the physical place called the Garden of Eden, we can indeed enter into and live in an enclosed and protected space that God has provided for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Among other things, this will be a place of perfect balance; it will be a protected space, but it will also offer “delicate delights” for that is what Eden meant. Knowing God and living in an intimately close relationship with God is a vitally important, yet delightful experience. That does not mean there will be no trials and difficulties in one’s walk with God, but it does mean there can be peace, joy, and intimate communion with God during those times.