Summary: God provided us with perfection but we chose to go our own way.
“Garden of Eden” (God Gives Us a Choice)
(Genesis 2:8 – 2:17)
Many of you have beautiful gardens, I have seen some of them. And today we are going to talk about the most famous garden in history, one that we will never be able to recreate, but one that we may again see.
Does Eden still exist? While there have been many attempts to locate Eden based on the Scriptural description, most Christian archaeologists agree that it was destroyed in the flood. In fact there is no evidence that either of the rivers that still exist, the Tigris and Euphrates, are in the same location as they were pre-flood. So the theory that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in southern Iraq, doesn’t have much evidence backing it.
OK, Let’s look at how:
I. God Provides for Man in the Garden (vv 8-14)
The river that flowed out of Eden was almost by necessity an underground spring that burst through in the Garden, because there was no rain yet. The idea that a spring could sustain four large rivers is not very likely, so these were probably not the mighty rivers they are today, but because of the moisture in the air, there was probably very little evaporation either. The word for river (nahar) comes from the root to sparkle and flow, and an accurate literal translation is stream. This word is also figuratively used for prosperity.
A. It was a Place of Life
Without understanding the language and symbolism of the time we don’t get the full meaning from this passage. First of all God planted “The Garden of delight or pleasure” in the east. In this culture east represented life, and west represented death, perhaps based on the rising and setting of the sun. When God said he removed our sins as far as the east is from the west, not only was it an infinite distance as we saw in the video last week, it also represents the vast gap between life and death.
So the garden which literally means a fenced area (He needed to keep the deer out of his garden too) was planted (ie. specially made) to the east, and notice how it says God “put” the man there. Not sure how He did this but we can again read this as God putting Adam into life. But even more, it’s implied that Adam was not created in the Garden of Eden, he was put there. So Adam was somehow dropped into this posh gated community all by himself.
He then must have lived somewhere else before the Garden, and given the landscape of the area, the Garden was surely a paradise compared to what he knew before. Already we see God going ahead to prepare a place for us humans. Interestingly both the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil were in the middle of the garden so neither was ever far away, and they would have both separated the east from the west, life and death.
This tree of life was very important and if we look at Gen 3:22 we see that even dying, mortal man would live forever if they ate from this tree regularly. This is why Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden after the fall. Rev 22:2 reminds us that this tree will grow in abundance once again in the New Jerusalem or heaven.
We will see later that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil will give humans the first knowledge of evil, which is simply going against God’s will, they already knew good. We will see that this knowledge will come from an experiment in choice. There is nothing in the fruit itself that is magical, rather it is symbolic of the first breaking of God’s law, the fruit does nothing, but the act of disobedience or sin causes the result.
Here now is where I think it gets very interesting when we talk about the river. First it is noteworthy that most great cities had a river flow through or beside them, but Jerusalem didn’t, and I think we will see why as we continue. So the river flows from Eden or “paradise” and gives life to every living thing that God created. The water keeps the plants alive, and the animals, and man. As it leaves what is basically heaven on earth it flows in all four directions carrying life to all four corners of the world. Are you getting the picture?
So what or who is this river, who gives eternal life? I am glad you asked, let’s look at Rev 21:6 hmmm now Rev 22:16-17. Then Jesus himself said to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:10-14. At first she didn’t get it and thought she would have to make the trek to the well everyday, but then finds out that Jesus is this water coming up from the ground in paradise to water, or give life to the entire world. Jesus, though he isn’t named until his birth in the New Testament, is the river of life even in Genesis 2.