Monday, February 24, 2014

In The Beginning, Chapter Ten - Day Six, Part Three

The Garden Of Eden

Genesis 2:8-15The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush.14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
As we continue to read on in Genesis chapter two, we see a continuation of what happened on day 6. The next thing we see is a garden - Eden.

Planted, Not Created

Genesis 2:8The Lord God planted a garden…

Read this account (from Genesis 1:11-12) of what happened on day three: “Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Do you see the difference? On day three, God created the plants - they just sprang up from the earth. But here, on day six, God planted the trees and plants in the garden! This means that God took the seeds from the trees and plants that He created, buried them in the ground, and then brought them up to maturity. Why would God take the time to do it this way? Why didn’t He just pull the trees up out of nothing - like He did on day three? The answer, I believe, is in the timing of events on day 6.
Remember what’s happened so far on this day. First, God created all the different kinds of land animals. After that, He formed the first man out of the dust and breathed His own nature into him. And then, He planted a garden. Now that we can see the order of things, we can infer that Adam was standing right there as God started the process of seedtime and harvest.
Here was God demonstrating to Adam the most powerful law in the earth - the law of sowing and reaping. This principle is found throughout the scripture! It is impartial and unchangeable. But what’s more, this natural law is an illustration for a more powerful spiritual law!
The law of sowing and reaping is the reason that Abraham was blessed with descendants as numerous as the stars - because he gave up his natural family when he and Sarah left them behind. This law is the reason Abraham’s descendants still have possession of the promise land today - because he let go of his own homeland.
This law is the reason that millions are still faithful to King David, considering him to be the best king Israel has ever had - because he sowed faithfulness into King Saul.
This law is the reason Israel was punished in Babylon - because they sowed the seeds of rebellion.
This law is what opened the way for Jesus to come and die for us - because Abraham was willing to offer his own son, Isaac. And this law is the very reason for the believer’s new nature - because Jesus sowed His life to replicate it in ours!
And this process all started when God stood beside Adam and planted a garden!
It is interesting to notice that God would not break His own law, once it was in place. God created every plant with “its seed in itself” - each of them designed to reproduce after itself. So when God was ready to plant the Garden, He didn’t violate this process by creating anything new. Instead, He operated within His own law by taking seeds from the plants that He had already created and planting them. This is how important seedtime and harvest is in God’s eyes!

Where Was (Is) It?

There has been a lot of discussion and controversy over the location of the Garden of Eden. It’s been the object of countless searches throughout history. This is primarily because many believe that the Tree of Life is still there,  and so finding the garden would be the key to immortality.  Many people - even well-versed Christians - believe that the garden must still exist somewhere in the Middle East, because we still have rivers named Hiddekel (that is the Tigris) and Euphrates. It is sad to think that the second chapter of God’s Word has become nothing more than a treasure map for many believers!
To their credit, most Christians who believe that the Garden still exists somewhere haven’t wasted their time searching for it or supporting those who are. Most Christians believe that the Garden is still in the Middle East somewhere, but that we could never find it. They take Genesis 3:24 (“So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”) to explain why something like the Garden of Eden could exist in the most well-known area of the globe without being discovered. They claim that the cherubim are still there, guarding the way into the Garden.
Personally, I don’t believe that the Garden of Eden still exists on earth.You see, seekers of the Garden forget one important detail: The entire world was destroyed by Noah’s flood! Everything, including the Garden of Eden, was wiped out and buried by the flood waters. Not only does the Garden not exist today - but there is no Biblical way for us to know where it was!
At this point, some people would be quick to point out that the Hiddekel (or Tigris) and Euphrates rivers mentioned in Genesis 2 still exist in the Middle East. From what verses 10-14, you can see that the Garden was located at the place where the Tigris, Euphrates and two other rivers meet. So if you could find the place where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet, you’ll find the Garden of Eden, right?
Not exactly. A simple look at a map of the Middle East will show you a problem with this idea - the two rivers never meet! The only time they ever come within 20 miles of each other is near Baghdad, Iraq. At their sources - where they should meet, according to Genesis 2 - The Tigris and Euphrates are nearly 50 miles apart! And don’t forget, there are two other rivers that are mentioned in this passage that don’t even exist in our current world!
Does this mean that the Bible is giving us faulty geography? Not at all! Remember, the whole face of the earth was ripped up and destroyed by water during Noah’s day! We wouldn’t expect to see anything left of the pre-flood world - including these four rivers!
Someone may ask,”then why do the Tigris and Euphrates still exist?” I would suggest that they aren’t the same rivers as what flowed through the Garden. As Noah and his family entered the post-flood world, they would have carried the old names of the pre-flood landmarks with them. I believe that the Tigris and Euphrates in the Middle East were named after the original rivers that flowed out of Eden, but that’s where the relation stops!
We see the same thing in America – New England, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire – All of these places were named after locations in the Old World. The old names were brought to the New World by European explorers. This undoubtedly happened as Noah and his family began to explore the new and strange world after the flood.
So does the Bible say where the Garden was? I’m not so sure. Genesis 2:8 does say, “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden…” That’s it. That’s all the information we have about where this Garden was. In this flood-scarred world, it’s impossible to know where the land of Eden was...and really, it doesn’t matter! All we need to know was that it was in the land of Eden!
It’s possible though, that this phrase may not be referring to a geographic location at all!
In Hebrew, the word that we read as “eastward” is qedem. It’s the adverb that describes God planting this Garden. It’s true that qedem can mean “eastward” - as in “going east” or “doing something in the east”. But qedem can also mean “of old” or “anciently” - as in something that was done in ancient times. It is very possible that this is the meaning of qedem in Genesis 2:8 - after all, you would be hard-pressed to find an event more ancient than this!
The word Eden itself may not even be a location. It’s the Hebrew word for pleasure! So what has traditionally been translated as “planted a garden eastward in Eden”, may actually be saying, “In an ancient time, the Lord God planted a garden of pleasure.” That’s a little different meaning, isn’t it?
Now though, Eden has come to refer to the Garden of Eden - an actual place. This was the case in Ezekiel 28, 31, and 36 - all of which are referring to the actual Garden. In fact, every time there is a place called Eden in the Bible, it’s the Garden in Genesis. Other than this, there is no “land of Eden” ever mentioned.

What about the Tree of Life?

If the Garden was destroyed by the water of Noah’s flood, what happened to the tree of life? Was it destroyed too, buried in some unknown rock layer? Actually, no. The Bible tells us where it is. Believe it or not, the Tree of Life is not on earth anymore. After Genesis 3, we don’t see it again until the book of Revelation.
Revelation 2:7 shows us where the tree is now - He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” That’s as clear as could be! The tree of life isn’t somewhere on earth - it’s in Heaven!
One day though, the tree will be brought down to the new earth with the New Jerusalem. That’s what Revelation 22:2 tells us,  “In the middle of its [the New Jerusalem’s] street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.” Apparently, there is more than one now! This makes’s had 6,000 years to reproduce!

A Mountaintop Meeting Place

Eden was on a mountain - this is certain. First of all, we can see four rivers flowing out of Eden, but none coming in. Since water flows downhill, Eden was most certainly elevated. Even today, all of our rivers originate in the mountain ranges around the world. Where else could you have a river flowing out, but none flowing in?
But the strongest case for a mountain-top garden is found in Ezekiel 28:13-14. In this passage, we see Lucifer (Satan, before he fell) was “in Eden, the Garden of God . . . the Holy Mountain of God.” So Eden wasn’t just any was the Holy Mountain.
Eden was so much more than just a Garden as we know them today. Certainly, it would’ve been the site of some beautiful greenery and amazing sights. But there was more to this place than simply having some natural beauty. This was the place that God chose to meet with his favorite creation!
This statement may rub some religious hair the wrong way: But I challenge you to try and find out where the scriptures say that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden! You won’t find it! Certainly, they had responsibilities in the garden. Certainly they spent a considerable amount of time there. But nowhere does the Scripture say that this was their home! In fact, the language and wording of Genesis 2:15 hint at the idea that they only visited the Garden!
Genesis 2:15 “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” The Hebrew word for the phrase “and put him” is yanach. This word is a verb that means “to rest.” It doesn’t implicitly carry the idea of permanence. It simply means “to give rest to, to cause to rest, or to make quiet.” This is what God did with the man He had just made - He gave him rest in the Garden. Connect this to verses two and three of the same chapter, where God instituted the seventh day as a day of rest. Now you’re starting to see a whole new picture, aren’t you?
As long as we’re challenging sacred dogma, here’s another challenge: Try finding where the Bible says that the serpent was in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when he was talking to Eve. You won’t see it anywhere in Genesis chapter three. In fact, if you look at the way that the serpent and Eve are both referring to the “all of the trees in the Garden”, you can see that this conversation probably took place outside of Eden!
We have been so tied into a certain story, that we haven’t been able to see anything else going on in Genesis chapters two and three. We’ve assumed that Adam and Eve lived in this natural paradise called Eden, and that God would come to their garden home from time to time to visit with them. We’ve seen Eve having a conversation with a snake that’s hanging out in the Tree of Knowledge. And we’ve seen them kicked out of their garden home when they sinned. But what if this wasn’t what happened?
We know that God has always had a meeting place with His people. With Jacob it was Bethel. With the Israelites, it was the Tabernacle. After the Tabernacle, it was the Tabernacle of David. After the Tabernacle of David, it was the Temple. And when His people were in exile, they still prayed facing the place where they used to meet with God
Even in the New Testament, we see that God has houses where He meets with His gathered people - just look at 1 Timothy 3:14-15. “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
Even in the future, God will never abandon this concept of a meeting place. In the Millennial Reign of Jesus, the nations will be coming to Jerusalem once a year to meet with God. In the New Earth, the nations will be flowing into and out of the New Jerusalem, worshipping and bringing offerings.
God always had - and always will have - a place to come and meet with His people. I believe that this is what happened in the Garden of Eden. God, in all His glory and majesty, stepped out of Heaven into the Garden to meet with Adam and Eve. At the same time, Adam and Eve left the place where they lived to meet with Him in the Garden!
We’ll see this in much more detail in a later chapter, but I hope you’re seeing this Garden as more than a natural beauty! This was the place where Heaven met Earth! It has even been suggested that the river that flowed through the Garden was water flowing down from Heaven itself! The water that formed four rivers may have been coming out the the throne of God - as described in Revelation 22:1 - “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Absolutely amazing! The Garden of Eden - mankind’s first meeting place with God!

1 comment:

  1. You say: "Why would God take the time to do it this way? Why didn’t He just pull the trees up out of nothing - like He did on day three?" Why indeed? Perhaps this next man, created in the image and likeness of God, is a parabolic image of Jesus Christ, brought to life on the 6th day of creation. Take a look at this - The Truth always agrees completely.