Working on the geography of the Garden of Eden, we read about the four rivers. Genesis 2:11-12 goes on to identify the first one. It reads, “The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.” According to the Handbook for translators prepared by the United Bible Society, the name Pishon is related to the verb “to gush.”[1] And Munday adds, “The word itself may mean “the gusher” or “to cascade” or “dispersive” (from a root meaning “to spread”).[2]

Nobody really knows where this river was and there are too many speculations about it to choose one. It is described as flowing around Havilah and having good gold and some precious stones. Scholars have tried to identify it by these descriptions. I think Barton has the best understanding of it. He writes, “Genesis 2:10–14 clearly places Eden in southern Babylonia. It is there said that the river Pishon ‘compasseth the whole land of Havilah,’ i.c., Arabia. By the Pishon, then, the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, and Red Sea are meant. Ezekiel seems to have called southern Babylonia Eden. In Ezekiel 27:22-23 we read, “The traders of Sheba and Raamah traded with you; they exchanged for your wares the best of all kinds of spices and all precious stones and gold. Haran, Canneh, Eden, traders of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad traded with you. He places Eden in the series exactly where southern Babylonia lies.”[3] I just can’t see the Pishon “river” being the oceans referred to above. The Arabian Peninsula seems correct but I agree the article in the Biblical Archeological Review that suggests another alternative. It reads, “The ancient Bible scholar, Philo, writes, ‘Bible scholars have identified Havilah with the Arabian Peninsula because it is rich with bdellium (fragrant resins) and precious stones, but they have been unable to pinpoint the location of the river in this arid region. The recent discovery of the Kuwait River adjacent to the Cradle of Gold, the only Arabian source for such good gold,’” has led James Sauer to suggest that this dry riverbed may be the Pishon.”[4]

Coming out of the Garden of Eden, the Pishon gushed out, cascading over the land, bringing fertility along with beauty, precious metals, fragrant aromas and gorgeous gems which were used to decorate the tabernacle. Ancient Hebrew literature compares the good things flowing in the Pishon from the Garden of Eden with the good things that come to the lives of those who live according to God’s instructions. The Wisdom of Sirach 24:23-25 uses the Pishon as a picture of how wisdom, gushes or overflows the lands.  It says, “All this is no other than the Book of the Covenant of the Most High God, the Law that Moses enjoined on us, an inheritance for the communities of Jacob. This is what makes wisdom brim over like the Pishon…” Solomon was the wisest man in the world and yet “failed to live according to the wisdom God gave him.” I really like Newheiser’s approach in his commentary of the book of Proverbs. He writes, “Jesus is Wisdom personified (8:22–31; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Col. 2:3). It is in relation to Jesus Christ that we are able to live according to the wisdom about which Solomon writes. One of the objectives of this commentary is to take the reader beyond mere moralistic or pragmatic principles so that Christ can be seen on every page of the book of Proverbs.”[5] Jesus is the river flowing from Eden bringing all good things. When pierced by the soldiers spear, out of his side gushed a river of living water. Whoever drinks from the water that gushes from Jesus shall never die!

[1] Reyburn, William David, and Euan McG. Fry. 1998. A Handbook on Genesis. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Munday, John C. Jr. 1996. “Eden’s Geography Erodes Flood Geology.” Westminster Theological Journal 58, no. 1: 137–38.

[3] Barton, George A. 1925. Archaeology and the Bible. Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union.

[4] BAR. 1996, 1996.

[5] Newheiser, Jim. 2008. Opening up Proverbs. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.