One main river watered the garden of Eden and then broke up into four rivers as they flowed out of the garden. The Pishon, meaning “gusher” brought with it from Eden into the land of Havilah beauty: very pure gold, incense, and precious gems. The Gihon provided fertility to much of the Mideast. Commentaries abound with descriptions of what these rivers and their surrounding lands looked like. Indeed, some visions of Paradise came with them. It was probably a breathtaking sight. Kent Hughes added a quote from another historian that said “When Christopher Columbus passed the mouth of the Orinoco River in South America, he surmised that its waters came down from the garden of Eden. Of course, he thought he was on the east coast of Asia.”[1]

Genesis 2:14a adds another river to the Pishon and the Gihon which flow from the Garden of Eden. It says, “And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria.” Some suggest that this river got its name from the wild animal of the forests. If you search “Assyrian Tiger” and click on images, you’ll see numerous images of tigers and lions that were a symbol of Assyria. Philo suggests, “The Tigris is the wildest and most destructive of rivers, as the Babylonians and the Magians testify.” Daniel calls it the “great river” in Daniel 10:4. The older Pulpit Commentary suggests a different name identifying the Hebrew word as referring to an archer’s arrow. It simply says that the Hebrew word means, “a sharp and swift arrow, referring to its rapidity.”[2] According to a recent web article, “The river today has been dammed heavily to create both reservoirs and hydroelectricity. The dams and reservoirs also serve to control the flow of the river, which, in the past, flooded seasonally.”

The river is representative of the destructive character of the people of Assyria. God will bring them against the Israelites because they rejected the God who delivered them into their promised land and served them the sweet waters from Shiloah which is fed by the spring of the Gihon. In Isaiah 8:5-8, he tells his people, “The Lord spoke to me again: Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.” But Isaiah doesn’t leave his people with the dread of hopeless doom. He, the great prophet of the coming Messiah, tells the people in Isaiah 12:3 that, when the child is born, when the son is given then “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The Psalmist also brings hope to his people promising a return of God to dwell once again with his people in Eden, the Jerusalem of God. Psalm 46:4-5 says, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.”

[1] Hughes, R. Kent. 2004. Genesis: Beginning and Blessing. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. 1909. Genesis. The Pulpit Commentary. London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.