Knowledge of the location of the Garden of Eden has been a quest for Christians for thousands of years. Like Indiana Jones’ search for the Holy Grail, many feel that if they can discover this heavenly Garden, that it might offer some kind of miraculous power. After thousands of years, however, the location is still widely considered a mystery.
Will we ever know where on earth the Garden of Eden was? Can we know?
What was the Garden of Eden?
To understand where Eden’s Garden was located, it’s best to first understand what the Garden was, which is best discovered by considering its biblical data.
We first learn of the Garden in Genesis 2:8, where the text says that God “planted a Garden toward the east, in Eden.” We learn three things from this description. First, God planted this Garden. It was an extra, unique addendum onto his creation. Verse nine expands upon this idea in saying that God “caused to grow every tree” in the Garden, and that he also planted the “tree of life” and the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
Second, we see that Eden was the location in which the Garden existed, suggesting that the Garden of Eden is more accurately the Garden in Eden, (Eden’s Garden, not a Garden that is Eden).
And third, we see that the Garden was planted in the “east.” The natural question is, “To the east of what?” A reasonable answer might be, “In the east of the mass of dry land God caused to appear out of the water in Genesis 1:9.”
All of these descriptions reveal that the Garden in Eden was a place that was unique from other areas of God’s creation. Of all the locations on earth, God chose this particular one, which made it special. While all the gardens on earth were created by God, every other garden besides Eden grew up naturally. The Garden in Eden, however, existed because God planted it.
The Garden in Eden was, therefore, like heaven on earth. Although sin didn’t yet exist on the earth when God originally created the Garden in Eden, it was God’s revelation of his beauty, perfection, peace — and really every aspect of his wonderful nature — to mankind. It was where he met with man. As we will see, this is a revelation and relationship God wants to reestablish on earth, a feat he will certainly accomplish in the future.
Where was the Garden in Eden located?
Since the Garden of Eden is unique to Scripture, a logical step to discover its location is to look at where the Bible says it was located. We already know that it was in the “east,” but that only subtracts a hemisphere (the American hemisphere, by the way!) The more detailed location is found in Genesis 2:10-14: Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
One might assume after reading this that if we can pinpoint these four river s—Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates — then we can easily point out exactly where the Garden in Eden was located.
If only it were this easy.
Unfortunately, these rivers, at least in their ancient locations, do not exist anymore. The ancient Tigris and Euphrates, for example, are not the present Tigris and Euphrates. This of course begs the question as to why this is the case. The simple answer is because of the Flood. That the Garden in Eden —heaven on earth — was destroyed by the Flood is a significant consideration. It is an ominous illustration of the consequences of sin. It destroys much of God’s witness on earth, particularly his communion with man.
What did the Flood do to the Garden in Eden?
The topographical landmarks (like rivers) prior to the Flood no longer exist. Only the major descriptions like “east” and “west” still suffice. The Flood changed everything. Peter writes, “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Pt 3:6). Some even suggest that this is when pangaea ceased, which is not an implausible conclusion. The mere consideration that every square inch of land experienced a terrible storm for forty days (Gen 7:17), and then dwelt underneath turbulent water for one hundred and fifty days (Gen 7:24) before it started to recede (which means that it lasted even longer than the one hundred and fifty days), suggests that it simply would not be what it once was.
Answers in Genesis (AIG) writes, “… underneath the region where the present Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are located there exists hundreds of feet of sedimentary strata — a significant amount of which is fossiliferous. Such fossil-bearing strata had to be laid down at the time of the Flood.”
Therefore, no one can logically suggest that the area where the present Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are today is the location of the Garden of Eden, for this area is sitting on Flood strata containing billions of dead things (fossils). The perfect Garden of Eden can’t be sitting on billions of dead things before sin entered the world!
The reality is that the description of the location of the Garden in Eden in Genesis 2:10-14 is no longer applicable in pinpointing its location. The Flood removed the landmarks from the earth and destroyed the physical utopia that once was the Garden in Eden. The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) concurs in writing, As described in Genesis 6-9, the Flood would have totally restructured the surface of the globe. It would have done what major floods do — erode the land surface in one area and redeposit those sediments elsewhere. Biblically, the Flood covered the planet with processes operating at intensities far beyond those possible today. No place on Earth could have survived untouched.
At best we can assume that the descriptions point to the area that we now call the Middle East. Many scholars believe that “Cush,” the land around which the Gihon flowed, is likely modern-day Ethiopia and that Havilah, the land around which the Pishon flowed, is likely Saudi Arabia. This makes sense in that the Flood couldn’t remove the fact that the Garden was planted in the eastern hemisphere.
In light of the Flood, most scholars conclude that we cannot ever really know where the Garden in Eden was originally located. This is certainly a safe and biblical conclusion, but there are other significant insights from Scripture that might offer clues into where the Garden was originally located, insights that don’t negate the Flood’s effects.
(1) The Holy Mountain Dr. Jim Sibley writes, “Scripture equates Satan’s presence in the Garden with his presence in Jerusalem.” In Ezekiel 28:12-15, Ezekiel describes Lucifer as the power behind the king of Tyre and the description is given to Satan that he was “in Eden, the garden of God” (v. 13). In verse fourteen God seems to equate Eden with “the holy mountain of God,” which is identified in Scripture as Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
This might indicate that the Eden’s Garden was located in what is modern day Jerusalem.
(2) The Temple Mount Sibley writes, “The imagery of the tabernacle, and later the temple, was designed to suggest paradise lost” (ibid.). Sibley describes how the furniture resembled the Garden, such as the menorah, which symbolized the tree of life, and the cherubim on the veil, which symbolized the cherubim that guarded the way to the tree of life in the garden. Also, the tabernacle was called the “tent of meeting,” which means that it was a place where man could meet with God.
The idea is that if the Garden in Eden was originally located where the Temple was later located, that God met with the priests in the Temple in the same location that he originally met with Adam in the Garden.
To take this further, the word “walking” in Genesis 3:8 is the same verb used to describe God’s presence in the tabernacle in Leviticus 26:12, Deuteronomy 23:14, and 2 Samuel 7:6-7. The terms “cultivate” and “keep” in Genesis 2:15 are terms that are never used together anywhere else by Moses, except to describe the Levitical duties in caring for the tabernacle in Numbers 3:7-8, 8:26, and 18:5-6. Finally, the word “garments” used to describe the covering provided for Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21 is the same word translated as “tunics” to describe the priestly attire.
Also, in both the Garden and the Tabernacle/Temple, the entrance was on the “east,” but this entrance became an exit because of unfaithfulness. God cast Adam and Eve “east” out of the Garden. The same happened with Israel in Jerusalem, when they were exiled “east” into Babylon. Thankfully, this is not where God leaves us.
The restoration of the Garden in Eden The Bible says that Jesus will, upon his second coming, return to Jerusalem from the east (Zech. 14:4), indicating that he will restore what was lost. He’ll turn the exit back into an entrance. This leads to the sobering thought that even though we can’t set foot in the literal Garden in Eden today (even if we assume that it is Jerusalem’s Temple Mount), we will be able to set foot in the future Garden in Eden someday. This is what most refer to as the Millennial Kingdom, and it’s what Isaiah intimates in writing, Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody (Is 51:3).
Sibley writes, “If Jerusalem is the site of the Garden of Eden, then where Abraham was told to offer Isaac (Gen. 22), [and where] Solomon was told to build the house of the Lord (2 Chron. 3:1), [and] where oceans of blood were spilled in the centuries of sacrifice,” is where Jesus, the second Adam — the faithful one — died on the cross. And it’s where Jesus will reign as the King of kings and Lord of lords when he comes back to establish his Kingdom.
The Garden that sin destroyed will again be planted, God will again walk with man, and this time there will be no serpent, no forbidden fruit, and no Flood. Just the King and his people.
>>Wellman is the senior pastor at Mission Dorado Baptist Church.