THE PISHON RIVER--FOUND!
by Calvin R. Schlabach
Where was the Garden of Eden? Every believer in the Bible has wondered at one time or another about the location of this idyllic home of our first parents. Moses wrote that it was "in the east, in Eden" (Gen. 2:8), and he named four rivers that converged there: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates (2:10-14). The courses of these last two are known to all, but the other pair have been impossible to identify--that is, perhaps, until now.
The Pishon River (2:11-12) has been variously identified by scholars with the Nile, the Indus, the Ganges, or other rivers. The lack of any general agreement stems from the fact that no known river matches Moses’ description: "it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and onyx stone are there."
"Havilah" itself is of uncertain location, but is generally associated with the western or southern regions of the Arabian peninsula. "Bdellium" is usually understood to be a fragrant resin, found in abundance in Arabia, as are various types of precious and semiprecious stones (the identification of the "onyx stone" is uncertain). The only known Arabian source for "good gold" is the so-called "Cradle of Gold," (Mahd edh-Dhahab), located about 125 miles south of Medina, in the Hijaz Mountains, which currently produces more than five tons of gold a year.
The problem is that there is no river flowing today from this area toward the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. But once it was different. A scientist from Boston University, Farouk El-Baz, taking clues from alluvial deposits in Kuwait, carefully examined satellite photos of the Arabian peninsula. There he spotted the unmistakable signs of a river channel cutting across the desert. Originating in the Hijaz Mountains near Medina and the Cradle of Gold, the ancient waterway, currently concealed beneath sand dunes, runs northeast to Kuwait. Dubbed the Kuwait River by its modern discoverer, it once joined the Tigris and Euphrates at the head of the Persian Gulf. Then because of climate changes, it dried up, the archaeologists say, sometime between 3500-2000 B. C.
The agreement of all of these details of the Kuwait River with the biblical description of the Pishon, has led some scholars to make the obvious connection. James A. Sauer (former curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum, archaeologist, author, and a research associate at the museum), a man who describes himself as "a former skeptic," wrote that "the Kuwait River . . . may well be the Pishon River, one of the four rivers, according to the Bible, associated with Eden." That such a near-confession could be coaxed from a reputable archaeologist is nothing short of amazing. Those of us who believe that the Bible stories are literally true will show much less hesitation in the identification.
Does this mean that the Garden of Eden itself can now be located? Probably not. When we understand the destructive and scouring effects of modern, limited floods, we realize that whatever of the Garden remained in Noah’s day was certainly erased by that catastrophic, worldwide Flood. We may, however, with some degree of confidence suggest that the territory at the head of the Persian Gulf (where Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran meet) is the general locale of the Garden.
The real importance of this discovery is in the confirmation of the accuracy, historicity, and literal veracity of the Bible. While many scholars feel no compunction about relegating the stories in the Bible to the realms of fable and myth, this find substantiates the literal, historical nature of the records in the Scriptures. Many people have long doubted it, but the Bible is true.
(For more information, see James A. Sauer, "The River Runs Dry," Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1996. In addition, see articles on "Pishon," "Havilah," and "Eden" in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, and The Illustrated Bible Dictionary.)
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