I have heard that the Garden of Eden was located in Iraq. Is this true? How do we know?
Genesis presents a summary of the early history of our world. Its writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not a myth or an allegory or a metaphorical story. In the more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 we learn that they lived in the Garden of Eden.
The only clues in the Bible of the geographical location of the Garden of Eden are that it was “in the east” (Gen. 2:8 NIV), and that the river in the garden separated into four rivers named: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris (Hiddekel) and Euphrates (Gen. 2:8-14). Also, the first three of these rivers flowed through regions named Havilah, Cush and Ashur, respectively.
As Moses probably compiled the book of Genesis from ancient documents and oral accounts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we don’t know the reference point used for the statement “in the east.” Some think that Israel/Palestine is the reference point. Also, as we don’t know today of a river that separates into the four rivers named above, the topography of the earth was probably different in those days. The Bible suggests that the continents were once together (Gen. 1:9-10). However, today the continents are separated by oceans, and sedimentary layers with fossil sea shells have been found at the top of many Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest.
Although the Bible doesn’t describe when the continents moved apart, it is likely that the earth’s landscape was changed significantly by the catastrophic global flood survived only by Noah’s family. “Every creature that has the breath of life in it” perished in this disaster and everything that existed before the flood was “deluged and destroyed” (Gen. 7:17; 8:21; 2 Pet. 3:5–6). Not only did it rain for 40 days, but “all the springs (fountains) of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of heaven were opened” (Gen. 7:11-12). The springs (or fountains) of the great deep may have been oceanic or subterranean water. This immense flood is the most likely source of the thickest layers of sedimentary rock on earth.
The abating flood waters may have been associated with the uplift of mountains and the sinking of valleys (Ps. 104:6-8). When the mountains rose, the flood waters eroded the land and flowed into the seas (Job 38:8-11). As there are many volcanic rocks interspersed between fossil layers, there may have also been volcanic eruptions at this time. For example, Mt. Ararat in Turkey is a volcanic cone near the junction of the Eurasian, African and Arabian crustal plates. Catastrophic plate collisions may have pushed up creating mountains at this time. If this is so, then God used the tectonic forces associated with the flood and its aftermath to alter the earth’s topography. It was a new start for our planet. (See the parallels between Gen. 1:28-30 and 9:1-5).
After the flood, Noah’s family moved to the Shinar plain (Sumeria/ Babylonia) where we find rivers today called Tigris and Euphrates. Because they flow above flood-deposited layers of rock containing billions of fossils, these are not the same rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden. They were probably named after the original pre-flood rivers, just as settlers from the British Isles to America and Australasia gave familiar names to many places in their “new world.”
As the Garden of Eden was destroyed in the flood and covered by thick sediment and maybe even water, there is no such place today, and its location on the globe can’t be established with certainty. So, although it may have been located in Iraq, or somewhere nearby, in the days of Adam and Eve, we don’t know where Eden is today.
Published, February 2011; revised July 2019
Comment by Larry Ondrejack:
Well thought out answer to a question on many minds during these years of warfare in that region.
January 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm
However, Babel (Babylonia), from where humanity dispersed across the world, was in Iraq (Genesis 11:1-9)!
January 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm
Comment by athea on 19 May 2012:
Yes, ever wonder why there is always war at Iraq, it’s the cursed land, it’s where the first sin is done, and it’s the former city of Babylon where immorality dwell that’s why God destroyed it.
July 19, 2012 at 9:56 pm
In 2010 I published my book, The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths. Illustrated with maps and pictures of the fictional characters who were recast as Yahweh, Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and the Cherubbim (book available at Amazon.com on the internet). Some PhD scholars understand Eden is a recast of the Sumerian EDIN, which describes the desert wasteland of ancient Sumer (modern Iraq). In Sumerian myth two rivers arise in the EDIN, the Tigris and Euphrates. In Sumereian myth they arise from one location, the Sumerian city of Eridu, 12 miles southwest of Ur of the Chaldees where lived Abraham. The Sumerian gods with hoes dig the beds of these two rivers. Then the god of Eridu, Enki, ejaculates and his sperm fills the empty river beds with life-giving water. Hence why the Tigris and Eupharets arise from a site in EDIN. Hebrew EDEN means “delight.” Sumerian EDIN does not mean “delight,” it means “wilderness” and refers to uncultivated land, today’s desert-wastes of modren Iraq. In Sumerian myth, the gods have bodies of flesh and blood, they can die of starvation and thus they create fruit-tree gardens in their cities, within the EDIN, to have food to eat. Tiring of maintaining the extensive irrigation net work to water their gardens in the EDIN, they create man of EDIN’s clay. Man will care for the gods’ gardens in the EDIN, relieving the gods of physical toil and allowing them to enjoy an eternal rest from physical toil. Every Sumerian city had a temple and a god’s garden that man cared for. Man serve the gods their produce from the gardens of EDIN. The gods would never expell man from their gardens in the EDIN because the gods would have to then care for their gardens themselves and endure again the back-breaking toil, loosing their rest from toil. All this is to say that Genesis’ Eden is an ANTI-THESIS, a refutation of Sumerian myths about the EDIN and man’s origins). The THESIS is the EDIN of Sumerian myth, where many gods’ gardens within the EDIN existed, and where man was created to be a naked gardening slave.
May 22, 2019 at 5:52 am
Thanks for the comment Walter.
When I investigated whether the Biblical account of creation could be based on ancient mythology like Enuma Elish (a Babylonian creation story), I discovered the following. “Genesis 1 is not a Hebrew version of Enuma Elish. But Enuma Elish could be a Babylonian version of Genesis 1. According to this evidence, the Biblical account of creation isn’t based on ancient mythology like Enuma Elish.”
Also, when I investigated whether the Biblical account of the flood could be based on ancient mythology like the Gilgamesh flood myth, I discovered the following. “The biblical version of the flood isn’t based on ancient mythology like the Gilgamesh flood. Let’s be sceptical of those who assume that the Bible’s account was derived from Mesopotamian flood accounts.”
The Mesopotamian stories are nothing like the Bible. They have fictional characters and are polytheistic with capricious gods. They focus on their gods, whereas the Bible focuses on events on earth and the history of humanity.
July 4, 2019 at 6:15 pm