The Grand Narrative – Part XX

river-out-of-eden“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
Psalms 11:3 ESV

Alright, we took a brief jaunt down memory lane, talking about model railroading, old locomotives and steam whistles. What a romantic period (in the classic sense) of American history! I hope you enjoyed it. Now let’s get back to where we were.

We’re finally beginning our run down the home stretch on The Grand Narrative. I realize that it has been a rather lengthy exercise, and perhaps in some ways, tedious. These blog posts are and have been an initial draft of sorts—a first attempt at getting my thoughts on this theme out there to the general public. As such, they will no doubt be reviewed and improved upon by me at some point. I thank you for your patience with me and ask for just a bit more of your attention as I work toward winding up this series.

For the next few blog posts I am going to look at a few verses of Scripture from Genesis chapter two. These verses get very little coverage, and might even seem incidental. But just as no verse or no word of Scripture is incidental, these verses are also rich with meaning. Verse ten will be my primary focus:

“A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.”
Genesis 2:10 (ESV)

I am going to delve, just a bit, into this verse and look at five words and/or phrases. The next few posts will break out like this:

“A RIVER flowed OUT OF Eden TO WATER the garden, and there IT DIVIDED and became FOUR rivers.”
Genesis 2:10 (ESV)

  1. RIVER. There are three places in Scripture where we read of a special river. The first is found in Genesis 2:10. The second is found in Ezekiel. And the third is found in the book of Revelation. What is it about these rivers? Can they help us understand culture?
  2. OUT OF. As I noted in an earlier blog post, God is an “out of” God. In this blog post, we will examine the whole “out of” phenomenon and its relation to culture.
  3. TO WATER. Water! “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37-38 (ESV)
  4. IT DIVIDED. Rivers don’t divide and separate. No, from disparate points, they flow until they merge together, forming larger and larger rivers until they empty into the sea. But this RIVER OUT OF EDEN split into four new headwaters. What could it mean?
  5. FOUR. Do certain numbers have special significance in Scripture? Yes, and four is the number of creation.

Before I leap into these five themes, let’s take a quick look at the four verses that follow verse ten. Here, the four rivers are identified:

“The name of the first [river] 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. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
Genesis 2:11-14 (ESV)

This passage of Scripture, though obscure to most, has nonetheless received a fair amount of attention in some circles. The reason for this is twofold:

  • Because the rivers named either cannot be identified on a map, or (in the case of the Tigris and Euphrates), current maps do not sync up with the descriptions provided in the above verses.
  • Because the river through Eden is described as dividing, separating, and diverging. But wait … rivers do not diverge, they merge, forming larger rivers.

To those bound by pure human logic and reason, these verses present us with some difficulty. 1. We cannot find them on a map (or at least where they are described as being), and 2. We cannot logically comprehend rivers dividing and creating more rivers. The picture seems backwards.

My explanation for these complications may seem simple, sophomoric and even cheap to some. But since centuries of scholarship cannot seem to explain what is happening here, I think the best guess is that Noah’s flood radically altered the landscape.

Laugh if you wish, or dismiss my explanation. Just understand that if you take my explanation lightly, your attitude may prevent you from receiving what I believe to be some rich insight coming in the few blog posts that follow. Whatever you do, do not make a comment until you have done some of your own research. Flippant comments will not be responded to.

Up next … let’s take a trip down the river.

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