Why do the nations concern themselves over tiny Israel?
World events now seem to focus on the Middle East, and especially upon Israel. Israel is mentioned in almost every news bulletin.
Why is this tiny little nation of just 8 million people so newsworthy?
Why is this piece of land just 290 miles (470 km) in length and 85 miles (135 km) in width so important to both Jew and Arab?
Why have there been three major wars over tiny Israel since 1948?
Why is there continual conflict between Jews and Palestinians?
Why does the world dispute Israel’s claim that Jerusalem is her capital?
Why is the UN and the media so heavily biased against Israel?
Why are there international boycotts of Israeli goods?
Why does the Vatican have claims on Jerusalem real estate?
Given all this unrest, how will it all end? The answer rests with the biblical role of Israel. Yes, God has a plan for the nation Israel.
God’s Purpose for Israel – a Blessing to the Nations
Some 3,500 years ago God made an unconditional covenant with His chosen servant Abram (later called Abraham). The primary part of this covenant was that through Abram’s descendants all the nations for all time would be blessed. God said to Abram:
In you all the families of the earth will be blessed (Gen 12.3)
In your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Gen 22.18)
So how are the nations blessed? Tracing through the descendants of Abraham we find that the tribe of Judah is given ‘royal lineage’ in terms of a scepter (Gen 49.10). This symbolized kingship and led to the royal house of David. Following the genealogies from David in the book of Matthew we come to Joseph the husband of Mary who bore Jesus. God gave Jesus the throne of David (Lk 1.32), but Jesus’ mission at that time was the reconciliation of sinful mankind to God. Through Christ’s death on the cross, everyone who believes in Him – the resurrected Christ – and follows Him is reconciled to God. Jesus said:
Salvation is of the Jews (Jn 4.22)
That is the first and foremost blessing of the nations. Israel’s primary purpose, her primary reason for existence, was to bring salvation to the world through Christ.
A Blessing on Israel: With this historic mission for Israel in view, God blessed this embryo nation – the children of Israel – as they made their exodus from Egypt under Moses. Listen to the beautiful singing of this blessing in the book of Numbers, chapter 6 verses 24-26:
A Song of the LORD’s Blessing upon Israel. Sung in both Hebrew and English
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.“
God’s Purpose for Israel – a Witness to the Nations
People often ask ‘Where is God – where is the evidence that He exists?’ God’s plan anticipated such questions. He created a special nation (Israel) to be His witness in the world, to be His servant, to achieve His purposes, and to lift up His name amongst the nations. For example, it was through Israel’s deliverance from Egypt that God showed His presence and power. And it is through Israel’s aliyah (return to their own land) that we see God working todaty:
But now, says the Lord, … He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear … I have called you by name; you are Mine! … You are My witnesses … and My servant whom I have chosen …” (Isa 43.1,10)
And what one nation on the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went … to make a name for Himself (2 Sam 7.23)
Isn’t it amazing that this small nation, Israel, has survived for over 3,500 years despite some 2,500 years of exile and severe persecution? Isn’t it amazing that millions of Jews have recently returned to the land promised to Abraham’s descendants (Gen 17)?
When King Louis XIV of France (1643-1715) asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher to give him proof of God, Pascal answered, ‘Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!’ Today, the nations are being forced to look towards Israel, whether in hatred or in support or in bewilderment. Why? Because God is working with His people and His land to make a name for Himself – see for example the amazing growth of Israel. And there is more …
God’s Purpose for Israel – a Channel for the Word of God
God chose the tribes of Israel (commonly referred to as ‘the Jews’) to be the original recipients of His word. It started with God’s Law, as in the ten commandments, and was fulfilled when Christ came (Mat 5.17). Once received, the Word of God was to spread throughout the world to all nations. So Moses commanded the Israelites to diligently follow God’s Laws:
Obey them faithfully, and this will show the people of other nations how wise you are. When they hear of all these laws, they will say, ‘What wisdom and understanding this great nation has!’ (Deut 4.6, GNT)
So the world benefited from God’s Words and Will given through Israel. For example, through the inspired scriptures they received moral and ethical guidelines for correct living, guidelines as to how to please God, explanations for the origin of man and for the observed creation, and visions/explanations of the future. The world need look no further for “truth”; it is found in the scriptures and Christ the Jew is the embodiment of all truth (Jn 14.6).
So when you are tempted to ask “what purpose Israel?” or “what purpose the Jew?” remember that it was through Israel that the nations received God’s Word:
Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] … Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God. (Rom 3.2-3, AMP)
God’s Purpose for Israel – a Light in a Darkening World
Today there is great unrest amongst the nations as they wrestle with increasing national debt, economic uncertainty, international terrorism, social unrest, overpopulation and so on. In particular, there is increasing spiritual darkness as Western nations turn away from biblical truth to humanistic ideas. For instance, the word “God” is not even in the EU Constitution, link. This scenario is prophesied, along with hope:
I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Isa 49.6)
For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the Lord will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising (Isa 60.2,3)
This text refers to the world status at very end of this age i.e. now, and ends with a brief look into the next age on earth. It says that as the nations sink into spiritual darkness they will see a light – the nation Israel. It says the LORD God will once more favour His servant Israel as she becomes His witness to the world. In the Millennial Age the nations will be attracted to the spiritual light, hope and truth as seen in Israel.
God’s Purpose for Israel – a Sign of the End of the Age
The Bible says that at the end of this age Israel will become the vortex of the world in the sense that major world events will be centered around Israel. Nations will be caught in a political vortex in the sense that they will be forced to look towards Israel. They can choose to ignore Israel and her God, but sooner or later Israel will command their attention. Why? Because God is using Israel as a sign to the nations:
He will set up a ensign for the nations and will assemble the outcasts of Israel (Isa 11.12)
This prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes. Within just 100 years the Jewish population in Israel has increased dramatically. In 1915 there were just 83,000 Jews but this increased to over 6 million Jews in 2013, link – an amazing 7100% increase! Many take Jesus’ parable of the ‘budding fig tree’ (Mat 24.32) as pertaining to the restoration of Israel immediately prior to His return, link, link. In other words, when we look at Israel today we see a people restored to the land promised to Abraham’s descendants and an indisputable sign that we are near the end of this age and Christ’s return to earth.
God’s Purpose for Israel – a Glorious Future for the Nations
Bible prophecy reveals that, at the end of this age world events will be centered around Israel. Unseen spiritual principalities and powers raged against Christ at His birth (Rev 12.4), and today they are raging against Israel by aligning nations against her (Rev 12.9, 20.8). This spiritual warfare culminates in the final war of this age (Armageddon) as all Gentile nations are gathered against Israel (Zech 14.1-3). The good news is that these events herald the return of Christ to the earth and the ushering in of an age of peace – the so-called millennial age, when Christ reigns as King from Jerusalem:
And the LORD will be King over all the earth (Zech 14.9)
These are the days when nations beat their swords into plowshares, the wolf lies down with the lamb, and the earth is full of the knowledge of the LORD (Isa 2.4, 11.9, 65.25). These are the days when Israel and Egypt and Assyria (Iraq) are one with each other and are a blessing to the world (Isa 19.24). This is the time when the land and people of Israel will be blessed above all nations, and many peoples will go up to Jerusalem to worship the LORD and keep Israel’s Feast of Tabernacles (Isa 2.2, Zech 14.16). Why? Because
Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth (Zech 8.3)
So why does Israel exist? Answer: God has a universal plan for Israel:
Through Israel came a blessing to the world: reconciliation to God through Christ
Through Israel came the Word of God – the inspired scriptures of Old and New Testaments
Through Israel’s miracles, survival and restoration we can see strong evidence for God
Through Israel we can see a sign announcing the return of Christ
Through Israel we can see God working in the world and making a name for Himself
Through Israel the world will enjoy peace on earth as Christ reigns from Jerusalem
Why look at Israel, or even think about this tiny little country? After all, Israel has only some 8 million people and is only the size of Wales. And isn’t stubborn little Israel a thorn in the flesh for the Palestinian people and a hard nut to crack for the UN politicians?
Yes – all that is true. But there is more to Israel than meets the eye – and the vast majority of the population fails to see it. A look at the facts, and a little reading of the Bible shows that Israel’s history and future are extremely important for the nations; she cannot be ignored. Like it or not, the milestones in Israel’s history and the prophesied milestones for the future are crucially important for the world. They affect all nations and all individuals.
The aim of this site is to be an eye-opener to the mystery of Israel. We want to spread the truth about the amazing role of Israel and how it can give us hope in an increasingly violent and chaotic world. Don’t walk away – this divine timepiece is running fast and events surrounding Israel will soon embrace the whole world. Whether you believe in the Bible or not, this site offers food for thought that you might find interesting and worth studying.
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Israel may be three hundred miles long, thirty miles wide, but it’s three thousand years deep.
They are simply referring to the fact that over three millennia of Bible history is sown in the land of Israel. Others say:
Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. [Charles Krauthammer – The Weekly Standard, May 11, 1998]
The History of Israel Started with Abraham
The history of Israel started some 4,000 years ago when God told Abram (later called Abraham) to go from his home in Ur of the Chaldeans (probably in southern Iraq) and travel to a land that God would give to him and his descendants. It was from there that God would make a people for Himself, a people to be a witness of Himself to the nations. As part of the deal they were given the land of Canaan for perpetuity. God said to Abram (Abraham):
I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you … I will give to you and your descendants … all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Gen 17.7,8)
Through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Judah, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan …) and they inhabited the land God gave them, Fig.1. Note that this includes the area currently known as Israel and embraces the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. Furthermore, it is important to realise that God’s covenant was unconditional (Gen 15.18), meaning that, even today, the nation of Israel owns the land we now call Israel. Present-day Israel is not occupying ‘Palestinian land’. More at Israel’s Borders.
Israel: God’s Special People
Note that in Genesis 17 God said: ‘I will be their God’. Here, God was claiming Israel to be His own; ‘You are Mine’ (Isa 43.1). So here we have God identifying Himself with a particular people. Here we have the God of Israel – they are God’s very own people, forever (2 Sam 7.24). It follows of course that those who contend with Israel are actually contending with God! God will fight on Israel’s behalf, as demonstrated in the 1967 6-day war, link. Hamas beware!
Why did God do this? God made a people for Himself for a very real purpose. Besides blessing all nations through Christ, God made Israel to be His witness to the nations (Isa 43.10) and to be His servant (Isa 49.3). Israel is unique since it is the one nation on earth that God uses to make a name for Himself. As King David exclaimed:
Who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make a name for Himself (2 Sam 7.23).
The Scattering or Diaspora
Sadly, after the Davidic Kingdom around 1,000 BC the tribes of Israel gradually fell away from their God and through their disobedience were uprooted from their land and scattered throughout the nations. Subsequently, in 70 AD the Romans committed genocide against the Jews, smashed the Temple in Jerusalem and declared the land of Israel would be no more. To this end the Romans renamed the land of Israel, principally Judea, as ‘Palaestina‘ (modern Palestine) which some believe was an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel.
Recent History of Israel: The Ingathering or Aliyah
The scattering of Israel was fulfillment of Bible prophecy, but recent history has also seen the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in the ingathering of Israel. FACT: despite the scattering, God did not destroy national Israel – He simply gave her a ‘writ of divorce’ (Jer 3.8), and there are many prophecies of the ingathering of national Israel and her ‘remarriage’ to her God. For instance, In the end-time context of the restoration of national Israel, God sets Israel as a ‘banner (or sign) to the nations’ and gathers Israel and Judah ‘from the four corners of the earth’ (Isa 11.12). The prophet Ezekiel saw this restoration of Israel in his vision of ‘the valley of dry bones’ (Ezek 37). Here, God says:
Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone … and bring them into their own land (Ezek 37.21)
Today’s term for this ingathering or immigration of Jews to Israel is aliyah (Heb ‘ascent’). Clearly, there have been dramatic changes in Israel/Palestine in little over 100 years, and not least in Israel’s demographics. During these years the ingathering from the nations into Israel has been remarkable, as shown by Jewish population statistics: 1882: 0.025m; 1918: 0.06m; 1948: 0.72m; 1965: 2.3m; 1985: 3.5m; 2005: 5.3m; 2014: 6.1m; link. So in just 100 years the Jewish population of Israel increased by an amazing 7400%.
The Bible refers to a “mystery” surrounding the historic nation of Israel (Rom 11.25). A mystery is defined as “something that is difficult to understand or explain”, and the reference in Romans 11 to the “root and branches of an olive tree” is a good example. In fact, this is an extremely important example because if we fail to understand the symbolism (mystery) of the olive branches we will fail to understand the real significance of modern Israel and her relationship to the church. Sadly, many in Western institutionalized churches choose not to understand this mystery and so fall into error. The end result is a dying, anti-Semitic church!
The apostle Paul likened the nation of Israel to the natural branches of a cultivated olive tree. When talking to the early Gentile church he said:
For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Rom 11.24)
Here Paul foresees the time when scattered Israel will return to her true spiritual roots.
Solving the Olive Tree Mystery
So what did Paul mean by “the olive tree”? This mysterious biblical symbolism has generated much scholarly debate – but why? Consider the following. All trees begin from a root, and in Romans 11.16 we read of a holy root. This can be nothing less than a symbol for the one holy and eternal Creator God. Everything in creation begins and grows from this spiritual root. As Genesis says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. John 1.1 is more specific and identifies the holy Christ (the Word) with this root; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. So Christ is intimately associated with the root of the olive tree, link.
The Abrahamic Covenant: Man’s intimate knowledge of this Holy Root, and specifically man’s introduction to the mystery of Christ, was delivered by the Spirit through the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (renamed Israel, the ancestor of the Israelites). Subsequently more knowledge came through Moses, the prophets and the New Testament. So it is not surprising that the symbolic olive tree, even the root, is often likened to the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12.2-3; 17.7-8), link, link. This covenant is God’s unconditional promise to Abraham and his descendants of a great nation and of land for that nation. The covenant also promised that through him all nations would be blessed. What was that blessing? Here is more symbolism. Few realize it can be seen in the lives and experiences of the three patriarchs. Put simply, the lives and experiences of the three patriarchs illustrate man’s relationship to God through Christ:
ABRAHAM – the purpose and choice of the Creator God
ISAAC – the Son (Christ) is given
JACOB – sinful man’s transformation from carnal/soulish to Spiritual
This deep teaching is emphasized in the New Testament, as in Matt 22.31-32 and Luke 13.28.
The Natural and Wild Branches
As stated, since the root is “holy” (Rom 11.16) then Christ must be intimately associated with the root. To expand on this and to accommodate Paul’s concept of “branches” in Romans 11, it can be helpful to see the tree root as the Holy Creator God, the trunk as the Messiah, Christ, and the branches as those who follow God through Christ. So any branches of this tree are holy since the root and the trunk are holy. The New Testament likens ancient Israel to the natural branches of a cultivated olive tree (Rom 11.24). God’s subsequent covenants with Israel (Mosaic, Sabbatical, Davidic, and New) were the ‘cultivation’. So we see that, starting from the Abrahamic Covenant, the Jewish nation was placed under a program governed by covenants. In contrast, Gentile believers are like wild branches in that they had no covenants (Ephesians 2.11-12).
Sadly, and to their hurt, the Jews in Jerusalem rejected Christ as their looked-for Messiah (their Moshiach) and so were symbolically ‘broken off’ from the tree, from Christ. The Jews have suffered ever since, and in their place branches were ‘grafted in’ from a wild olive tree. These were believing Gentiles (Rom 11:13,17,24). Prior to this, the northern kingdom, the so-called ‘ten lost tribes’ had rejected God’s laws and warnings given to them through the prophets. But, pushing the symbolism a little further, they were not totally ‘cutoff’ from the olive tree and a remnant were preserved (Rom 11:3-5).
Christ and the Olive Tree
Let’s pursue the concept of the Creator God as the tree root and Christ as the tree trunk. In Isaiah 11.1 the prophet saw a Shoot coming from the cut-down trunk of the olive tree:
And there shall come forth a Shoot out of the stock of Jesse [David’s father], and a Branch [Sprout] out of his roots shall grow and bear fruit.
This is a clear reference to the first coming of Christ. He is seen here as a Shoot from a stump. Historically, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, finally destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 BC and the family of David became like a tree cut down with only its stump left in the ground. But then, whilst in humiliation and obscurity, a descendant of David (a ‘Shoot’) comes out of the tree root (the Creator God). The Shoot which grew out of the stump represented Jesus the Messiah. Crucially then, it is only via the Root (the Creator God) and the re-grown Trunk (the Messiah, Christ) that the rest of the branches of the tree receive the sustenance of life. So all subsequent branches grow from and are sustained by Christ the Messiah. Conversely, the branch that breaks away from the tree (from the Messiah) dries up and dies! Jesus emphasized this point when He said:
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn 15.5)
One Tree: The Coming Unification of Israel and the Church
The olive tree, including its Hebraic association, represents the place of blessing in God’s plan for mankind. But due to unbelief (rebellion, stumbling, transgression) God broke off national Israel (the natural branches) from the tree and grafted Gentiles (the wild branches) into the place of blessing (Rom 11.17). In horticulture a lone wild olive tree is unfruitful, or its fruit is very imperfect and useless. So, as in horticulture, Gentile believers can only bear good fruit once they are grafted into the living tree, Christ.
Put another way, today’s believers can only be truly fruitful once they recognize that their faith stems from the same tree that bore historic Israel. The true church is intimately and historically connected to the Hebrew nation, Israel.
The New Testament explains that one day saved (regenerate) natural Israel and the church (spiritual Israel) will be “one tree”. It refers to this one tree as “all Israel”. At that time we see God’s people, saved Jew and saved Gentile as “one tree”. Referring to Jewish Israel’s spiritual restoration and to her future ‘oneness’ with the true church, Paul wrote:
And so all Israel will be saved (Rom 11.26)
Jesus made the same point:
I have other sheep (Gentiles), too, that are not in this sheepfold (Jews). I must bring them also … and there will be one flock with one Shepherd (Jn 10.16, NLT)
This “oneness” of Israel and the true church is also seen in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21). Here this future symbolic city has all 12 tribes of Israel associated with the gates of the city, and all 12 apostles of the early church are associated with the city walls.
A Warning to the Western Church
Currently, Gentile believers occupy the place of blessing formerly held by national Israel. There the church should bear good fruit as she, as branches, feeds on and is sustained by the Trunk of the tree, Christ. But does this church recognize her Hebrew roots? Does she recognize that she is really like wild branches that have been grafted into a tree which first bore national Israel? And does she recognize that God will soon graft the remnant of national Israel (the broken branches) back into their own olive tree (Rom 11.5,23,24)?
Sadly, many in the institutionalized Western churches choose to ignore this point, become anti-Semitic, and ‘dry-up’, link. God discards them and they die spiritually. Is this a major reason why regular Church of England attendance in the UK is now less than 2% of the population, link? Historically, the lack of will to understand the olive tree perpetrated outrageous acts towards the “natural branches” (the Jewish people) during the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms, and the holocaust.
We can now explain the symbolism of the olive tree in Romans chapter 11. The tree root and trunk are holy and represent God’s place of blessing for mankind. It can be helpful to regard Christ as the tree trunk feeding the branches. Its broken-off branches represent the Jewish rejection of Christ and the added branches represent both Gentile believers and and end-time regenerate Jewish remnant. The tree therefore signifies the covenanted congregation of Israel, made up of both Jew and Gentile. Importantly, it shows that Gentile Christians are really spiritual Jews with their roots in the Hebrew patriarchs.
Clearly, this understanding of the olive tree completely destroys Replacement Theology since it underscores the future role of Jewish Israel following their recognition of Christ as their Messiah, link. Paul warns the church that it should not be foolish and ignorant of this mystery (Rom 11.25).
Looked at another way, upon their turning to Christ both Jews and Gentiles will be incorporated into one church. Recall that ‘church’ (Ekklesia in Greek) simply means ‘the called out ones’ or an assembly of followers of Christ. So, one Shepherd cares for one sheepfold, and all one in Christ makes one church!
The land of Israel is unique Israel is part of ancient Eden Israel will again reflect the glory of the Garden of Eden
According to Strong’s Concordance, Eden (ay’-den) means ‘delicate, delight, pleasure – the region of Adam’s home’. It is a Sumerian word indicating a plain (a flat area where cultivation would be easy). So, at the outset, Eden was a good place in which to live! Genesis states that mankind started in Eden and specifically in a garden in the east of Eden:
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed … Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold (Gen 2.10,11)
Note that Genesis 2 implies that there was a land of Eden as well as a ‘garden of Eden’ planted toward the east of Eden. This distinction is also implied in the book of Isaiah:
And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord (Isa 51.3)
Searching for the land of Eden and the Garden of Eden
The Fertile Crescent – the ‘Cradle of Civilization’: The so-called Fertile Crescent (shown in green, Fig.1) extends northeast from the Sinai Peninsula, bordered by the Mediterranean coast and the Jordan River, then curves to the southeast, following along the Tigris and Euphrates valleys. It is characterized by unusually fertile soil, and so it is not surprising that humans first created agricultural settlements here over 8,000 years ago, link. For example, archaeological investigations in the Zagros Mountains of Iran reveal that people were grinding wheat and barley about 11,000 years ago, link. And the archaeological site of Gobekli Tepe (locally called ‘Potbelly Hill’) in southern Turkey (indicated in Fig.1) has been carbon dated at around 10,000 BC – older than any other known site, link, link. Bear in mind that the Fertile Crescent probably had a more agriculturally productive climate than today because of massive climatic and geological changes during Noah’s flood around 2300 BC.
Babylonia: After the Flood mankind still lived in the Fertile Crescent. In Genesis 11 and 12 we read that around 1900 BC God called Abram (Abraham) to leave the family home in the Babylonian city of Ur (Fig. 2) and go to the land of Canaan. Abram’s journey took him along the Fertile Crescent via Nineveh and Haran (and probably very close to the archaeological site of Gobekli Tepe). Note that the city of Ur was close to the Persian Gulf.
Oil and Gas in the Fertile Crescent: At this point it is interesting to ask ourselves; ‘Why are there giant oil and gas reserves in the northern Persian Gulf region?’ – see map. For example, Kuwait is less than one-tenth the size of Syria, but its oil reserves far exceed Syria’s reserves, link. The traditional understanding is that these reserves began as microscopic plants and animals living in oceans. During their life they absorbed energy from the sun which was stored as carbon molecules in their bodies. When they died, they sank to the bottom and over millions of years layer upon layer generated pressure and heat and eventually oil (or gas). Geological and sea-level changes then resulted in the land reserves seen today.
But does this process have to take millions of years? Are there quicker ways of generating oil? In particular, can the chemistry of oil be explained by flood geology and a high sedimentation rate – see Oil and the Flood. This idea is based on the observation that a high sedimentation rate preserves organic material [Tissot and Welte, 1984, Petroleum Formation and Occurrence, Springer-Verlag]. So a catastrophic sedimentation rate, as would occur in Noah’s flood would uproot, kill, and bury organic material very rapidly and avid oxidizing agents. (On the same theme, we note that polystrate fossils sometimes span many coal seams, providing strong evidence that the coal did not take millions of years to form!)
So do the large oil and gas reserves around the northern end of the Persian Gulf suggest vigorous vegetation and animal life in that region before the Flood? Are the oil and gas reserves the result of the sudden destruction of the garden of Eden?
Eden found? Given these facts, it’s not surprising that the Fertile Crescent has been labelled “the cradle of civilization”. Was this region the biblical Eden? Scholars identify Eden with the Sumerian term ‘edin’, which means “uncultivated steppe or plain” and usually associated with the area today called Mesopotamia (see Fig.2), link.
The Rivers of Eden
Given that some of the world’s earliest complex societies developed in the Fertile Crescent it is tempting to think Eden is associated with the Canaan-Southern Turkey-Babylonia-Persian Gulf region. Descriptions of the four rivers in Genesis 2 may help us to be more specific. But in attempting this we must bear in mind that ancient world catastrophes like the Flood had the potential to dramatically change the original land forms and river systems, Setterfield. Not surprisingly, two of these rivers, the Pishon and the Gihon, are no longer visible, probably due to geological changes incurred during Noah’s flood.
The Pishon River
We note that “a river (the Pishon) went out of Eden to water the garden (of Eden)” and flowed past or skirted the land of Havilah. Where was Havilah? Some argue that the land of Havilah has long since disappeared due to massive geological changes, so searching for it is futile, Setterfield. That said, we note that, post Flood, the descendants of Ishmael “dwelt from Havilah as far as Shur” (Gen 25.18), so the land of Havilah was still recognized post-Flood. It was probably one of those regions in the North Eastern area of the Arabian Peninsula, link, as indicated in Fig.3.
As stated, the Pishon is not visible today, although it must have been a large river in order to “water the garden”. In fact, satellite images and space Shuttle Imaging Radar suggest the river was once up to three miles wide, link. Analysis of these space images shows that, in Kuwait, a dry riverbed (Wadi Al-Batin) cuts through limestone and disappears into the desert of Saudi Arabia. The river ran underground along a fault line under the sand. From the Hyaz (Hejaz) Mountains in Saudi Arabia, link, this river ran northeast to its delta in Kuwait near the Persian Gulf. It is interesting to note that Pishon literally means “to disperse”, or “to spread”, suggesting the parting into some form of delta or ‘riverheads’ as in Gen 2.10. Given these recent discoveries, some claim this lost river corresponds to the biblical Pishon River associated with the garden of Eden.
The fact that the Pishon “went out of Eden”, “skirted the whole land of Havilah” and “parted into four riverheads” suggests that Eden was a large area of land to the north of Havilah.
The Gihon River (the river of Cush)
The word Gihon means “stream’. This ‘stream’ is said to have flowed “around the whole land of Cush” (Gen 2.13). In early biblical history, Cush (pronounced Kush) was the name of a district near the head of the Persian Gulf, link. More specifically, it could be the country still known as Khuzi-stan, on the east side of the Lower Tigris, link. This agrees with the claim that Cush was is in Mesopotamia (rather than in Ethiopia), link. The Amplified Bible also places Cush in Mesopotamia. It is interesting to note that, today, two major rivers flow from the Iranian mountains in the east down to the southern part of the Mesopotamian flood-plain, viz. the Kerkha and the Karun, link. So the Gihon River could have flowed in Iran and the Zagros Mountains, link, as indicated in Fig.3.
The Tigris (Heb: Hiddekel) and Euphrates
In Genesis 2 these two rivers are associated with the “four riverheads” (river delta?) coming from the Pishon. The Tigris or Hiddekel flowed “towards the east of Assyria (Heb: Asshur)”. Hiddekel means “flowing rapidly”, indicating it either went through land with a high gradient or had a large quantity of water flowing in it, or both. Maps show the ancient Tigris River flowing through a fertile alluvial plain, link (consistent with the concept of ‘Eden’). The Hebrew word translated ‘Euphrates’ is Perath, which literally means “to break forth”.
Are these two rivers of Genesis the two rivers we see today? Today, the mountains of Turkey collect water that becomes the observed Tigris and Euphrates rivers. But today’s Tigris and Euphrates may not be the original rivers! As already mentioned, we must bear in mind that the massive geological changes of the ancient world (as occurred for example in the Flood) could have changed the rivers of Genesis 2, Setterfield. Today’s Tigris and Euphrates could be running on top of flood-deposited layers of rock. That said, many still assume that the approximate location of the ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers was as seen today, again as indicated Fig.3. It has been suggested that, viewed from the Persian Gulf region, all four rivers could be seen as “riverheads”.
The Edenic Environment
Little is known about the climate of Eden and its garden and there is much speculation! Artistic impressions paint an idyllic sub-tropical environment for Adam. But what do we know with reasonable certainty?
At the outset, Adam’s environment must have been conducive to plant growth – many different trees grew and fruited (and it seems that before the Fall there were no weeds!) Also, there is no record of Adam being too cold or too hot or buffeted by storms. Some argue that there was no rain before the Flood and instead “a mist went up from the earth to water the ground” (Gen 2.5,6). Either way, it seems things were environmentally quiet and peaceful. Everything God had created was “very good” (Gen 1.31). How can a severe storm be ‘good’? In addition, we note Adam and his immediate descendants lived approximately ten times longer than present generations. Why?
Adam’s world: A universally warm and pleasant Earth?
Some maintain that before the Flood the earth’s axial tilt was perhaps only 5 degrees (or less), resulting in virtually no seasonal changes and one large stable Hadley Cell of circulating air currents, link, link. The deductions are based on measurements from ancient ‘gnomons’. It is conjectured that the earth was probably universally warm, with no deserts, ice caps or major mountains. There was probably less sea and more land. Lush vegetation grew worldwide, so providing for the coal and oil deposits we now find near the poles. It has also been conjectured that rapid radioactive decay heated the earth’s mantle below the crust, driving out the water locked in the minerals. This water seeped through the earth’s thin granite crust and appeared as a mist, watering the ground (Gen 2.6).
As stated, with this early-earth low-tilt model there would be virtually no seasons, and we note that the first mention of seasons and the associated ‘cold’ and ‘heat’ is after Noah’s Flood (Gen 8.22). And it is argued that a sudden change leading to the present 23.4 degree tilt arose around 2300 BC, possibly due to asteroid/meteor impact. Another sudden change in axial tilt at the end of this age is suggested in Isaiah 24.19-20. More at young earth model.
A Protective Canopy?
Genesis 1.6 mentions a “firmament” (Heb: raqiya, ‘an extended surface’) that divided the created waters. What was this? And did it provide an idyllic environment for Adam and his immediate descendants? Moreover, did it protect them from damaging solar radiation?
Some have proposed that a protective ‘water vapor canopy’ existed before the Flood, but this is not strongly supported, link. What about the Crystalline Canopy Theory? This conjectures that, before the Flood, the ‘firmament’ extended throughout space as a universal macrocosm expanse of lattice structure consisting of charged subatomic particles. Simultaneously, in order to focus the benefit of universal radiation, the firmament is held to be localized as a thin microcosm complex of crystalline structure suspended directly above Earth. To quote:
This (localized) structure consisted of strong magnetic flux lines holding silicate sugilite, hydrogen, water molecules and possibly various metallic colloids in its force field. Water in Earth’s spherical mass was utilized in its solid form in making the localized crystalline firmament, and was simultaneously distributed throughout space in its various molecular forms in the establishing of the firmament as a universal expanse. Earth’s local crystalline canopy in its physical design would uniquely absorb and transfer the radiation of the stellar bodies that were later placed in the universal expanse. These stellar bodies were made to be an orchestrated symphony of mass, energy and radiation, specifically designed to benefit planet Earth and its inhabitants, link
So in this theory the Hebrew word ‘raqiya’ refers to both the universal expanse and the localized crystalline structure suspended above the Earth as one seamless whole.
Man’s Aging: It is claimed that the crystalline canopy suspended perhaps ten miles above Earth’s surface had the benefit that it filtered out most of the damaging UV radiation i.e. DNA damage at the molecular level. It is conjectured that, at the judgement of the Flood, the localized microcosm – the ‘canopy’ suspended over Earth – was disrupted as ‘windows were opened’ in the crystalline lattice. This could have been done by jets of steam from hydrothermal vents in the earth’s crust. Consequently, man was subjected to increased radiation. It is scientifically plausible that a significant increase in radioisotopes in the atmosphere after the Flood could cause the observed progressive reduction in the age of man after the Flood, see human aging.
Conclusions on Eden and the Garden of Eden
Eden: From the foregoing discussion, Eden (the land) could have been the large region bordered in the south by the land of Havilah (possibly NE Arabia) and embracing the Tigris River and Mesopotamia in the east. A northern boundary might be indicated by references to “the people of Eden who were in Telassar” (2 Kings 19.12 Isa 37.12). This city was inhabited by the Bene ‘Eden and was possibly located in the upper Mesopotamian country, link, link. In fact, since the so-called Fertile Crescent is often called ‘the cradle of civilization’, it is tempting to see it as the eastern, northern and western boundaries of Eden. This would include the biblical land of Canaan as part of Eden. The land of Nod (the land of Cain’s ‘wandering’) is said to have been ‘on the east of Eden’ (Gen 4.16) and so outside Eden, as indicated in Fig.3.
The Garden of Eden: Many commentators place the garden of Eden in the Persian Gulf region i.e. ‘eastward of Eden’, as indicated in Fig.3. Some believe the earliest inhabitants in Mesopotamia (see Fig.2) originally lived in this region. The massive oil reserves in this region may even be the result of the sudden destruction of the garden by the Flood c2300 BC. Also bear in mind that at that time the sea level was much lower and sea levels have gradually risen. By c5500 BC most of the Gulf basin was filled, although the sea level was still 17 meters lower than that of today, link. The Persian Gulf did not reach its present levels until Abraham’s time c4000 BC, link.
The environment of Eden (and probably that of the whole earth) could have been enhanced and protected by a ‘canopy’ above the earth.
Sadly, Adam’s time in the garden was short-lived since he and his wife were driven out after the Fall (Gen 3.23,24). From this time on, Adam’s life became difficult as the ground came under God’s curse (Gen 3.17-19), and it is logical to assume that the garden was completely destroyed by the Flood. But whilst it existed, there were 11 overlapping generations with a span of a thousand years that would have had direct knowledge (person to person) about Eden and the Garden, including Noah and his family, link, link. Bear in mind that, pre-Flood, man lived much longer and Adam lived 930 years (Gen 5.5). For more on man’s changing life-span see Human Aging.
The Israel-Eden Connection
When man was driven out of the garden of Eden after the Fall (Gen 3.23,24), and the Flood came to destroy evil mankind, was this the end of Eden and its garden for all time? Was God’s beautiful creation to be lost forever just because man sinned? Studies of Israel’s history and prophesied future suggest not. There appears to be a close relationship between the land of Israel (past and future) and Eden and its garden.
It is widely claimed that the earliest civilizations lived along the Fertile Crescent, giving the region the name ‘the Cradle of Civilization’. As discussed, some scholars associate this region with the biblical Eden, and some associate the Persian Gulf area with the garden of Eden. So since the Crescent spans from the Persian Gulf across into southern Israel, we might tentatively associate the land of Israel with Eden (and even the garden of Eden)! Is there any justification for this claim?
Pangea: Geological theory holds that civilized man once lived on a super-continent called ‘Pangea’ surrounded by a super-ocean called ‘Panthalassa’, link. Scientists attribute the break-up of Pangea (a process supposedly lasting hundreds of millions of years) to plate techtonics. The concept of a single landmass and a single ocean is supported by Genesis:
Then God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so (Gen 1.9, emphasis added)
Now consider the following rather intriguing biblical claims:
For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth (Ps 74.12)
Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her in the midst of the nations and the countries all around her’ (Ezek 5.5)
Jewish tradition does indeed place Jerusalem at the center or midst of the earth, and some see the temple mount in Jerusalem as the true ‘ground Zero’ of the world, link, link. Is this concept figurative, or can we take it literally? If Jerusalem really is the geographic center of the world then maybe Jerusalem is closely associated with the Eden of Genesis?
Fernand Crombette took these biblical claims seriously and set about finding a single ancient landmass. He noticed that the current continents fitted much better when another biblical text is taken into account:
Then God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so (Gen 1.6-7)
Crombette assumed that, initially (i.e. in the days of Eden), the waters were equally divided and that at the Flood the waters above the firmament ‘collapsed’ to fill the oceans below the firmament. This concept is similar to the ‘water-canopy theory’. So Crombette assumed that in the time of Eden the mean ocean depths were only half as deep (c2,000 m) as the current depths (c4,000 m). Today’s continental shelves would then be above the water line. The interesting fact is that at 2,000 meters bathymetric maps show that the current continents fit almost perfectly when they are moved into place.
So, by adhering to the biblical text, Crombette showed that when the present continents are repositioned, they fit almost perfectly at a depth of 2,000 meters. Moreover, it is claimed that the center of the single continent is Jerusalem, link, link. Staying with biblical concepts, Noah’s Flood has been conjectured as the mechanism and timing for the division of this single continent, link.
Modern Calculations: Today, the geographical center of all current land-areas can be computed using satellite data and great-circle distances on the sphere of the earth, link. Using this approach, Holger Isenberg computed the geographic center at 37.7°N 35.4°E, corresponding to a location in southern Turkey, link. The discrepancy between this location and Crombette’s location (Jerusalem) must be partly due to the fact that Isenberg’s calculation is based upon current sea levels. So they do not apply to Adam’s pre-Flood world, although they do provide some confirmation of Corbette’s calculations in that the ‘midst’ of the earth is around the Eastern Mediterranean.
Conclusion: It is reasonable to conjecture that God would have placed Adam near the center of this single continent rather than at its periphery. In other words, Adam could have been placed near to the location of the future Jerusalem. The implication then is that Jerusalem could be closely associated with Eden, even the garden of Eden itself!
Israel-Eden in the Past
Canaan – where was it?: God promised Abram (Abraham) and all his descendants “all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession” (Gen 17.8). Why Canaan? What was special about Canaan? Moreover – where was Canaan?
On the day of God’s covenant with Abram, God defined Canaan as running from the river of Egypt (traditionally identified as the Nile, link) to the River Euphrates (Gen 15.18). The same boundaries are found in Exod 23.31. The tribes of Israel occupied most of this area, link, and there are indications that the kingdoms of David and Solomon c1000 BC did indeed stretch from the river of Egypt on the Sinai peninsula, across the Syrian Desert to Tiphsah on the northern parts of the Euphrates. So the biblical Canaan closely followed the Fertile Crescent northwards and eastwards.
Prior to these kingdoms, God gave Moses the boundaries of Canaan as the children of Israel entered the land (Num 34.1-12). The southern border went through the Wilderness of Zin to the river of Egypt, the western border was the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern border ran north from the dead sea along the Jordan up to Zedad (modern-day Sadad in Syria) in the north east. Virtually identical boundaries to those given to Moses are given in the future boundaries of Israel (Ezek 47.13-21).
Canaan – a ‘Good Land’: Recall that Eden means ‘delicate, delight, pleasure’ – a good place in which to live and where cultivation would be easy. Can this be said of the land of Canaan? Certainly! We might describe Canaan as an ‘Eden-like land’. Let’s summarize the characteristics of Canaan as described by Moses to the nation of Israel (Deut 8.7-9):
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper (Deut 8.7-9)
This is confirmed by Sinhue, an Egyptian living in the 20th century BC. Here’s his description of Canaan:
It was a good land named Yaa. Figs were in it, and grapes. It had more wine than water. Plentiful was its honey; abundant its olives. Every [kind of] fruit was on its trees. Barley there was and emmer. There was no limit to any [kind of] cattle. [Thompson, J.A. Handbook of Life in Bible Times, Leicester: IVP, 1986, p125]
Canaan – a land of God’s blessing: Recall, when Abram (Abraham) was called out of Ur to the land of Canaan (Gen 11.31) he was being sent to “a good and large land flowing with milk and honey” (Exod 3.8, Deut 26.9). The phrase “flowing with milk and honey” is understood to be hyperbolically descriptive of the land’s richness; it is generally taken as a metaphor meaning ‘all good things — God’s blessings’. Again, when Abram and Lot needed to separate their livestock (because their flocks and herds were so large), Lot chose to go to a good place:
Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere … like the garden of the Lord … (Gen 13.10, emphasis added)
So, even thousands of years after the Fall, the actual land of Israel was still ‘a delight and a pleasure’ in which to live. And this was still true hundreds of years later when the prophet Jeremiah was preaching to the rebellious stiff-necked people of Judah. Through Jeremiah the LORD said to Judah:
I swore to your forefathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day (Jer 11.5)
So even as late as c600 BC it appears that, at least parts of the land of Israel reflected the blessings of Eden! That said, man gradually had a detrimental effect on the environment in Canaan e.g. deforestation and the loss of many species of mammal and birds due to hunting, link.
Israel-Eden in the Future
Here is where we see an even stronger Israel-Eden connection. Even now, the land of Israel is blossoming in terms of agriculture compared with the desolate land of 100 years ago. But in the future it appears that the land of Israel will have a strong Eden-like appearance. Let’s compare Adam’s Eden with the land of Israel during the Millennium:
God walks with Man: Before the Fall, God walked in the garden in which He had placed Adam (Gen 3.8). He wanted fellowship with man. Likewise, in the Millennium, prophecy indicates that God in the form of Christ the King will again walk this earth alongside man. The book of Ezekiel describes the Millennial temple and the future earthly dwelling place of the LORD:
Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever (Ezek 43.7)
This concept is mind-blowing! But is it any more than when Christ the Son of God walked this earth 2,000 years ago?
A Garden: In Adam’s day God planted a perfect garden eastward in the land of Eden. The trees of the garden were beautiful to look at and provided Adam with food (Gen 2.9). The garden was so perfect it became a legend to this day. In the Millennium, prophecy says that God will again plant ‘a garden of renown’ for food in the land of Israel:
I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land … (Ezek 34.29 NKJV)
It seems that at least parts of the land of Israel will become like Adam’s Eden. The area around Zion or God’s ‘Holy Mountain (Isa 56.7)’ i.e. around Jerusalem will receive a special blessing:
I will make the places all around My hill (Zion) a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase (Ezek 34.26,27)
For the Lord will comfort Zion … He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord (Isa 51.3)
In fact, it will be so beautiful they will say:
This land that was deserted and desolate has become like the garden of Eden … (Ezek 36.35)
Beautiful Trees: In Adam’s day this garden had “every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen 2.9). What sort of trees were they? Apart from fruit trees (Gen 1.11), the prophet Ezekiel describes a few of them – ceders, firs and chestnut trees (Ezek 31.8). Likewise, in the Millennium God will plant many beautiful trees:
I will put the cedar in the wilderness, the acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert together with the box tree and the cypress (Isa 41.19)
As to be expected, when it comes to fruit trees the future land will be blessed with fig trees and vineyards (Joel 2.22). Why does God do this? All this is done to make Christ’s future dwelling place on earth, His sanctuary, ‘glorious’ (Isa 60.13). Even now the land of Israel has seen significant aforestation. Since 1900 some 250 million sub-tropical trees have been planted in all regions of Israel, from the Golan and Galilee in the north to the Negev in the south, link.
Well Watered: Adam’s Eden had the great river (probably the Pishon) that flowed east to water the garden of Eden. Similarly, in the Millennium water will flow east from the (new) temple to replenish the Dead Sea:
Then he said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah (the Jordan Valley); then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the Dead Sea shall be healed and become fresh (Ezek 47.8 amplified)
Has this already started? Researchers have discovered huge craters on the floor of the Dead Sea. Fresh water is flowing from these craters and fish are now swimming in fresh water sink holes, link. Also, in the Millennium Israel’s deserts will have pools and fountains of water and crops will be well-watered from traditional rains:
I will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water (Isa 41.18)
So rejoice, O sons of Zion … for He has poured down for you the rain … the early and latter rain as before
With the passing of time, when the people of Israel forgot their God, the “early” (Autumn) and “latter” (Spring) rains were delayed or did not fall. But when the Jewish people acknowledge their true Messiah (Christ) it seems that God will bless the nation with the required rains (Jer 31.11-12).
A Peaceful Land: Before the Fall, Adam’s world was at peace; there was no hurt and no killing. So Animals and birds ate green herbs (Gen 1.30). Likewise, in the Millennium, the land of Israel will be at peace and Jerusalem will be “a quiet home” (Isa 33.20). There will be no hurt and animals will not devour one another:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together. And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox … They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain (Isa 11.6-9)
Here, the term ‘holy mountain’ is usually taken to mean ‘the mountain of the LORD’S house’ (Isa 2.2, Ezek 40.2) – a reference to the preeminence of Zion (Jerusalem) above the other ‘mountains’ or nations, and in particular the area surrounding the new temple (see a new temple in Jerusalem). In fact, the whole world will be at peace during the Millennial age and “nation will not lift up sword against nation” (Isa 2.4).
A Vegetarian Diet? Before the Fall, Adam was given herbs and fruit to eat and the beasts of the field ate herbs (Gen 1.29,30). There was no killing and so animal meat was ‘off the menu’! Will this be true in Millennial Israel, given that “there shall be no hurt” in Christ’s ‘holy mountain’? Certainly it seems true in the Jerusalem area since the river flowing east from the temple seems to bless the surrounding land:
Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine (Ezek 47.12)
It seems that in this ‘new Eden’ around Zion, meat could again be ‘off the menu’. Where prophecy speaks of future flocks of sheep and cattle (Isa 30.23, 61.5) this may be in other parts of Israel, or for temple sacrifices (Ezek 43.18,19 Zech 14.21).
A Healthy Environment: Ezekiel 47.12 refers to the healing benefits of Israel’s trees. Is this a reference to the future widespread use of herbal medicine? Note that the future inhabitants of Zion will not say “I am sick” (Isa 33.24) and people will live long lives (Isa 65.20). Will this future Eden-like environment reflect the healthy environment of Adam’s world?
A Protected Environment: Besides geographic changes, meteorological changes and changes in the animal kingdom, the area around Zion will be specially protected from extreme weather:
The Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain (Isa 4.5-6)
Note that this protective ‘canopy’ echoes the atmospheric protection Adam appears to have benefited from, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The Sanctuary-Eden Connection
There is a deep spiritual connection between the garden of Eden and the Hebrew temples. Consider the first ‘temple’. As the Israelites were travelling through the wilderness towards Canaan, God asked them to make a place where He could “dwell amongst men” – a sanctuary or tabernacle (Exod 25.8). Clearly, this had to be portable and so it became known as ‘the tent of meeting’ (Exod 29.11, 33.7 NASB). After the Israelites were established in Canaan, the sanctuary became a permanent structure, as in Solomon’s Temple (2 Chron 3), only later to be destroyed and replaced by Herod’s temple. The basic structure of Solomon’s Temple is shown in Fig.5, link. Fast-forward to the Millennial age, and we find details of a new temple in the Jerusalem area in chapters 40-48 of the prophet Ezekiel.
Let’s consider some common features between the garden of Eden and these Hebrew Temples:
1: God dwelt with man in the garden of Eden; there was a physical closeness just as Christ dwelt with man some 2,000 years ago. God accepted the man He had created and talked with him (Gen 3.9). Similarly, in the tent of the meeting (the first tabernacle) we read that the LORD talked with Moses as a man speaks to his friend (Exod 33.7-11, Num 7.89). This amazing God-man dialogue will happen again when Christ rules from the new temple in the Millennium, and finally in the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21.3)
2: The entrance (exit) to the garden of Eden faced east (Gen 3.24). In fact the entrance to all Hebrew Temples has to face east, link. For example, see Ezekiel 40.6. Pagan temples were oriented in other directions. The eastward orientation could be a prophetic expectation of the Second Coming of Christ (see Ezek 43.1,2 Mat 24.27). His glory “comes from the east”
3: The garden of Eden had a special area with a special restriction. In its center was the ‘tree of life’ and the ‘tree of of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Gen 2.9). Adam was restricted from eating from the latter. Likewise, the temples had a special inner area with holy restrictions. The Holy of Holies was the most sacred part of the temple and entry was forbidden except on Yom Kippur, when the High Priest was permitted to enter
4: When Adam sinned he was prevented from coming back into the garden by Cherubim placed at the “east of the garden”. So Adam found himself outside the ‘holy area’ of Eden due to his sin. Similarly, the exit from the temple ‘holy place’ led via the vestibule or porch to a large courtyard area east of the holy place where all the people assembled for worship (Jer 19.14, 26.2). This area contained the ‘altar of burnt offering’ for sin atonement
5: After the Fall, Adam and his family probably lived east of the garden of Eden. And in the course of time Cain and Abel brought offerings to the LORD (Gen 4.3-4). Abel knew the meaning of sacrifice, the demand of God, so this was the first altar. It has been suggested that Adam’s altar was as close to God as possible near the east entrance to the garden. Similarly, as just discussed, Solomon’s Temple had an altar of burnt offerings just outside the holy area. The Second Temple (Herod’s Temple) also had an altar, as will the Third (Millennial) Temple (Ezek 43.13-27)
6: In the middle of the garden of Eden grew a special tree, the ‘tree of life’. Like the other good trees, its fruit was good to eat (some think it was an almond tree, link). But Adam didn’t have to eat of it to have eternal life. The tree’s real role was to symbolize ‘God-given eternal life’. The same symbolism (same tree) is found in the midst of Paradise (Rev 2.7). Now, in the book of Numbers chapter 17 we read that one day God instructed Moses to place 12 rods (corresponding to the 12 leaders of the children of Israel) into the tabernacle. This was to show Israel who was God’s chosen leader. The next day they found that Aaron’s rod had not only budded, but it had blossomed and yielded ripe almonds! The parallel with the ‘tree of life’ is striking; both the tree and the almond rod exhibited God-given life
7: As mentioned, after Adam’s sin God placed Cherubim at the entrance to the garden of Eden. Cherubim are powerful winged creatures (Exod 25.20, Ezek 10.16) and here they were guarding Paradise and the abode of God. Similarly, when Moses met with God in the tent of meeting, a ‘pillar of cloud’ descended and stood at the tent entrance (Exod 33.9,10) – as though guarding holiness. The Israelites remained at their tent doors as though they were ‘outside the garden’. Solomon had images of Cherubim carved on the walls of the temple (1 Kings 6.29) and Cherubim will also decorate the Millennial Temple (Ezek 41.18)
8: There was an effective ‘door’ at the east of the garden of Eden. As mentioned, Cherubim stood guard there after the Fall, guarding the way to holiness. Likewise the temples had large doors (also facing east). When the lamb was to be sacrificed, three trumpets sounded and the massive doors to the temple were opened and people gained access to the courts (east of the holy place) (Num 28). The concept of an ‘open door’ to God’s dwelling is also found in Rev 4.1 – John saw “a door standing open in heaven”. This heavenly door was to the apostle John ‘a door of opportunity’ to gain an understanding of the future from God’s throne room
Conclusion: The garden of Eden and the earthly temples reflect the heavenly temple (Rev 11.19, 15.5-8). They speak of human access to the presence and glory and power and blessing of the Creator God – the God of Israel. Recall that when Moses and Aaron came out of the tent of meeting to bless the people, the “glory of the LORD appeared to all the people” (Lev 9.23). Put another way, although the original Eden and its garden appears to be lost, the concept lives on in the spiritual symbolism of the Hebrew temples. Like the garden of Eden, the temples demonstrate that redeemed man can walk eternally with his Creator in abundant blessing.
Summary of the Israel-Eden Connection
Many Bible scriptures point to a strong link between the land of Israel (Canaan – as given to Abram and his descendants) and the biblical Eden. The two are not isolated entities and the Edenic vision of an earthly paradise can be seen in both historical Israel (the land of Canaan) and in the future Israel. The parallels between the Eden of Genesis, and the Zion (Jerusalem area) of the future (Millennial) Israel are especially striking. They both have the following in common:
God walks with mankind on this earth
Their environments are supernaturally enhanced by a ‘canopy’ in the atmosphere
There is no hurt and no killing e.g. the lion eats straw like the ox
There are beautiful trees and plants, providing food for both man and animals
The land is well-watered, with rivers a key feature
They are located in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ (Jerusalem can even be identified with Eden)
They are ‘delightful’ places in which to live
They are healthy places in which to live – people live long lives
They use the geographic parameter of “east”
They are reflections of the heavenly “Paradise of God” (Rev 2.7)
This strong Israel-Eden connection strengthens the significance of modern Israel. Whilst God initially walked with man in an idyllic environment, prophecy suggests that a similar scenario will develop in the land of Israel. Even now there are visible signs that the future land of Israel will reflect the paradise of the Genesis Eden as Israel ‘greens’ her desert places. Recall that Eden means ‘delicate, delight, pleasure’ – a pleasant place to be – a garden home. Prophecy suggests that the nations will soon see a ‘modern Eden’ in the center of Israel. Referring to that time, God says to Israel:
It will no longer be said of you [Judah], ‘Azubah (Abandoned),’ nor will it any longer be said of your land, ‘Shemamah (Desolate)’; but you will be called, ‘Hephzibah (My Delight is in Her)’ and your land, ‘Married’; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married [owned and protected by the Lord] (Isa 62.4, amplified, emphasis added)
This sees the future people of Israel living with their God in a pleasant place – their ancestral ‘garden home’ – a latter-day Eden centered around Jerusalem!