Answers from Genesis - Part 4

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Answers from Genesis - Part 4

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We continue exploring the book of Genesis and the common questions asked about it. Here are the answers as we best understand them in light of the Bible.

Where is the Garden of Eden today?

No one knows for sure, because it was located in a pre-Flood landscape, but the Bible leaves some geographical clues about where it existed.

The Bible states the Garden of Eden was situated where four rivers branched out (Genesis 2:10-14 Genesis 2:10-14 [10] And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it was parted, and became into four heads. [11] The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasses the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; [12] And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. [13] And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasses the whole land of Ethiopia. [14] And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goes toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.
American King James Version×
). Two of the rivers mentioned in the Garden of Eden are still known today—the Hiddekel (the Tigris) and the Euphrates (Genesis 2:14 Genesis 2:14And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goes toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.
American King James Version×
). The other two rivers, the Pishon and the Gihon, are not readily identified.

It is possible, though, that two great dry river beds revealed in that area by satellite imagery could turn out to be these two ancient rivers—the Pishon and the Gihon (see Smithsonian, "Has the Garden of Eden Been Located at Last?" Vol. 18, 1987). It may be that the Garden of Eden was located close to where the Tigris and the Euphrates converge and empty their waters, in the northern tip of the Persian Gulf.

An alternative view has more recently been presented by archaeologist David Rohl in his book Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation (1998), as well as in a TV documentary on The Learning Channel, In Search of Eden (2002). He proposes that the Garden of Eden could have been situated near the headwaters of the Tigris and the Euphrates—more specifically in northwest Iran. He makes a plausible argument based on linguistic and historical evidence. Yet for now the matter remains one of conjecture.

It's interesting to read the legends that grew up in various cultures about the Garden of Eden. The Sumerians, who lived in the southern region of Mesopotamia (which means land between the rivers), believed their origin was in the land of Dilmun, a paradise where all the animals were tame and neither sickness nor death existed. They wrote, "It is a pure, clean and bright place ... where the lion does not kill, nor does the wolf devour the sheep" (Samuel Kramer, History Begins in Sumer, 1974, p. 228).

The Babylonians called this paradise Eridu, where "Adapa" (the Babylonian Adam) lived. They said he was the seed of mankind, but later offended the gods by obtaining secret knowledge and was made mortal, thus bringing sickness upon the people. They wrote, "Near Eridu was a garden, in which was a mysterious Sacred Tree, a Tree of Life, planted by the gods ... protected by guardian spirits, and no man enters" (Halley's Bible Handbook, 1965, p. 66).

Archaeological evidence shows the entire area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to have been significantly populated from the beginning of civilization, and it is the region where the most ancient forms of written script—pictographic and cuneiform—have been found.

In any case, it's probably impossible to know just where the Garden of Eden was, despite the clues we have. It couldn't be found by archaeology even if one knew the vicinity in which to look, as there would be no ruins to excavate—civilization having developed after man's expulsion from Eden.

Furthermore, the garden was part of the pre-Flood world that was completely covered with water and destroyed during the great Flood. No recognizable remains of the Garden of Eden would have survived by the time Noah, his family and the animals disembarked and began to populate the newly transformed terrain.

Still, in giving us indications of its whereabouts, God assures us that this paradise was a real place—where real history happened.

The Bible says, "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24 Genesis 5:24And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
American King James Version×
). What happened to Enoch?

Some erroneously jump to the conclusion that Enoch was taken up into heaven, but notice the Bible nowhere says this. It simply says that God "took him." It does not specify where he was taken.

Jesus Christ later stated in the Gospel of John that "Scripture cannot be broken" (10:35). One of the points He was making was that one passage of the Bible cannot contradict another passage.

This same Gospel of John reveals a startling fact very pertinent to this matter: " No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven" (John 3:13 John 3:13And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

Clearly, Jesus Christ was the only human being who had ascended into heaven. The phrase "who is in heaven" lets us know that this was written by the apostle John after Christ's return to heaven. So even as late as this statement, no human being—and that includes Enoch—had ascended into heaven.

We later read about Enoch's fate in Hebrews 11:5 Hebrews 11:5By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
American King James Version×
: "By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, 'and was not found, because God had taken him'; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God." The word rendered "taken" can also mean "transferred elsewhere." And the New American Standard Bible says this was done "so that he would not see death"—a better translation than "did not," since we know from the same chapter of Hebrews that he died.

Notice in verse 13 the summary given of all of the men and women of faith listed here, including Enoch: " These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13 Hebrews 11:13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
American King James Version×
). So Enoch definitely died as well as all the rest.

How then can it be that Enoch was transferred elsewhere so he wouldn't see death? God doesn't give us all the details of what happened, but a few scenarios have been proposed that do not conflict with the fact that Enoch died as the Bible says.

It may be that God transported Enoch elsewhere to keep him from being killed at a certain time—perhaps protecting him from martyrdom at the hands of angry persecutors who didn't like his announcement of coming divine judgment (see Jude 14-16). God likewise supernaturally transported Elijah and Philip to other places on earth (see 2 Kings 2:11 2 Kings 2:11And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
American King James Version×
; Acts 8:39 Acts 8:39And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
American King James Version×

On the other hand, we should observe that Enoch died young for his time—at age 365 while those before and after him lived into their 800s and 900s. Because of this, some speculate that God "took him" from life prematurely so that he would not have to live out his remaining centuries in a miserable world (compare Isaiah 57:1-2 Isaiah 57:1-2 [1] The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. [2] He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
American King James Version×
). His next moment of consciousness will be the resurrection. In this case, "so that he would not see death" would refer to his not having to experience the process of dying—his life ending instantly.

Still others, putting the likelihood of Enoch experiencing persecution together with his early death, have concluded that Enoch was murdered—martyred for his preaching. Enoch being taken and not found would then refer to God removing his body and burying it—as happened with Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5-6 Deuteronomy 34:5-6 [5] So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. [6] And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knows of his sepulcher to this day.
American King James Version×
). It is even proposed that the murderer was Cain's descendant Lamech, who killed a young man (Genesis 4:23-24 Genesis 4:23-24 [23] And Lamech said to his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. [24] If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
American King James Version×
)—but there is no way to know if this was Enoch. In this case, Enoch being taken or transferred so that he would not see death is taken as separate matter—that of him being spiritually converted, transferred from the world's ways to God's way of living, so that he would not see ultimate death in the lake of fire (compare Colossians 1:13 Colossians 1:13 Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
American King James Version×
; John 8:51 John 8:51Truly, truly, I say to you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
American King James Version×

Again, we don't have enough details to know exactly what is intended. But we do know that Enoch did not skip death and go to heaven. He died, and no human being has ascended to heaven except Jesus Christ. To learn more, send for or download our free booklet What Happens After Death? VT