The Garden of Eden
Did the Garden of Eden really exist? This question is a big point of debate; however, some people think the Bible provides possible clues. Moses, the writer of Genesis, says that the headwaters of four rivers are located in the Garden of Eden and names them as the Euphrates, Tigris, Gihon, and Pishon (Genesis 2:10–14). The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are known by those names still. The other two have been identified as today's Araxes and Uizhun, respectively. The Pishon River is identified with gold in Genesis. The Uizhun, known to present-day locals as the Golden River, meanders between ancient gold mines and lodes of lapis lazuli. For many, these facts are enough to prove that the Garden of Eden is a real place.
Nod, Cherubs, and Cush
The land of Nod, said in Genesis to be east of Eden, was where Cain spent the remainder of his life in exile after murdering his brother Abel. Today, the area is known as Noqdi. A few miles south is the town of Hela-bad, formerly known as Kheruabad or the “settlement of the Kheru people.” Kheru is a permutation of the Hebrew word keruvium, which translates as “cherubs.” People often think of cherubs as chubby, winged babies, such as those found in Renaissance paintings. But the Kheru people, fierce warriors whose symbol was the eagle or falcon, considered themselves protectors in the tradition of the cherubs who stood guard in front of the Garden of Eden and refused to allow anyone to enter its gates. Biblical cherubs are also powerful guardians of God's throne.
Critics said that the teraphim, or household gods, that Rachel stole from her father Laban didn't exist (Genesis 31:19). But archaeological studies in the 1920s uncovered more than 20,000 tablets in northern Iraq. Known as the Nuzi Tablets, they refer to the teraphim as property deeds used to determine the inheritance and titles of the sons of a family.
Scholars believed for many years that the land of Cush was in Egypt. However, recent discoveries place it north of Kusheh Daugh, the mountain of Kush.
Istanbul's Museum of the Orient houses ancient Sumerian cuneiform clay tablets that provide possible clues to the Garden of Eden's location. Reginald Walker, a British scholar specializing in these documents, says that an emissary of Enmerkar, the Sumerian priest-king of Uruk, traveled to Eden. One of the ancient tablets, titled Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, describes the 5,000-year-old route to Eden, which took three months to complete.
Look in the Book
Sargon, king of Assyria, is mentioned in Isaiah 20:1. But skeptics doubted Isaiah's accuracy since no other evidence verifying Sargon's existence had been found. However, some archaeologists believe that Sargon's palace has been found in Khorsabad, Iraq. Some also believe that Sargon's capture of the city of Ashdod, predicted in Isaiah 20, is depicted on the palace walls in Khorsabad.
According to the narrative, the Sumerian emissary was sent to Aratta, located on the plain of Edin, to get gold and lapis lazuli. Enmerkar wanted these riches for a temple he was building in Uruk. The emissary apparently traveled through seven mountain passes, or gates, through the Zagros Mountains to the “seventh heaven,” the foothills of Mt. Sahand at the southern edge of Eden.
A Walled Garden
The biblical word gan means “walled garden” (Genesis 2:8). This indicates that the Garden of Eden was enclosed, though not necessarily by walls. Some believe the Garden of Eden was an alpine valley walled in by towering mountains and reached by a narrow mountain path. It has been said that the Garden is located ten miles from Tabriz, a city northwest of Tehran, Iran. Mount Sahand, an extinct volcano covered with snow, is the tallest of the mountains there.
Red Clay and Adam
Genesis says that God made Adam from the ground. The Hebrew name Adam derives from the Hebrew word for ground or red clay, adama.
Interestingly, reddish clay covers the foothills of Tabriz. Adam's skin color was probably reddish in appearance, similar to that of a Native American. It is believed his genes had all the variations of skin pigment found today.