A stream flowed in Eden and watered the garden; beyond Eden it divided into four rivers. The first river is the Pishon; it flows round the country of Havilah. (Pure gold is found there and also rare perfume and precious stones) The second river is the Gihon; it flows round the country of Cush. The third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria, and the fourth river is the Euphrates (v 10 – 14)
Eden was not only the source and start of human life, there were four rivers that had their source flowing from it giving water and life to the area around it.
The first river mentioned is the Pishon. Its name is thought to mean “Gusher”, researchers have not been able to identify where exactly this river is now, but general opinion is that it is possibly the now dried out subsequently known as the Kuwait River flowing around the borders of what is now Kuwait. Havilah is mentioned a couple more times in the Bible. The first being in Genesis 10 v 7 where Havilah is the name of one of the sons of Cush (the first son of Ham one of the sons of Noah) So it could be that either he was named after the region or more likely that the region was named after him. Cush was known to occupy land in the region we now know as Arabia – east of Egypt. Havilah is mentioned again in Genesis 25 v 18 as being near to the border of Egypt where Ishmael’s descendants settled. It is mentioned in 1 Samuel 15 v 7 when Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. In Genesis 10 v 29 we see the name Havilah as one of the descendants of Shem. Interestingly one of his siblings is called Sheba which is now roughly around the area of Yemen in South West Arabia.
The second river is called “Gihon”. The name is thought to mean “spurter” or “Bursting forth. Again there does not seem to be any clear identification as to where this river is now but we are told that it winds through the land of Cush. Cush is traditionally thought to be the area which is now known as Ethiopia, however there are many different thoughts as to where this river actually ran. Another clue we have comes in 1 Kings 1 where the city and spring of Gihon is mentioned. This is the spring just outside of what is now Jerusalem. David sent Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet down there to anoint Solomon as King at the spring of Gihon. Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20 later blocks off this spring and diverts the water though a tunnel into the city so that the city still had a good supply of water when they were under siege.
The third river; the Tigris runs alongside Asshur, the capital city of Assyria at that time. It is also referred to as “the great river” and Daniel refers to it in Daniel chapter 10 v 4. It flows through what is now known as Iraq and Turkey. Interestingly descriptions of the modern day Tigris say that it originates in Turkey which seems to imply that it now flows in the opposite direction to the one mentioned as flowing from the Garden of Eden – it flows towards the Persian Gulf whereas the Garden of Eden is thought to be have been in the region just north of the gulf and this fits the point where the four rivers split. It is known to have changed its route over the years so perhaps the term “Great River” referred originally to another river. There are also thoughts that perhaps some of this change was caused during the floods of Noah’s time.
The fourth river, the Euphrates is the most well known. Again the name simply means “The River”. It is mentioned in Genesis 15 v 18 as forming part of the boundary of the land which God promises to Abraham. This too appears to flow in the opposite direction now from the one mentioned in Genesis 2, again flowing from modern day Turkey to meet up with the Tigris near the Persian Gulf. The Euphrates is mentioned many times in the Bible, sometimes just as “The River” but its final mention is in Revelation 9 v 14 where the four angels and horses are released at the sounding of the 6th trumpet.
Quotes from The Good News Bible