A Home Provided for Man: Part 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on Genesis)
by John Lowe
11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth 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.
Two rivers may have connected the Tigris and Euphrates, which run parallel to each other. One was the “Pishon” and the other was the “Gihon” (v. 13), and both may also have been tributaries of the Nile. We are told here that the “Pison,” flowed around the land of “Havilah.”
“Havilah” was probably situated in Armenia or Mesopotamia; however, there was another territory with the same name, which is mentioned in Genesis 25:18 and 1 Samuel 15:7, that could also be this Havilah. It is said about the land of Havilah, “The gold of that land is good,” and “there is bdellium and the onyx-stone.” Havilah had gold, and spices, and precious stones; but Eden had something which was infinitely better, the tree of life, and communion with God.
There is not much mentioned in scripture about this land, except that King Saul’s army attacked the Amalekites “from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt” (1 Sam. 15:7).
The riches of the land of Havilah—
BDELLIUM. See Num. 11:7. Bdellium is a liquid with a fragrant odor that oozes from a tree which is native to Arabia.
GOLD. Gold was known from the very earliest times. At first, it was used chiefly for ornaments, etc. (Gen. 24:22). Coined money was not known to the ancients until a comparatively late period; and on the Egyptian tombs, gold is represented as being weighed in rings for commercial purposes (Gen. 43:21). Gold was extremely abundant in ancient times (1 Chron. 22:14; 2 Chron. 1:15; 9:9; Dan. 3:1; Nah. 2:9); but this did not decrease its value, because of the enormous quantities consumed by the wealthy in furniture, etc. (1 Kings 6:22; Esther 1:6; Song. 3:9, 10; Jer. 10:9). The chief countries mentioned as producing gold are Arabia, Sheba, and Ophir (1 Kings 9:28; 10:1; Job 28:16).
ONYX. A precious stone (Job 28:16; Ezek. 28:13) used in erecting the temple (1 Chr. 29:2). It is seen in the foundations of the city of the New Jerusalem in John’s apocalyptic vision (Rev. 21:20). It was contributed by Israelites (Ex. 28:9–12, 20; 39:6, 13), and used in the breastplates of the Hebrew priests (Ex. 25:7; 35:9).
13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
There were two rivers that may have connected the Tigris and Euphrates, which run parallel; the Pishon (v. 11), and the Gihon which flowed around the whole land of Ethiopia. They may also have been tributaries of the Nile. The river in Ethiopia would be the Nile.
There was a spring outside the walls of Jerusalem, called Gihon, where the city obtained part of its water supply—“This same Hezekiah also stopped the water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought the water by tunnel to the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah prospered in all his works” (2 Chron 32:30; NKJV). King Hezekiah channeled the water more elaborately when he constructed the famous SILOAM tunnel in 701 B.C. as part of the city’s preparation against the siege of the Assyrians. The Canaanite inhabitants of ancient Jerusalem, or JEBUS, had used and protected the spring with their fortifications. When David and his soldiers conquered Jebus, they entered it through the water shaft that led from the spring into the city (2 Sam. 5:8). Israel continued to use Gihon and its water channel. Gihon was the site where Solomon was anointed and proclaimed king (1 Kin. 1:33, 38, 45). Some scholars believe it later became customary for the new king to drink from the waters of Gihon during his coronation ceremony (Ps. 110:7). Gihon, in the Hebrew, means “gusher” — the name of a river and a spring in the Old Testament, and there is good reason to believe that the Gihon River had its beginning in the spring with the same name.
Gihon was one of the four rivers that brought water to the Garden of EDEN. Some scholars believe the name refers to the NILE River. Others, however, believe it refers to a smaller river in the Euphrates Valley system—perhaps a major irrigation ditch or canal
14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.
The first two rivers mentioned are not as well-known to us today as the Hiddekel the modern Tigris; “And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel” (Dan 10:4; KJV). and the Euphrates. It is entirely possible that these four rivers are no longer in existence and that the topography of the entire earth was transformed by the Flood. Should that be the case, Noah may have named the present Tigris and Euphrates rivers after two of the rivers he remembered before the Flood. Hiddekel and Euphrates are rivers of Babylon, which we read about elsewhere. The captive Jews sat down beside these rivers and wept, when they remembered Sion (Ps. 137:1); but it seems to me they had much more to weep about (and so have we) at the remembrance of Eden, since Adam’s sin wrecked paradise and turned the world into a prison.
It is futile to try and identify the exact location of the Garden of Eden, out of which these rivers flowed. However, it is now generally agreed that the oldest known civilization was centered in and about the region of Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers. Beyond this, an identification of the location of Eden is impossible.
“Assyria” possibly refers to the city of Asshur itself rather than the empire that emerged later.
ASSYRIA as SIHR ih ah — a kingdom between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that often dominated the ancient world. After defeating the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C., the Assyrians carried away thousands of Israelites and resettled them in other parts of the Assyrian Empire. This was a blow from which the nation of Israel never recovered.
The early inhabitants of Assyria were ancient tribesmen (Gen. 10:22) who probably migrated from Babylonia. They grew powerful enough around 1300 B.C. to conquer Babylonia. For the next 700 years, they were the leading power in the ancient world, with their leading rival nation, Babylonia, constantly challenging them for this position.
Tiglath-Pileser I (1120–1100 B.C.) built the Assyrian kingdom to the most extensive empire of the age. But under his successors, it declined in power and influence. This decline offered the united kingdom of Judah, under the leadership of David and Solomon, the opportunity to reach its greatest limits. If the Assyrians had been more powerful at that time, they probably would have interfered with the internal affairs of Israel, even at that early date.
After the Assyrians had languished in weakness for an extended period, Ashurnasirpal (844–860 B.C.) restored much of the prestige of the empire. His son, Shalmaneser III, succeeded him, and reigned from about 860 to 825 B.C. Shalmaneser was the first Assyrian king to come into conflict with the northern kingdom of Israel.
In an effort to halt the Assyrian expansion, a group of surrounding nations formed a coalition, of which Israel was a part. Ahab was king of Israel during this time. But the coalition eventually split up, allowing the Assyrians to continue their relentless conquest of surrounding territories.
During the period from 833 to 745 B.C., Assyria was engaged in internal struggles as well as war with Syria. This allowed Israel to operate without threat from the Assyrian army. During this time, Jeroboam II, king of Israel, was able to raise the Northern Kingdom to the status of a major nation among the countries of the ancient Near East.
EUPHRATES you FRAY tease — the longest river of Western Asia and one of two major rivers in Mesopotamia. The river begins in the mountains of Armenia in modern-day Turkey. It then heads west toward the Mediterranean Sea, turns to the south, swings in a wide bow through Syria, and then flows some 1,000 miles southeast to join the Tigris River before it empties into the Persian Gulf.
The Euphrates is about 2,890 kilometers (1,780 miles) long and is navigable for smaller vessels for about 1,950 kilometers (1,200 miles). The ruins of many ancient cities are located along the river in Iraq. Among them are Babylon, Eridu, Kish, Larsa, Nippur, Sippar, and Ur.
In the Bible, the Euphrates is referred to as “the River Euphrates,” “the great river, the River Euphrates,” or simply as “the River.” It was one of the four rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:14). The Euphrates formed the northern boundary of the territories promised by God to Israel (Gen. 15:18; Josh. 1:4).
The biblical writer declared that the fathers of Israel had lived on “the other side of the River” (Josh. 1:2–3, 14–15; “beside the Euphrates,” REB), where they served other gods. But God took Abraham “from the other side of the River” (v. 3) and brought him to the land of Canaan. David attempted to expand the boundaries of his kingdom to this river (2 Sam. 8:3). The Euphrates also was the site of the great battle at Carchemish (605 B.C.) that led to the death of King Josiah (2 Chr. 35:20–24). “The great river Euphrates” is also mentioned in Revelation 9:14 and 16:12.