Question:

What happened to the Garden of Eden?  More specifically, is the Garden of Eden intact and located at some point on the Earth?  Reading through Genesis shortly after The Fall of Man we see Adam and Eve no longer in the Garden, but I wonder what happened to this physical location?   A few possibilities come to mind: Destroyed during The Flood and wiped from the Earth, buried under millenia of sand/debris, located in some unreachable outer celestial realm i.e. guarded by flaming swords. I understand scripture does not mention this subject in much depth outside of Genesis, any insight you could provide would be much appreciated!

Answer:

The question is this: How should we answer questions that the Bible gives no answer to? My response is that we should do so with caution and humility. The bottom line is that the Bible leaves us at the end of Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve expelled from the garden and angels preventing them from re-entering the paradise which had been prepared for them and their descendants. From that point forward, the Scripture gives us no further information on the Garden of Eden.  Therefore, we are left to speculate about what happened to the original Paradise.

First of all, let me say that I believe that the Garden of Eden was an actual place. Some, including friends of mine, believe that the entire story of Adam and Eve is metaphorical–that they are symbolic of the first people who were given God’s image and that the Garden of Eden is symbolic of the relationship all of us have with God before we sin. They believe that there was NO literal Garden and that Adam and Eve are symbolic–not actual people who lived.  I do not agree with this interpretation, although I do agree that the entire story is loaded with symbolism. I believe that there was a place where the first two people made in God’s image lived in fellowship with God and that, because of their sin, they lost their favored place with their Creator.

So… What happened to the Garden after Adam and Eve left it? First of all, from the information we have in Genesis 2:10-14, I believe that the Garden was in Mesopotamia–in present-day Iraq. The Genesis writer mentions the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which seems to make the general location clear. If we go to the area today, we certainly will find nothing like a lush paradise. Mesopotamia today is relatively arid. Five thousand plus years of continuous occupation and high-intensity farming has made the area more arid and less fertile. It appears that after Adam and Eve left the Paradise prepared for them, God chose to let nature take its course. Whether we accept the local flood theory or the global flood theory to explain the account of the flood in the days of Noah in Genesis 7-8, we can assume that the place where the Garden of Eden stood was inundated by the flood God used to judge the world at that time. Today, it is apparent that there is no remnant of the original garden where the first accountable humans lived.

Of course, the Garden of Eden stands as a foreshadow of the future Paradise all of those who put their faith in Jesus will have in heaven. There is no point in us looking back to the first Garden. We have a newer, better Garden to look forward to in which our relationship with God will be restored to the pristine purity which Adam and Eve had before their fall into sin, and the subsequent state of sin into which all their descendants fell. Hebrews 4:4-7 talks about a better rest that God has in store for us–our eternal Sabbath-rest with God in heaven. We can have a kind of nostalgia for the Garden of Eden, but I believe anticipation of heaven is an even better motivator for those who put their faith in God.

John Oakes

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