Eden, Paradise and the Garden of Eden

Paradise or the Garden of Eden are used synonymously in our language. In fact Paradise or the Garden of Eden are the expressions in two different languages for, yes, for what?

Eden 

Many seem to think that Paradise or the Garden of Eden is a place.

Could the garden of Eden refer to something else? Well, in Hebrew there are no capital letters and the word ‘eden’ does have a meaning. Sarah used the word in Gen. 18: 12. In this chapter there were three divine visitors who promised Abraham that Sarah still will bear him a son. They promised this even though it ceased to be with her after the manner of women. That means after she had had her menopause. Sarah laughed and said, ‘After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ I think, it is quite clear what kind of ‘pleasure’ Sarah meant here. The Hebrew word for this pleasure is ‘eden.’ The garden of eden may very well have been a garden of sexual pleasure, from the linguistic point of view. But how could this fit into the story of the creation?

How could the word eden mean sexual pleasure

if (Gen. 2: 8), ‘the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden’? The reason is: the Hebrew word for eastward, ‘qedem’, can have a number of different meanings. It occurs in the Tanakh eighty – seven times, thirty – two times. The King James translation rendered ‘east’, eleven times ‘eastward’, five times ‘east side’ and two times ‘east part. On the other hand the most frequent meaning is ‘old’. Apart from that King James translated, six times ‘ancient’, three times ‘before’, two times ‘ancient time’. Further meanings are ‘aforetime’ and ‘eternal, once each,’ and seven more different meanings on single occasions.

There actually may be a connection between the two different groups of meanings, ‘east’ and ‘old’. Since the sun rises in the east, the moments of the day, for example the sunrise and the sunset, occur first in the east. In some languages Asia is referred to as the morning country, while Europe is called the evening country. This is because Asia is in the east towards the place where the sun rises in the morning. On the other hand, as seen from Asia, Europe is in the West, where the sun sets in the evening. Asia gets morning and evening earlier than Europe.

In Gen. 2: 8

the word ‘qedem’ is prefixed by the letter mem, the Hebrew m. This prefix does not mean towards, making the word eastward, this prefix denotes an origin. The correct translation is ‘from’ the east, like in Psalm Psalm 119; 101, ‘I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.’ So the meaning of Gen. 2: 8 is, ‘And the LORD God planted a garden from (mem) the ‘beginning’ (qedem) in Eden.’ However, also the word ‘in’ (in Eden) could have another meaning. It is again just a prefix, this time the letter bet, the Hebrew b. In Psalm 119: 13 it means ‘with’: ‘With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.’ This would make Gen. 2: 8:

And the LORD God planted a garden from the ‘beginning’ with eden.’ (The lower case eden meaning sexual pleasure). ‘And there he put the mankind that he had formed.’ The word for man in the King James translation is ‘the adam’. This word can mean man in general, including women, or mankind.

This also seems to have been the understanding of the Septuagint translators.

All through Genesis they have translated the Hebrew word ‘gan’, ‘garden’, with ‘paradeisos’, not with the usual Greek word ‘kepos’. Only in the later books they have used this word, when the word ‘gan’ just referred to a garden. To refer to the garden of eden as, for example, in Isa. Isa. 51: 3 they translated the phrase ‘garden (gan) of the LORD’, paradeisos.

The word paradeisos is the Greek version of the Hebrew word pardec which occurs in the Song of Songs. I have discussed it in the chapter ‘The Chathan and the Kallah’ in Greetings from Paradise. The word is foreign to Hebrew language and it originated from further East. A pardec was a garden of lust. The Persian kings kept the women of their harems in pardecs to engulf themselves and their guests in sexual pleasure. In Her. 5: 18: 2 Persian envoys asked their Macedonian host for the young girls (some translators: ‘concubines’) and owned women (kuridias gunaikas, some translators: ‘married women’) after dinner, since this was the Persian custom.

Also the Septuagint translators

rendered the phrase ‘garden of eden’ ‘garden of delight’; for example in Gen. 2: 15 and Gen. 3: 23. St. Jerome translated the phrase paradisum voluptatis, the paradise of voluptuousness!

Gen. 2: 15, ‘And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.’ So God meant us to labour in Eden and to ‘keep it.’ The word for to keep, shamar, occurs in Prov. 27: 18 as to serve. ‘… he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.’

The image of God in which he created us male and female in Gen. 1: 27 was to labour in sex and to serve it!

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Amen!