The name Eden in the Bible
The name Eden occurs three times in the Bible:
- The first and most famous Eden is the location of the paradisiacal garden in which Adam and Eve lived their pre-fall existence (Genesis 2:8). The garden of Eden is marked by four rivers: Pishon, Gihon, Haddakel and Parat (Genesis 2:13-14).
- The second Eden is either a person or a region probably somewhere in Mesopotamia. The prophet Isaiah speaks of 'sons of Eden who were in Telassar' (37:12). Sometimes the word "son" is used for inhabitants (sons of Jerusalem = inhabitants of Jerusalem) but since Telassar is already a location, Eden is probably their human ancestor.
- The third Eden is a Levite in the days of king Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:12).
Of course, we must note that the name Eden was applied to Paradise in retrospect, unless we assume that God named the place Eden. We don't exactly know where Eden was, but apparently it is where four rivers sprouted from an unnamed mother river, like a delta. It is generally accepted that this location should be somewhere around the modern rivers Tigris and Euphrates, but these two rivers come from different sources and combine, in stead of the other way around. And there is also no trace of the two other rivers. To make matters even worse, the Bible lists these rivers as Haddakel for Tigris and Parat for Euphrates. These names may even indicate two totally different rivers.
The description of the location of the rivers is also not very revealing: The Pishon flows in the land Havilah, which is according to Genesis 25:18 somewhere between Egypt and Assyria. The Gihon flows in Cush, which is usually associated with Ethiopia. The Haddakel flows east of Assyria, and of the Parat no location is given. This may be simply because the Torah in the form that we have it was finalized during the exile in Babylon, and nobody there needed to be explained where the Parat (=Euphrates) went. But perhaps there are deeper meanings hidden in the story of the four rivers. One possibility is an allusion to the super-symmetry that may or may not underlie the fabric of creation.
Etymology of the name Eden
There is some dispute over the meaning of the name Eden. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, NOBSE Study Bible Name List and even the Septuagint note that Eden is similar to the Hebrew word עדן (eden) meaning finery, luxury, delight:
BDB Theological Dictionary and HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament nevertheless claim the name Eden from the Akkadian word edinu based on the Sumerian word eden, meaning Plain, Steppe.
Whatever the original name-giver meant to say with the name Eden is unclear, but any Hebrew audience would have heard a meaning of Delight or Luxury.
For a meaning of the name Eden, The NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Delight, Pleasantness. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names renders Paradise, A Place Of Delight.
In Greek this name exists as Tryphosa