🔼The name Tigris: Summary
- Synthetic Authority, Enforced Government
- From the ancient words tighri, arrow, and tigra, sharp or pointed, which were marks of formal authority.
🔼The name Tigris in the Bible
The name Tigris is the Latinized version of the Greek name for the river that the Hebrew Bible calls Haddakel. Or so most people think. What far less people realize is that there are a few huge problems with this view:
- The river we know today as the Tigris is one of two rivers that gave rise to the name Mesopotamia, which means Between Rivers. But the Haddakel is mentioned only twice in the Bible (Genesis 2:14, Daniel 10:4) while the other of the two, namely the Euphrates (or the Parat in Hebrew), is mentioned about twenty times by name and is referenced many more times simply as the River.
- In geographical reality the rivers Tigris and Euphrates converge and become one and drain jointly into the Persian Gulf. But Genesis 2:10 speaks of one river becoming four. That's the other way around. The story tells of one that becomes four. Physical reality tells of two that become one. That rather obviously demonstrates that this story is not about that physical reality.
- The Book of Genesis tells of one river that flowed out of Eden, and from there it became four, namely (1) the Pishon, which flows around the land of Havilah, which is a land of unknown location but east of Egypt close to Israel (1 Samuel 15:7), (2) the Gihon, which flows around Cush, which is Nubia or modern day Ethiopia, (3) the Tigris, and (4) the Euphrates. In geographical reality, the Tigris and Euphrates are not part of a four river system, and there are no rivers that flow through a land directly east of Egypt and through Nubia that are in any way connected to the rivers of Mesopotamia.
- The Haddakel is said to flow east of Assyria, but Assyria's eponymous city, namely Assur, sat on the bank of the Tigris. That means that the Tigris did not flow east of Assyria but smack through the heart of it.
- The four rivers of Eden clearly encompass the entire ancient human world and therefore coincide with the earth's four corners (Isaiah 11:12, Revelation 7:1) and heaven's four winds (Jeremiah 49:36, Ezekiel 37:9, Daniel 7:2, 8:8, 11:4, Zechariah 2:6, 6:5, Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:27, Revelation 7:1).
🔼Living waters and the light of the world
Here at Abarim Publications we're pretty sure that the story of the four "rivers" that's told in Genesis 2:10-14 is not about the geography of Mesopotamia. Instead, we surmise that it is about the beginning of human civilization and that story plays out in history, with the entire earth as its stage. The two Hebrew words that are most dominant in our story are: (1) the word for river, and (2) the word for east. The Hebrew word for river is נהר (nahar):
The verb נהר (nahar) means to flow or stream and is used for both water and light (which in turn demonstrates that the ancients had Relativity Theory; see our expanded article for more). Noun נהר (nahar) means river or stream. Noun נהרה (nahara) means light or daylight and מנהרה (minhara) "place of nahara". Nouns נר (ner) and ניר (nir) mean lamp, and nouns מנורה (menorah) and מנרה (menorah) mean lampstand.
To the Hebrews, a river not was simply a lot of water but had to do with collectively enjoyed knowledge and hence civilization. It's this relation that Jesus points at when he says: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15).
The Hebrew word for Egypt's river Nile, namely Ye'or (יאור), and the city from which Abraham so famously departed, namely Ur (אור) both stem from the verb אור ('or) to be or give light. The noun עין ('ayin) means both eye and fountain. The familiar term Hallelujah consists of יה (yah), which is short for יהוה or YHWH, and the verb הלל (halal), to shine, to do what stars do, namely "to serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years" and "to give light on the earth" (Genesis 1:14-15).
The Hebrew word for east is קדמ (qedem):
The root קדם (qdm) deals with former things and may simply refer to antiquity but more specifically a more primitive social state: more social dispersal, less social cohesion and connectedness, less economic and technological complexity and thus less specialization and ultimately less personal freedom of being.
Noun קדם (qedem) may mean antiquity but it may also mean east (the place of sunrise). The denominative verb קדם (qadam) means to be or do earlier, to anticipate, to be in front, to meet.
The adverb קדם (qedem) means eastward (or toward a condition of more dispersal and less complexity). Noun קדמה (qadma) may refer to antiquity or a former (less complex) state. Noun קדים (qadim) means easter or eastern and is often used to indicate a destructive wind that blows toward the east. Adjectives קדמון (qadmon) and קדמני (qadmoni) mean eastern or former.
That means that the names Haddakel and Tigris don't simply describe a river that flowed east of Assyria but rather a level of human civilization that preceded the science, technology and cultural sophistication of the Assyrian Empire.
🔼Peace in the valley
Long before human civilization began, all humans anywhere in the world behaved as similar as all dogs in the world do, or all cows or all pigeons. So that would be the nameless mother river mentioned in Genesis 2:10. The breach into four distinct rivers not only coincides with the major cradles of civilization — cultural hotspots from the Yellow River to the Indus, the rivers of Mesopotamia, the Danube basin, Egypt's Nile and the waters of the Great Rift Valley — but rather the distinct stages of complexity in humanity's social development:
Our guess is that the first river, Pishon (means "great diffusion"), signifies diversification, and that Havilah (means "land of circles") signifies a nomadic lifestyle. The first significant departure from the normal behavior of feral hominids was that of the specialization of tasks, and for this to work, all individuals must have had an understanding of contribution and sharing (hunters had to understand that a tool maker had to be fed rather than robbed). This signifies a major leap in complexity of a society. It would have made the production of sophisticated tools and weapons possible, and certainly led to trade with neighboring tribes. This in turn would have made the range of individual tribes much greater, and thus the overlap of territories, which in turn resulted in a much broader gene pool.
The name of the second river, namely the Gihon (גיחון), comes from a verb (גוח, giah) that means to gush forth. This verb is also used to describe childbirth, which seems to indicate that this river signifies a sudden increase in human births. When humans were still nomads, they had to carry their infants and that limited the amount they could have. When humans began to settle down, their families could grow larger and that led to more diversification and complexity. From a similar verb comes the noun גיא (gai'), meaning valley, and just as a river alters its environment by carving out a valley, so sedentary man altered the environment and began to farm and live in cities. If natural family groups are mountains, and a joint economy of goods, services and knowledge is a river, then a culture is a valley.
🔼Survival of the weakest
The narrative of the Bible is not linear but fractalic, and the larger story consists of structures that occur as independent stories within the larger one. The story of the breaching river is likewise not confined to Genesis 2:10-14, as the narrative of the entire Bible works the same way. Just like the creation week, the story of the four rivers is not merely an anecdotal paragraph but rather a cardinal principle upon which the entire rest of the story is grafted.
Just like the Gihon is a subset of the Pishon and the Pishon a subset of the nameless mother river, so is Judah a subset of Israel, Israel a subset of Abraham and Abraham a subset of Noah. Not everybody who came out of Noah would join Abraham, and not all humans who acquired the sophistication of Pishon moved on into Gihon. While pockets of humans were finding their way in the Gihon lifestyle, a great many stayed behind at the Pishon level.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that the river Haddakel or Tigris signifies the development of a political government that is more complex than natural chiefdom, and the Parat signifies a systematic and formal wisdom tradition that is more complex than a natural solitary wizard. The father of all believers, Abraham, came out of Babylon and Babylon was based on the river Parat. This is to say that Babylon had a class of people who were engaged in nothing but science and technology. For such a class to arise, society has to be vastly complex because for a working people to support the study of "that which isn't there yet" and a being occupied with something invisible and incomprehensible to the not-learned, a deep seated reverence would have had to have been cultivated in the subconscious layers of society. Stories would have to tell of this class, and these stories would have to have been told for centuries.
Obviously, this class would initially have been peopled by nerds: losers who couldn't hunt and fight as well as the heroes of society, and who instead began to search for mechanical ways to leverage the little strength they had. This nerd class would give rise to the systematic pursuit of wisdom; they would invent metallurgy, farming, symbolism and ultimately writing and data recording, but this class could only begin to be formed when society at large had learned to appreciate its anti-heroes as much as its heroes.
🔼The rise of the nerds
This unimaginable shift from naturally appreciating the most successful elements of society to an unnatural appreciation and protection of the least successful elements of society — in the hope that they would, somehow, bring about something wholly new and majestically magical — is a primary theme in the Bible. It runs from the injunction to foster the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49) to the capstone that the builders had initially rejected (Psalm 118:22) to the celebrated image of the world's Savior who was oppressed and afflicted, without stately form or majesty or attractive appearance; silent to those of the plunder class, cut off from society's bustling life and pleasures (Isaiah 53:2-3).
The catch here is that the stars of society can only lead the people to the point where all potential is exhausted. An entirely new potential — this is speciation in all the literal and biological sense of the word — comes from the nerd class. This means that if the nerds attain star class, they're no longer nerds and have become stars and are sorely limited by the potential that already exists. This obviously happened to Christianity, which began not in the first century (that's when the gospel was a nerd-story) but in the fourth century, when the quintessential definition of nerd-hood was elevated to the status of imperial superstar. The result of this was that Europe crashed into its dark ages, and the real nerds had to find ways to bring about the Renaissance despite the suffocating layers of concrete that the church poured onto them.
Governments always seek to harness the energy of the nerd class but their efforts always destroy it. The essential quality of the nerd class is that they are not organized and not centralized. The nerds themselves are not a river and don't flow between the banks of any tradition. Instead, nerds are limited only by natural law and are governed only by the Creator. If any level of human culture is like a river, then the nerd class is a mist that rises from it. Long before any kind of human cultural river began to form, all creatures were nerds and there was only mist (Genesis 2:6). And no matter how mighty any human river flows, only the mist that rises from it forms clouds above it (1 Kings 18:44, 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
🔼Etymology of the name Tigris
The name Tigris shares its root with the word "tiger" (more precise: the word "tiger" and the name Tigris are identical in Greek). That means that in deep antiquity the tiger and the Tigris had signature qualities that were comparable and from which both derived their name. The word tiger and the identical name Tigris both come from the Avestan word tighri, which means arrow, or the more general tigra, which means sharp or pointed.
When human societies evolved from having a government formed by the strongest screamers to one formed by a cluster of careful and insightful people, the scope of their governance and their jurisdiction began to exceed the range of their families and familiars. When governments began to exceed the primitive chiefdoms, they began to govern people who didn't personally know them. To identify a ruling chief from the rest of the population, the rulers began to display symbols of authority, and those symbols invariably had to do with long distance weapons such as arrows and spears.
The earliest "circles of elders" became known as spear-carriers — hence the word "curia", from the Sabine word for spear, and the Greek word κυριος (kurios), which literally means "spear-man" but came to mean "sir" or "lord". The word "enfranchised" comes from franca, an old Germanic word for spear. The Franks (hence France) were not only well-armed but quite literally "frank and free", and so were the Saxons, whose name came from seax, denoting a knife or sword.
Possibly the greatest theme of the Bible that rarely anyone comments upon is the struggle between the ruling class and the wisdom class, the mighty versus the wise, what the Chinese call the Tiger (matter) versus the Dragon (spirit) and what the Bible first discusses in Cain (means "spear") versus Abel (means "breath"). Jesus, you will recall, was given a crown of thorns upon his head (Matthew 27:29), and where Jesus embodies the Word of God, his crown of thorns represents humanity's crippling addiction to formal government (1 Samuel 8:7). The name Pilate is highly similar to an adjective that derives from pila, the plural of pilum, meaning spear. Jesus' death was ultimately established by a spear thrust to his side (John 19:34); the same place where from Adam God made Eve (Genesis 2:21).
🔼The snake in the tree
The transition from a humanity that consisted of autonomous family groups to one that was governed by a formal government had two main consequences. The family groups were governed by their own people, and the rulers knew and loved their people as themselves. Since the tribes must have maintained lively trade (archeology has made this evident), the rulers of different tribes knew each other and probably gathered at set times to discuss the greater realms. In short, when humanity lived in large family groups, they were like a confederation of mini-republics, and this appears to have agreed most with human nature (compare Genesis 12:3 and Ephesians 3:15 to Psalm 2:1-3 and Revelation 22:2). The trouble in political Paradise seems to have started when somebody got the idea of overruling humanity's natural authority structures and concoct a synthetic one.
Consequence one of a synthetic government was that authority was no longer naturally acknowledged but had to be enforced. Natural governments arose from people with a knack for people skills and a sensitivity for society's unspoken conventions. Society's inevitable bullies usually don't have such skills and every single bully could be controlled by a small number of networking elders. Now that governments began to be synthetic, it formed a synthetic network of authority that worked like catnip on people who lacked natural social skills and who eagerly embraced symbols of authority that natural societies would never have given them. It's not often emphasized but the presence of police and military are indicative of deep social infirmity.
Consequence two of a synthetic government is that its very nature desires world domination. Whatever crook first enlisted some other crook in order to forcibly create synthetic authority set something in motion that only stops when all fuel is burned and everybody is conquered and enslaved. Anybody with any sense at all would have seen that coming and would never have allowed the rise of synthetic government, but it seems that ease of living resulted in ease of thinking, and while humanity lounged itself into an intellectual stupor, its most decrepit specimen woke to the reality of embodying the greatest evil ever invented.
🔼The mark of the beast
Humanity is not simply a bunch of humans. Humanity is the interaction of human collectives. And human collectives come in all shapes and sizes, from all sorts of commercial companies (from Apple and Google to your local vegetable market), to football clubs, theatres, hospitals, schools and academies and so on and so on. The human mental sphere is as diverse as the biosphere, and all human collectives work together and compete just like all the animals of the biosphere work together and compete. And like the identities and minds of all the animals, all these human collective beings govern themselves, through governments that consists of the collective's members and that naturally emerge from the nature of the collective.
Our national governments like to have us believe that they are different and nobler that the other human collectives but they aren't. They're just like the others, and just like the others they too aim to survive and feed themselves and carry on with what they do. In public and on TV our governments' spokespeople try to come over as thoughtful and concerned but a government that acts considerate toward the governed is like a tiptoeing cougar that acts considerate toward a herd of buffalo.
The rule is simple: as long as governments require to force maintenance from the governed, they're not government but predator. Fortunately in our modern post-Weinstein world, in which the vast majority of human collectives are herbivorous or insectivorous, we are finally allowed to call out a predator when we see one, and the only difference between a national government and any other human predatory collective is that our natural governments are apex predators. This is why so many governments sport as their emblems the bear (Russia), lion (UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway), eagle (US, Germany) and tiger (India, South Korea, Bangladesh), and so few the rabbit, frog or dove.
Of course, we're headed toward a human world in which the government does not require maintenance from the governed, and is based on the mastery of natural law and the pure desire to only serve (Isaiah 9:6, 1 Corinthians 15:24, Revelation 21:3). This government will be like a park ranger and the rest of mankind will be cared for and tended to (Isaiah 11:6-9), but for now our governments are self-serving apex predators who identify with other apex predators. Unlike lions who live in prides, tigers are solitary, and unlike bears, tigers don't hibernate. The Romans delighted in animal fights, and established that a solitary tiger beats any other solitary animal. And that makes the tiger an exemplary model for a government that is bent on solitary world domination.
Here at Abarim Publications we surmise that the two rivers that supported the first great empires were named after the two great institutions that made empires possible: centralized absolute government (Tigris) and unrestrained science and technology (Euphrates). The story of Genesis 2:10-14 tells of the rise of those institutions, not the rivers that were named after them.