The place and purpose of the Garden of Eden is a topic of endless fascination and interpretation. This blogpost looks at two biblical passages and the word eden itself to see what we can learn about its meanings. At its most basic, Eden is a garden of treasure and delight.
As I’ve written before, the written form of Ancient Hebrew words comes from the hieroglyphic tradition of Egypt. The pictures of the letters form a picture puzzle or rebus. The word roots are generally two or three letters. I use script called Semitic Early for my baseline of study.
Eden is ayin, dal, nun. Ayin is an eye. Dal is a door. Nun is a seed. Here are the pictographs:
- Ayin as an eye is most commonly associated with the eye of the Egyptian god Horus.
- Dal is a tent door that swings in both directions
- Nun is the rising seed. The Hebrew word for son (but not daughter) “ben” has the prominent “n” sound because sons were considered to be the seed of the family that keeps it growing
The modern-day letter ayin actually has two Semitic Early roots, that combined to form the one modern letter. The second ancient one is this:
This creates a new rebus:
Ghah has a controversial meaning. Benner[i] says that when ghah is used in the ancient form it adds a negative connotation to a word. I’ve never felt comfortable with this understanding of the symbol. I found a clue to its ancient meaning in Rachel Pollack’s book The Body of the Goddess.[ii] She describes a variation of this symbol as the goddess knot. Pollack writes that was an emblem of Isis and “[signifies] the bonds between the Goddess and the world.” There is also connected imagery of the umbilical cord and the knots made it in at birth. I think ghah was later used as a reversal of Goddess imagery which is why it has come down to us as a negative symbol.
Putting this together, the letter ayin has a connection to divinity, male and female intertwined. In the word eden, the rebus shows the intertwining divinity coming through a doorway or threshold to manifest life in the form of seeds. In other words, in a garden, specifically in a garden named Eden.
And a river went out of Eden to water the garden;
and from thence it was parted,
and became into four heads.
Genesis 2:10 KJV
Each line in this passage has a meaning I find significant so I will deal with each one individually.
And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; there are two words for water – river and the water specifically for the garden. The watering of the garden is after the river has left Eden, so it is watering a garden someplace else, presumably on at an Earth location. The word for river also means “life giving water” and is related to the word for enlightenment.[iii] It is carrying nourishment and wisdom out of Eden to our terrain. The word used for water[iv] is another word that means “life giving waters.” This is very significant water that is going to support our own gardens. Benner defines garden (gan) as “a protected space for seeds,” and as “a gathering of seeds.”
and from thence it was parted; the word for parted specifically means to scatter seeds.[v]
and became into four heads; the word for “four heads” is closely related to the first word of the bible in Genesis 1:1 bereshyt. This is traditionally translated as “in the beginning.” Its more literal meaning is “in the summit.”
I love the juxtaposition of the two beginnings in Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:10. The start of Genesis is the beginning of all creation. The beginning in Genesis 2:10 is the beginning of the scattering of seeds which can symbolically be recognized as life rooting into the Earth.
Here is my translation of Genesis 2:10:
Life giving waters cascaded out from Eden to nourish
And scatter all the seeds of life
to become the beginning.
Another look at Eden:
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house;
and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
Psalm 36:8 (KJV)
The word here that is translated as “thy pleasures” is ayin, dal, nun – eden. There is pleasure associated with the process of Eden and the outflowing of its seeds.
Here is my translation of Psalm 36:8:
We are all invited to flowing celebration, an honoring of the seeds,
To partake in the vine whose roots lie in the garden of treasures.
A little extra brain food: The two-letter root of Eden is ayin, dal. d’Olivet,[vi] another scholar who looks at the original meanings of the words writes this about the root: “[it is an] image of every emanation and division, constitutes a very important root which hieroglyphically, develops the idea of time, and of all things temporal, sentient, transitory.”
This confirms how I have long looked at the meaning behind the “fall” from Eden. I see it as the movement from spiritual time into linear time. Its not really a “fall” at all but a movement of divinity through a threshold into the existence of the space of linear time. In other words, BIRTH.
[i] Jeff A. Benner is my go-to resource for Ancient Hebrew roots. At his own Hebrew Research Institute, he examines the roots of the Hebrew language and the meaning of individual letters. I use his book Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible to find the root letters (pictures) and as a starting point to explore the rebus meaning of the words.
[ii] On page 115 she begins a discussion of the Goddess knot specifically and knots in general and their meaning.
[iii] Strong’s #5104 nahar life giving water, also related to enlightenment (wisdom)
[iv] Strong’s #8248 shaqah life giving water from rivers
[v] Strong’s #1588 gan, notice the “n” sound at the end which is “nun” – seed.
[vi] Fabre d’Olivet, The Hebrew Tongue Restored, 1976 (originally published in 1921) page 414