Genesis 2:11-14:

The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

Four rivers are mentioned in Genesis. I am only conversant with one; the Euphrates.

  1. Where are the other rivers of Eden located?

    I am particularly interested in Gihon and Pishon since they are mentioned in connection with Havilah and Cush.

  2. Why is the Euphrates the only river to retain it's ancient name?

  • As a Cushite, I am particularly interested in the Gihon because it goes around the "whole land of Cush (Black Africa)"
    – user20490
    Dec 1, 2017 at 23:13
  • See Pishon and Gihon.
    – Lucian
    Dec 2, 2017 at 22:44
  • I don't think we can settle the question. You might find the following documentary entertaining: youtube.com/watch?v=jjuYYFn1cXk
    – Dieter
    Dec 5, 2017 at 3:26

2 Answers 2


Many locations have been suggested, but this is really a fool's errand. Genesis 2:10 clearly says that one river splits into four. But we can't see that now, because the geography is very different. Whether you think it is historical or not, the story of Noah's Flood in Genesis is of one that destroys the earth:

I establish my covenant with you that never again will every creature be wiped out by floodwaters; there will never again by a flood to destroy the earth. (Genesis 9:11, CSB)

So what do we make of the descriptions of these rivers in Genesis 2:11-14?

There are a few options.

  1. The Hiddekel/Tigris and the Euphrates are actually the same rivers as in Genesis 2, but the flood so thoroughly changed the surrounding geography that the other rivers cannot be easily identified, and it also removed their common source.

  2. The geography we see now has no relationship whatsoever to the pre-flood world, and the current Tigris, Euphrates, Cush and Assyria were named in remembrance of the pre-flood places, just like New York, New Zealand, and New South Wales.

  3. A well-intentioned scribe erroneously added in the phrases about Cush and Assyria according to how the names of the Gihon and Trigris were used in the scribe's day. This theory says that in the original text only the four rivers are named and described, but like 1 and 2, there is the same question of whether they are the actual same rivers or just borrowed names.


Using literal hermeneutics it is indeed a fool's errand as mentioned by curiousdannii. There is no reason to expect post flood geography to look anything like pre-flood geography.

If instead you turn to the hermeneutics of sensus plenior (SP), then all the scriptures speak of Christ, and if we miss him, we miss the intention of the author; God.

In SP, the number 4 relates to the word of God as revealed through the four offices or voices of prophet, priest, king and judge. Since it must always relate according to the hermeneutic, we pencil it in to solve the mystery.

We will collect enough clues to see if the rule is showing signs of being completed.

Pison comes from the root פושׁ 'spread scatter' this is associated with judgement. Havilah means circle, as in teh circle that is harvested in a field representing Israel, and the corners the Gentiles. Bdellium is בדלח bᵉdolach separation which looks like more judgement. Onyx שׁהם shoham hints at made equal שׁה through the finished works of the son ם. This might apply to the work of the priest , or the final result of the judge. Stone אבן ‘eben father אב -son בן and it is the stone (father-son) which is separated at the judgement of the cross.

We might pencil in that the first as the judge.

גיחון Giychown bursting forth is the place where Solomon was coronated as king. Let's pencil it as king.

חדקל Chiddeqel rapid The prophecy is often related as the messiah coming quickly to his people. Let's pencil this as the prophet.

This leaves the last פרת Pᵉrath fruitfulness as the priest. Since Christ died desolate, but was fruitful in resurrection, and he only became a priest in resurrection, we pencil this in as priest.

In SP water is the word of God.

So the tentative picture is that from the beginning God has revealed himself through his word spoken in four voices which are profitable for doctrine (prophet), correction (priest), reproof (judge), and training in righteousness (king).

For those who do not subscribe to SP, it is no big deal, the picture is the same as found elsewhere. For those who do, it contributes to the many themes and patterns found in the mystery which has been hidden from the beginning and is now revealed in Christ Jesus.

Please note that this is not free-for-all allegory. The meaning is teased out of the words and cross-linked with the same symbols used elsewhere.

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