by Stephen Caesar
Believed Found: The lost Gihon and Pishon Rivers from the Garden of Eden
To listen to a skeptic of the Bible, archaeology has reduced scholarly confidence in the historical reliability of the Old Testament to tatters. The precise opposite is actually the case. Numerous archaeological discoveries, particularly those made in the last thirty years, have provided objective evidence that the narratives found in the Hebrew Bible are reliable accounts of what actually transpired.
One example of Old Testament accuracy is the description of the four rivers of the Garden of Eden in Gen. 2:10-14. Two of them, the Tigris and Euphrates, are well known; however, the other two, the Gihon and the Pishon, had not been located, so skeptics dismissed them as fictional. This skepticism has begun to fade, however, thanks to the work of Prof. Juris Zarins of Southwest Missouri State University. In the 1980s, Dr. Zarins discovered that the northern tip of the Persian Gulf (where the Tigris and Euphrates end) had once been a lush, fertile region. The area he investigated was located at the junction of four rivers: the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Karun River in southwestern Iran (which Dr. Zarins postulates is the biblical Gihon), and the now-dry riverbed Rimah-Batin, which Zarins believes is the Pishon. Zarins' hypothesis was prompted when, while examining satellite photographs of the Middle East, he spotted a "fossil" river - that is, one that has been dried up for centuries - that lay in the geographical area of where the Pishon River should have been. (1)
The following decade, Boston University geologist Farouk El-Baz scrutinized additional satellite photographs of the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf area. He detected a fossil river that ran diagonally through Arabia and ended in Kuwait, at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf - exactly where Zarins speculated the Garden of Eden was located. What's more, Dr. El-Baz found that this dry riverbed was the Wadi Al-Batin - the same Rimah-Batin that Zarins had detected. (2)
I believe the Kuwait/Batin fossil river is almost certainly the Pishon of Eden. Genesis 2:11 states that the Pishon runs through a land "where there is gold." It is no coincidence that the Kuwait/Batin fossil river runs through the Mahd edh-Dhahab - the "cradle of gold" in Arabic, a major source of that precious metal. Also, Genesis 2:12 states that there is bdellium in the land through which the Pishon flows; this aromatic resin is commonly produced in southwestern Arabia, not far from the headwaters of the Kuwait/Batin River. (3) Another piece of evidence is the fact that Genesis 2:11 says the Pishon flows through the land of Havilah; havilah is related to a Hebrew word for "sand."
Because of this evidence, Dr. James Sauer, former curator of the Semitic Museum at Harvard University and director of the American Schools of Oriental Research, wrote:
"I speak as a former skeptic....Now I am recanting.…[N]o other river would seem to fit the biblical description. I am therefore inclined to think that the Kuwait River could well be the Pishon of the Bible. If so, it implies extraordinary memory on the part of the biblical authors, since the river dried up sometime between about 3500 and 2000 BC." (4)
(to be continued)
Stephen Caesar is currently pursuing his master's
degree in archaeology at Harvard University.
He participated in that institution's excavation at Ashkelon in June and July of 2000.
1. Sharon Begley, "The Hunt for a Lost Holy Past," Newsweek, 22 June, 1987, p. 56.
2. "How to Find a River-No Divining Rod Needed," Biblical Archaeology Review 22, No. 4 (1996), p. 55.
3. James Sauer, "The River Runs Dry: Creation Story Preserves Historical Memory," Biblical Archaeology Review 22, No. 4 (1996), p. 64.
4. Ibid., p. 52.