Garden of Eden

Ain Soph – The Unknown God

Chapter 18

Fred Mayers

Genesis II, v. 8 to 14.

-v.8: “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.

v.9: “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (English A.V.)

The very words of the title of this chapter, “Garden of Eden.” act upon us like a magic spell. In a moment we are children again, and imagination transports us to a happy, wonderful land, which in a far back time- (the writer is an old man, now)-we loved to hear about, to picture to ourselves, and-yes!-to live and play in. We saw Adam and Eve as two loving and delightful human beings, young, innocent and happy, just fresh from the hands of the loving God Who made them. More angelic than human they seemed; God had created them so pure and perfect that clothes were as blissfully unnecessary to them as to children dancing about the sands or splashing in the tiny wavelets on a bright summer day at the seaside. We never dreamed of Eden as anything else than “sunshine-land.” No winter ever came there to make anyone -shiver, no mist or fog, no thunder or lightning, no east wind from Siberian plains, no tornadoes or angry seas were ever thought of in Eden. They were things that would feel them-selves ashamed and quite out of place in angel company. They could only feel “at home in some world where they could find things of their own natures living in the hearts and thoughts of men and women ;-and Eden was only for angels-and children. And, though no “rains descended” or “floods came” there, there were countless laughing, sparkling, babbling streams to play by, and to make the trees and fields happy. There was no night there, nor was anyone ever tired; and the warm sun never browned the trees or scorched up the grass, which was always green and soft as a glorious silken velvet carpet stuffed with flower jewels. Even the wonderful jewelled carpet of the Maharajah of Baroda, the whole surface of which was of emeralds, diamonds, rubies, topazes, etc., could not compare with Eden.

The flower trees always blossomed; the fruit trees were always laden, and the fruit was never “out of reach.” Then there were “living” creatures” as well. The great shaggy lions browsed contentedly among the cattle and sheep in the meadows and let us mount and ride them-like Una. The faun and the rabbit had not learned to be timid and run away. The little lizards swarmed in the sunniest spots. The Scorpion made us laugh at his acrobatic contortions ; the pretty ringed or spotted snakes, or the king cobra (as in Arnold’s charming little poem) nestled up to the children to be fondled and played with; they had no poison fangs in Eden, and they never hissed in anger. Great butterflies and dragon-flies, more brilliant than any rainbow, danced around us, or alighted on our fingers. Everything was happy in that Golden Paradise, which we children created in our vivid young imaginative souls, as we listened to the simple Genesis narrative. Truly, we had only listened, thus far, to one small part of the narrative. There were clouds over the picture later, and tears in our souls, as we heard how that Paradise was “lost.” We grieved for what had been-but never could be again. So, even while we were listening to the story we were passing swiftly from the happy innocence of early childhood to the disillusionments, the sorrows, the uneasy consciences of mature life. The story was giving the condensed essence of human history, the history both of every individual human being, and of humanity universally, throughout the ages. From the very nature of the case the child’s interest centres in the ‘dream” picture evoked by the first verses of the narrative. and the man’s in the disillusionment that follows. The “Eden” which delights the child’s mind – even if it is purely imaginary -is but a mocking mirage to the man who has eaten much of the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”-This is the fruit of no mystic “tree” to the grown man; it is just the hard facts of life-and the consciousness of sin.-He has, really, no need to analyse or dissect the story; he knows that he lives it-every man knows.

But is the story just a fabulous presentation of something that can give a swiftly-passing happiness to a child, and long regret to man? We will see. We will take the story, step by step, just as we have it, without seeking to forestall any portion. On the results we arrive at, by the time we have worked our way through the whole story, will probably depend the whole attitude of our souls to the God of the Hebrew and the Christian revelations.

In the first place. let us see just exactly what the original text tells us about the “garden” itself. The first part of verse 8, in the English Version, says that “Ihoah Elohim planted a garden eastward in Eden. The words which are in heavier type need to be studied in some detail to get at the deeper meaning they convey. The word translated “planted” is, in the original, “itta.” The root of the word is “ta” or “taw.” We may mention in passing that when attempting to give in English letters in approximate sound of the Hebrew, it is not possible to use the same equivalents in every case. The sounds vary-as they do in English. In the case of the Hebrew letter “ayin,” there is no equivalent in European languages. It is just a very soft guttural sound. It may sometimes be sounded like a soft “A” or “ah”; sometimes it is silent, or coalesces in an adjoining letter. When it begins a word or syllable the Greeks represented it by a guttural “G,” and the Latin and English translators followed their example, as in “Gaza” or “Gomorrah.” The nearest equivalent that suggests itself to the present writer is the “w” in our word “whole” (as it is usually pronounced); so sometimes he indicates its sound by “wh.” In any case, the “w” sound is practically inaudible. Considered hieroglyphically, the letter “ayin” is known as the material” sign.” It always suggests something of a more or less “material” nature or application. If this is kept in mind it will help us greatly in interpreting a large number of Hebrew words. To return to the root “tah.” This root, composed of the sign “teth,” which denotes “persistence,” preservation,” “tenacity.” etc. and the “ayin” which, as we have just said, conveys the idea of something “material,” therefore has the meaning of something “persisting” or “enduring in a material sense.” When it is used in a metaphorical way, it denotes “obstinacy” or “hardness of character.” When the root is extended or “generalised” by affixing the final “M,” it comes to mean “experience,” “sensation,” “habit” (good or bad), “custom,” etc. Therefore, the basic idea of the word “ittah” is to give something a more or less permanent, material form; to “set out” or “appoint.”

The next word, “garden,” is “gan.” All scholars are agreed that this word means an “enclosure,” so we need not discuss it so fully. The Samaritan Bible, which was the earliest of all translations from the original, translated it by “paradise,” a word which in Samaritan dialect means literally a “protective enclosure.” (“Pardesh” or “Fardesh.”) Note also, in Gaelic: “Pharaish.” The word at once suggested the walled gardens of Persia, (the name “Persia” is close akin to “Paradise.” The “P” is soft, “ph” or “F.” “Fars.” The “Parsees” are the “Farsi,”) and they in their turn with their formal lay-out, their water channels, flower beds and tree borders, in which wealthy Persians and their women-folk passed their luxurious existence, went far to build up the “Paradise” idea which became universally synonymous with the “Garden of Eden.” But the real basic idea of the word “gan” is that of an “enclosure”; some-thing, the bounds of which were marked out; something well-ordered; a “sphere of activity” in a material sense.

The root “gan” happens to be one that has survived with its original significance to our own times in several languages. For instance, we have it-in the sense of an “envelope” or “protection” in the English word “gown”; in the French “gaine”; in the Italian “gonna”; and, perhaps most significantly of all in the word “organ”-an “organ” being an organised local medium in and through which any of our faculties act. Even in its use as the name of a musical instrument, there is the same idea of a “means of expression.”

In our present text the “gan” denotes some sphere or environment in which Adam was to work; a “sphere of activity” in the “material” sense, i.e., a state of existence in time and space. Until Adam was “placed” in that “garden,” he existed only in spiritual realms. This will become clear beyond all doubts as we proceed.

The word translated “eastward”- “m’kedem,” seems to have been misunderstood entirely by the translators. Quite literally is simply means: “from before,” but apparently they thought the word “before” must apply to the position of the garden. Delitzsch, in his commentary, shows clearly enough that he knew the proper meaning of the word, but he still attempts to find an. excuse for the use of the word “eastward”-though it is certainly a most unsatisfactory one. The word really refers not to place but to time. Moses, like the Egyptian priests who were his early teachers, conceived “Eternity” from two points of view: (a) the eternity past, that measureless duration which was before measurable time existed; and (b) the eternity that will still be if time should end. There is, of course, but one Eternity, but we look back into it, and forward into it, from that ever-moving, and ever-measureless moment we call the present. What we look back to he calls “kedem.” What we look forward to he calls “wholam.” That M’kedem it is from which “Eden”-the sensible transitory sphere was extracted.

We now come to the word “aden.” The root “ad” denotes any period with limits. The word “whod” (note the initial “ayin” lately mentioned) means “still”; “until”; “the present time”; “the temporal”; what is sensible and transitory. The final “N,” added to the root, gives the meaning of “something which is given an existence of its own.” The whole expression “be-aden,” ,therefore means “in the sensible transitory sphere of activity.’

In that sphere of existence God “places the adam” He had formed. This last part of the verse presents no difficulty of interpretation. We have all that we need for a clear understanding of the true underlying meaning of the text. It is only necessary to keep in mind what has previously been explained, and note the close logical following on of each step in the narrative. When Adam is placed in Eden his activities in “time and space” commence. But, note carefully: adam is still a spiritual being, “formed” of the spiritual elements of the “adamah.” His physical body of “flesh and blood” has to be “evolved” by long processes that Science can tell us more about than the Bible thinks it necessary to. As we proceed we shall see, more and more, that what the Bible is really concerned with is man, and the mutual relationships between man and God.

Verse 9. The spiritual nature of what is recorded in this verse is so obvious, even in the literal, outward, surface translation of the English A.V., that it is difficult to conceive how anyone could possibly read into it the idea of a merely material garden and earthly trees. True, there are countless earthly trees that are “pleasant to the sight” and “good for food,” but what earthly tree ever existed on which “lives,” or the “knowledge of good and evil” grew?

It would have been impossible so to materialise and distort the meaning of the whole narrative had it not been for the unfortunate confusion of “ground”- “adamah,” with “earth” – “aretz”; the failure to see that the one was a spiritual term and the other material, and that they were used as contrasts and complementaries of one another. It was not in the “earth” that the trees of Eden grew. Spiritual trees, and spiritual qualities can only grow in spiritual soil. What the verse tells us perfectly plainly is that in the spiritual elements of man’s nature grows everything that can give him true pleasure, or that can provide for his spiritual sustenance and growth. More than that, it tells us that, in the very inmost of his spiritual activities, there was growing the “substance of lives”-the very reality of eternal life,-there was also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – of which we shall hear more soon.

Most of the words in this verse have already been explained in previous chapters, but there is one word which needs some explanation. It is the word which has been translated “tree” in this place. It is “whetz.” In other places this word is given quite different meanings; for instance, as well as “tree” or “wood,” we find it has the meanings of “substance” and “counsel,” and in one case it refers to the “mortal remains” of a dead person. The explanation of this variety, of course, lies in the fact that the real meaning of the word is wide enough to cover all the different applications of it. “Whetz” (etz) denotes any organic or growing substance-whether material or spiritual This definition, if we consider it a little, will be seen to cover the various meanings given to the word. We have only to decide just how it applies in the present case. It is quite obvious that it cannot denote physical trees here; they do not grow in spirit realms. But there are such things as spiritual “trees”: Thought, Wisdom, Character, Disposition, etc. All those things are organic growths in our spiritual natures, and they form the individuality of our spirits. They are, truly, “trees” in the “garden” of human life – the life lived in the realm of time and space. Although “Adam” had been placed in this temporal sphere, as we have already said, he remained a spiritual being; his activities and his inner life were entirely spiritual, therefore he was still immortal.

Before closing this chapter we must add a note on the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” The word “knowledge” is “d-ath.” It is based on the word “iad,” “hand,” conveying the idea of touching, handling, etc. By the addition of “ayin,” it becomes “iadah,” to know, perceive, feel, became aware of, etc. “Da-ath,” denotes knowledge obtained by actual personal, first-hand experience. One may, for instance, tell a child that “fire burns.” That statement in itself is not “knowledge” for the child; but if he puts it to the test and gets burned, he then has “knowledge” of the fact. That is the kind of knowledge that is envisaged in the present case.

The word “tob,” “good,” was explained in an earlier chapter. The root of the word applies to all ideas of conservation, inner integrity, healthiness, fruitfulness, anything which resists corruption (either in a literal or figurative sense). It also conveys a certain idea of permanence. When we were told that God considered His creative scheme “very good,” all the above ideas were suggested in the word.

The word “evil” is “rah.” This is the first mention of evil in the Bible. In this place, we will merely deal with the meaning of the word itself. Hieroglyphically it denotes any movement away from the spiritual and towards the material. The word is used for any physical or moral evil, for malignity, misfortune, vice, perversity, disorder, or anything bad.

The associated word “raa’h” (which has the same relation to “rah” as “adamah” has to “Adam”), denotes worldly care, trouble, annoyance, affliction, and from these significations by a process of association of ideas (not unknown in own language), it became applied to those who become caretakers of anything, or those who take upon themselves the care, or the cares and troubles of others. In this curious was it comes about that we actually find the word “evil” also used m the quite contradictory sense of a shepherd, a pastor, a helpful comrade. a “good Samaritan.” Incidentally, this throws an unexpected light on the verse: “HE was made sin for us, who know no sin.” The whole phrase: “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” means (as we can see from the above notes): the growing and spreading (tree-like) of actual, personal, experimental, knowledge of what is good and what is evil. The importance of the phrase lies in the fact that it is impossible for anyone to obtain that personal experience, that first-hand knowledge of good except by doing good or of evil except by doing evil. There will be more to say on this subject later.

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