What does it mean that the biblical authors expected the return of Eden? The prophets anticipated waters of life from God would do miraculous things like restore the barren Dead Sea region to its former lush state and unite all humanity. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they follow the waters of life from Genesis 1-2 throughout time, in anticipation of the coming Day of the Lord.
[Isaiah’s talking about] the mountain of the house of Yahweh. The mountain is Jerusalem and the house is the new temple. The new Jerusalem, the establishment of the new temple, will be the head of all mountains. … It’s very clearly not the tallest mountain, so the idea is it will be elevated in cosmic significance. Now if you have water and a hillside, obviously water’s going to flow where gravity pulls it. But here gravity will be reversed, and there will be streams going up to the new temple in the new Jerusalem. But what are the streams? They are the nations. The nations will stream into it. It’s this wonderful depiction of a reverse Eden. Instead of one river going out and splitting and becoming many, the many rivers that are humanity––humans are rivers in this metaphor, divided rivers––will all become one and return to the new Eden.
In part one (0-11:15), Tim and Jon recap previous episodes in our Ancient Cosmology series and discuss God’s transformation of the chaos waters in Genesis 1-2 into waters full of the potential for life.
After the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, springs and wells represent the blessings of Eden throughout the Hebrew Bible. Exodus 15 exemplifies this theme. God has just led the Israelites to victory over Pharaoh by parting the Red Sea. Exodus 15 opens with a song praising Yahweh for his deliverance through the waters and ends with the children of Israel complaining of their lack of water in the desert.
When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. And he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.
God transforms the bitter waters of the wilderness into sweet, drinkable waters––a little taste of Eden.
In part two (11:15-28:30), the team explores how the waters of Eden can transform even places of exile and hardship into places of Edenic beauty.
Genesis 2:10-14 names four rivers that flow from Eden. (This section of verses represents an important detail when it comes to how to read the Bible: places in the Bible aren’t just listed to make an archive; they catalog meaning.)
The theme of Eden then progresses through the biblical narrative. Waters flow out of Eden to bless the earth. Similarly, God sends Israel into the Promised Land, described as a new Eden, and commands them to be a blessing to all nations. Solomon is a new Adam in the “garden” of Jerusalem, requesting divine wisdom to discern between good and evil. His downfall leads the nation on an inevitable trajectory back to exile in Babylon, just as humanity was first exiled from the garden. Still, the biblical authors continued to expect the re-creation of Eden.
Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.
Here Isaiah depicts a reverse Eden. Instead of one river (Abraham’s family) flowing out from Eden to bless the nations, many divided rivers (the nations) will become one as they defy gravity to flow back into the cosmic mountain, Eden.
In part three (28:30-35:45), Tim and Jon discuss God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. This pair of towns was once called the “Garden of God” (Genesis 13:10) but is now the location of the Dead Sea, a region so dry and heavily laced with salt that almost nothing grows.
Interestingly, recent research indicates a meteor probably struck this region, “not only wiping out 100% of the Middle Bronze Age cities and towns, but also stripping agricultural soils from once-fertile fields” (cited in “New Science Suggests Biblical City of Sodom Was Smote by an Exploding Meteor,” Forbes).
God spared Abraham’s family from this destruction, his divine judgment of Sodom for its injustice to the poor (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
In Ezekiel’s visions, the divine life of the coming Eden will heal the waters of the Dead Sea and restore even this region that has been barren for millennia.
Joel 3 and Zechariah 12-14 describe the Day of the Lord, when humanity will be plunged back into the Genesis 1, pre-creation condition of chaos and darkness. It is all in preparation for God’s coming Eden-renewal of the cosmos.
And on that day waters of life will flow out of Jerusalem.
Show produced by Dan Gummel, Zack McKinley, and Cooper Peltz. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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