“ This time it is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because sho was taken out of Man." And as a further consequence, the thoughtful author adds: “ Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cling to his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”

This, then, is the place which the Mosaic records assign to the first woman. She was produced to complete the happiness of man; without her, even Paradise was a dungeon and a desert.

But what was Pandora? She was inflicted upon man as a punishment; her charms do not soothe the heart of man, but torment it, fury-like; the affection which she excites is not his happiness, but his ruin; physically, she resembles man; she is, like him, formed of clay; but her qualities are widely different from his own; they have only been chosen to infatuate and to dement men. She is not the longed-for partner of life: Jupiter did not send her of his own free determination; she was the chastisement for the daring boldness of man. She did not come to share the happiness of the other sex, but to destroy it at once, and to bring upon earth, in its stead, misery, and grief, and vexation unknown before. Love was thus impossible; the two sexes remained separated and in antagonism; they could not coalesce to “one flesh."

Does, then, the Hebrew narrative resemble the Greek myth? It knows nothing of the revenge of God; it introduces a far higher object as the result of man's aspiration, namely, liberty and intelligence. That Eve was first tempted by the serpent, expresses merely the truth, that woman is more accessible to persuasion than man; that she is more credulous, because, in her, sentiment prevails over reflection, and confiding kindness over rigid discrimination. Eve is not the cause, but the sharer of the sin; she bears not merely the “indirect image of God"; she participates in man's weakness as in his greatness; she is in all respects his absolute equal. So infinitely are even the profoundest heathen allegories inferior to the Biblical views. According to the principle above laid down, we must not urge how Eve could be created out of a rib; nor is it of any interest to know, with Targum Jonathan, that it was “the thirteenth rib of the right side"; or, with a modern theologian, that it was the lowest rib, since in this part of the body " the principal organs of the life of the soul are situated”; or that, perhaps, the great distance between the last rib and the thigh-bono gave rise to our narrative. Similar notions are found in other oriental tales. The Hindoo law-giver teaches, that Brahman created the founders of the four principal castes from his mouth, his arms, his thigh, and his foot: but, even in this analogy, the Hebrew narrative maintains its superiority; for it is from the body of the man that Eve was formed, whilst, in the Hindoo legend, the persons are parts of the body of the god. The Greenlanders believed that the first woman was fashioned out of the thumb of man. It is, therefore, absurd to urge, that the delicate body of woman was not formed out of the dust of the carth, but of organic matter already purified; or that the rib points to the heart of man, and his love. The Hebrew historian intended to convey his idea of the intimate relationship between man and woman, and of the sacredness and indissolubility of conjugal life; and he expressed this idea in a form which was familiar to his contemporaries, and which will, at all times, be acknowledged as a beautiful and affecting mode of enforcing a moral truth of the highest social importance.

With glowing colours, Greek and Roman poets describe the boundless felicity of the first and uncorrupted state of mankind; when they attempt to depict the golden age, their imagination takes the highest flight, their hearts seem warmed, and their pathos is the deeper, the greater the contrasts which the misery of their own time furnishes; their descriptions are the echoes of the past, but they also herald the future; they point backwards, but they intend to lead forward. They teach what man ought to be, by

1 ii. 18-25.

showing him what he once has been. Every body walked in god-like virtuc; laws were unnecessary; man stood under the immediate dominion of the gods; no tribunal nor punishment threatened; crimes were unknown; the towns had neither walls nor mounds; the sound of arms was not heard, and never did war interrupt the universal peace; all enjoyed health and vigour, and sickness paled no cheek; all were happy in their native abodes, and nobody was tempted to trust himself to the treacherous waves in search of a distant home; an eternal spring matured incessantly fragrant flowers on blooming meadows; the earth yielded spontaneously abundant fruits; the labours of agriculture were not required, nor was man compelled or disposed to shed the blood of animals, either for his food or his safety; the simple produce of vegetation, and the pure floods of springs, sufficed for their sustenance; they were unacquainted with effe minating dainties; inventions were yet unnecessary; fire, and houses, and garments, were not known; the earth was the common property of all, and it was not yet marked out with the strict boundaries of individual possession. But this beatitude was lost by contumacy and wantonness; the races degenerated; the gods withdrew to their celestial abodes, and left man to his struggles, his violence, and his wretchedness. Thus the heathen myths abandon him, as an abject being, to the severity of fate. But the Hebrew writer, in destroying his external Eden, arms him with a power to create a new paradise in his heart; and although dooming him to the coil of a slave, he adorns him with the faculties of a God.

The heathen writers place the golden age exclusively in the remote past ; its happiness is for ever forfeited, for ever irrecoverable; the world grows worse and worse; the sons constantly surpass their fathers in wickedness; till at last the excess of depravity will cause the unavoidable destruction of the race. But the Bible, though acknowledging the evil propensities of man, affords him the hope of regaining virtue and internal peace, by obedience to the precepts which it enjoins; it has furnished the means by which each succeeding generation may excel the former in piety and goodness; till, in the Messianic time, in a happy future, the reign of unceasing bliss will unite all mankind, freed at once from the drudgery of labour and the degradation of sin.


II. 10–14. SCARCELY any part of the habitable globe has remained without the honour of being regarded the happy abode of our first parents. Let us briefly examine the Biblical


Eastward in Eden was a garden, in which man was placed (ver. 8). This garden was watered by a river which came forth from Eden, and which parted itself, in the garden, in four arms: the Pison, the Gihon, the Hiddekel, and the Euphrates. We shall try to ascertain the identity of these streams. But in order to gain a basis for this investigation, we commence with those parts of the description about which no uncertainty exists.

1. The third river is the HIDDEKEL, the position of which is described in connection with Assyria. Now there is no reasonable ground to doubt that Hiddekel is the Tigris. This river has nearly the same name in the Aramaean languages and in Arabic; and signifies a sharp or swift arrow, which appellation it deserves, on account of the rapidity of its course.

2. The fourth river is simply called EUPHRATES. It required no further description; it was universally known to the Hebrews. It was called the “great river," or “ the river"


excellence. 3. The Pison. It is described with greater copiousness than the three other rivers: it was evidently supposed to be as little familiar to the readers as the Euphrates was well known to them; we can, therefore, not be astonished at the variety of conjectures proposed with regard to it. But the river Pison is further described as encompassing the whole land of Havilah. This country is mentioned as bordering, in the east, towards Assyria, both on the territories of the Ishmaelites, and of the Amalekites. It is enumerated both among the countries of the Cushites, together with provinces on the Arabian Gulf, and among the countries of the Shemitic Joktanites, together with tracts adjoining the Persian Gulf. But in the former statement, nations inhabiting the regions of the Persian, and in the latter, those occupying the provinces near the Arabian Gulf, are intermixed. It follows, therefore, that, in both instances, Havilah designates the same country, extending, at least, from the Persian to the Arabian Gulf, and, on account of its vast extent, easily divided into two distinct parts.

The Pison is, therefore, a river which encircles the territory between the Persian and Arabian Gulf. But there exists no river which takes such a remarkably circuitous course. It is, therefore, natural that many expositors should have resorted to the expedient of taking the word “river" here in a more general signification as sea, or more particularly, the sea-coast, and to explain Pison as all the floods which wash the shores of the whole of Arabia, from the Persian the Arabian Gulf. If this interpretation really met the difficulty, it might be readily embraced as sufficiently satisfactory, especially as, on the other hand, the word “sea” is, in Hebrew, not limited to oceans. But it is far from settling the question. For the river Pison must join its floods with those of the Euphrates and Tigris in the garden of Eden itself; it is one of the four arms proceeding from the common great stream; and this cannot be said of the two gulfs encompassing Arabia. We are compelled to insist upon this point; for the author evidently contemplated to furnish an exact geographical description of Eden; he nowhere shows the intention to conceal its real site; he mentions two rivers which were universally known, and whose course could easily be traced; he describes the two others more circumstantially, and alludes to Asshur and Cush, two well-known countries; he gives no partial and national, but a truthful, historical account; he does not, like most of the other ancient writers, proudly place the origin of nations in his own land, but in a far distant eastern region, which, indeed, all repeated researches confirm to have been the birthplace of mankind. We cannot, therefore, be satisfied with some indistinct conception regarding Pison; we are obliged to take it, also, as a river, or an arm of the great stream: this was evidently the meaning of the Hebrew writer. But we delay to decide for one particular river, till we have considered the fourth stream flowing through Eden, namely -

4. The Gihon. It is described “as compassing the whole land of Cush.” There can be little doubt with regard to this statement. Cush includes the southern countries which came within the geographical knowledge of the Hebrews; it embraces all provinces between Arabia and the Nile, and the desert tracts beyond it, and between the Mediterranean and the most southern regions of Africa, to the farthest border of the earth. The only river which can be said to embrace this whole territorial extent is the Nile. We believe, therefore, that it is impossible to question the identity of the Gihon and the great river of Egypt. And the support which tradition gives to this opinion establishes it almost as a certainty.

But it will be asked, How is it possible to consider the Nile as an arm of the same river which sends forth the Euphrates and the Tigris? They flow in opposite directions, and are separated by seas and mountains. However, here we must again refer to a principle urged in a former part of this volume, namely, that the Israelites did not surpass the other Eastern nations in secular knowledge; they participated in their progress as they shared their errors; they were not more advanced in geography than the extent of their travels, conquests, and researches permitted them to be. If, therefore, it can be proved that these notions, however strange they may appear to us, and however far they are from truth, were entertained by other ancient nations, we must cease to wonder if we should find them among the Hebrews also. Now it is undoubted, that they were popular even among nations far more zealous in scientific pursuits than the Hebrews, and even in much later times.

It was generally believed that Arabia, India, and the eastern part of Africa, were connected by a continent in such a manner that the great ocean bordering on these countries formed one unbroken plain of waves. It was through that continent that the Indus was thought to take its way to Africa, and to appear there as the Nile. The circumnavigation of Africa under Pharaoh Necho (about B.C. 600), had, indeed, acquainted the Egyptians with the true extent of Africa; but it failed to eradicate a popular belief which seems to have taken too deep a root. When Alexander the Great saw crocodiles in the Indus, and Egyptian peas on the banks of the overflowing river Acesinus," he thought he had found the origin of the Nile, which he believed to rise in this part of India, and after flowing through vast deserted regions, to lose the name of Indus; for when it reaches again inhabited land, the Ethiopians and Egyptians call it Nile, and thus it falls at last into the Mediterranean Sea.” Others maintained, in nearly the same manner, the identity of the Euphrates and the Nile. However curious this opinion of the ancient writers is, it is not much at variance with the assumptions of the Greek authors. The Ionian philosophers believed the earth to be a disc, encircled by the ocean, and bending down towards the south, on account of the weight of the tropical vegetation. The geographical notions prevalent even so late as the fourteenth century of the present era, were so crude, that we find it difficult now to enter into them. On one of the maps published by Vicomte de Santarem, and dating from that time (1370), are represented from north to south successively Media, Troy, Antiochia, Damascus, and Babylonia. The monk Cosmas, the geographer of the church, represented the earth as a plain, in the form of a parallelogram, twice longer than broad, indented with the inland seas, - the Mediterranean, the Caspian, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and encompassed by a rectangular trench occupied by the oceans; the heavens are represented as a semi-circular tent, supported by perpendicular walls; beyond the great sea rose a high mountain, behind which the sun was believed to be hidden during the night, and from which it was supposed to emerge again in the morning. And so late as 1486, the clerical council, assembled at Salamanca, denounced the views of Columbus as grossly heterodox; they declared it to be perverse heresy, opposed not only to the doctrines of the Fathers of the Church, but to Scripture itself, to believe that by sailing westwards the eastern parts of the earth could be reached; or that the carth was round, and not flat; or that there were antipodes.

We shall, therefore, not hesitate to ascribe to the Hebrews similar notions. It is true that we, with our modern geographical knowledge, must find them very strange; and some scholars, determined at any price to find in the Bible geographical truth also, have known no other remedy than to assert, that the verses describing the four rivers, are a spurious interpolation; that they obviously bear the character of the surcharge of the gloss or note of a later age, founded upon the fanciful traditions then prevailing with respect to the situation of the ancient Paradise.” But it is obvious that such a device, dictated merely by embarrassment and perplexity, is unwarranted as it is objectionable in principle. Even Josephus mentions the Ganges and Nile as arms of the same river; we are indeed compelled, by the explicit statements of our text, to adopt this suggestion; this seems the only method of obtaining the four converging rivers of Eden. We consider, therefore, the Pison as the Indus, and the Gihon as the Nile. The Indus might, indeed, be said to border the land of Havilah in the east; and if the author describes it as “compassing" this country, he seems to have believed that it bends considerably westward, so as to come within the region of the Euphrates

and the Tigris. In a similar manner the Gihon "compasses ” Ethiopia; it embraces a large portion of it, and forms one of its most remarkable features.

And now we may hope to gain a clear and intelligible view of the four rivers of Eden. This favoured abode is evidently represented as the centre of that part of the earth which was destined for the habitation of man. The rivers are everywhere considered as the veins of the land. A country without a river is a dreary and uninhabitable desert. Now Eden, as the centre, sends forth four arms to the four principal parts of the globe,—the Indus to the east, the Nile to the south, the Tigris to the north, and the Euphrates to the west. Thus in the Chinese traditions four rivers flow from the mountain Kuen-lun to the four quarters of the world; and in the sacred books of the Persians, the fountain Anduisur, which rises in the holy mountain Albordsh, is said to diffuse its waters over the whole earth by many canals. The very countries with which the rivers of Paradise have been connected in the Biblical description, represent distinctly the different regions of the earth; for Havilah is, in the Old Testament, regarded as comprising the remotest lands in the east, Cush, those in the south, and Assyria is contantly the northern land. Thus Eden remains no isolated spot; it sends forth its fertilising floods to all parts of the earth; it is the very heart of the globe, and spreads refreshing life over its surface.

But Eden is also described as the cradle of mankind, as the birthplace of the human families. Here the first men enjoyed their happy, though brief, existence of childlike innocence. They were expelled eastward. But we find the first patriarch of the Hebrews again in the land between the Euphrates and Tigris. From here he emigrates into the land of Canaan; and when his descendants recall to their memory the history of their pious ancestor, the founder of their enlightened faith, they find it connected with the same rivers which form an essential feature in the scenery of the primary abodes of man,

Eden comprised that tract of land where the Euphrates and Tigris separate; from that spot the “garden in Eden” cannot be distant. Let it suffice that we know its general position; but we are not permitted to penetrate within, as if the angel with the flaming sword forbade the access.

The Paradise is no exclusive feature of the earliest history of the Hebrews; most of the ancient nations have similar narratives about a happy abode, which care does not approach, and which re-echoes with the sounds of the purest bliss. The Greeks believed, that at an immense distance, beyond the pillars of Hercules, on the borders of the earth, were the islands of the Blessed, the Elysium, abounding in every charm of life, and the garden of the Hesperides, with their golden apples, guarded by an everwatchful serpent (Ladon). But still more analogous is the legend of the Hindoos, that in the sacred mountain Meru, which is perpetually clothed in the golden rays of the sun, and whose lofty summit reaches into heaven, no sinful man can exist; that it is guarded by dreadful dragons; that it is adorned with many celestial plants and trees, and is watered by four rivers, which thence separate, and flow to the four chief directions. Equally striking is the resemblance to the belief of the Persians, who suppose, that a region of bliss and delight, the town Eriene Vedsho or Heden, more beautiful than the whole rest'of the world, traversed by a mighty river, was the original abode of the first men before they were tempted by Ahriman, in the shape of a serpent, to partake of the wonderful fruit of the forbidden tree Hom. And the books of the Chinese describe a garden near the gate of heaven where a perpetual zephir breathes; it is irrigated by abundant springs, the noblest of which is the “fountain of life”; and abounds in delightful trees, one of which bears fruits which have the power of preserving and prolonging the existence of man.

These and other analogies warn us not to lay too much stress upon the external detail of the Biblical description of Eden, nor to reduce it to a mere "bieroglyphic,"

« ElőzőTovább »