A Twist on Eden, Part 2…or, Contradictions?

(see ‘Part 1’)

Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible is one of a very few resource books that I consult, concerning biblical/spiritual issues, other than the Bible itself.  I don’t exactly know why I like it, but I do.  Its opening paragraphs concern environment, specifically rainfall & nature.  Normally, I would gloss over such topics – after all, I’m looking for more Scripture-related information, not geography!!!  But the sub-heading ‘Rainfall and Religion’ intrigued me…so I read on…

The distinctive geography of Egypt and Mesopotamia – particularly the great river-systems of  the Nile and the Tigris/Euphrates – to a large extent determined their contrasting ways of life.”  (James Houston, ‘The Bible in its Environment, Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible)  In today’s world, we don’t think much about rivers shaping our lives!  I know I don’t!  But just a little education on this topic can quickly change one’s view…

Interestingly enough, the rivers systems mentioned here each have their own distinctive, shall we say ‘personality’.  Who knew?!!   These personalities came into major play in the development of life-styles and  religious practices, specifically idolatry, in their respective areas.  The Euphrates tends to a more gentle flow, while the Tigris, running a steeper course, produces rapid flooding.  One never quite knew what to expect!  The rivers rise in the Armenian mountains of  Mesopotamia, thus melting snow from these mountains combining with spring rainfalls added to the sudden, unpredictable flooding.  Occasional landslides from  the mountains would jam the tributaries of the Tigris, causing powerful eruptions of the pent-up waters.  Unable to ‘control’ these variable weather conditions & catastrophes left ancient rulers of these lands powerless in the eyes of the inhabitants. Consequently, these Mesopotamian rulers were unable to claim the title of  ‘god’.

Nile River

Egypt, however, was another story – its defining river was the mighty Nile,whose flow was regulated by the surrounding great lake reservoirs of east Africa.  Additionally, Ethiopian monsoon rains contributed to a predictable flow in the Blue Nile.  The resulting regular rhythm in the flow of the Nile river produced three fixed seasons annually, ‘Inundation’, “Coming Forth’, and “The Drought’.  Though it was a river-science at work here, to the Egyptians it would have seemed that their Pharaohs had a control over nature that other rulers did not.  Thus, Pharaohs were elevated to the status of gods, and considered also as being an intermediary between the other gods & the people.

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It gives me considerable pause to realize that idolatry, the worship of false gods, sprung up and gained such an entrenched foothold in the very region where the Garden of Eden is believed to have been located.   This intrigues me because with God, there are no accidents nor surprises, so something’s goin’ on here…

I get that the devil will seek to damage or destroy the good things which God gives us.  We see evidence of this mayhem all around us, in the world & in our lives, large-scale & small.  But the fact that contributing factors to eventual idolatry were in fact elements of the treasure and majesty of Eden itself, these great rivers…has really got me thinking.

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Well, maybe it is nothing more than devilish invasion & invention, after all…still….one has to wonder…

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From another perspective,  but along similar lines reflecting the interactive conflict between light & darkness, it is suggested in the NIV Atlas of the Bible that “Much of what has occurred in the Middle East can be summed up as a struggle between the influences of the desert and of the Mediterranean Sea.”  The Mediterranean produces much-needed, life-giving rains, yet it also facilitated the arrival of certain ethnic groups – such as the Romans & Philistines – who ultimately caused great distress to the people of God and who also frequently clashed violently with the tribes located in, or on the fringes of, the desert areas. 

In this world, not much is just black or white.  Maybe the best explanation for now is, the wheat & the tares grow up together. (Matthew 13:24-30)  You don’t usually get one without the other…

 

 

 

 

 

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