Most Bible readers believe that the “Garden of Eden” was where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers met in what we now call “the Middle East”. Scientists recently confirmed that the first humans emerged in East Africa. Can scientists be correct? Yes, and even the Bible can do it if we take another look.
In the biblical stories of creation *, the ‘Garden of Eden’ is the place where four rivers are named: Pishon, Ghihon, Tigris and Euphrates. The first river mentioned, Pishon, is not identifiable with certainty, but most believe it could be the Ganges. The Bible notes that Gehon is located in the “land of Cush” which was located in northeastern Africa, mainly in what was later called Ethiopia. The most interesting thing here is that the first two rivers have little to do with what is now “Mesopotamia” or the land “between two rivers”: the Tigris and the Euphrates. What science has recently determined is that humans originated in East Africa thus reinforcing the biblical Gihon River thesis.
In other words, today’s science supports the idea that man originated in East Africa and that the Gihon is today’s Blue Nile, which begins in Ethiopia and meets the White Nile in Khartoum in present-day Sudan. The origins of the White Nile are in equatorial East Africa, a mystery to the ancients and an important theme in nineteenth-century Africa’s exploration of Europe. ** The Nile is the longest river on earth (over 4,000 miles) although some argue that the Amazon is longer. The Nile is the “largest” river as it contains about 20% of the Earth’s fresh water.
The “secret ingredient” of the Nile (the black basalt silt) was deposited during the annual floods, which are critical to agriculture. Today, 95% of the 100 million Egyptians live within a few miles of the Nile evoking the claim that “Egypt is the Nile. “
Famous for its papyrus (source of the word paper), the Nile has procured mats, sails, cloth, ropes and more, and has sustained life for millennia. The Aswan Dam since 1970 may release water where it is needed most, but it has reduced the much needed “secret ingredient”.
Since 2011, Ethiopians have been building the “Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam” on their Blue Nile which raises problems with Sudan and Egypt where water shortages already exist. The Blue Nile Dam will create a reservoir more than twice the size of that behind the Hoover Dam in the United States. The numerous issues raised in this part of Africa are close to issues in other parts of the world where talks are underway on global, cooperative and sustainable agreements on water scarcity. ***
With the two Niles meeting in what is today, Khartoum, could this have been the “Garden of Eden”? The claims of science and the Bible make this a real possibility. Meanwhile, returning to the “proverbial ranch” where African language specialists discuss such matters, the most reasonable of many suggestions, given what we know today, is that Khartoum derives from the Nubian word Agartum (“the abode of Atum”). Atum is the Nubian god of creation !! ****
* Genesis 2: 10-12 for this editorial
** David Livingstone, Henry Stanley and many others have tried to find the origin of the Nile. Some French believed that the great estuary of Gabon (Equatorial West Africa) would lead to the origin of the Nile. He didn’t, so Count Savorgnan De Brazza went up the Ogowe River just below the equator in today’s Gabon, without success here either.
*** Russell McLendon, “9 Interesting Facts About the River Nile”, Tree hugger, January 27, 2020.
**** From 6000 BC to 3.500 BC, the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile was in an area called Cush, in upper Nubia. Egypt conquered Nubia around 3000 BC for its gold.
Wikipedia is my source for some of the data in the editorial above.