The explanation of the allegory of the cedar tree (Ezek 31:18-31:18)

“Which among the trees

Of Eden

Was like you

In glory,

Or in greatness?

Now you shall be

Brought down

With the trees

Of Eden

To the world below.

You shall lie

Among the uncircumcised.

You shall lie

With those who were killed

By the sword.

‘This is Pharaoh

With his entire hoard.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Yahweh God revealed the meaning of the big cedar tree. There is very little suspense, since it is Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and the multitude of his people with him. The other trees were those kings and people associated with Egypt that relied on him for their existence. Once again, there was a comparison of this great cedar tree with the trees from the Garden of Eden. Which was more glorious or great? The great cedar tree would be brought down with the trees from the Garden of Eden to the world below. Thus, they would lie down with the uncircumcised and those killed by the sword.

Advertisements

All the others go into the pit (Ezek 31:16-31:17)

“‘I made

The nations quake

At the sound

Of its fall.

I cast it down

To Sheol

With those

Who go down

To the pit.

All the trees of Eden,

The choice,

The best,

Of Lebanon,

All that were

Well-watered,

Were consoled

In the world below.

They also shall go down

To Sheol

With it,

Those killed

By the sword,

Along with its allies,

Those who lived

In its shadow

Among the nations.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he had made the other nations shake at the sound of this falling great cedar tree. Yahweh had cast it down to Sheol where others had gone into the pit also. This included the choice and best cedar trees from Lebanon and the Garden of Eden. All these well-watered trees were consoled in the world below. They all went down to Sheol with those who had been killed by the sword, as well as the allies who had lived in the shadow of this great tree.

Salvation for the children of Abraham (Isa 51:1-51:3)

“Listen to me!

You that pursue deliverance!

You that seek Yahweh!

Look to the rock

From which you were hewn!

Look to the quarry

From which you were dug!

Look to Abraham your father!

Look to Sarah who bore you!

He was but one when I called him.

I blessed him.

I made him many.

Yahweh will comfort Zion.

He will comfort all her waste places.

He will make her wilderness

Like Eden.

He will make her desert

Like the garden of Yahweh.

Joy will be found in her.

Gladness will be found in her.

Thanksgiving will be found in her.

The voice of song will be found in her.”

Second Isaiah says that the rock of salvation is Yahweh. If they were pursuing righteousness, they were seeking the Lord, Yahweh. They had to remember where they came from. Here it is not dust, but a rock quarry that they came from. The rock from this quarry was formed to make them. They had to remember not only Abraham but also Sarah, one of the few times that she is mentioned outside of Genesis. Yahweh blessed Abraham so that he had many descendants. Now Yahweh was going to comfort their offspring at Zion. The desert and the wilderness were going to become like the Garden of Eden, the garden of Yahweh. There would be nothing there except joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and hymn singing in this new Garden of Eden.

The second message to King Hezekiah (Isa 37:9-37:13)

“When King Sennacherib heard it,

He sent messengers

To King Hezekiah.

‘Thus shall you speak

To King Hezekiah of Judah.

Do not let your God,

On whom you rely,

Deceive you

By promising

That Jerusalem will not be given

Into the hand of the king of Assyria.

See!

You have heard

What the kings of Assyria

Have done to all lands,

Destroying them utterly.

Shall you be delivered?

Have the gods of the other nations delivered them?

My predecessors destroyed these nations,

Gozan,

Haran,

Rezeph,

Also the people of Eden

Who were in Telassar.

Where is the king of Hamath?

Where is the king of Arpad?

Where is the king of the city of Sepharvaim?

Where is the king of Hena?

Where is the king of Ivvah?’”

Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 19, almost repeating the speech of Rabshakeh in the preceding chapter. These messengers of King Sennacherib of Assyria were to present almost the same message. Do not rely on your God. See what has happened to those places that relied on their gods, since the various kings of Assyria have destroyed them. How have their gods defended them? He repeated what had happened to the kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah. Most of these towns were in Babylon or Syria. He also added the cities of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and Eden.   Gozan was where the northern Israelites were sent in their captivity. Haran was in Mesopotamia, a town where Abraham had stopped. Rezeph was near Hamath. Eden in Telassar probably refers to some place in Mesopotamia, thus giving further credence to Mesopotamia as the original place of the Garden of Eden. At least at this time, nearly 2700 years ago, this place was called Eden, which might have also influenced the biblical writers.

Overflowing wisdom (Sir 24:24-24:29)

“It overflows

Like the Pishon,

With wisdom.

It overflows

Like the Tigris

At the time of the first fruits.

It runs over,

Like the Euphrates,

With understanding.

It is

Like the Jordan

At harvest time.

It pours forth instruction

Like the Nile.

It is

Like the Gihon

At the time of vintage.

Just as the first man

Did not know wisdom fully,

Neither will the last one

Fathom her.

Her thoughts

Are more abundant

Than the sea.

Her counsel deeper

Than the great abyss.”

Sirach goes into a section on how wisdom overflows its banks like many of the rivers in the area. Using the 4 biblical paradise rivers mentioned as surrounding the Garden of Eden, in Genesis, chapter 2, the Pishon, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Gihon, Sirach spoke of them individually. Wisdom overflowed each of them. He also spoke of 2 other important rivers for the Israelites, the Jordan and the Nile. Finally he mentioned that the first man did not fully understand wisdom. However, he also said that the last man would not fully understand wisdom either, because her thoughts are more abundant and deeper than the sea.

The fall (Gen 3:1-3:24)

“Now the serpent was craftier than any other wild animal that Yahweh God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, `You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you will die.’  But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die.  God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  They sewed fig leaves together and made aprons or loincloths for themselves.”

In chapter three, a devious talking serpent appears on the scene.  He tells the woman that she will not die if she eats from the tree that gives knowledge of good and bad.  Instead she will become like God.  Both she and the man ate the fruit of the tree and suddenly they recognized that they were naked and needed to cover parts of their bodies.

 “They heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden.  But Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’   He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’  The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’  Then Yahweh God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’”

Now Yahweh was out for his evening walk, so the man and woman hid because they knew they were naked.  Yahweh wanted to know who told them that they were naked. They must have eaten from the forbidden fruit.  Adam and Eve screwed up.  Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the evil serpent who tempted her.  Ever since the dawn of humanity, humans have continued to blame someone or something for their own mistakes.  The first great sin was disobedience to the higher power, Yahweh.

 “Yahweh God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all animals and all wild creatures.  Upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.  He will strike your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Perfection came to an end.  The snake becomes the personification of evil.  Everybody got punished.  Snakes have to crawl on their belly and their offspring and that of the woman would be enemies.  Snakes never had any legs anyhow.

“To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing.  In pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Women will bear children in pain and be subject to their husbands. This punishment sets the role of men and women for thousands of years, the hard working man and the dutiful child bearing woman under his rule.  The patriarchal system is in place and considered to be the normal way of things because Yahweh wants it so.

“And to the man he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you,` You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you.  You shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken.  You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man will have to work hard to toil the soil and in the end will return to dust at death.  Our idyllic Garden of Eden happiness concept does not last a lifetime without some bumps along the road in this vale of tears.  We share a flawed human nature on our life long journey.  We have both a limited freedom and a limited responsibility.  So we need to work and be productive in this created world.  We need to share in the creative enterprise by working in God’s creation. 

 “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.  And Yahweh God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.”

Here they get names.  Yahweh gives them clothes. The man names his wife Eve, because she is the mother of all living people.  Of course, this raises the question of other Eves.

“Then Yahweh God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  Now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’  Therefore Yahweh God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man.  At the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Notice that the man has become like God, but not the woman.  Suddenly there is another tree, the tree of live.  The two, the man Adam and the woman Eve, were driven from the garden and lived east of Eden, where cherubim guarded the garden gate with a burning flame.  Wow, what a story! Nearly everyone has heard this one.  A capricious Yahweh is the overlord of the garden and punishes the humans because they want to be like him.  Two minor characters are the talking wicked animal serpent and the good spiritual cherubim with a flaming sword. The cherubim are somewhat like the winged animals that guard other ancient Mid-eastern buildings.

The second story of creation: paradise (Gen 2:4b-2:25)

“In the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, because  Yahweh God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground. But a stream would rise from the earth and water the whole face of the ground.  Then Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  Man became a living being.  And Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, in the east.  There he put the man whom he had formed.  Out of the ground Yahweh God made 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 the knowledge of good and evil.”

This chapter has the older Yahweh traditional story of creation where God is called Yahweh.  This written document probably dates from around 700-800 BCE.  Yahweh is like a gardener, over seeing his wonderful paradise in the Garden of Eden.  In this story, God created heaven and earth, but there is no evolutionary daily concept, as Yahweh formed a human man (Adam) from the dust on the ground (admah) and breathed into his nostrils to give him life.  We have an eternal destiny to be with God. What a beautiful thought, our happiness comes from God and sharing eternal life with him.

“A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon.  It is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  The gold of that land is good.  Bdellium and onyx stone are there.  The name of the second river is Gihon.  It is the one which flows around the whole land of Cush.  The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

This is the first mention of a geological place, the mythical Garden of Eden.  There are many ancient eastern stories about paradise gardens.  Of the four rivers that flow from this garden, two are well known, the Tigris River and the Euphrates River, once again an indication of a Mesopotamian background.  However, no one has been able to exactly locate the Pishon River and Gihon River, since they may have been mountain streams.  Apparently these rivers were in rich areas that had gold stones.  They also had bdellium, a gum like substance that comes from trees like myrrh, and onyx, a precious colorful stone.  Despite many attempts, no one has been able to exactly ascertain the geographical site of this mythical garden.

“Yahweh God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.  Yahweh God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’”

This man is placed in the Garden of Eden to have all that he wants to eat.  However, he is forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.  If he eats this he will die.  Legends abound about magic trees. General tradition has portrayed this tree as an apple tree, although there is no such indication in the text itself.

“Then Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.  I will make him a helper as his partner.’  So out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  Whatever the man called every living creature that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field.  But for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.  So Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept. Then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The rib that Yahweh God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

Yahweh said that it was not good for this man to be alone.  Like a potter, he formed the animals and birds from the earth, not from seeds.  The man got to name all these animals and birds. However, none of these were suitable partners. Then the patriarchal attitude is reinforced as the man went to sleep, and Yahweh toke one of the ribs from the man (ish) and he made into a woman (ishah).  Thus we have male and female humans who are unashamedly naked partners.  She is already his wife and can “become one flesh” in this idyllic garden.