In the first chapter of Genesis, we learn that “in the beginning… the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness,” shrouded in darkness (Gen. 1:1-2). The Hebrew word tou is defined as “formlessness and confusion.” The Hebrew word bou is defined as “emptiness and waste.” Old Testament Scholar John Walton writes, “In the Old Testament [the word] ‘beginning’ (resit) refers to a preliminary period of time rather than the first in a series of events.” It should be noted that “the beginning” is often described as a state of primordial chaos. Professor Walton further writes, “In general, it designates a situation in which positive values such as purpose and worth are lacking.”
The Apostle Paul wrote, “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). Paul used the Greek word akatastasia, which is defined as “instability, a state of disorder, disturbance, [or] confusion.” The writer of Genesis does not tell us what caused or brought about the state of disorder and confusion. I am inclined to believe that the state of disorder and confusion was the result of an angelic rebellion against God. Describing Satan’s rebellion, Isaiah wrote,” How you have fallen from heaven, you star of the morning, you son of the dawn!… But you said in your heart I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God,… I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:12-14).
Psalm 97:6 states, “The heavens declare His [God’s] righteousness, and all the peoples have seen His glory.” The Psalmist adds, “Worship Him, all you gods” (Ps. 97:7). Speaking of all of His creation, to include Satan and the fallen angels, we read, “I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another….” (Isa. 42:8). At Isaiah 42:12, we further read, “Let them give glory to the Lord.”
Professor Walton writes that “God’s creative activities [should] be seen as establishing and maintaining order.” Professor Walton also writes, “As God calls the cosmos into existence, it is important to remember that it is functional existence, not necessarily physical existence.” The purpose and function of God’s creation is to glorify God and bring blessing to others. As God told Abraham, “I will bless you” and “you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). However, the blessing is contingent on establishing and maintaining order. Moses said, “Therefore know today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is no other” (Deut. 4:39). Nothing in God’s creation is comparable to God. He is great, and He is good.
Eden is symbolic of things like fruitfulness, bountiful food, wealth, prosperity, abundance, beauty, tranquility, and life to its fullest (Gen. 2-3). It was a place to experience fellowship with God (Gen. 3:8) and sublime interaction with each other and God’s creation. It was a well-watered, aromatically pleasing, and sacred space. It was also a place of gold, gems, and aromatic spices (Gen. 2:12). The Hebrew word gan is often defined as an “enclosed garden.” In fact, its root word is ganan, which is defined as “to hedge about, protect, [or] defend.” Four rivers flowed out of Eden bringing life to the world (Gen. 2:10-14).
In the New Testament, we read about gardens in the afterlife and Heaven. Jesus told one of the criminals being crucified adjacent to Jesus, “Truly, I say to you, today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Apostle Paul wrote on one occasion of being caught up to Paradise in Heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-4). Paul used the same Greek word paradesios, which was a Persian word defined as a grand enclosed garden or preserve. Further, as discussed below, we read that the New Jerusalem was called the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).
In Genesis, we learn that God placed the man in the garden to cultivate and keep it. The writer of Genesis used the Hebrew words abad and samar. “The verb abad is defined as “to work or serve.” The verb samar is defined as “to keep, guard, or preserve.” If a place or something has great value and worth, it must be guarded and protected. Eden must be both established and maintained. There must be priorities, values, and a few rules. After the fall of mankind, an angel was stationed to guard the way to Eden.
The same Hebrew verb samar was also used in regard to the Israelite’s obligation to “keep” the commandments of God (Deut. 4:2). The Israelites were encouraged to seek the Lord day by day and to delight to know the ways of the Lord (Isa. 58:2). They were encouraged to “delight in the nearness of God” (Isa. 58:2). They were instructed to humble themselves (Isa. 58:5-6) and not forsake the ordinances of God (Isa. 58:2). If the Israelites were obedient, the Lord promised to continually guide them and give strength to their bones (Isa. 58:11). Most notably, Isaiah wrote, “[Y]ou will be like a watered garden, [a]nd a spring of water whose waters do not fail” (Isa. 58:11). The image of the well-watered garden was used to describe the well-ordered and prosperous soul. At Isaiah 51:1, Isaiah addressed certain righteous Israelites. He told obedient Israelites to look to their father Abraham, who was blessed by God. Then Isaiah wrote,
Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her ruins. And He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, [t]hanksgiving and the sound of a melody.
Is the reader aware of what covered the inner walls of Solomon’s Temple? At 1 Kings 6:21, we read that “Solomon overlaid the inside of the [Temple] with pure gold.” Additionally, at 1 Kings 6:29, we read, “Then he carved all the surrounding walls of the [Temple] with Cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, for the inner and outer sanctuaries.” There is an important connection between worship, the sacred, and Edenic imagery. Worship of God is the key to producing Eden on earth and in our souls.
Similar Edenic imagery was seen in the Tabernacle, to the include the Menorah (golden lampstand) (Exod. 25:33-40). The golden lampstand was decorated with “cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers” (Exod. 25:34). In my opinion, the golden lampstand was symbolic of the Tree of Life (and eternal life), which was mentioned in Genesis (Gen. 2:9, 3:22-29). The reader might also recall that Aaron’s staff was placed within the Ark of the Covenant (Heb. 9:4). This same staff had miraculously “sprouted and produced buds, bloomed with blossoms, and … yielded ripe almonds” as proof of God’s chosen and designated priesthood (Num. 17:8).
Ezekiel’s idealized Temple was also “carved with cherubim and palm trees” (Ezek. 41:18). Additionally, in Ezekiel’s Temple we see a stream flowing from beneath the Temple to the east (Ezek. 47:1). As the water flowed ever deeper and farther from the Temple, it brought life to all it touched. At Ezekiel 47:12, we read,
And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.
Finally, the New Jerusalem depicted in the Book of Revelation is full of garden imagery. The River of Life, clear as crystal, flows out from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb. On either side of the river was the Tree of Life, “bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). We further read, “There will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him” (Rev. 22:3).
In summation, the key to establishing and maintaining Eden in our souls and on Planet Earth is the worship of God and the practice of obedience to His commandments to love God and our neighbor.
 “H8414 – tôû – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 20 Jul, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8414/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H922 – bôû – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 20 Jul, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h922/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “Genesis.” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Volume 1. Gen. Editor, John H. Walton, et al., Zondervan Academic, 2009, p. 10.
 “Genesis,” p. 11.
 “G181 – akatastasia – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 20 Jul, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g181/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “Genesis,” p. 15.
 “Genesis,” p.16.
 “H1588 – gan – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 20 Jul, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1588/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H1598 – gānan – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 20 Jul, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1598/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H5647 – ʿāḇaḏ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 20 Jul, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h5647/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “H8104 – šāmar – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 20 Jul, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h8104/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.