Eden was the name of a region of the earth when God first created the world. The Hebrew word translated “Eden” is taken to mean “pleasure” or “delight.” In this area God planted a garden:
“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters” (Genesis 2:8–10).
From this brief description, we note several things about the Garden of Eden: 1) it was planned and planted by God Himself; 2) it was mankind’s first home; 3) it contained incredible variety, with “all kinds of trees”; 4) it was a beautiful place, as the trees were “pleasing to the eye”; 5) it was a fertile, fruitful place; 6) it provided nourishment and nutrition, as the trees were “good for food”; and 7) it was naturally well-watered. Later, we read that there were all kinds of animals in the garden (Genesis 2:19–20). We also have the note that Adam and Eve were unclothed in the garden (Genesis 2:25), indicating that they needed no protection whatsoever—the environment, including the climate, was perfectly suited for humanity.
We do not know the exact location of the Garden of Eden, but the Bible’s description of the area associates it with four rivers and an abundance of resources, including fine gold and gemstones (Genesis 2:11–14). We also know these things about Eden:
The Garden of Eden was a place where man could meet God. The Creator “was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” in Genesis 3:8, and Adam and Eve could be with Him and converse with Him.
The Garden of Eden was a place of total provision. God had seen to every detail in designing a home for humanity, created in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Adam and Eve lacked nothing and were “free to eat from any tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16), except for one. Their diet was vegetarian (Genesis 1:29).
The Garden of Eden was a place of unity and fellowship. Eve was created in the garden and brought to Adam (Genesis 2:21–22). Thus, Adam had “a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The unity and fellowship enjoyed by the human couple was a reflection of the unity and fellowship they both enjoyed with God.
The Garden of Eden was a place of work and fulfillment. When God placed Adam in the garden, He gave the man a task: Adam was “to work [the garden] and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). What God had planted, Adam was to maintain. This task was in addition to Adam’s mandate to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:29). Mankind was blessed by God, given responsibility, and provided work that was meaningful, creative, and beneficial.
The Garden of Eden was the setting for the first marriage. It’s in the Garden of Eden that marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman who have left their parents to form a new family unit (Genesis 2:24).
The Garden of Eden was a place of innocence. Originally, there was no sin in the garden and nothing that would cause anxiety or unrest. Adam and Eve’s nakedness (Genesis 2:25) “suggests that they were at ease with one another without any fear of exploitation or potential for evil” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Law, Walvoord and Zuck, David C. Cook, 2018).
The Garden of Eden was a place of life. “In the middle of the garden [was] the tree of life” (Genesis 2:9), and Adam and Eve had free, unhindered access to it.
The Garden of Eden was a place of testing. Also in the middle of the garden was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9), the fruit of which God had said Adam could not eat: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). It was the one prohibition in the Garden of Eden. God had created Adam and Eve to be free, with a moral sense and the ability to make decisions and choose for themselves. The presence of a forbidden tree provided the opportunity for Adam and Eve to make a real, necessary choice to either obey or disobey.
Unfortunately, Adam failed the test. The serpent in the garden, used by Satan, tempted Eve with a false promise of blessing, and the woman ate of the forbidden fruit. She in turn gave the fruit to her husband, and he also partook. Both were disobedient to the word of God, and the consequences of their sin were disastrous for them and for all their descendants (Genesis 3:1–19). They lost their fellowship with God, they lost their home, and they lost their innocence.
The Garden of Eden became a place of atonement and hope. The sin of Adam and Eve was met with God’s judgment, but in the midst of the judgment was mercy. God covered their nakedness—of which they were now ashamed—with animal skins (Genesis 3:21). And He gave them good news: in His judgment on the serpent, God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This verse acknowledges the curse on mankind and the related strife, but it also promises God’s provision of a Savior who would do battle with the serpent and win. This Savior would be the “offspring of the woman”; eventually, Jesus, the virgin-born Son of God, came “to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). From the beginning, God had the plan of salvation in mind, and no sooner had sin entered the world than He informed us of that plan.
The Garden of Eden is a place to which we long to return. God had to force Adam and Eve to leave the garden, and He posted a formidable cherubim to guard against unauthorized re-entry: “The Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden. . . . After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23–24). The loss of our paradise garden has stayed with us and forms part of our deep longing for what is good and pure and eternal (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).
The Garden of Eden will be restored. Our access to the eternal garden of God is based on our restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ (see Luke 23:40–43). The One who laid down His life for us has defeated the serpent and opened paradise: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). In the New Jerusalem, there is “a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything” (Revelation 22:1–3a, NLT).
The Garden of Eden, that place of pleasure and delight, we lost because of our sin—and God, in His mercy and grace, will restore it to us on Christ’s behalf.