Genesis 2:11
(11, 12) The name of the first is Pison.--"The full-flowing" (Gesenius), or "free-streaming" (Frst). Neither derivation has much authority for it in the Hebrew language, and we must wait for the true explanation till the cuneiform inscriptions have been more thoroughly examined. As two of the four rivers of Paradise rise in Armenia, so we must probably seek the other two there; but the conjectures of commentators have thus far suggested no probable identification of this stream.

Compasseth.--This word, without strictly meaning to go round, gives the idea of a devious course (comp. 1Samuel 7:16; Song of Solomon 3:3), as if the river had now reached a level plain.

Havilah may mean sandy land (Deutsch), or circuit region. There seems to have been more than one country of this name; but the most probable is that in South-Western Arabia, afterwards colonised by the Joktanites (Genesis 10:29), which this river skirted rather than traversed. But we know of no such river, rising in Armenia or elsewhere, which answers to this description now. Besides gold of great purity, pronounced emphatically "good," this land produced" bdellium," a scented gum, to which manna is compared (Numbers 11:7), though the meaning even there is uncertain.

Instead of bedolach, bdellium, the Syriac reads berulche, that is, the same word in the plural, but with d instead of r. These two letters being very similar, not merely in the square Hebrew alphabet now in use, but in the original Samaritan characters, are constantly interchanged in manuscripts; and as berulche means pearls, the sense agrees better with the other productions of Havilah, gold and onyx stones. As bedolach is a quadriliteral, while Hebrew words have only three root letters, we must look to the Accadi an language for its true signification, if this be really the right reading.

The onyx stone.--Though there is considerable authority for this translation, yet probably the LXX., supported by most ancient authorities, are right in regarding this gem as the beryl of a light green colour (leek-stone, LXX.). The root signifies something pale, while the onyx has its name from its markings resembling those of the human nail.

Verses 11, 12. - The name of the first (river is) Pishon, or "the full-flowing." This is the first of those marks by which the river, when discovered, must be identified. It was palpably a broad-bosomed stream. A second is derived from the region through which it flows. That is it which compasseth (not necessarily surrounding, but skirting in a circular or circuitous fashion - Numbers 21:4; Judges 11:8) the whole land of Havilah. Havilah itself is described by three of its productions. Where there is gold. I.e. it is a gold-producing country. And the gold of that land is good. Of the purest quality and largest quantity. There also is bdellium. Literally bedo-lach, which the manna was declared to resemble (Exodus 17:14; Numbers 11:7). The LXX., supposing it to be a precious stone, translate it by ἄνθραξ ιν the present passage, and by κρυστάλλος in Numbers 11:7 - a view supported by the Jewish Rabbis and Gesenius. The majority of modern interpreters espouse the opinion of Josephus, that it was an odorous and costly gum indigenous to India, Arabia, Babylonia, and Bactriana. The third production is the onyx (shoham, from a root signifying to be pale or delicate in color, like the finger-nails), variously conjectured to be the beryl, onyx, sardonyx, sardius, or emerald. From this description it appears that Havilah must be sought for among the gold-producing countries of Asia. Now among the sons of Joktan or primitive Arabs (Genesis 10:29) - "whose dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest, unto Sephar, a mount of the east" - are Ophir and Havilah, whence Gesenius concludes that India, including Arabia, is meant. Other countries have their advocates, such as Arabia Felix, Susiana, Colchis, etc.; and other rivers, such as the Ganges (Josephus, Eusebius), the Phasis (Reland, Jahn, Rosenmüller, Winer), the Indus (Schulthess, Kalisch).

2:8-14 The place fixed upon for Adam to dwell in, was not a palace, but a garden. The better we take up with plain things, and the less we seek things to gratify pride and luxury, the nearer we approach to innocency. Nature is content with a little, and that which is most natural; grace with less; but lust craves every thing, and is content with nothing. No delights can be satisfying to the soul, but those which God himself has provided and appointed for it. Eden signifies delight and pleasure. Wherever it was, it had all desirable conveniences, without any inconvenience, though no other house or garden on earth ever was so. It was adorned with every tree pleasant to the sight, and enriched with every tree that yielded fruit grateful to the taste and good for food. God, as a tender Father, desired not only Adam's profit, but his pleasure; for there is pleasure with innocency, nay there is true pleasure only in innocency. When Providence puts us in a place of plenty and pleasure, we ought to serve God with gladness of heart in the good things he gives us. Eden had two trees peculiar to itself. 1. There was the tree of life in the midst of the garden. Of this man might eat and live. Christ is now to us the Tree of life, Re 2:7; 22:2; and the Bread of life, Joh 6:48,51. 2. There was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so called because there was a positive revelation of the will of God about this tree, so that by it man might know moral good and evil. What is good? It is good not to eat of this tree. What is evil? It is evil to eat of this tree. In these two trees God set before Adam good and evil, the blessing and the curse.The name of the first is Pison,.... Not the river Nile in Egypt, as Jarchi, who thinks it is derived from "Pashah", which signifies to increase, expand, and diffuse, as that does at certain times, and spreads itself over the land of Egypt, or from "Pishten", linen, which grows there, Isaiah 19:9 nor the river Ganges in India, as Josephus (m), and others; for the country where it is afterwards said to run agrees with neither Egypt nor India: rather it seems to be the same river, which is the Phasis of Pliny (n), and Strabo (o), and the Physcus of Xenophon (p), and the Hyphasis of Philostorgius (q), a river in Armenia, and about Colchis; and which is sometimes called Pasitigris, being a branch of that river, and mixed with, or arising from channels, drawn from Tigris, Euphrates, and other waters (r).

that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; this country had its name from Havilah, one of the sons of Cush, Genesis 10:7 who very probably seated himself near his brother Seba, from whom came the Sabeans, who inhabited one part of Arabia; and Havilah, it is plain, was before Egypt, in the way to Assyria, and bordered upon the Ishmaelites, who inhabited Arabia Deserta, Genesis 25:16. So that it seems to be a country in Arabia, near unto, or a part of Cush or Arabia Cusea, and near to Seba or Arabia Felix: and so Strabo, among the nations of the Arabians, and along with the Nabatheans, places the Chaulotaeans (s), who seem to be no other than the posterity of Havilah: according to the learned Reland (t), it is the same with Colchis, a part of Scythia, and Phasis is well known to be a river of Colchis; and which runs into Pontus, as appears from Pliny (u) and includes Scythia, as Justin (w) says; and then it must have its name from Havilah, the son of Joktan, Genesis 10:29 and in either of these countries there was gold, and an abundance of it, and of the best, as follows:(After the global destruction of Noah's flood, it is doubtful that the location of these rivers could be determined with any degree of certainty today. Ed.)

(m) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 1. sect. 3.((n) Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 4. 17. (o) Geograph. l. 11. p. 343, 345, 364. (p) Cyr. Minor. l. 2.((q) Hist. Ecclesiast. l. 3. c. 10. (r) Curtius, l. 5. c. 3. Strabo. Geograph. l. 15. p. 501. (s) Ib. p. 528. (t) De Paradiso, p. 16, &c. (u) Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 4. 17.) (w) E Trogo, l. 2. c. 2.

Genesis 2:10
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