Have you ever wondered why in the middle of the creation story, we unexpectedly come across a section of Scripture (Genesis 2:10-14) which talks about four rivers?
Remember that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching. Therefore, the rivers weren’t written about by chance nor accident, and so, we must realise that God wanted us to read about these waterways
Also, God wasn’t describing the Garden of Eden and then happened to mention the rivers either. This was intentional, and actually, the river in paradise was the third main topic covered within Genesis 2 (creation of man, the two trees, and then the river)
Sometimes, when we can’t figure out the reason, we assume that there must be a symbolic meaning. Yet, we need to be careful not to dismiss what God was saying simply because we don’t understand and want to find a reason. We are not God, and we are not omniscient, which means we will never know everything!
Augustine believed that these rivers were simply symbolic of Christ and the four evangelists of our New Testament, namely Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. Yet, looking at the text, this viewpoint doesn’t make sense when up until this point, God was speaking factually…He did create man, and He did create the Garden of Eden, and so, the descriptions of the rivers are details of their geographical locations – this is truth, not symbolic (regardless of whether we can prove the locations)
The first river is called: Pishon and is said to flow around the land of Havilah. “Havilah” was then a part of Arabia. The second river is called: Gihon and is said to flow around the land of Cush. This is usually Ethiopia, south of Egypt. The third river is called: Tigris and is said to flow “east of Ashur”, which is in Assyria, and the fourth river is called: Euphrates. Actually, this river is so well known that no further information was needed. Therefore we need to think that these rivers did exist
So, where are they now?
Honestly, only God knows, and this is what we need to come to peace with because we can think that things must be symbolic or untrue if they can’t be proven. Yet, the writer of Genesis (Moses) didn’t have maps, there was a worldwide flood, and rivers do tend to move over time – all feasible suggestions