Why does Torah portion Bereshit seem to interrupt the natural flow of the creation narrative to interject the telling of the rivers of Eden? Does this break in the story seem strange to you? In her commentary on Bereshit in The Creation Gospel Workbook 5 Volume 1, Dr. Hollisa Alewine expounds on the odd placement (or is it?) of the details of the one river that divides into four in Genesis chapter two. Dr. Alewine’s commentary on Bereshit delves deeply into the rivers of Eden (about 50 pages worth!). Obviously, this is a much more comprehensive treatment than I will offer here. If you have the time, I urge you to study the Creation Gospel model and her commentary on Bereshit. I hope to give you a summary of these fascinating rivers and a taste of Dr. Alewine’s work along with thoughts of my own.
Gen 2:10-14 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. (11) The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. (12) The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. (13) The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. (14) The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
First, what is a river in Hebrew? In our passage above, the Hebrew word translated as river is nahar. According to Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions, nahar is a stream, river, or underground stream. It comes from the root verb nahar meaning to shine, beam, light, burn, be radiant, to flow, and stream. Please keep this imagery of a river as flowing water and flowing light at the forefront of your mind as we continue.
From the Garden of Eden (paradise) the “head” or beginning of the ONE river divided into four other rivers. Before we get into the details of these four rivers, let’s first explore what we know about the number four. As I’ve explained in other places on this blog, four can be a representation of seven or completeness. Day four of creation establishes for us the “governing” aspect of this number.
- There are four corners of the earth
- Four corners (horns) are on the brazen altar
- Four living creatures surround the Throne
- Four seasons mark the year
- Fourth commandment is about Shabbat, the seventh day
- Four gospels testify of Messiah
- Fourth born son, Judah, receives the scepter (authority, government, rule)
- Four horsemen complete judgment in the earth
- Four species are waved at Sukkot, the seventh feast
- Four corners of garment carry our tzit-tziot (fringes) representing all the commandments
There are many places in the creation (nature) and the Holy Scriptures that speak to the imagery of four depicting completeness just as seven does. The seven branched menorah displays this imagery (in the natural) better than any other motif. Consider that the source or center branch is the fourth branch no matter which direction you begin your count. Messiah Yeshua stands at the center of this lampstand as He is the source from which all things flow. This brings us back to the beginning or Bereshit.
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (4) In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (5) The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
It is through the divine Light of Messiah (He as our menorah) that all things came into being and are held together. As the source of LIGHT, He rescues us from the darkness and brings us to redemption. He is the beginning of “in the beginning”.
Col. 1:13-18 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, (14) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. (17) He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (18) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
As LIGHT, He is both the source branch on the menorah (4th) and the fullness thereof in its seven pipes.
Rev 1:12-15 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; (13) and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. (14) His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. (15) His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.
Rev. 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands…
The primordial Light of day one in Genesis 1:3 was not the natural light of the sun, moon, and stars (created later on day 4), but was the glorious spiritual Light of Messiah. He is the Light in the darkness and the Life of men.
While “light” is certainly a symbol for God given to us in Genesis 1:3, there is another symbol that precedes this primordial “light”. In Genesis 1:2, we see the Spirit of God hovering or moving upon the face of the waters. Thus, we learn two things. The Spirit of God is active with movement and that movement is characterized by WATER. Does Messiah have any associations with water? The Beloved disciple John, the one who points us to the beginning and the primordial light, also points us to the ancient waters as the source for eternal life.
John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (see also vs. 14)
John 7:37-38 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. (38) “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”
The Messiah Yeshua, as the image of the invisible God, is also the source for the living waters of eternal life. Jeremiah declares that these living waters are from the beginning and find their source in the glorious throne of YHWH.
Jer. 17:12-14 A glorious throne on high from the beginning Is the place of our sanctuary. (13) O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD. (14) Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For You are my praise. (See also Jer. 2:13)
Thus, we see the Living waters in the beginning — before all things. Time doesn’t run on some infinite straight line, it is a circle or a cycle according to what we see in the creation, Hebraic thought, and the Bible. What is happening in the beginning will also happen at the end, completing the divine pattern or cycle. What do we see at the end?
Rev. 7:17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Rev. 21:6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
Rev. 22:1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb,
Though the river in Genesis chapter two isn’t named, I bet you can guess what it is called. It is the Source, the Head, and the Beginning. It is none other than the River of Life. The Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures captures this imagery in a perfect circle from beginning to end. The River of Life (like Messiah) was, is, and is to come. It has always been there flowing from the Throne of YHWH. Does the Genesis narrative about the rivers have a little bit more significance in your mind now? Perhaps learning about them can bring us some greater insight into not only the beginning, but the end.
The River that pours forth from Eden (paradise) and the Throne of YHWH divides into four other heads. Now, let’s go back to our menorah motif again. Imagine the River of Life as the source or center branch, fueling or feeding the outer six branches, giving them Life. In the natural, this river would be the Euphrates. Now, I’m not suggesting the Euphrates IS the River of Life; instead, I’m speaking metaphorically.
The rivers are given to us in the following order in Genesis chapter two: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Perat (Euphrates). I believe that every word, in fact every letter, is divinely placed in the Torah. The order of the four rivers is no exception. Again, imagining our menorah, Pishon would be on the first branch, Gihon on the second, the Tigris on the third, and the Euphrates on the fourth branch. Since four represents the whole or seven, the first three rivers connect chiastically to their counterpart on the other side of the menorah. Creation Gospel students will understand this from their study in Workbook 1, but for clarity, please look at this graphic:
Notice how one and seven mirror one another as do two and six and three and five. Moreover, you can trace with your finger how they are indeed connected at the base; yet the source for them all is the Messiah or the River of Life. By the way, this “mirroring” or chiastic structure is also true for the seven days of creation, the seven Spirits of God, the seven feast days, and the many sevens found in the Book of Revelation. You can learn all about these fascinating truths by studying the Creation Gospel by Dr. Hollisa Alewine.
Perhaps it is a little clearer now as to why Moses gives us more information about the river Pishon than he does for the other three rivers. Looking at the graphic again, you can see how the Pishon encompasses the entire menorah as the outer shell or completeness of the entire menorah.
Before we move onto the meaning of the names of each river and their significance, I want you to look at the graphic one more time. Now, imagine if there were a second menorah upside down on the top of this one. What would you see then? It would be a complete circle with smaller circles on the inside! Perhaps a wheel in the middle of a wheel? But I digress… that is indeed a whole other study in itself — though it is directly related to this one. (: Nevertheless, it is important for you see the complete picture of this circle or cycle as two of the rivers we will study imply surrounding, encompassing, and circling.
Do you recall from the beginning of this post how that in Hebrew a river is not only water, but a mechanism for carrying light? Do you also remember the crystal clear waters flowing from the throne of God? Could these same “fiery” waters be life to the righteous and yet a “lake of fire” to the wicked? This is something to consider since the end has been declared from the beginning. Moreover, the equivalence of fire and water is pictured all over the Bible as both symbols for God and conversely of judgment. For our study, consider that these waters from Eden are both flowing fire and water. Whether they burn or cleanse is determined by whether you are wicked or righteous. These flowing waters from Eden are like the Holy Spirit blowing and flowing around and among His people. Like with Daniel and his companions, the fiery furnace of the Holy Spirit is a cool cleansing heat from heaven that protects the righteous, but burns the wicked.
Instead of starting with the first river listed, let’s start with the last or what sits at the center of the menorah. This is the River Euphrates or in Hebrew Perat. The word perat comes from the word pri, or fruit. (You might recall the latter from the Kiddush blessing.) The source branch (river) on our menorah is meant to represent the Holy Spirit of Messiah. It is akin to the moed (feast) of Shavuot (Pentecost), the feast of first FRUITS.
The Bible doesn’t describe for us how the Perat flows as it does with the other three rivers. This hidden action also points to the Holy Spirit. We cannot see Him, but we can feel His presence like the wind. Perat also has the connotation of “breaking forth”. Power and permanence are two words that would describe this river and the Holy Spirit. For now, think of Perat as the source, head, fruitfulness, and increase. We will build upon this with the other rivers.
Moving to the third and fifth branches on the menorah, we come to the third river mentioned, the Tigris or in Hebrew, the Cheddekel. This river is said to be “going” or quite literally in Hebrew, “walking”. Creation Gospel students will draw the connection to the “running feet” of the birds and fish created on day five. Cheddekel means rapid, roaring, or noisy. This river isn’t a quiet stream as it is characterized by noise and movement! This should also remind you of the shouting and blowing of trumpets during the fifth feast of Rosh HaShanah. Arousing sleepers from the grave first with Yeshua on early firstfruits and later with the resurrection of His full harvest at the feast of Trumpets does indeed require movement and great noise like the River Cheddekel!
Think of noisy movement, awakening from sleep, and (the Spirit of) power when you think of the Tigris.
Again working toward the beginning, we next come to the River Gihon. It resides on the second and sixth branches on the menorah. Gihon means to burst forth, give birth, or to gush. This river is said to encompass (savav) the whole land of Ethiopia (Cush). Do you see the circling or surrounding aspect of this river? Cush means dark or black. It can easily symbolize the darkness of burial as pictured in the Messiah’s burial during the days of Unleavened Bread. Moses, the one “drawn forth” from the water, married a Cushite woman. This is likened to the Torah being drawn from the eternal waters of Eden and the Bride being, “black, but comely”. We are truly black or dark (in darkness) until our bridegroom redeems us with His Light and Fire. Only then can we be portrayed as white, like the linen worn on the High Holy Days. The surrounding flow of the Gihon washes us as do the second and fifth feasts of Matzah and Yom Kippur.
Remember to associate the surrounding flow of the Gihon and its ability to transform us from darkness to light like its gushing/birthing name implies.
The Pishon sits on the outer edges of our menorah motif, correlating to branch one and seven. We are given more information about this river than all of the others combined. Seeing that it encompasses or surrounds the entire menorah, this isn’t surprising.
Within the Hebrew word Pishon, we have the idea of dispersing, spreading, scattering, or as Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions notes for H6376, increases. Notice that this river flows around (encompasses) the whole land of Havilah, where there is good gold, bdellium, and onyx.
Havilah and its root, chul, are defined as to circle, twist, writhe, travail, dance, or whirl. Within this word is the idea of birth pangs and tribulation. But like the Israelites travail in Egypt, the more they were afflicted, the more they increased and spread out. This led to the birth of the nation of Israel in the exodus to the wilderness. These themes are associated with the first and last feasts of Pesach and Sukkot. Moreover, to make this connection even more apparent, the rabbinical teachings say that Pishon is synonymous with the Nile River in Egypt.
But what is the point in telling us about the good gold, bdellium, and onyx?
I probably don’t have to reiterate what many have done before me in explaining the Biblical significance of gold. What Dr. Alewine astutely points out is that the text specifies that the gold is GOOD in Havilah. Why does this matter? Because for all the “good” symbolism we can see portrayed in refined gold, it does have a contranym (a word meaning its own opposite). Gold may very well represent heaven, spiritual wealth, and the removal of impurities, but conversely it can represent idolatry as seen in the golden calf. The gold in Havilah was GOOD. In other words, like the pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, the impurities of leaven and sin have been removed. There is no malice; the streams are pure and gather together the pilgrims to the Holy City of Gold: Jerusalem. (Ever heard the song Jerusalem of Gold?) And let’s not forget that the golden menorah we have been using as a model for all of our fours and sevens is also made from pure gold.
Bdellium is a fragrant gum much like myrrh. It comes from a thorn tree which produces a small particle of resin that appears to “tear” or liquefy when the sun (light) shines upon it. Wow! Does this description remind you of anything or anyone? Wasn’t Yeshua a sweet smelling aroma to the nostrils of His Father as He died on the tree? Did Yeshua not weep for us before His appointed time?
This special resin in Hebrew literally means to divide, separate, distinguish, or even be set apart. Day one and two of creation and the first two feasts of Pesach and Unleavened Bread mirror this separation process. Like the good gold, impurities are what need to be removed or separated. But this process isn’t GOOD unless it leads to gathering together of like kind and like mind as fulfilled in the Jerusalem of Gold. While this is a glorious prospect, it may also be painful as it requires the weeping tears of repentance to enter.
Rashi likened bedolach with crystal and its ability to take pure white light and separate it into the seven colors of the rainbow or visible light. Can you see this same picture on the menorah? One source (Light) streaming into seven beautiful colors that surround the entire menorah like the light refracted from a prism. Aren’t we told that there truly is such a rainbow encompassing the throne of God? (Rev. 4:3) Could this rainbow of Light be revealed in the seven festivals of gathering in Jerusalem? Is that not their purpose; to bring light unto His people and clear paths for them to walk in?
Dr. Alewine also points out that the manna from heaven had a white look and appeared as dew upon the ground. Have you ever seen light refracted in the tiny water droplets of dew? Do you suppose it was any different when the children of Israel picked their manna up every morning? Could this have been a reminder to the children of Israel of the Throne of God and its rainbow canopy? In a sense, they were consuming both bread and light at the same time! After all, Yeshua is said to be both!
Shoham comes from a word that means to “blanch” or “make white”. Hmm. An onyx stone is usually black or dark in color. Spiritually speaking, we call this “whitening” process sanctification or holiness. This idea is similar to the land of Cush we discussed earlier. Dr. Alewine compares this whitening to the “bleached” linen garments of the priests. These garments were made of shesh (shin, shin). Figuratively this connects the priests’ linen garments with man (six –shesh) and with fire (shin – aysh).
Do you recall what the high priest wore on his shoulders? Yes, two onyx stones! These were connected to the breastplate by GOLD chains. When we are told that the government will rest on the shoulders of our Messiah (and High Priest), these onyx stones should come to mind. Engraved on these stones are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. These are the holy ones that testify to Yeshua’s government of heaven and earth. And it is He alone that takes what was once inscribed in darkness and turns it into light. These will be robed in white, for they have washed their (dark) robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:14)
Is the River of Life pictured in the four rivers of Eden, the seven days of creation, the seven Spirits of God, and the seven moedim (feast days) for Gentiles as well as Jews?
Rev 7:9-10 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; (10) and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Yes! Dr. Alewine points us to John 10:16.
“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
She goes on to say:
“Did Yeshua come to dismiss his Gentile flock from the appointed feasts? Did Yeshua come to create division between or among the folds at the appointed times, or did he come to make them one flock with one shepherd?” 
The rivers of Eden are one more testimony that from the beginning, YHWH has declared the end. The first letter of the Bible is an ENLARGED beht, meaning house or tent. From the onset of all things, the Father’s desire is to build and enlarge His House. Within the rivers and moedim (feast days) the good news of the gospel is proclaimed. This is the only place where the nations will find their healing and rest.
The rivers of Eden surround and flow around the creation days, feasts, spirits of God, and our menorah motif. But they are meant to flow and move through you and me too! By keeping the appointed times set by the Creator on day four, we are equipped to produce the good gold of Havilah (increase). This refining process is a sweet smelling aroma (bedolach) to our Father as we are proclaiming His government (onyx) throughout the earth.
Moving inward to the surrounding river of Gihon, the darkness (Cush/Ethiopia) is pierced as the sons of God prepare to burst forth in their unveiling. By the time the Tigris (Cheddekel) begins to flow through us, we are primed for new life and resurrection; because like the Tigris, we “walk” in the paths of the Creator. The gospel moves with rapid force throughout the earth.
Finally, the Perat (Euphrates) produces abundance and fruitfulness as a great multitude from every tribe and tongue wave palm branches at the great Feast of Sukkot in worship of the King of kings! These are those that will rejoice with the four living creatures under the rainbow canopy of God’s Throne. Below the Throne, the River of Life flows freely to nourish and cleanse the righteous with the cool fire waters of heaven. The wicked will experience the same flow of this river, but it will be unto them a lake of fire and judgment. The end is the beginning and the beginning is the end! Selah.
 Examples: Baptism of water and fire, earth destroyed with water and later with fire, God was a pillar of cloud (water) and a pillar of fire to Israelites in the desert, the Hebrew word for heavens is shemayim, a word that literally means “fire-water”, etc.
 See the Song of Songs 1:5 and Dr. Alewine’s Creation Gospel Workbook 5 Volume 1, p. 16
 Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions: H6376 פּישׁון pee-shone’ From H6335; dispersive; Pishon, a river of Eden: – Pison.
H6335 פּוּשׁ poosh A primitive root; to spread; figuratively act proudly: – grow up, be grown fat, spread selves, be scattered.
 See Dr. Alewine’s Creation Gospel Workbook 5 Volume 1, pages 15 and 20.
 See Dr. Alewine’s Creation Gospel Workbook 5 Volume 1, p. 18.
 Dr. Alewine’s Creation Gospel Workbook 5 Volume 1, pages 34-35.