©1984  by Erich A. von Fange


It is important to know whether there is any necessity to accept the widespread belief that the world before and after the Flood was the same except for a minor local flood. If the destruction was total and universal, the stage was set for an entirely different kind of Post-Flood world. An example is given below to show the way in which the ancients regarded that important question. Several old words are examined to show something of the geographic spread of a culture and the unexpected arrival of a people to an unlikely site in the Jordan valley. Another term which suddenly appears hints at catastrophic events. We see again how ancient place names may help to locate ancient sites. Other words help us gain insights into the culture of ancient peoples, and we show how attempts are made by means of word studies to link biblical events to literary sources outside the Bible. All of these endeavors are of fundamental importance in attempting to explore the ancient past.

It is commonly assumed that the Post-Flood world was roughly the same as the Pre-Flood earth, and that the Flood - if it occurred at all - was a trivial event. Santesson, as well as many others, make statements like the following: "The biblical boundaries of the Garden of Eden are geographically impossible, as anyone can see by consulting an atlas and tracing them" (Santesson, 1970, p. 109).

The geography of the Pre-Flood world is too scantily described in Genesis for any attempt to reconstruct it to our satisfaction. Genesis 2 and 4 list all the geographical proper names we have: four rivers, five physical regions, and one city. British archaeologist Woolley thought he had solved the matter when he reported the discovery of an eight-foot layer of clay in Mesopotamia at Ur. Thus he reported that he had found Noah's Flood. His conjecture, since widely adopted, was that the clay bed was evidence of a local flood, and that ancient flood myths were based on this event.

If this is so, then we must take seriously such place names as Tigris, Euphrates, and Assyria as the same identities both before and after the Flood. Many scholars do indeed take this position. Since the Gihon river is identified with Cush or Ethiopia, the net result is somehow to have the Nile, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and possibly the Ganges all be part of one river system: the river that went out of Eden and parted into four heads, or rivers. All would agree that a nimble mind is required to draw such a conclusion.

Returning for a moment to the "clay" bed, there are two items of interest. First, artifacts were found below and above the layer, supporting the notion of a pre- and post-flood era of minor importance. George Mendenhall of the University of Michigan reports, however, that analysis of the famous layer showed that it was a wind-borne accumulation, and therefore could have had nothing to do with a flood. Further, the layer is not present even a short distance away. Thus Woolley's electrifying news release apparently amounts to nothing at all.

If the Flood was the devastating catastrophe described in Genesis, we can examine the place names of the Pre-Flood world in an entirely different context. We can then picture one land mass with an encircling sea, and low mountains, for the mighty mountain chains we know today sprang up during and after the Flood as the earth strived for equilibrium under the devastation which had come on the earth. After all, in Genesis 1:9 we read: "Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto ONE place, and let THE dry land appear."

Another important element must be noted. The earth experienced a stupendous transformation as a result of the Fall. Lamech, the father of Noah, spoke of the awful drudgery and toil of life on a cursed earth - a different kind of earth than the one we know today. In Genesis 5:29 we read: This same (Noah) shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which comes because of the ground which Jehovah has cursed." One of the purposes of the Flood was to bring a measure of relief from the bitter effects of the curse upon the earth. The Pre-Flood earth was truly a land of violence, of monsters and carnivores, of wretched and cursed ground (Whitcomb. 1965, 459-461). Similarly, Delitzsch states that the continents of the globe have undergone great changes since the creation. Changes in the geology of the earth must not all be attributed to the Flood. Many catastrophes may have occurred before and many after, like the catastrophe in which the Dead Sea originated, without being directly recorded in history (Victoria Institute, 25:110).

The original good world followed by the terribly cursed earth may have been swallowed up forever by tectonic plate movements, or buried under miles of sediments. Under this assumption, the Pre-Flood place names have no relationship at all with the same or similar Post-Flood place names. There are a great many examples of names in the Old Testament reappearing after long lapses of time which have no relationship to one another whatsoever.

There is certainly no conclusive evidence that names such as Hiddekel and Euphrates identify the same geographic locations before and after the Flood. New rivers could well have been named in a new world from names carried in the memory of the people (Whitcomb, 1965, p. 83).

Before we examine in some detail the geographical proper names of the Pre-Flood era, we will take brief note of several other words.
The word in Hebrew for earth in Genesis 1, Eretz, is plainly the original of the German word for earth, Erde, and our own English word, earth. The account of man being formed from the dust of the earth is revealed in the Aryan languages for man, Homo, for the Latin uses the same root as humus, or the ground. It is remarkable that the most ancient name of Babylon was Tin-tir-ki, which means "the place of the tree of life" (Victoria Institute, 3:252-253; 15:175).

Far from living at first in a primitive stage, the earliest men, according to Genesis 4-5, were sophisticated and skilled in many of the basic elements of civilization. We have names, ages, towns, agriculture, mining and metallurgy, and music. These imply the ability to write, count, build, farm, smelt, and compose by the immediate descendants of Adam (Whitcomb, 1965, p. 40-41).

Just as the New World is littered with Old World geographic names, brought over by settlers, it would not be at all surprising if place names from the Pre-Flood world were applied to entirely new places. If this is true, by far the most interesting of them all, as we shall see below, is the first city in the world, Enoch.

We shall now examine the Pre-Flood place names in the order in which they appear in Genesis.

EDEN, Gen. 2:8. Eden must not be confused with the Eden of Assyria in II Kings 19:12, nor the Eden mentioned in Amos 1:5. The word Eden means delight, and referred to a particular district, more precisely, a place hedged about. The Septuagint uses the word Paradise which again means a hedging round. Some authorities think the word Eden need not be thought of as a proper name. It could be a common noun meaning a plain or steppe, hence a flat area in which the garden was planted. The garden of Eden then means simply the "garden of delight." The scholarly and unscholarly energy consumed in attempting to tie Eden to present-day surface features of the earth is really enormous and really futile. Of course the Middle East receives the most attention, but no region in the world is safe from this kind of conjecture. It seems more reasonable to think of Eden buried miles below the earth or the sea almost anywhere in the world.

PISON or PISHON, Gen. 2:11. Pison is the first of the four rivers associated with the garden of Eden. Various meanings have been ascribed to the root of this word: current, to increase, multitude, to overflow, or that which makes the flax to grow. One or the other of these physical characteristics was used in naming the stream to distinguish it from its three companion rivers. A long succession of speculations has been offered to attempt to relate the Pison to existing streams, but none are convincing.

HAVILAH, Gen. 2:11. Havilah means circle or district, land, or sandy land. The river Pison circled this land. There is no agreement among authorities on its location. Havilah was noted in the Pre-Flood world for its gold, bdellium, and the onyx stone. We are not certain of the meaning of the latter two terms, and many possibilities have been offered. The name Havilah reappears in southern Arabia after the Flood, but there is no reason to associate it with the Pre-Flood land. Two descendants of Noah were named Havilah, and geographical regions were named after one or both of them.

GIHON, Gen. 2:13.  Gihon means a bursting forth, stream, or that which arises from the east. By implication it was a swiftly-flowing, impetuous stream. The name reappears long after the Flood for a fountain near Jerusalem where Solomon was taken to be anointed king (I Kings 1:33). Efforts to identify the river Gihon with existing streams have been futile, despite the fact that it circled the land of "Ethiopia," discussed below.

CUSH, Gen. 2:13. The meaning of Cush is uncertain. It may mean black. The word is often identified with Ethiopia and in some translations such as the King James it is given that way. There were, however, one or more regions in Asia called Cush. Ancient tablets mention Cush in Cappadocia in Asia Minor. The Taurus range of mountains includes the land of Kusu or Kush (Victoria Institute, 17:242). The eldest son of Ham was named Cush, and in Psalm 7 another man has this name. There is no need, then, to relate the Pre-Flood region of Cush with the Cush after the Flood. The river Gihon which circled the land of Cush does not refer to any present geographical location.

HIDDEKEL, Gen. 2:14. This name offers an illuminating lesson in ancient spelling among the ancient Middle East nations. The prefix Hid-, often dropped, means activity, rapidity, vehemence. Hence the word means the rapid Tigris. The consonants D-K-L in Hiddekel are the same as the T-G-R of Tigris. Among the various nations this river was the Digla, Diglat, Teger, Tegera, Dekel, Diglath, Diglit. The name now in use among the inhabitants of Mesopotamia is Dijleh. It is easy to see that all these variants come from the same root consonants.

Since the root of the word, Dekel, by itself also means velocity, the prefix with the same meaning adds emphasis in the same way as we would use "very." Hiddekel means to be sharp, hence to flow swiftly, arrow. The name was applied to the stream which fit the description before the Flood. After the Flood the name was applied to the stream we know today, but there is no geographical relationship between the two. In Genesis this stream is described as flowing eastward to Assyria.

ASSYRIA, Gen. 2:14. It is tempting to identify the Tigris flowing eastward to Assyria as the same place names we now know in Mesopotamia. Most commentators do just that. This conclusion, however, simply does not follow. Long after the Flood event we find that Asshur, the second son of Shem, is the source of the name of both the land and the people of Assyria. If this is not sufficient, one can hardly argue that the river Tigris flows eastward to Assyria. The general flow of the river is from north to south. The root meaning of the word is obscure, but it may be associated with the boxwood, and hence refers to a region noted for a certain kind of vegetation associated with a stream. Analogies would be Pine River or Willow Creek today.

EUPHRATES, Gen. 2:14. In Post-Flood times, the Euyphrates was generally known as "the river," "the river of Asia," or "the great river," in sharp contrast to the many short-lived and less important streams known to the ancients. Euphrates is the Greek form of the Hebrew Phrath or Perath. We note again the durability of the basic consonant structure. The PH-R-T in Euphrates is also P-R-T or P-R-TH, also F-R-T as in Ufrutu or Frat. Among the meanings ascribed to the root are sweet waters, long river, fruitful, good to cross over, dispersion, flower, or the good and abounding river. By implication, it was the mightiest of the four. It follows reasonably that the largest, longest, and most important river in Western Asia after the Flood would be named Euphrates. No geographical connection with "the river" before the Flood need be inferred.

Gordon suggests that the word "para," meaning "river," as in the word Euphrates, was carried around the world in very ancient times. He notes, for example, the large number of "para" words in South America associated with rivers: Para, Paraiba, Parana, Paranaiba, Paranapanema, Paragua, Paraguai, and others. Additional "para" words are used in the same way in India, USSR, and other countries (Gordon, 1971, p. 129-131, 203).

NOD, Gen. 4:16. If we could do the impossible and locate Eden, the land of Nod lies to the east of it. The word Nod appears only once in the Old Testament, and there is no reason to consider it a proper noun. It simply means a land of flight, wandering, and banishment, a land of exile, in contrast to Eden, the garden of delight.

ENOCH, Gen. 4:17. Enoch means initiation or consecration, and we can assume that Cain considered the birth of his son as a pledge of the renovation of his life. The city of Enoch, named after his son, is under consideration here as the first city in the world, and the name Enoch, as we shall see, became the word in Post-Flood times to designate a city.

We can assume that other cities were built as time went on. It is interesting to note that in the Sumerian library of 60,000 tablets found at Nippur in the Mesopotamian valley, the oldest Flood account identifies five Pre-Flood cities: Eridu, Badftibira, Larak, Sitpar, and Shuruppak. Noah (Ziusudra) lived in the latter one (von Daniken, 1969, p. 62).

Albright illustrates the phonetic changes which took place in very ancient names like Uruk (the biblical Erech). Without detailing such changes, we observe various transformations of the same word: Unu(g), uru became the ordinary word for city; Ur is URI; UNU(G)ki or URU; UNUki (Albright, 1966, p. 30).

Custance takes this matter a very interesting step farther. The idea of "city" is non-Indo-European. Neither they nor the Semites had a word for city, so the word was borrowed, e.g., as in the word borough. The older form is burg derived from Berg as reflected in the Greek Purgos. The root Perg can be traced to the more ancient form of Uruk, and its alternative form Unuk. Curiously this is the only ancient city name which does not have a determinitive sign preceding the name, that is, a sign to indicate that a city is meant and not some other meaning of the same word. Everybody knew the name of the first city which was carried into Post-Flood times, i.e., Enoch. It is not a little startling then to realize that the city of Pittsburgh commemorates not only William Pitt, but also Enoch, the first city ever erected. Pittburgh can be thought of as Pitts-Enoch (Custance, 1960, p. 25-26).

Only 27 persons are named in the Pre-Flood world, even though reasonable estimates of the total population of the world just before the Flood run into many millions.

Not including Adam and Eve, and Abel, whose life was taken by Cain, twelve persons are identified in the line of Cain, and twelve in the line of Seth. It is interesting to observe that each line concludes before the Flood with the names of three important sons. The line of Cain ends with Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-cain, to whom are attributed essential elements of our culture typified by tents and cattle, music, and metallurgy. The line of Seth ends with Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the ancestors of all the Post-Flood peoples of the earth. We again observe a genealogy ending with three sons in Genesis 11:26, "And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran."

The symmetrical form of the genealogies of Seth and Shem in Genesis 5 and 11 has caught many a curious eye. Each outlines precisely ten generations. The word "begat" may properly be used in an ancestral sense. This fact allows for the existence of undetermined but relatively modest gaps in the patriarchal genealogies. This conclusion is supported by the omission of Cainan in the Hebrew text, Genesis 5, but his inclusion in the Septuagint version, as noted in Luke 3:36. Additional evidence supporting the possibility of gaps in the chronology is the organization of the genealogy in Matthew 1 into three groups of 14 names each, but with known omissions. Many authorities agree that the purpose of the genealogies was not a strict chronology, but rather that the lists were grouped symmetrically as an aid to memory (Whitcomb, 1965, p. 475-483).

The line of Adam and Cain comprises eight generations, while that of Adam and Seth is ten generations. Shem, Ham, and Japheth, though they are named before the Flood, are not included in the ten generations. They serve as the bridge between the Pre-Flood and Post-Flood world.

How was symmetry achieved for the two Pre-Flood genealogies, when one consisted of eight generations and the other of ten? We have already noted that each list, not including Adam, consisted of twelve names. Each genealogy ends with the names of three sons, but the three sons of Noah are not included in the Pre-Flood generations. The line of Cain includes the names of the two wives of Lamech, Adah and Zillah. The twelfth name in the line of Cain is the sister, Naamah, of Tubal-cain. No women are identified in the generations from Seth to Noah.

It is a curious fact, as noted in the Cambridge Commentary (1973), that Sumerian tradition preserved two lists of "kings" who reigned before the Flood, one of them with eight names as does this family tree of Cain, and the other ten names, as does the family tree of Adam to Noah (Davidson, 1973, p. 54-55). While it is popular in scholarly circles to hold that the Sumerian myth is the original from which the Biblical account was derived many centuries later, it is even more reasonable to hold that the Sumerian account is an echo of the Biblical version. Why not?

Regarding the ten generations from Adam to Noah, it is also curious how the number ten prevails independently of the Bible concerning the first generations of men. In addition to the Bible and the Sumerian record, the Iranians wrote of the ten kings of ancient times who preserved the purity of the Laws. The Hindus spoke of ten fathers, the children of Brahma. In the sagas of the Germans and Scandinavians ten ancestors of Odin are mentioned. Among the Chinese there were ten emperors before the dawn of history. The Arabs spoke of ten fabled kings who lived between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Berossus, the Babylonian historian, who lived about 300 B.C., copied old inscriptions which told of ten kings who lived before the Flood and who reigned 432,000 years (Custance, 1957. p. 29-33).

This huge number deserves some comment. The total has often been used to demonstrate the mythical nature of the story and to emphasize the fact that such accounts have no connection with true history. The original reads 120 saros. The sari was a Babylonian measure which could mean 3600 of anything.

It is a natural conclusion that in this context one thinks in terms of years, and indeed 120 x 3600 equals 432,000 years. It is seldom noted, however, that the sari also has a meaning of 18 1/2 years, which results in an entirely different conclusion. Suidas, a Greek lexicographer of the 12th century A.D. is quoted as saying that the sari among the Chaldeans is 222 lunar months, that is, 18 years and six months, and that the Chaldean year on which the sari is based consisted of twelve months of thirty days each, or 360 days. If we take the more logical figure of 18 1/2 years, we secure a total length of time for the ten kings of 2220 years. This figure compares astonishingly well with the Vatican Septuagint total of 2242 years for the ten Pre-Flood patriarchs, and places the Sumerian myth into an entirely new light (Custance, 1957, p. 29-33). Gordon observes that many preposterous myths have turned out to be correct, but most academicians cannot be tempted to jeopardize their reputations and their security as crusaders in the cause of truth (Gordon, 1971, p. 79).

A word should be said about the longevity of the ancients. The record in the Old Testament indicates a degenerative process until the present norm of 70 years was stated in the Psalms. Apart from the Bible, we find other literature which refers to the longer life span in ancient times. In the sacred Hindu books, for example, it was taught that in the first ages man lived 400 years, later 300 years, then 200 years. In the fourth and last age the life span decreased to 100 years. It is also on record that a Chinese emperor proposed an inquiry on why the ancients lived so much longer than at his time (Custance, 1957, p. 28-29).

The above discussion shows how much we can learn of ancient times by examining the names which have come down to us in the book of Genesis. More study, if this is possible, should be made of the Pre-Flood names, since great significance was often attached to the meaning of names given in the Bible.

The Ebla tablets have considerable potential in furnishing insights into the root meanings of otherwise obscure Semitic words. In addition to the names, we see that genealogies, symmetries, life spans, parallel accounts In ancient literature all combine to offer tantalizing glimpses into the world before the Flood.

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