River of Living Water. The Profound Spiritual Meaning
A river that waters the ends of the known world flows out of Eden. Its significance is so much more than a description of the landscape.
A river of water flowed out of Eden and the Garden; it is a significant and essential element in this description of the first home of humankind. Rain is not sufficient. Here’s why a continual flow of living water is vital.
God has planted the magnificent Garden of Eden. In its midst were two trees, pleasant to the sight and good for food. We have seen that this scenario is not only the physical reality of Paradise but the spiritual path to either Eternal Life or Death. It is a resume of the entire plan of God.
When we add the ingredient of God allowing the Serpent into the Garden to tempt Eve, from such a plot, we could conclude God is devious, cruel, and masochistic. As some have surmised, God was bored and took pleasure in seeing His created beings in pain. We have already seen why hardship is necessary (1 Corinthians 3:13), but the very next verse reveals how to withstand this enmity. God does not leave His creation unprepared, having to face and fight evil unarmed.
And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
A quick read of this reveals a lushly watered garden, but it is far from the message of this verse. The Explanation can’t emphasize enough how much the literal represents the figurative. How the authors have included superlative meaning into this text. It is hidden, in the sense that God has saved it for those who have a desire to learn it (Matthew 11:25) and not for those who wish to remain blind.
Major cities of the world stride rivers. They add majesty and serenity as well as the practicality of transport, cleanliness, and water supply. Originating in and flowing from Eden, the river carries all those notions and much more. Here’s the meaning of the Biblical Hebrew.
נָהָר nâhâr naw-hawr’; from H5102 (נָהַר); a stream (including the sea; expectation the Nile, Euphrates, etc.); figuratively, prosperity:
KJV — flood, river.
נָהַר nâhar naw-har’; a primitive root; to sparkle, i.e. (figuratively) be cheerful; hence (from the sheen of a running stream) to flow, i.e. (figuratively) assemble:
KJV — flow (together), be lightened.
A river is a place of gathering, of assembling in cheerfulness and prosperity. Psalm 46, below, is prophetic. God has a city with a holy place, His headquarters, we’ll see its name, and this river shall contribute to the spiritual quality of gladness to the welfare of its inhabitants.
There is a river (H5104), the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of your house; and you shall make them drink of the river (H5104) of your pleasures.
A river must have a source. Generally, it’s the melting snow, rainy season, or underground aquifers. The source of the river flowing out of Eden is beyond the physical environment.
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake you shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.
The trees, not the river, drew Adam and Eve. Spiritually, our world today may live beside rivers and the sea, but the magnetic force of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil still attracts us. Humankind has forgotten the Source, the fountain of living waters, of what not only nourishes us but participates in our peace and prosperity.
Throughout the Bible, we find references to this river and its implications. The story of the stream of flowing water reveals the history of humankind and God’s continual presence to nourish His creation both physically and spiritually. It’s another book, here’s a snippet from Zechariah 14:8,9,11, “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 10. All the land shall be turned as a plain… 11. And men shall dwell in it…”
The source is from Jerusalem (hint, hint! as to the whereabouts of the Garden of Eden). The water goes out East to the Dead Sea and West to the Mediterranean Sea. Both of these Seas are in dire straits right now. The Mediterranean is among the most polluted Seas in the World, and the Dead Sea is drying up because of a cut-off water supply.
Humankind is physically wrecking the planet (the literal meaning) and spiritually destroying itself because it has turned its back on the river and its Source (the figurative meaning). But the Source has not forgotten its Creation and will heal the stupidity of humankind. Imagine North Africa, on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea and the deserted Dead Sea, turned into a populated plain with grazing animals and responsible farming. Living, regenerating water sourced at Jerusalem, watering the environs, all the way to the verdant Jordan Valley and the rich green coasts of North Africa and Southern Europe. Eden, in its splendor once again.
Together with air, water constitutes the principal ingredients for life. The Explanation elaborated on the physical necessity for water in chapter three of Inventory of the Universe: cleansing, transport, and nourishment; this requires both living and flowing water, fresh and vibrant, devoid of harmful chemicals, and replete with natural minerals and magnetic alignment. Flowing, because stagnant water has none of the three key qualifiers.
שָׁקָה shâqâh shaw-kaw’; a primitive root; to quaff, i.e. (causatively) to irrigate or furnish apotion to:
KJV — cause to (give, give to, let, make to) drink, drown, moisten, water. See H7937 (שָׁכַר), H8354(שָׁתָה).
The river and water are both literal and figurative, the fourth key to mastering Biblical Hebrew to Unlock Bible Meaning. Without grasping what water represents in the spiritual world, you cannot understand either the Bible or God’s Plan or the Source of this pure water.
Understand the complementarity of the next two couples of verses. The first is an Old Testament verse that most understand only literally. The second is a New Testament verse that indicates, without a doubt, the symbolic, spiritual nature of the OT verse.
Take the rod, and gather you the assembly together, you [Moses], and Aaron your brother, and speak you to the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and you shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so you shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
1 Corinthians 10:1–4
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
The Rock was Christ and the drink was spiritual. We’ll see what this spiritual drink is in the next couple of texts.
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink (H8248) to my people, my chosen.
37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.
38 He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
The spiritual drink is the Holy Spirit. The water that is provided by the Source, whether a Rock, Fountain or River, cleanses, transports, and nourishes. But, more importantly, it accomplishes these activities spiritually. It cleanses us of sin. It transports God’s neshama to us. It nourishes us with the strength to resist the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Genesis starts with a physical description of this watershed river that goes out to the known Bible geographical world. The ultimate book of the Bible, Revelation, ends with a return spiritual narrative of this river.
1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The water of LIFE (Eternal Life) issues directly from God’s throne (The Tabernacle, Jerusalem). God’s nourishing Spirit along with the life-giving fruit of the Tree of Life, also symbolizing God’s Spirit go worldwide to nourish all the nations. There’s no Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; it’s been eradicated. There’s the river watering the New Earth and the New Heavens.
The River in the Garden of Eden expresses the entire Plan of God
This article is an excerpt from chapter 3.3 of the book Origin of Humankind.
Go to UnlockBibleMeaning.com and look up Genesis 2:9. Switch to Strong’s Concordance and verify water (H8248). See the symbolic meaning of well-being issuing from God symbolized by water.
I have not developed the opposite theme directly related to water. You noted in the definition and KJV translations for H8248 the negative aspects of water. Drown reflects the 2nd key to mastering Biblical Hebrew — having opposing usages. God uses water to both bless and chastise. He chastises to awaken people to their frailty, to open their eyes to other possibilities, to lead them back into the Garden of Eden to be watered by the Garden’s river.
You can read all of the book Origin of Humankind online. Sam blogs weekly at TheExplanation.com The Explanation masters Biblical Hebrew to help you unlock more in-depth Bible meaning. Free tools to read and study the Bible online.