A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Ge 2:10-14)
And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. (Ex 28:6)
I mentioned in a previous post about the link between the symbolism in the four-coloured threads of the high priest's garments, and the four rivers that flowed out of Eden. This was because I saw in the four colours four aspects of God's eternal plan to reach the whole world.
The gold, the colour of the presence, represents the glory of God and God's purpose to fill the whole earth with the knowledge of his glory.
The blue, the colour of heaven, holiness, and the revealed word of God. It is God's intention that his voice go out to every nation, and that we follow his revealed purpose to bring the realities of heaven into being on the earth.
The purple, the royal colour is the colour of the kingdom, and God's intention that his righteous kingdom order be extended to the whole earth as men and women in his image establish his rule on his behalf.
The crimson, the colour of shed blood, that represents the covenant - and ultimately the gospel revealed in the New Covenant in Christ's blood. A message of good news that must be taken to every people, tribe and tongue.
Clearly there is a link with the symbolism of the waters of Eden dividing into four to reach the four corners of the world. But I wondered if there was a closer correlation between the four rivers and the four threads, or more specifically the motifs behind them: glory, revelation, kingdom and covenant.
The first link is easy to make: the Pishon is described in terms of the gold that it flows through.
The others are not so easy, but these are the connection that I made...
The Gihon is described in terms of flowing around the whole land. As taking the land is a frequent parallel in the Old Testament with extending the Kindom, this would link it with the purple thread.
Tigris means "Rushing waters" - as the voice of God is described in terms of the roar of many waters, this would link it with the blue thread.
Euphrates means either "Fruitful" or "Carrying forward". It's not unreasonable to link this with the covenant purpose of God in the gospel that is carried forward to produce a fruitful harvest from among men.
Of course, all of this is purely academic unless the Scriptures themselves associate these rivers with these motifs elsewhere. So what are the associations linked with these rivers when they are next used in Scripture?
Is Gihon linked with Kingdom?
King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ (1Ki 1:32-34)
Is the Tigris linked with revelation?
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris)... (Dan 10:1-4)
And is the Euphrates linked with the covenant purpose of God?
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates (Ge 15:18)
Just coincidence, or a helpful framework for unpacking some of the symbolic significance in the Scriptures? I'll let you decide.