Setting Coordinates

From the series Breathing Life

“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of the land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel (Tigris): that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.” – Genesis 2:10-14

public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-high-quality-resolution-downloads-public-domain-archive-7Was that a wordy set of directions? Did you skim over it? It doesn’t mean much to me because I don’t know these places. They aren’t giving me a picture in my mind of the setting, but I love that aside Moses gives them. “…Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of the land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.” Like any wealth-loving humans, you know their ears perked up at that. (“Oh, yeah! That Havilah!”)

Maybe the river Pison doesn’t relate to you, but what if I told you about a Native American girl living in the 1800s?

“Talula and her tribe never explored the Grand Canyon to the west or went beyond the Mississippi River to the east. One year, her tribe migrated as far as South Dakota, so she may have been near Mount Rushmore — you know, where our four presidents are inscribed in stone today. When she and her Chahta family returned south, they settled in the marshlands near the Gulf of Mexico.”

Now that I’ve given you U.S.-savvy readers some boundaries, is it easier to map it out in your mind’s eye? This is what Moses was doing. He was using current-day names and locations so the children of Israel would know the general area where the first man and woman lived. It wasn’t some legendary Atlantis.

Eden was a land in the Israelites’ memory, as well. We call it the Garden of Eden because that’s how Moses described where it was to the people; it was in the land of Eden. But it was just a garden on earth for Adam and Eve. It was only when they and their descendants began to walk the earth that places started getting named. And don’t we humans love to name things after ourselves? (Because of this, Oregon residents are probably still getting flack about that town, Boring.)

Recap: When setting your setting, remember readers need coordinates that are relevant to their interests.

Naming gets serious next time.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.

Author: Rilla Z

I'm a scribbler. I'm genuine. My topics of interest are: this world, the worlds inside my head, and the world to come. Oh, and cups of tea. Yes, I write about my cups of tea.

11 thoughts on “Setting Coordinates”

  1. School used to feel that assisting students in improving their memories was of great importance. Kids memorized poems, artists and their paintings and quotes as well as math facts. All those memories in adulthood enriched and were springboards of ideas and life. (Travel and exploring new lands was also considered vital for an educated person as it created images that would connect to things in the future).
    Animals and birds build memory for migration and survival.
    You are right. We should be trying to help kids gain the skill. That way lessons and books read mean more if you’ve seen the places for real
    (Although the Plains Indians who traveled from Mexico to Canada, rarely “settled” in marsh lands along the Gulf /other Coastal regions as those do not offer what was necessary for their lifestyle and culture. Besides, the cannibals and some rather aggressive tribes who claimed those lands. But they certainly did travel to meet other tribes to trade goods – one local place is nearby on the bay…so your memory topic is quite on point there.)


    1. Memorization isn’t as vital when information is at your fingertips, which is the reality today. I think like you, though: kids need to exercise their concentration by memorization activities. Classical Conversations uses music as a memorization method. (I’m not sold on classical conversations, but I think tapping into the memory through music is super important.)

      I tend to store info about things when I’m writing that I don’t end up using. Trivia about the Chahta tribe was one of those. Trivial, but it works in an example. 😁

      Thanks, Phil!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. With the world and life going at warp speed these days we need all the memory – both digital and grey matter – we can get!
        It seems memory development is what motivates many parents to have their kids take piano/violin/music lessons as well as joining chess clubs.
        Music, so mathematical and pattern driven , maybe be vitally important.
        Trivia always finds a use – no waste of time with that…especially for a writer.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So true about the pace of our world. And it’s fascinating how music creates a door to memory when other doors are closed. The aged can lose their ability to converse, but start singing a song they know and they will sing it with you!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The landmarks named by Moses make it possible to tentatively place the approximate location of the Garden even today.

    The river splitting into four heads is probably looking at them as you go upstream; rivers do not normally split (aside from the occasional narrow island) as they go downstream. Water seeks its lowest level– gravity, y’know. (Pre-Flood the laws of physics might have been radically different of course, but the simpler explanation would be that the river through the Garden splits as you go upstream.) Also, the Tigris is described as going “toward” Assyria instead of coming “from” it. That also suggests he was talking about it from an as-you-go-upstream perspective.

    The Tigris and Euphrates still join together not far from the Persian Gulf to form a short river named the Shatt al-Arab (or “Arab River”), which today forms part of the boundary between Iraq and Iran.

    The Pishon most likely is the Wadi al-Rummah, a (now) dry riverbed that starts in the Hijaz Mountains (where gold is still commercially mined) in Saudi Arabia and cuts northeast towards Kuwait, not far from the Shatt al-Arab. It would have been a major river before Saudi Arabia desertified.

    The Gihon is harder to place. The reference to “Ethiopia” is probably not right– the Hebrew says “Cush” there, which *usually* means Ethiopia, but there was more than one Cush. My guess is that it’s what’s today known as Khuzestan, a province in Iran that borders the Shatt al-Arab. The Gihon, then, would likely be the Karun River, a fairly major river which empties into the Shatt al-Arab.

    So there you go, the Garden was probably somewhere along the Shatt al-Arab.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it could have been! This is one of those instances where I don’t feel certain enough to attempt a guess. The Euphrates River changed course. Isaiah prophesied the land of Babylon would be covered in pools of water (14:23) and wild animals would live there (13:21). It was once a fertile place that changed drastically when the course of the river changed. Could this have impacted the area called the garden of Eden in Moses’ time? I think it’s possible.

      I love seeing how you’ve mapped this out! Great stuff! Thanks!


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