I discovered something fun today while translating my Hebrew – the meaning of Eden. Like many proper names, Eden has a meaning… and that meaning is joy, rapture, or even ecstasy. If you look at Genesis 2:8, it can be translated “And YHWH God planted a garden in Eden (meaning: joy, rapture) in/out of the east and he put there the man which he formed.”
I asked my professor whether this could possibly be translated simply as “planted a garden in joy” and he said that it was clear from Genesis 2-3 that Eden is used as a proper name. However, names are significant in Hebrew, and it is clear that the name itself is derived from joy, rapture, luxury and pleasure. This name, Dr. Stone said, “captures the essence of this garden.”
I am continually amazed by what I discover in my translations and study. It is an amazing thing that God created humanity and then immediately created a garden named Eden (joy) as a place for Adam to live. To me, this makes the creation story even more personal and moving. It is sometimes too easy to see God as a distant Creator, one who makes something and then calmly declares it good. But I think this passage – once we know the meaning of Eden as joy – makes the Creator more personal. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is the passage that begins using Yahweh (the proper name of God) rather than the more distant Elohim. We use someone’s name when we’re in relationship, and it seems that this passage is starting to introduce Yahweh and show the relationship with his created people. This passage begins to show the reader the joy that God found in creating and breathing life into humanity, and how he desires everything good for us to the point of creating a garden named joy. It almost feels like God was so excited about the person he had created that he desired to make a special home for him.
One could go negative with this and think of how humanity then ruined the garden through sin… but ultimately the Bible says that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth for redeemed humanity to live in.
I wonder if it will be named joy.