Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Return to Eden

The Lord will comfort Zion...and will make her wilderness like Eden.
--Isaiah 51:3

This is the first time that we hear of the Garden of Eden since Genesis chapter 4 (unless there is a reference to it in some roundabout way in the Rabshekah's speech in 2 Kings 17). What is it about the time under the kings that kept Israel from dreaming of Eden? What was it about Babylon that makes Israel remember Eden (Ezekiel also mentions Eden as does Joel, another post-Exilic prophet)? The rationalist might suggest that the whole idea of Eden didn't occur until Israel encountered the Babylonions and the Persians, and that the first books of Genesis therefore must have been edited later.

What if, on the other hand, this is only a partial truth? What if, in the spiritual life of Man, Eden is all too real, but to grasp the grandeur of Eden, the joy and splendor of our one common origin as in a place of peace and harmony, to grasp this requires being shaken out of out comfortable routines that we share with the people most like ourselves. The Exile must have been shocking to the Israelites, to see the Hanging Gardens and other wonders of the Empire, rich beyond imagining, yet worshipping pathetic idols. The prophets saw this and were able to reach back into a primeval memory of all peoples, living in the goodness of God's creation and worshipping God. Not only shall Zion be restored but will become, even in her wilderness, a restored Eden, the place where all peoples shall return to God, their Creator.

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