Outside Eden: The Bdellium

Commiphora africana (2)Read Genesis Chapters 1 and 2.

On Creation Day 6 God planted a garden in the east in Eden (Genesis 2: 8-9).  Most scholars believe that the location of Eden “in the east” is in reference to Israel, where Genesis was probably written. In the ancient Hebrew language, Eden means “delight.”  The Garden of Eden was a place of pristine and abundant natural beauty.  All manner of plants were present. A river ran through Eden to water the garden. The Bible did not give the river a name.  After leaving Eden, the river formed the headwaters of four rivers: the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates.  It’s tempting to conclude that Eden was located near present day Iraq because rivers named Tigris and Euphrates are located in Iraq; however, these Iraqi rivers are probably not the original rivers named in Genesis.  The devastating flood of Noah’s time destroyed and changed the topography of the land.  Later peoples probably named the present day rivers Tigris and Euphrates in the same manner that early American colonists named American locations after sites in Europe, e.g., Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The Bible described the Pishon River as winding through the land of Havilah, noted for its gold and aromatic resin.  The aromatic resin was bdellium, the first plant named in the Bible.

What is a bdellium?

Bdellium’s genus and species names are Commiphora africana. The generic name ‘Commiphora’ is based on the Greek words ‘kommi’ (gum) and ‘phero’ (to bear).  The bdellium is a deciduous tree indigenous to sub-Saharan African.  In 2012, bdellium did not appear in Israeli plant data bases.  Bdellium grows best in red or sandy clay and rocky ground to include from escarpments.  It leafs before or at the beginning of the wet season and loses leaves as the dry season begins.  If rainfall is sparse and interrupted, two crops of leaves may be produced.  Underground roots spread many feet around the tree in search of water. The bark is pleasantly scented and exudes a clear gum or resin.  Nomadic peoples use the bdellium tree for several purposes.  Roots of young plants have a sweet taste and are chewed.  Timber is used for stools, milk containers, spoons and on occasion for building houses. Bark is brewed for red tea.  Soft gum is eaten while hard gum is used to make arrows.  Fruit is chewed to prevent gum disease and stop toothaches.   In ancient Egypt women carried small pouches filled with bdellium pieces as a source of perfume.

Bdellium Symbolism

The Hebrew word for bdellium is bedôlach, derived from the word’s primary root, bâdal which means to separate, divide or distinguish from. The symbolism of the bdellium plant in the creation story mirrored the separation or differentiation of the Biblical Garden of Eden from the lands outside.  The Biblical Eden included beautiful plants and plants available for man to eat; it was all sufficient.  In contrast, the land of Havilah was noteworthy only for its gold and one aromatic resin-producing plant, bdellium.  None of the lands outside of Eden were described as attractive, lush, or food producing.

Living inside of Christ is like living in Eden.  With Christ our lives are beautiful, fertile and satisfying.  When we are outside of Eden — separated from Christ – our lives are bland, unproductive and we are left hungering for something that is not there.  That something is Christ. Sometimes I feel like I am simply smelling the aromatic bdellium in Havilah, rather than living in Eden.   I worry that I am separated from Christ; that I am not spending enough time with him or the right kind of time with him.

At those times I am reassured by Romans 8:35 where Paul asked the question, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ. Will trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  The answer Paul provided is as relevant today as it was to the Romans 2000 year ago.  Paul’s answer was, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:38-39).

Reflection: Nothing can stop God from loving us. What stops us from loving God. Remember is we love God, we obey him.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 8, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Outside Eden: The Bdellium

  1. Love to find bdellium,try! Anyone know cheap place get it.

  2. I found your article while googling “bdellium”, my very first encounter with this unusual word, mainly because of its spelling and also it is associated with gold and onyx. When I read how the nomadic people found so many uses for this tree…it reminded instantly of the similiarity of how the bison is to the native people of Canada.

    So I was beg to differ that God in his great mercy and provision, even outside of Eden, created the bdellium. I would love to see this tree and sit in its shade!

    Btw, do people still use the bdellium as the normads?

  3. What I find interesting about all of this is that in the Book of Numbers Chapter 11: 7-9, describes manna, the food from God and the two descriptions used were “coriander seed” and “bdellium”. How do you reconcile the two?

    • Derrick, I had the same question when I wrote about manna. Here is what I think: The manna was brownish colored similar to the middle east coriander seed. My friend in Kibbutz Ketura says they have brown coriander seeds; although ours here in the US is white. It looked like bdellium in that it had a shimmering or reflective appearance versus a flat color appearance. Think of paint and the difference between a flat versus a satin white finish. If you have other insights or have heard of any, please let me know. Blessings, Carolyn

  4. Thank you. But I have a question… Is bdellium. Also means Pearl? Just to know…

    • Oliver, In all my reading, I never found that bdellium means pearl. Having said that, the fruit of the bdellium tree resembles a pearl. If you find anything different, please let me know. Carolyn

  5. Thank you for the ease in which you enlightened me. The Word of God truly is inspirational and you seem to have grasped it well.

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