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BibleProject Podcast
BibleProject Podcast
Ancient Cosmology • Episode 5
Rivers Flowing Upward
46m • June 14, 2021

What does it mean that the biblical authors expected the return of Eden? The prophets anticipated waters of life from God would do miraculous things like restore the barren Dead Sea region to its former lush state and unite all humanity. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they follow the waters of life from Genesis 1-2 throughout time, in anticipation of the coming Day of the Lord.

What You'll Learn:
  • How the biblical authors understood the concept of "heaven" or "new creation"
  • How to recognize the design patterns of de-creation and re-creation throughout the Bible
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[Isaiah’s talking about] the mountain of the house of Yahweh. The mountain is Jerusalem and the house is the new temple. The new Jerusalem, the establishment of the new temple, will be the head of all mountains. … It’s very clearly not the tallest mountain, so the idea is it will be elevated in cosmic significance. Now if you have water and a hillside, obviously water’s going to flow where gravity pulls it. But here gravity will be reversed, and there will be streams going up to the new temple in the new Jerusalem. But what are the streams? They are the nations. The nations will stream into it. It’s this wonderful depiction of a reverse Eden. Instead of one river going out and splitting and becoming many, the many rivers that are humanity––humans are rivers in this metaphor, divided rivers––will all become one and return to the new Eden.


  • After the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, springs and wells represent the blessings of Eden throughout the Hebrew Bible.
  • The biblical authors expected the re-creation of Eden on earth––that God and humans of all nations would one day dwell again in unity in gardens of beauty and flourishing.
  • Joel and Zechariah prophesied the Day of the Lord, when humanity will be plunged back into the Genesis 1, pre-creation condition of chaos and darkness, all in preparation for God’s coming Eden-renewal of the cosmos.

A Little Taste of Eden

In part one (0-11:15), Tim and Jon recap previous episodes in our Ancient Cosmology series and discuss God’s transformation of the chaos waters in Genesis 1-2 into waters full of the potential for life.

After the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, springs and wells represent the blessings of Eden throughout the Hebrew Bible. Exodus 15 exemplifies this theme. God has just led the Israelites to victory over Pharaoh by parting the Red Sea. Exodus 15 opens with a song praising Yahweh for his deliverance through the waters and ends with the children of Israel complaining of their lack of water in the desert.

Exodus 15:23-25
When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. And he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet.

God transforms the bitter waters of the wilderness into sweet, drinkable waters––a little taste of Eden.

Waters of Life

In part two (11:15-28:30), the team explores how the waters of Eden can transform even places of exile and hardship into places of Edenic beauty.

Genesis 2:10-14 names four rivers that flow from Eden. (This section of verses represents an important detail when it comes to how to read the Bible: places in the Bible aren’t just listed to make an archive; they catalog meaning.)

The theme of Eden then progresses through the biblical narrative. Waters flow out of Eden to bless the earth. Similarly, God sends Israel into the Promised Land, described as a new Eden, and commands them to be a blessing to all nations. Solomon is a new Adam in the “garden” of Jerusalem, requesting divine wisdom to discern between good and evil. His downfall leads the nation on an inevitable trajectory back to exile in Babylon, just as humanity was first exiled from the garden. Still, the biblical authors continued to expect the re-creation of Eden.

Isaiah 2:2
Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.

Here Isaiah depicts a reverse Eden. Instead of one river (Abraham’s family) flowing out from Eden to bless the nations, many divided rivers (the nations) will become one as they defy gravity to flow back into the cosmic mountain, Eden.

Gardens in the Wasteland

In part three (28:30-35:45), Tim and Jon discuss God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. This pair of towns was once called the “Garden of God” (Genesis 13:10) but is now the location of the Dead Sea, a region so dry and heavily laced with salt that almost nothing grows.

Interestingly, recent research indicates a meteor probably struck this region, “not only wiping out 100% of the Middle Bronze Age cities and towns, but also stripping agricultural soils from once-fertile fields” (cited in “New Science Suggests Biblical City of Sodom Was Smote by an Exploding Meteor,” Forbes).

God spared Abraham’s family from this destruction, his divine judgment of Sodom for its injustice to the poor (Ezekiel 16:49-50).

In Ezekiel’s visions, the divine life of the coming Eden will heal the waters of the Dead Sea and restore even this region that has been barren for millennia.

The Day of the Lord

In part four (35:45-end), Tim and Jon examine the writings of two other prophets, Joel and Zechariah, for their take on the cosmic mountain garden.

Joel 3 and Zechariah 12-14 describe the Day of the Lord, when humanity will be plunged back into the Genesis 1, pre-creation condition of chaos and darkness. It is all in preparation for God’s coming Eden-renewal of the cosmos.

Zechariah 14:8a
And on that day waters of life will flow out of Jerusalem.

Referenced Resources

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • “Solar Cove” by Mama Aiuto
  • Chillhop Essential Summer 2021 EP
  • “Imagination” by Montell Fish

Show produced by Dan Gummel, Zack McKinley, and Cooper Peltz. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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Ancient Cosmology E1  –  35m
Genesis 1 and the Origins of the Universe
Ancient Cosmology E2  –  1hr 21m
Does the Bible Borrow From Other Creation Stories?
1hr 21m
Ancient Cosmology E3  –  1hr 8m
The Greatest Elohim
1hr 8m
Ancient Cosmology E4  –  41m
One Creation Story or Two?
Ancient Cosmology E5  –  46m
Rivers Flowing Upward
Feat. Dr. John Walton  –  1hr
Genesis 1-2: Origins or Identity?
Feat. Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass  –  1hr 11m
The Genealogical Adam and Eve
1hr 11m
Ancient Cosmology Q+R  –  59m
Timelines, Dinosaurs, and the Purpose of Creation
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