Eden's Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a Fig Tree and the Tree of Life was a Date Palm? 

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

22 June 2008 (Revisions through 12 July 2014)

Many Christians understand that the fruit Eve ate of from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was an apple. Where does this notion come from?

Ashton and Whyte (2001) on how the apple became the "forbidden fruit":

"How did the "forbidden fruit" come to be identified as an apple? Part of the solution must lie in the fact that by the Middle Ages the word pomum which in classical Latin simply meant any fruit from a tree, had come to bear the specific sense of an apple (hence French pomme, Italian pomo -pomo vietato being the Italian for what is called in English the "forbidden fruit"). But the word malum, which can only mean apple, was also used as early as the ninth century, by Caroliginan poets, to refer to the fruit of the forbidden tree. One of these poets (Audrad, a bishop) says that it was with an apple that the serpent tempted Eve; and another (Milo, a monk and protoege of Charlemagne) writes in praise of Mary, the mother of Jesus, that having made reparation for Eve's sin in plucking the apple she reopened the gates of paradise."

(p. 110. "The Bad Apple." John Ashton & Tom Whyte. The Quest For Paradise: Visions of Heaven and 
Eternity in the World's Myths and Religions. San Francisco, California. Harper Collins Publishers. 2001)

The Latin root word mal-, male-, mali-, has different meanings: bad, badly, harsh, wrong; ill; evil; abnormal, defective. 

Perhaps via a word punning malum (apple) came to be associated with the Latin root for "evil" (mal-, male-, mali-) in allusion to the "evil" consequences befalling mankind as a result of eating of this fruit?

The Bible suggests for some commentators that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil may have been a Fig Tree. The "clue" for them is the Bible's statement that _after_ eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Adam and Eve realize that they are naked and thereupon sew together aprons or loincloths made of fig leaves to cover their nakedness:

Genesis 3:6-7 

"When the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable as a source of wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked; and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves loincloths."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadephia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of the Creation: 5748)

Some scholars have suggested that the Tree of Life might be the Date Palm. The biblical clues are found in Genesis, 1 Kings and Ezekiel. Genesis has God stationing Cherubim to deny man access to the Tree of Life and 1 Kings describes the walls and doors of the Temple built by King Solomon at Jerusalem as decorated with images of cherubim and palms. As a "fruit" is denied man from the Tree of Life and the way to this tree is guarded by Cherubim  the palms (palm trees) accompanied by Cherubs in Solomon's Temple are understood to be a Date Palms:

Genesis 3:23-24

"So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden...and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadephia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of the Creation: 5748)

Note: a calyx is the outermost envelope of a flower, the sepals.

1 Kings 6:29-32

"All over the walls of the House, of both the inner area and the outer area, he carved reliefs of cherubim, palms, and calyxes...The double doors were of olive wood, and on them he carved reliefs of cherubim, palms and calyxes. He overlaid them with gold, hammering the gold onto the cherubim and the palms."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadephia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of the Creation: 5748)

The prophet Ezekiel apparently understood that the "palms" mentioned in 2 Kings were "palm trees":

Ezekiel 41:17-20

"And all over the wall, both in the inner one and in the outer ran a pattern. It consisted of cherubs and palm trees, with a palm tree between every two cherubs. Each cherub had two faces: a human face turned toward the palm tree on one side and a lion's face turned toward the palm tree on the other side. This was repeated all over the Temple; the cherubs and the palm trees were carved on the wall from the floor to above the openings."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadephia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of the Creation: 5748)

The Bible suggests that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life exist in a garden in a location called Eden created by God who then places man within this location to care for it.

Some scholars have suggested that Hebrew `eden is recalling the Sumerian word edin. Edin means "back" as in a person's back and by anology refers to the "uncultivated land" backing, abutting and surrounding the gods' city-gardens and fields in ancient Sumer in Lower Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). That is to say, some scholars have suggested that Hebrew `eden meaning "delight" or place "well-watered," came to be misidentified with the Sumerian edin via either assonance, or a homophone or homonym mis-association (words that sound similar but have different meanings). Please click here for more details on edin being morphed into Hebrew `eden.

The Mesopotamians (Sumerians) understood that in the beginning the gods lived on the earth and had created city-gardens possessing fruit-trees to provide noursihment for themselves in the midst of the "uncultivated plain" (Sumerian: edin). Tiring of this work they later decide to create man to care for their city-gardens surrounded by the uncultivated edin. Man will provide the gods with life's necessities: food, clothing and shelter so that gods may be at ease for all of eternity (the equivalent of an eternal Sabbath Rest from earthly toil).

The Mesopotamian city-gardens had both date palms and fig trees, the two trees appearing in the Garden of Eden according to some scholars (cf. above). The towering Date Palm provided life-giving shade to the smaller Fig Tree. If the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is indeed the Fig Tree and the Tree of LIfe is the Date Palm, I find it remarkable that these two trees existed in close proximity to each other in the gods' city-gardens of edin.

Crawford on ancient Sumer's GARDENS possessing DATE-PALMS, FRUIT-TREES and VEGETABLES (emphasis mine):

"So far we have been considering the relationships of settlements to the landscape and to each other, but each of these settlements was supported by its own agricultural hinterland, irrigated by canals, which separated it from its neighbours and provided the vital foodstuffs and fuel on which its survival depended. The utilised land can be divided into three categories: the intensively cultivated GARDENS, which often lay within the boundaries of the settlement on the banks of the water courses; the irrigated fields lying in a band parallel to the waterways and producing the bulk of the staple crops; and the land further from the water supply which was used as grazing, for collecting fuel, for hunting, and occasionally for catch crops when conditions were favorable...The most important crop produced by the GARDEN plots south of the Hit-Samarra line in the third millennium was almost certainly dates, although the archaeological and textual evidence for the production of dates at this time is surprisingly flimsy. Date stones are reported in late Ubaid context at Eridu (Wright 1981:324)...More date stones were found in the grave of the lady Puabi in the Royal Cemetery at Ur...There are also reports of the import of special sorts of date from Dilmun...The date palm is ideally suited to the conditions in south Mesopotamia: it flourishes with its roots in stagnant, salty water and...can be relied on to produce heavy crops south of the 35th parallel. As far north as Qurna it is not even necessary to irrigate because of the backup from the tidal regime on the head of the Gulf. The trees not only produce a highly nutritious food which is a staple part of the diet, but the sap provides a useful sweetner and can also be used to make a sort of fermented date wine...Just as important to the farmer was THE SHADOW CAST BY THE DATE PALM. This ALLOWED allowed more tender plants, such as FRUIT TREES, pomegranates, FIGS, APPLES and even vines, TO GROW IN ITS SHADE. In the deeper shade below the fruit trees were the GARDEN plots, which produced vegetables such as onions, garlic and cucumbers...These plots required much labour, but were amazingly productive. The irrigated arable land, much of it owned by the great public households of the temple and the palace, formed by far the most important category of land in terms of both area and productivity." 

(pp. 52-54. "Patterns of settlement and agriculture.Harriet Crawford. Sumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge, United Kingdom. Cambridge University Press. 1991, 2004)

Kramer on "shade-tree planting" practiced by the Sumerians (Emphasis mine):

"Not only cereal farms but also vegetable gardens and FRUIT GROVES were sources of Sumer's economic wealth. One of the more significant horticultural techniques practiced in Sumer from earliest days was shade-tree gardening -that is, the planting of broad shade trees to protect the garden plants from sun and wind. This we learn from a Sumerian poem that is presented in Chapter 12." 

(p. 69. "The First Farmer's Almanac." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer, Twenty-seven "Firsts" in Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. 1959. First printed in 1956 by The Falcon's Wing Press)

Note: Genesis does not identify what tree was the "Tree of Knowledge" or what tree was the "Tree of Life." Some scholars have suggested that as Adam and Eve are portrayed covering their nakedness with FIG LEAVES (Genesis 3:7) after eating of the "Tree of Knowledge" that perhaps it is the FIG TREE. Elsewhere in the Bible, we are told that Solomon had his temple decorated with cherubim and palm-trees (1 Kings 6:32, 35). Perhaps this is an allusion to the "Tree of Life" that God sets the cherubim to guard in the garden of Eden (Ge 3:24)? If so, then the DATE-PALM was probably the "Tree of Life." Of interest here is Crawford's _above_ observations about date-palm gardens (date-palm plantations) and fig trees growing in the shade of the date palms. Is Genesis recalling a fig tree (as the "Tree of Knowledge")  because in Mesopotamian gardens the fig tree grew _NEAR_ the date-palm (the "tree of life"), THRIVING IN ITS SHADE? Was the date-palm seen as the "Tree of Life" because (1) its dates were a staple food for all, both rich and poor, and (2) its "life-giving-shade" allowed smaller fruit trees to flourish, who's shade, in turn, allowed vegetables to flourish as well?

The Sumerians called fresh figs pesh-duru and dried figs pesh-had. The below account of Woolley's Ur excavations mentions date-palm plantations and fig trees in ancient Sumer (emphasis mine):

"Before the 20th century, written history had told the world very little about Ur. Beyond the Bible's brief references to it as the home of the patriarchs, almost nothing was known. But in the early 1920's the British Museum and the University Museum of Pennsylvania sent a combined expedition to Iraq under Woolley's leadership to investigate a certain massive mound of brick about 230 miles south of Baghdad. And there was Ur.

It doesn't seem possible now that Ur was ever the site of the great civilization that Woolley was later to describe: a city surrounded by bounteous GARDENS WITH GROVES OF _FIGS_ AND _DATES_  and tall palms standing by mathematically straight irrigation canals, a city of temples and warehouses, workshops and schools, spacious villas and the towers they called ziggurats, all within a great wall overlooking the waters of the Euphrates."

Professor Potts on southern Mesopotamia's "gardens" being foremostly date palms:

"The 'garden' in southern Mesopotamia was, first and foremost, a plantation of date palms (Phoenix dactylifera, Sumerian gisgishimmar)...Date palms are eminently suited to the Mesopotamian alluvium, for no other crop in the sub-tropical zone is as salt tolerant as the date plam...no less important than the dates which it provided for human consumption...was the shade which it afforded, permitting the cultivation of most of the legumes and vegetables...as well as smaller fruit trees.

Gardens such as these were organized according to the principle of 'storeys', on analogy with the levels of a multi-story building. The upper storey comprised the date palms themselves, the tallest trees in the garden and those which provided shade for everything growing beneath them; the middle storey comprised fruit trees of varying types...the lowest storey comprised cultivated plots of cereals, vegetables, legumes or a combination of all three. This is the same principle expressed today by the Arabic term bustan, which is used specifically of a multi-tiered palm-garden with inter-cropping of the sort just described..."

(p. 69. "Agriculture and Diet." D.W. PottsMesopotamian Civilization: The Material Foundations. Ithaca & New York. Cornell University Press. 1997)

Crawford on THE EDIN, "uncultivated land" surrounding the Mesopotamian city gardens and irrigated fields being utilized by shepherds to graze their flocks and herds (emphasis mine):

"The third category of land which we listed at the beginning of this section was the unirrigated land, which lay furthest from the waterways, and which merged into the unused land referred to in the texts as THE EDIN. This empty land formed a buffer between one settled enclave and another. It also had a considerable economic role. For much of the year it provided valuable grazing for the sheep and goats, which supplied both meat and dairy produce, as well as wool for the important textile industry. In the summer months the land yielded nothing more than a little scrub, but plants with deep roots, such as prosopis, survive on very little moisture and provide not only a little meager grazing, but also small quantities of fuel, as does the dung dropped by the animals. This is mixed with chopped straw and dried and today provides a major source of fuel IN A VIRTUALLY TREELESS ENVIRONMENT." 

(pp. 57-58. "Patterns of settlement and agriculture." Harriet CrawfordSumer and the Sumerians. Cambridge, United Kingdom. Cambridge University Press. 1991, 2004)


However, Pollock appears to _CONTRADICT_ Crawford, in that in antiquity trees did exist "growing in the wild" near the Tigris and Euphrates on the levees created by the rivers!

Pollock noted that trees AS NATURAL FLORA grow near the rivers or channels crossing the plain on levees formed by the Euphrates. Perhaps in antiquity trees once grew wild atop/near levees? This would explain Kramer's translation from the Epic of Gilgamesh, cf. below, that has Gilgamesh coming to _a garden of the plain_ and chopping down its trees? Pollock (emphasis mine):

"The NATURAL FLORA OF THE LEVEES included dense growths of willow (Salix), poplar (Populus), tamarisk (Tamarix) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza)...Because of their good drainage, levee soils are prized for cultivation. DATE PALMS, _FRUIT TREES_, CEREALS, legumes, and other vegetables are preferentially planted on the levee tops...The soils on the backslopes and in the basins are finer in texture and lie closer to the water table than the soils of the levee top. As a result, they are less optimal for cultivation. Nonetheless, their nearness to river channels facilitates irrigation by means of short gravity-flow canals, making them suitable for growing creeals, legumes, and other vegetables...Away from the rivers, the natural vegetation is classifed as subdesert." 

(pp. 32-33. Susan Pollock. Ancient Mesopotamia, the Eden that Never Was. Cambridge, England. Cambridge University Press. 1999. Fifth printing 2004. ISBN 0-521-57568-0 paperback)

I understand that the biblical Eden's "fruit trees" planted by God (Ge 2:8,15-17) are recollecting the appearance of these trees (being planted by man) near levees in the Mesopotamian plain or edin. Cereals recall the growing of wheat for "bread" by Adam (Ge 3:19). In the Mesopotamian myths, however, it is not man who planted the fruit trees, but instead the gods, who built for themselves cities to dwell in in edin the plain, and who also planted gardens of the gods adjacent to the cities. Later, the gods make man to work in their gardens, ending the lesser gods' toil in these gardens.

Of interest _to me_ is a passage from The Epic of Gilgamesh speaking of "a garden of the plain," as plain is "edin" in Sumerian (Akkadian/Babylonian: "edinu"), perhaps we what we have here is the earliest or "_first_" mention of a "garden of edin"? Also of interest is the presence of trees in this "garden of edin," the biblical garden of Eden being famed for its trees.

Professor Kramer ("Plain" being rendered as serim rather than edin ?):
"To the...GARDEN OF THE PLAIN he [Gilgamesh] directed his step,
The...-tree, the willow, the apple-tree, the box-tree, the
...-tree he felled there."

(p. 178. "Slaying of the Dragon [Huwawa or Humbaba], the First St. George." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer, Twenty-seven "Firsts" In Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. 1959. paperback)

The late (1880-1960) Woolley on Sumer's extensive date palm gardens, and the fact that the date was a "staple" food of the people. Could perhaps the date's being a "staple food" for the Sumerians account for why it became Genesis' "tree of life"? (emphasis mine):

"The prosperity of Sumer depended on its agriculture and on its commerce. The carefully irrigated fields produced amazing crops of barley and spelt, onions and other vegetables grew along the canal banks, and as early as 2800 B.C. the DATE-GARDENS were very extensive -a number of varieties of dates were cultivated, and the harvest afforded one of THE STAPLE FOODS of the people." 

(p. 112. "Sumerian Society." Sir Charles Leonard Woolley. The Sumerians. Oxford, England. The Clarendon Press. 1928, 1929)

Woolley on grain being grown in Sumer for BREAD (Adam apparently grows grain in Genesis, being told by God he will earn his bread by the sweat of his brow (Ge 3:19) (emphasis mine):

"The grain was used for BREAD ground to flour between flat rubbing-stones, or was parched and bruised for a kind of porridge or brewed into beer; wine was manufactured from dates as well as from grapes..." 

(p. 114. "Sumerian Society." Sir Charles Leonard Woolley. The Sumerians. Oxford, England. The Clarendon Press. 1928, 1929)

Below, How the Garden of Eden must have looked. The German commentary accompanying this photograph explains that the Date-palms provide shade for the smaller fruit-trees ("fruchtbaume"), which appear to the viewer's right (described as pomegranate-trees "granatapfelbaume"), below the fruit-trees are cultivated vegetables and wheat and irrigation ditches. That is to say the commentary somewhat agrees with Crawford's observations (cf. above). The uncultivated land surrounding and contiguous to the city-gardens was called in Sumerian THE EDIN (rendered variously as Desert, Steppe or Plain) When provided with water via irrigation the semi-arid uncultivated EDIN becomes a lush tropical paradise garden as in Genesis' Garden of Eden (for the photo-commentary cf. p. 32, the photo is on p. 33. Barthel Hrouda. Editor. Der Alte Orient, Geschichte und Kultur des alten Vorderasien. C. Bertelsmann. Verlag GmbH/54321. Munchen. 1991. ISBN 3572=00867-0).

As regards pomegranate trees growing with date palms and fig trees in the gods' city-gardens of ancient Sumer it is interesting to note here that 2 Chronicles describes pomegranate clusters adorning the capitals atop two pillars in Solomon's Temple:

2 Chronicles 4:11-13

"...Huram completed the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the House of God: the two columns, the globes, and the two capitals on top of the columns; and the two pieces of network to cover the globes of the capitals on top of the columns' the four hundred pomegranates for the two pieces of network, two rows of pomegranates for each network, to cover the two globes of the capitals on top of the columns..."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadephia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of the Creation: 5748)

An excerpt from a Sumerian composition mentions dates, figs and pomegranates in the garden of the Sumerian god Enlil at Nippur:

"...dates, figs, large pomegranates...grapes...trees in fruit, trees from orchards...dispatched by Enlil..."

(Enlil and Sud: c.1.2.2.)

Although Sumerian myths claim that the first city, Eridu (in Sumer) was created by the god Enki shortly after land appeared from the depths of the ocean, archaeologists have determined that it is not the earliest settlement (it has been excavated and dated to circa 4900 B.C.). Archaeologists have excavated Neolithic (New Stone Age) villages in the Taurus and Zagros mountain ranges which predate Eridu by several millennia (the 12th through 6th millennia B.C.). At Eridu was found a ziggurat and some scholars have suggested that this may have represented a mountain, recalling that the Sumerian's ancestors once lived in the mountainous foothills surrounding the Mesopotamian plain. That is to say the first irrigated gardens were Neolithic villages in the foothills, then later irrigated gardens appear in the edin (the uncultivated plain of Lower Mesopotamia). So perhaps Ezekiel's imagery of a garden being sited on a Lebanese mountain rather than a Mesopotamian plain is recalling this? Please click here for additional information on the god's Mesopotamian city-gardens of edin and their fruit-trees.

If the Tree of Life is a Date Palm and if the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is a Fig Tree it is worth noting that Cedars tend to be mountain dwelling species, not suited for the hot sweltering Mesopotamian plain known as the edin to the Sumerians. So the Bible's imagery of Eden's garden possessing Date Palms (Ezekiel 41:17-20), Fig Trees (Genesis 3:6-7) and Cedars (Ezekiel 31:16) is really quite nonsensical.

Although Genesis does not give us the name of the fruit, the fact that after eating of the fruit Adam and Eve clothe themselves with fig leaves, it is for me, the fig that was most probably envisioned by the Hebrew narrator as being eaten. Fig trees grow in the shade of Date Palms in Mesopotamian gardens which were surrounded by the Sumerian uncultivated land called the edin and Solomon's temple was decorated with Palm Trees and Cherubim. I thus understand the Date is the fruit from the Tree of Life which the Cherubim guarded.

Some Moslems understand that the Date Palm was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden:

"The date palm has more significance than any other fruit for Muslims and according to Islamic traditions was the tree of life in the Garden of Eden."

(cf. "IRAQ: Date industry revived." United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) 23 November 2004. 

According to Contenau (1954) Tammuz's (Sumerian: Dumuzi) symbol was the crown of the date palm. It is interesting to note here that Solomon's Temple was decorated with Palm Trees and that Ezekiel had stated that Jews worshipped Tammuz at Solomon's Temple by holding a branch to their nose (Ez 8:14). Also of interest is that Jeremiah had stated that Judah worshipped "the Queen of Heaven," (Jer 44:15-26) apparently Tammuz's wife, Ishtar (Sumerian: Inanna, whose name means "lady of heaven" or "queen of heaven"). So the tree of life, the date palm, was a symbol of Dummuzi/Tammuz who in myths was taken against his will at his sheep stall in the edin/eden at Uruk, under a great apple tree by demons as a surrogate for his wife Inanna, allowing her resurrection and return to the earth's surface at Uruk's edin/eden. Once a year Dummuzi/Tammuz is allowed a resurrection from the underworld (called euphemistically "edin" in ancient texts) to return to the earthly edin at Uruk, becoming the life-force in the edin's plants. So Dumuzi/Tammuz (who in Sumerian was called mulu edin "the lord of edin" his wife being called nin edin "lady of edin") is a vegetation diety. When one eats any plant, bread, vegetables, or fruits from fruit trees, one is eating the "lord of edin," Dumuzi/Tammuz, who makes life possible by the eating of his body or life-force just as eating Christ's body gives life to his followers.

Contenau on Tammuz's symbol being the date palm:

"Every religion which portrayed its gods and their actions in physical terms, has portrayed them in terms of a settled iconography...This was the practice of the Mesopotamians, who constructed a full-scale iconography. We shall discuss the extent to which their symbols, unaccompanied by any figure, could stand for the gods...we know...the tamarisk, Anu; the crown of the palm tree, Tammuz; the reed, Ninurta; the cypress, Adad...During an exorcism...the placing of a piece of palm wood or tamarisk in the copper bowl into which the libation was to be poured -all these actions might summon the gods for whom they symbolically stood, and the prayer of the believer might be so the more effective."

(pp. 173-174. "Assyrian Symbolism." Georges Contenau. Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria. New York. St. Martin's Press. 1954)

Contenau on the eating of the palm sprout at the top of the tree:

"Finally, the 'palm sprout', the growth at the top of the palm tree, if picked and eaten when still young, is a popular vegetable."

(p. 74. Contenau)

Rice (1985) understands that the 'tree of life' for the ancient Sumerians was the date palm:

"In a hymn to Ninsinna, the goddess proclaims the antiquity of her city, Isin, as greater even than that of Dilmun and says: 'My house, before Dilmun existed, was fashioned from a palm tree'. The goddess here acknowledges the extremely important part which the palm played in Sumerian belief and legend. Growing straight and tall it was unequivocally the 'tree of life' to the Sumerians..."

(p. 14. Micheal Rice. Search for the Paradise Land: An Introduction to the Archaeology of Bahrain and the Arabian Gulf, From the Earliest Times to the Death of Alexander the Great. London. Longman Publishing Ltd. 1985)

Chandler (1919, describing the British Army in World War I fighting the Ottoman Turks for control of Iraq) with a sceptical and humorous "tongue-in-cheek," mentions fig trees growing under the canopy of date palms laden with grape vines in the area of Qurnah to Basrah along the Shatt al Arab's banks. Perhaps Genesis' fig tree (the tree of knowledge?) grew under a date palm (the tree of life?)? He notes for the local natives Kurna and Basra vie with each other for the Garden of Eden.

"The palm zone begins a few miles above Kurna, and extends to the mouth of the Shatt-al-Arab...We smile at the Garden of Eden myth...the trunks are festooned with vines which make a canopy; and fig trees and pomegranates with scarlet flowers grown beneath.

It is in these palm groves that the British Tommy or tar passes on raised bunds between the dusty wharves, depots and dockyards to his work. But he finds nothing of the spirit of Eden in the scene, for there is little refreshment in Basra other than to the eye.

"...Qurna, Kurnah, Gornah...the reputed Sumerian paradise, lies at the junction of the Tigris and the old channel of the Euphrates. The new channel flows into the Shatt-al-Arab at Garmat Ali, a few miles above Basra, but it is the old channel that serves for our line of communication with the Euphrates force...The palm trees and the fig leaf were the only paradisaical things we found in Eden. Even the serpent was invisible, though his works remain and the knowledge of evil thrives preposterously."

(pp. 230 & 271. Edmund Chandler. The Long Road to Baghdad. London. Cassell & Company, Ltd. 1919. Vol. 1)

Some Jewish Rabbis understood the fig tree was Genesis' Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:

"Jewish Bible commentators held that the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was the fig: "What was the tree of which Adam and Eve ate? Rabbi Yosi says: It was a fig tree...the fig whereof he ate the fruit opened its door and took him." (Midrash, Bereshit Raba, 15,8). And "The fig leaf, the leaf which brought remorse to the world" (ibid., 9, 11). The Babylonian Talmud has this: "The tree of which the first man ate.." Rabbi Nehemiah says: It was the fig (the Tree of Knowledge), the thing wherewith they were spoilt yet were they redressed by it. As it is said: And they stitched a fig-leaf" (Berahot, 40a; see also Sanhedrin, 70a." (p. 124. Asaph Goor. "The History of the Fig in the Holy Land from Ancient Times to the Present Day." Economic Botany. Vol. 19. No. 2. Apr.-Jun. 1965. Garden Press. New York)

The Bible suggests that the fig tree was of great importance, in that many homeowners had them growing to provide shade and food. The "good life" is characterized as every individual having a fig tree, as noted in the following verses:

1 Kings 4:25, 
"And Judah and Israel dwelt in safety, from Dan to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon."

2 Kings 18:31, 
"Do not listen to Hezekiah; for thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat of his own vine, and every one of you of his own fig tree..."

Perhaps the fig tree was chosen as the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as Israel and Judah are portrayed having this attribute and they also had, every man, his fig tree?

Please click here for a picture of Neo-Assyrian "sacred tree," a grapevine laden (?) date palm which may underlie Genesis' Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.

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Below, a painting of Jesus cursing the fig tree for its lack of fig-fruits (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14).
Below, a close-up of fig fruits, fig leaves, and a fig tree. Some commentators suggest Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves after eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is equated with the fig tree.
We are faced however with a delimma, Ezekiel seems to suggest that God's Garden of Eden is situated atop a Lebanese mountain and possesses Cedar Trees. That is to say, Ezekiel's garden imagery does not support the Lower Mesopotamian (modern Iraq) semi-arid plain called edin by the Sumerians:

Ezekiel 31:1-9

"Who was comparable to you in greatness?
Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon...
Cedars in the garden of God
Could not compare with it...
No tree in the garden of God
Was its peer in beauty...
And all the trees of Eden envied it
In the garden of God."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadephia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of the Creation: 5748)

Ezekiel 31:16

"I made nations quake at the crash of its fall, when I cast it down to sheol with those who descend into the pit; and all the trees of Eden, the coicest and best of Lebanon, all that were well watered, were consoled in the lowest part of the netherworld."

(TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadephia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of the Creation: 5748)

Below, a picture of a Cedar tree on a mountainside in Lebanon.