Gardens in the East, as the Hebrew word indicates, are enclosures on the outskirts of towns, planted with various trees and shrubs. From the allusions in the Bible we learn that they were surrounded by hedges of thorn, ( Isaiah 5:5 ) or walls of stone. ( Proverbs 24:31 ) For further protection lodges, ( Isaiah 1:8 ; Lamentations 2:6 ) or watchtowers, ( Mark 12:1 ) were built in them, in which sat the keeper, ( Job 27:18 ) to drive away the wild beasts and robbers, as is the case to this day. The gardens of the Hebrews were planted with flowers and aromatic shrubs, ( Solomon 6:2 ; 4:16 ) besides olives, fig trees, nuts or walnuts, ( Solomon 6:12 ) pomegranates, and others for domestic use. ( Exodus 23:11 ; Jeremiah 29:5 ; Amos 9:14 ) Gardens of herbs, or kitchen gardens, are mentioned in ( 11:10 ) and 1Kin 21:2 The rose garden in Jerusalem, said to have been situated westward of the temple mount, it is remarkable as having been one of the few gardens which, from the time of the prophets, existed within the city walls. The retirement of gardens rendered them favorite places for devotion.
gar'-d'-n (gan, gannah, ginnah; kepos):
The Arabic jannah (diminutive, jannainah), like the Hebrew gannah, literally, "a covered or hidden place," denotes in the mind of the dweller in the East something more than the ordinary garden. Gardens in Biblical times, such as are frequently referred to in Semitic literature, were usually walled enclosures, as the name indicates (Lamentations 2:6 the American Revised Version, margin), in which there were paths winding in and out among shade and fruit trees, canals of running water, fountains, sweet-smelling herbs, aromatic blossoms and convenient arbors in which to sit and enjoy the effect. These gardens are mentioned in Genesis 2 and Genesis 3; 13:10; Song of Solomon 4:12-16; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6; Ezekiel 28:13; 31:8,9; 36:35; Joel 2:3. Ancient Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian records show the fondness of the rulers of these countries for gardens laid out on a grand scale and planted with the rarest trees and plants. The drawings made by the ancients of their gardens leave no doubt about their general features and their correspondence with Biblical gardens. The Persian word pardec (paradeisos) appears in the later Hebrew writings to denote more extensive gardens or parks. It is translated "orchards" in Ecclesiastes 2:5 the King James Version; Song of Solomon 4:13.
Such gardens are still common throughout the Levant. They are usually situated on the outskirts of a city (compare John 18:1,26; 19:41), except in the case of the more pretentious estates of rich pashas or of the government seats (compare 2 Kings 21:18; Esther 1:5; 7:7,8; Nehemiah 3:15; 2 Kings 25:4; Jeremiah 39:4; 52:7). They are enclosed with walls of mud blocks, as in Damascus, or stone walls capped with thorns, or with hedges of thorny bushes (compare Lamentations 2:6 the American Revised Version, margin), or prickly pear. In nearly treeless countries, where there is no rain during 4 or 5 months, at least, of the year, the gardens are often the only spots where trees and other vegetation can flourish, and here the existence of vegetation depends upon the water supply, brought in canals from streams, or raised from wells by more or less crude lifting machines (compare Numbers 24:7). Such references as Genesis 2:10; Numbers 24:6; Deuteronomy 11:10; Isaiah 1:30; 58:11; Song of Solomon 4:15 indicate that in ancient times they were as dependent upon irrigation in Biblical lands as at present. The planning of their gardens so as to utilize the water supplies has become instinctive with the inhabitants of Palestine and Syria. The writer has seen a group of young Arab boys modeling a garden out of mud and conducting water to irrigate it by channels from a nearby canal, in a manner that a modern engineer would admire. Gardens are cultivated, not only for their fruits and herbs (compare Song of Solomon 6:11; Isaiah 1:8; 1 Kings 21:2) and shade (compare Song of Solomon 6:11; Luke 13:19), but they are planned to serve as dwelling-places during the summer time when the houses are hot and stuffy. That this was an ancient practice is indicated by Song of Solomon 5:2; 6:2; 8:13. A shaded garden, the air laden with the ethereal perfumes of fruits and flowers, accompanied by the music of running water, a couch on which to sit or recline, suggest a condition of bliss dear to the Oriental. Only one who has traveled for days in a dry, glaring desert country and has come upon a spot like the gardens of such a city as Damascus, can realize how near like paradise these gardens can appear. Mohammed pictured such a place as the future abode of his followers
No doubt the remembrances of his visit to Damascus were fresh in his mind when he wrote. El-Jannah is used by the Moslems to signify the "paradise of the faithful."
The destruction of gardens typified desolation (Amos 4:9); on the other hand, fruitful gardens figured prosperity (Numbers 24:6; Job 8:16; Isaiah 51:3; 58:11; 61:11; Jeremiah 29:5,28; 31:12; Amos 9:14).
James A. Patch
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