So, although I have touched on this subject before, I intend to lay out concisely the case for my particular view on the location of Eden.
Geographical Characteristics Of Eden In The Bible:
See that these are the initial conditions. Just as the Genesis 1 account starts with the initial conditions of a "formless, void, and dark" earth, Genesis 2 sets the initial conditions as being a desert with no rain or plants.
Bear in mind, this is not saying it never rained in Eden, only that there was no rain in the setting for the story at the beginning of it's narrative. Just as there was no light initially on the earth in Genesis 1.
As God's first transformative act in Genesis 1 is to bring light to the earth, God's first transformative act on the land in Genesis 2 is to bring up "streams" or "mist" from the earth (depends on your translation) to begin to water the ground (presumably causing some vegetation to begin to grow).
Seeing as Genesis 2 is about the creation of humanity and Eden, it is unlikely to me that the description of underground streams and desert is intended as referring to the whole earth, but rather the land that God is about to craft into Eden.
What we can take away from this is that the Land of Eden was a rainless desert, but then was transformed through underground aquifers.
"Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed." Genesis 2: 8
"A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates." Genesis 2: 10-14
So here we learn that a river flowed through the Land Of Eden and contributed to watering the Garden, which then sits at the junction of four other rivers.
Before we talk about the rivers, I want to make sure it is crystal clear that the text makes a distinction between "Eden" or "The Land Of Eden" and "The Garden" or "The Garden Of Eden". The Garden is a small portion of the overall Land of Eden, a larger geographical area.
As far as I can tell, there is nothing special about the Land of Eden other than the Garden being located within it. The rest of Eden is probably just a normal geographical area (apparently watered by aquifers, as many places are) which according to Genesis 4 was apparently well watered enough to grow food on.
The text describes the four rivers in a shocking amount of detail. This leaves no doubt in my mind that this text communicates to the original audience a particular location. Interesting that two of the rivers (Pishon and Gihon) are not mentioned anywhere else in the bible, although there is a spring in Israel that also bears the name "Gihon" but is by no means a river.
It is also worth noting that the Euphrates is not described with detail, unlike the other three rivers. And in opposition to it, the "Pishon" is described not only by the land it flows around, but the land itself is described in detail as being rich in bdellium, gold, and onyx.
Please note that this is a geographical description, not a hydrological/scientific one. So, unlike the claims of some, the text does not state that the River of Eden is the "source" of the other four. It states from a geographical perspective that the river becomes four rivers in one particular cardinal direction. The text allows that the junction of four rivers could hydrologically be either a single river parting in four, or a confluence of four rivers into one.
The text also informs us that the Garden is "in the east". Presumably to the east of where Genesis was written, which would almost certainly be in the Levant, if not Israel itself.
Lastly, we will turn to Ezekiel, who references Eden in a lament against the King/Prince of Tyre:
"You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked." Ezekiel 28: 13-14
The Hebrew word for "mountain" there is "har" which is also used to refer to the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount, which most English speakers would call hills, so it does not necessarily imply the Garden of Eden was on a giant snow-capped peak. It does however, seem to imply that the Garden was geologically elevated somewhat above it's immediate surroundings.
So what have we learned?
2. A river flows through the Land Of Eden and waters the garden
3. The Land Of Eden is also watered by underground springs/aquifers
4. The Garden Of Eden is on a hill or mountain (hebrew: "har")
5. The Land and Garden Of Eden is somewhere east of the Levant
6. The Garden Of Eden is near the junction of four rivers into one (the "one" being the river of Eden)
7. One of the rivers is the Perath / the Euphrates
8. One of the rivers is the Hiddekel / the Tigris and flows east of Ashur (the word translated "Assyria", capital of the Assyrian empire)
9. One of the rivers is called the "Pishon" and flows around the "Land Of Havilah" which is apparently known for Gold, Bdellium, and Onyx
10. One of the rivers is called the "Gihon" and flows around the "Land Of Cush"
Modern VS. Ancient Geography?:
There are a great number of problems with this, one being that I don't actually believe the flood was literally global (I realize this may be shocking to those who have read an English translation of the flood passage in a modern cultural context, but it's much more complicated than you think).
But even if the Flood were global, it would not necessarily re-arrange the topography of the earth into something unrecognizable. It entirely would depend on the circumstances of that flood, the "catastrophic world re-arranging flood" idea was mostly invented by young-earth creationists to explain away the geological record as being formed by Noah's flood.
But there is no need to do this, because the bible in no way demands that the earth is young or that animal death (leaving fossils) did not occur until after the sin of Adam & Eve.
However, perhaps the biggest problem with this idea is the passage itself. Young-earthers argue that the passage is referring to lands and rivers of the time, and the reason certain names match up with names used today is just because post-flood peoples named their new geography after the pre-flood geography. This, however, is impossible.
Remember, the context of the passage is the era of Adam & Eve, yet the passage also refers to the lands of Havilah, Ashur, and Cush. These places obviously did not exist at the time of Adam, as there were only two people in the world.
That means that the only reason the author is referring to those places is to give the location of Eden within a "modern" (at the time of the writing of Genesis 2, post-flood) geographical perspective. It would not make any logical sense for the author to refer to nations that did not exist at the time the narrative is set, but also were long gone by the time the author was born.
The author would not use nations from a time alien to both the setting of the story, and the writing of the story. But this is what young-earthers are forced to claim in their model.
Historical & Scientific Data:
The Perath/Euphrates and Hiddekel/Tigris are well-known as major rivers in the near-east. Referred to many times in the bible (especially the Euphrates). And as you can see, the Tigris indeed flows east of the city of Ashur.
It is interesting that the Euphrates river is the only one not mentioned by the text with added detail (where it flows). Perhaps because it was simply so familiar to the original audience that no further explanation was needed. Whereas the others were less well known to the Israelites and needed further clarification.
Note that no rivers flows near the location of Havilah today, it is in the mid-eastern Arabian peninsula, surrounded by desert.
There are also not one but two "Cush" markers on the map, a western one in what is now Sudan and Ethiopia, and an eastern one in what is now Iran.
This is because although the most well known "Cush" is the African kingdom of Kush in the west, scholars now argue that "Cush" in the bible sometimes also refers to the land of the Kassites in modern-day Iran. In fact, some ancient texts even mistakenly think there are Ethiopians in Mesopotamia because the name is very similar in ancient languages.
It seems to me far more reasonable that the "Cush" in Genesis 2 is indeed referring to the eastern location, the homeland of the Kassites in the Zagros mountains of Iran. Making identifying the Gihon with the Karun river plausible.
What about the Pishon? Well, the solution here is pretty spectacular in my opinion. Although no river flows near Havilah today, that was not always the case.
Relatively recent satellite imagery among other things have demonstrated that a massive river once cut across the Arabian Peninsula near Havilah, flowing from the Hijaz mountains in the west and emptying into the northern head of the Persian gulf. The entire nation of Kuwait is actually now believed to be an alluvial fan of this ancient river dubbed the "Kuwait River".
Currently the Tigris, Euphrates, and Karun rivers meet just north of the Persian Gulf, forming the "Shatt-al-Arab" river which lasts a short while before emptying into the Persian Gulf. However, this confluence was a relatively recent formation (within the past few thousand years) and at the time of the writing of Genesis, the Karun, Euphrates, and Tigris rivers all separately entered the northern Persian gulf. (the geology of southern Iraq changes rapidly on a geological timescale because of the large rivers flowing through the region)
This likely places modern human origins (obviously associated with Eden and the Flood of Noah) in the last glacial period (more popularly known as an "ice age") which lasted from 10,000 - 120,000 years ago. In which there is more ice on the poles, lowering sea levels, and increased ice on mountains leads to more well-watered regions around the equator, turning many modern deserts (the Middle-East and North Africa) into more fertile grasslands, semi-deserts, and forests. In short, the geography was somewhat different.
Now don't misunderstand, contrary to what you may see on TV, an ice age does not imply global frigid temperatures. In regions near the equator, conditions were still quite warm (how else do you think camels, lions, parrots, etc. survived?), there were still hot jungles, deserts, and Savannah, just compressed towards the equator more than today.
So to say Adam & Eve lived in the last ice age does not imply they were living in a tundra or pine forest. The middle-east was comparable to today in terms of temperature, but at high altitudes there was more ice, meaning more fuel for rivers and underground springs, causing the land to be much wetter and more fertile.
Sea levels were also lower causing some areas that are now underwater to be exposed. It just happens that the Persian Gulf is incredibly shallow, meaning during the ice age, most of the basin was above sea level. Causing the four rivers that would later separately empty into the gulf to intersect (and merge into a single large river) somewhere in the northern basin.
Below is a reconstruction (made by me) of the Middle-East during the last Ice Age. The exact layout is highly speculative because I used several scholarly reconstructions as a reference, and the exact details often disagreed. Generally because those details are difficult to know from simply extrapolating from modern-day geography and historical data. But it gives you a rough idea of what it would have looked like.
"These data are used to assess the role of this large oasis, which, before being submerged by the waters of the Indian Ocean, was well watered by the Tigris, Euphrates, Karun and Wadi Batin rivers as well as subterranean aquifers flowing beneath the Arabian subcontinent"
Sounds an awful lot like Eden doesn't it? There are even rich subterranean aquifers consistent with the statement in Genesis 2:6!
As far as I know, Jeffrey I. Rose is not a Christian and even if he is would not interpret Genesis 2 as literal history. Making this statement extremely spectacular.
There is a small island in the northern Persian Gulf near where the four rivers would have met named "Failaka Island". During the last ice age, assuming the sediment from the rivers and local flooding haven't altered the geography, this island would have stood as a small mountain/hill above the surrounding region...at the meeting place of the four rivers. Potentially meaning this island was the Garden of Eden, given the statement in Ezekiel.
Thanks for reading!