Many authors have attempted to identify and locate the legendary Tower of Babel in Sumer, in modern Iraq. However, with all due respect to their tireless research efforts, a location in Mesopotamia for this legendary pyramid is not the only conclusion that we can draw from the meager information available to us. And the obvious alternative location can be gleaned from some of the opening verses in the Book of Genesis, which say: And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four branches (Gen 2:10).
Now there is only one river in this region that passes through a garden and then divides into four branches, and that is the Nile, which runs through the valley oasis of Egypt before branching out at the Delta. And while the Nile may only have two branches nowadays, it did have four in antiquity. Readers, however, might exclaim that the Torah specifically names the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, so this cannot be so. But of course the Torah does not actually mention these famous rivers at all; in Hebrew, it mentions the Chiddeqel and the Parath. But is the Chiddaqel the Tigris and the Parath the Euphrates? Some of the biblical references do not readily support that argument and point more towards Egypt.
Besides, if we turn to Josephus Flavius’ record of this Genesis account, we see that the actual names and locations of the rivers of Eden had been lost to us by this time. Josephus says of Eden: Now the garden was watered by one river, which ran round about the whole earth, and was parted into four branches (Antiquities 1:1:3).
The four branches mentioned here are then identified by Josephus as being the: Ganges, Euphrates, Tigris, and the Nile. Now that is some garden! Clearly, by the time Josephus was writing his version of the Old Testament, the name and location of these rivers had been corrupted or lost. And yet Josephus was copying from a much older version of the Torah/Tanakh than the classical Old Testament in use today. Josephus was using the Torah that had been taken from the Temple of Jerusalem in AD 70, which dated from the time of the Babylonian exile. Yet even this early version of the Torah appears to have been confused as to where the four branches of the Eden River lay.
But if the names of the branches had been garbled by the sixth century BC, the description of the layout of this river might well be more reliable—it was a long river running through a garden that had four branches. So let’s run with that idea and see where it takes us. The possibility exists, therefore, that the Book of Genesis was referring to Egypt and to the Nile, and not to Mesopotamia at all. But this is a suggestion that opens some further interesting possibilities, like the precise location and meaning for the Garden of Eden.
The prospect, however, of finding a comprehensive explanation and location for Eden and its integral Adam-and-Eve story once seemed impossible, as the narrative and genealogies from this early part of the Bible appear too fragmented and confusing to provide a verifiable history. However, if Eden was in Egypt, and if Eden contained a famous garden and a famous first lady and first man, then there may well be a good explanation for this story, and a comparable description of it in the historical record.
So what did the term ‘Eden’ refer to? Firstly we should note that the Aramaic ayin can be transliterated into English as either an ‘e’ or an ‘a,’ so the name Eden could easily be read as an Aden. If the Garden of Eden was in Egypt then we may well have a direct Egyptian counterpart of it, for we know that there was a Garden of Aden (Aten) located in Middle Egypt. That garden was created by Pharaoh Akhenaton for his god, the Aton. There is a further similarity here, for the name for the Aton can also be spelled as Adon. (The god Aton or Aten is spelled as Aden in The Book of Precepts of Amenemapt, the son of Kanekht) In addition, the god Aton was spelled with the reed glyph, which is the Egyptian equivalent of the Hebrew ayin, so the god Aton could equally be pronounced as Iten or Eten (and as Iden or Eden). The similarity here begins to look interesting.
Furthermore, if we spell the name of the Egyptian Aton or Adon with an aleph instead of an ayin, then we might well derive a word like Adon, which just happens to be one of the many names for the Israelite god (in Joshua 3:11 and Psalms 12:4, among many other verses). So we can be fairly certain that one of the many guises of the Israelite god had an Egyptian character; which should not be very surprising to readers, since that is from where the Israelites came. The Israelites were from Egypt, not Babylon, so any absorption of language and creed by the Israelites would have naturally had an Egyptian flavor. Since the Israelites are reputed to have left Egypt on their Exodus just after the Amarna era of Pharaoh Akhenaton, and since the Israelites were among the first monotheists just like Pharaoh Akhenaton, perhaps we can confidently surmise that they had picked up some Atonist influences while in Egypt—including one of the many names for their supposedly singular god.
Garden, East of Eden
However, if the biblical Eden (Aden) was connected with Akhenaton’s god Aten (Aden or Eden), the possibility exists that the concept of a Garden of Eden was based upon Akhenaton’s Garden of Aten (Eten), the sumptuous paradise-garden (paradise: meaning ‘a walled garden’) dedicated to the god Aten at Amarna. So when Josephus says that Eden lay to the east he was correct, for Amarna and its Garden of Eden (Aten) did indeed reside on the east bank of the Nile. It would seem that the information in these ancient records is often correct; you just have to be very careful about how you read it.
However, this is not simply an assumption in isolation, for this interpretation gives us a strong similarity with the accounts of Manetho, the third century BC Egyptian historian. Manetho said of a similar location that: The king… assembled all those in Egypt whose bodies were wasted by disease: they numbered 80,000 persons. These he cast into the stone-quarries to the east of the Nile, there to work segregated from the rest of the Egyptians. Among them, Manetho adds, there were some of the learned priests, who had been attacked by leprosy (Manetho Fr 54).
Again, we need to read this paragraph critically and laterally, for Manetho did not want to directly record who these people really were. In reality, the maimed priests and lepers were the despised Atonists of Pharaoh Akhenaton—the heretic pharaoh—and they were being exiled to a barren location in Middle Egypt now known as Amarna. Manetho describes this location as being “stone-quarries to the east of the Nile,” because Amarna was on the east bank of the Nile, and it would indeed have resembled a stone quarry at this early stage in its construction. What we appear to have here are multiple similarities between Adam’s Garden of Eden and Akhenaton’s Garden of Aden.
If all of this is so, it might give us a very different view of the Genesis narrative. Was this really a creation epic, or was it something completely different? Was it a hymn, for example, to be sung at the dawn of each new day. When looked at in this light, it suddenly becomes clear that the Genesis ‘creation epic’ is actually the same as Akhenaton’s Hymn to the Aten, his glorious celebration of the dawn of a new day. In which case, it is likely that the Hymn to the Aten was sung to greet the dawn—the beginning of each new day—and this concept has been confused in a later era with the beginning of all creation. Thus when god was supposed to be creating birds and allowing them to fly, the birds were actually waking from their sleep and greeting the Sun-god Aten, just as the Hymn to the Aten relates. Indeed, the birds were doing this in the Garden of Eden (the Garden of Aten) at Amarna.
Adam and Eve
So if the Garden of Eden was located at Amarna, then what of Adam and Eve? The first thing to note is that Adam and Eve were the first man and first woman. But then so too were Akhenaton and Nefertiti. Just as the American president and his wife are the first man and the first lady, so too were Akhenaton and Nefertiti. So the Genesis description of them was not wrong—just deliberately confusing.
Note also that Adam and Eve were famed for being innocently naked in their idyllic Garden; but when they were eventually banished from this Garden they became embarrassed by their nakedness and were forced to cover up. This, I believe, is another allusion to the famous royal couple from Amarna. Yes, Akhenaton and Nefertiti did indeed float through their beautiful palaces at Amarna in a state of near nakedness, and scene after scene portrays the royal couple in either see-though diaphanous robes or being completely naked. And this probably did cause a bit of a stir in the Egyptian ‘media’—the gossiping in the market squares. Think what a media storm would erupt today, if Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were photographed strolling naked through the gardens at Buckingham Palace!
However, when Amarna was destroyed and the royal couple was forced to flee from Amarna (there is no evidence for their deaths there), they would have been forced out into the big wide world of sailors, artisans, and farmers. Their usual nakedness, which seemed so respectable and befitting within the confines of the royal court at Amarna, would have looked positively indecent in a rural village or town. There was nothing else to do, except cover up!
Tower of Babel
The topic that inspired this article was actually the Tower of Babel, not the Genesis story, so how does this novel information affect the famous tower of many languages? Well, the story thus far is one with a distinctly Egyptian flavor, so if we travel with the descendants of Adam and Eve (Akhenaton and Nefertiti) northward from Amarna, we arrive at the land of Shiniar, the ‘land of two rivers’ where the Tower of Babel was built. Well, perhaps, but I rather think that the location they arrived at was actually Shiniyr, the land of the ‘mountain of snow.’ And where is the Mountain of Snow, where a great ‘tower’ was to be built? It is at Giza, of course.
Remember that the Great and Second pyramids were originally covered in pure white limestone, so they would indeed have looked like two, snow-covered peaks standing on the Giza plateau. So it is likely that the Tower of Babel (the Migdal Babel) was one of the pyramids on the Giza plateau. But if that is so, then what does Migdal Babel mean?
The first thing to note is that migdal is an Egyptian word that is pronounced as maktal meaning ‘tower’. Then we come to the Aramaic babel, which is said to mean ‘confusion’ or ‘scatter,’ much as the biblical story relates. But anyone who has studied Egyptology would instantly know that the Egyptian word berber refers to a pyramid rather than a tower, just as its determinative hieroglyph demonstrates. Furthermore the ‘r’ to ‘l’ transliteration, that is so common when transposing from Egyptian to Aramaic, would render this word as belbel in the Torah, just as the Egyptian maktar was eventually rendered as maktal. And this Egyptian-to-Aramaic translation is further confirmed by the similar Egyptian and Coptic word berber (belbel) meaning ‘expel’, which is exactly what happened to the people of Shiniyr.
What we have here is a complete and comprehensive explanation for the meaning and location of the Tower of Babel. In reality the Genesis epic was an Egyptian story and history, and not something derived from Babylon—a region that the Israelites did not get to until the sixth century BC. The famous Tower of Babel was located in Shiniyr, the land of the snow-white pyramids, which is known today as the Giza plateau, and the Migdal Babel is now called the Great Pyramid. And this is not the end of this fascinating story, of course, because the history of the Migdal continues right up into the first century and the equally momentous epic of the New Testament. And there, in Judaea, a much later vestal virgin priestess of the pyramids became almost as famous as the tower she was named after—Mary Migdalene, the blonde Princess of the Tower….
Ralph Ellis has asserted his rights, in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. Ellis is also the author of Eden in Egypt, and Mary Magdalene, Princess of Orange. Both are available on iPad, Kindle and Nook.