Bible students have noted that many features of the Garden of Eden correspond to the later sanctuaries in Israel, indicating that Eden was the first symbolic “temple” on earth. Some parallels between Eden and the sanctuary include:
1. At the end of the Creation account and the report describing the construction of the wilderness tabernacle, the same three elements—approval, completion, and blessing—are expressed with the same key words (compare “all,” “finish,” and “bless” in Gen. 1:31–2:3 with Exod. 39:32, 43; 40:33).
6. Just as Creation took six days, each day being introduced by “God said” and all followed by the Sabbath, so there are six “the Lord spoke to Moses” sections concerning the tabernacle (Exod. 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1) followed by a seventh section about the Sabbath (Exod. 31:12-17).
7. The sanctuary was finished on the first day of the first month (Exod. 40:17), the Hebrew New Year’s Day, which recalls the completion of the world at Creation.
Genesis 2 did not need to be explicit about these parallels; the ancients understood them. For example, a Jewish writing of the second century B.C. claims that “the garden of Eden was the holy of holies and the dwelling of the Lord.”
The Garden of Eden is called the “garden of God” (Isa. 51:3, Ezek. 28:13, 31:9). It was God’s dwelling on earth, the place where our first parents were intended to worship and commune with Him. Therefore, the greatest loss of the Fall was not the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden but their loss of being in the immediate presence of God.
Dwell on the concept of the word sanctuary itself. What comes to your mind? What things form a “sanctuary” for you now? How does your understanding of these sanctuaries on earth help you to understand better what God’s sanctuary in heaven provides for us?