Collection Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Superstock

Four rivers course through “The Garden of Eden”, as painted by American folk artist Erastus Salisbury Field in about 1860. The Book of Genesis identifies the rivers as the Euphrates and Tigris, which lie in Mesopotamia; the Pishon, which remains unknown; and the Gihon, which shares its name with the freshwater spring that served as the main water source for the earliest city of Jerusalem.

Before David’s time, Jerusalem had no strong connection with the Israelites. His choice of this Canaanite-Jebusite city, and the subsequent centralization of all worship at the Jerusalem Temple, surely would have been questioned by his people. By associating the Jerusalem spring with the paradisiacal garden, the Book of Genesis offers a defense of David’s unlikely choice (compare with 1585 woodcut by Heinrich Buenting).