The Garden of Eden (Hebrew גַּן עֵדֶן, Gan ʿEdhen) is the biblical “garden of God”, described most notably in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 2-3), but also mentioned, directly or indirectly, in Ezekiel, Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament. In the past, the favoured derivation of the name “Eden” was from the Akkadian edinnu, itself derived from a Sumerian word meaning “plain” or “steppe”, but it is now believed to be more closely related to an Aramaic root meaning “fruitful, well-watered.” Scriptures depict Adam and Eve as walking around the Garden of Eden naked.
In the Talmud and the Jewish Kabbalah, the scholars agree that there are two types of spiritual places called “Garden in Eden”. The first is rather terrestrial, of abundant fertility and luxuriant vegetation, known as the “lower Gan Eden”. The second is envisioned as being celestial, the habitation of righteous, Jewish and non-Jewish, immortal souls, known as the “higher Gan Eden”. The Rabbanim differentiate between Gan and Eden. Adam is said to have dwelt only in the Gan, whereas Eden is said never to be witnessed by any mortal eye.
According to Jewish eschatology, the higher Gan Eden is called the “Garden of Righteousness”. It has been created since the beginning of the world, and will appear gloriously at the end of time. The righteous dwelling there will enjoy the sight of the heavenly chayot carrying the throne of God. Each of the righteous will walk with God, who will lead them in a dance. Its Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants are “clothed with garments of light and eternal life, and eat of the tree of life” (Enoch 58,3) near to God and His anointed ones. This Jewish rabbinical concept of a higher Gan Eden is opposed by the Hebrew terms gehinnom and sheol, figurative names for the place of spiritual purification for the wicked dead in Judaism, a place envisioned as being at the greatest possible distance from heaven.