An enclosure in the suburbs, fenced with a hedge or wall (Isaiah 5:5; Proverbs 24:31), planted with flowers, shrubs, and trees, guarded (from whence comes "garden") by watchmen in a lodge or tower (Isaiah 1:8, when the lodge is forsaken by the keeper, the bore poles leaning every way and the green boughs of the roof scattered, there could scarcely be a more vivid picture of Zion's desolation, Mark 12:1) to drive away wild beasts and robbers (Job 27:18). The quince, citron, almond, and other fruits, also herbs (1 Kings 21:2), cucumbers, lettuce, mustard, are mentioned as in gardens. The balsam, according to Pliny, grew only in two royal gardens of Judea, not elsewhere. Syria was so famed for gardens that the Greeks had a proverb, "the many garden herbs of the Syrians." The rose garden W. of the temple was peculiar in being within the walls; the smell from weeds and manure was the cause of gardens being usually forbidden within the walls.
A reservoir cistern, or still better a fountain of water, was essential to a good garden. Compare Song of Solomon 4:15, "a fountain of gardens," 'Ayin ganim, Jenin now, i.e. a fountain sufficient to water man "gardens," "a well of living waters? frontEN-GANNIM.) Spiritually, the believer is the garden the Holy Spirit the living water (Jeremiah 2:18; Jeremiah 17:8; John 4:13-14; John 7:37-39); "A well watered garden" expresses abundant happiness and prosperity (Isaiah 58:11; Jeremiah 17:8; Jeremiah 31:12), as "a garden that hath no water" (Isaiah 1:30) expresses spiritual, national, and individual barrenness and misery. Psalm 1:3, the righteous "shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters (literally, the divisions of waters, the water being divided into rivulets to run along the rows of trees for irrigation) that bringeth forth his fruit in his season."
Not only are his fruits (the tree's proper fruit, Revelation 22:2) good in themselves, but are in season (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11; contrast Matthew 21:19). "His leaf" also has its beauty and use and is "unwithering" (Ezekiel 47:12); even his minor traits of character are good after their kind, and his smallest undertaking, blessed because done unto the Lord and so shall abide. The law against mixing diverse seeds was observed by separating the various productions by light fences of reed. The "orchards" (Hebrew: "paradises") were especially for fruit trees, dates, figs, sycamores, etc. The occurrence of no less than 250 botanical terms in Old Testament shows the Israelite predilection for flowers, fruits, and pleasure grounds. The vine wound round the trellis or outer staircase, the emblem of the loving and fruitful wife and the happy home (Psalm 128:3). The house court or area generally had its shady terebinth.
Under the shadowing fig leaves Nathanael communed with his God (John 1:48). The ripe grain in harvest joy was decorated with lilies; Song of Solomon 7:2, "thy bodice (of amber color) is a heap of wheat set about with lilies" (white or scarlet, answering to her scarf round her person). The Hebrew used gardens also as burial places (John 19:41). Here Jesus' sacred body was entombed in Joseph's new sepulchre. Manasseh and Amen were buried in Uzza's garden (2 Kings 21:18; 2 Kings 21:26). Machpelah's field, Abraham's burial ground, was a garden with "trees in it, and in all the borders round about it" (Genesis 23:17). The garden of Gethsemane was Jesus' favorite resort for devotion (Matthew 26:36; John 18:1). Gardens were in idolatrous periods made the scene of superstition and image worship, the awful counterpart of the primitive Eden (Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 65:3; Isaiah 66:17).
Solomon's gardens and orchards with all kinds of fruits and pools of water for irrigation (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6) doubtless suggested the imagery Song of Solomon 4:12-15. It was in a garden of light Adam fell; in a garden of darkness, Gethsemane, the Second Adam overcame the tempter and retrieved us. The "streams from Lebanon" imply that the fountain is lowly, the source lofty. Christ (and so Christ's church) springs up on the earth, but has His source in heaven; no longer "sealed" but "open" streams (Revelation 22:10; Revelation 22:17).
The site near Bethlehem assigned to Solomon's garden is probably correct. It is a suitable retreat, near the capital, and the names of localities about confirm the tradition: wady Urtas, "the valley of the garden"; gebel-el-Fureidis, "the hill of the little paradise"; "fig vale"; "peach hill"; "walnut walk"; "garden of nuts." The "king's garden" (2 Kings 25:4; Nehemiah 3:15; Jeremiah 34:4; Jeremiah 52:7) was near the pool of Siloam, at the Tyropoeon valley, where the valleys of Jehoshaphat and Hinnom met.