The garden was the place where God would meet with his creatures. Therefore, it was a kind of temple or royal palace in which the King would enjoy the worship and service of his subjects in a particular way.
When we think of the garden in Eden we are not to imagine the attractive pieces of ground found beside houses, with lawns and rows of plants and flowers. Rather what is being described is a large estate in which Adam would function in many different ways.
In the garden there was a forest (Ezekiel 31:8 says that there were cedars, fir trees and chestnut trees). Notice how the trees are described in Genesis 2: they were pleasant to the sight and good for food. This detail is a reminder that God desires his creatures to see beautiful things and to enjoy eating his provision. It is also a reminder that humans are to imitate God by making beautiful works of art and providing appetising food.
Two trees are specifically identified: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Moses is not suggesting that eating the fruit of the trees in itself would provide these benefits. Rather they were symbols of what God could provide for his creatures as long as they did his will. They were specific reminders that humans were dependent on God. The tree of life showed that God alone could guarantee their existence and provide quality of life. Even although they were living in a perfect creation, subsequent chapters reveal that there was also danger, which resulted from the earlier rebellion of Satan. The tree of life reminded them that God alone could preserve life.
The tree of life depicted security and satisfaction; what did the tree of the knowledge of good and evil convey? I would suggest that the main function of this tree was that God alone was to be their teacher. There were two ways open to them concerning the discovery of good and evil. One was to learn from God’s directions and explanations; the other was to follow the advice of another, the devil. We know from Genesis 3 that sadly they listened to another voice than God’s and came to experience good and evil from the position of disobedient creatures.
The garden was also the place from which the rest of the earth was to be watered. The account does not say where the river began and it has been suggested that it was an underground stream. In any case, when it reached the garden it divided into four mighty rivers which then flowed out into the rest of the earth. Why did God place the garden in such a location? Perhaps to teach the human race that he was the source of temporal blessings as well as spiritual ones.