Lilith






Legend of the Demon Queen

Who was the first woman? Eve or Lilith?

The Christians know only from their version of the Old Testament Bible that Eve was the first woman created from Adam's rib [Gen 2.21-24]. There is Jewish legend found in rabbinic literature that the first woman was Lilith, who out of pride, stubbornness and rebellious nature, abandoned Adam, and she was transformed into a demon.

The only one reference to female demon in the Bible's Old Testament, but not explicitly to Lilith is found in the passage in Isaiah, in regarding to punishing the people of Edom.

And the wild-cats shall meet with the jackals, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; yea, the night-monster shall repose there, and shall find her a place of rest.
Isaiah 34:14 (KJV)

With this translation from the King James' Version (KJV), most people believed that this night-monster was a female demon. The New Jewish Publication Society (NJPS) is more explicit in mentioning Lilith.

Wildcats shall meet the hyenas,
Goat-demons shall greet each other;
There too the lilith shall repose
And find herself a resting place.
Isaiah 34:14 (NJPS)

There are no other mention of Lilith in the Old Testament. Nor are there mentions of Lilith in any of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings.

Many scholars now believed that the Genesis has 2 different versions of about the Creation. The style of writing in Genesis 1 is different to that of Genesis 2-3. Genesis 2-3 is written in more storytelling style, being more dramatic than the 1st chapter. It would seem that Eve was created from Adam's rib, after the 7th day of Creation in Genesis 2:20-24. Genesis 1:26-28, on the other hand, had both man and woman on the same day - the 6th day. It make no mention of Eden, the creation of man out of earth, and woman out of man's rib. The fact that they were never named in Genesis 1.

So could this unnamed woman from Genesis 1 actually be the 1st wife of Adam?

Of course this is only impression or interpretation of the text. It is not substantial evidence of the existence of Lilith. Just because woman is unnamed in Genesis 1, doesn't mean she is Lilith. But the fact that the woman is somewhat a mystery, Jewish scholars during the Second Temple Period have speculated on the identity of the mystery woman, enough so to produced a narrative of just that - Lilith being the 1st woman.

The rabbinic text that I had mentioned, comes from what the Jews called Haggada, was used to explain or interpret the narratives of the Bible. The Haggada comprised of the legend from the Creation to Esther. So the Haggada was actually extracted from Jewish Talmud and some part of Midrash, but without dealing with Jewish law. Writing of the Haggada began in 5th century BC, and continued well into 4th century AD.

The accounts of the Creation and Adam, is actually longer than what is found in the Torah's or the Bible's Genesis.


Below is a summary about Lilith in the Haggada (Chapter II).

After the Creation of the world and all of the animals, God created Adam out of the dust from the Garden of Eden, he placed the soul in this physical human body. Adam's soul was actually created on the 1st day of Creation, when the face of God reflected from the water. Adam had a perfect body – beautiful, strong, and in the image of God.

I won't go into more detail about the Fall of Satan, except to say that Satan and his followers refused to bow to the First Man, and was flung out of heaven.

God saw that Adam was just one human, so he will need a partner to keep him company, but the relationship didn't last long.

Like Adam, Lilith was created out of the soil. Since she was made out of the same substance as Adam, she regarded herself as Adam's equal, not inferior in any way to Adam. Lilith demanded equality, because she argued that she created from the dust of the ground, just like Adam. Adam refusal to accept her as his equal, led to her rejecting and abandoning him.

According to a medieval text, known as The Alphabet of Ben Sira (10th century), Lilith refused to lie below when they were having sex. Lilith refused to the passive and submissive partner. This refusal, however, is not found in the Haggada.

Speaking God's name, she grew wings and flew away to the Red Sea. In the desert, she had spawned a hundred of demons. Adam complained to God that his wife had abandoned him, and now he was alone. God commanded angels to bring Lilith back to Adam. The angels tried to force her to return to Adam, or she would lose her children. Lilith adamantly refused to live with Adam.

She took her revenge by killing human babies; boys when they are only a day old, while girls up to 20 days old. The only way to ward her off, was to adorn each baby with an amulet with the names of three angels; the same three angels who had confronted Lilith.

So, God created another woman for Adam – Eve. Like in the Genesis, God created her from Adam's rib.


Lilith reappeared in Chapter III of the Haggada, where it listed the descendants of Adam and Lilith.

After the murder of his son, Abel, by his elder son, Cain, Adam refused to sleep with Eve. Adam deserted Eve, rather than fathers another child that would die. During the nights, Lilith visited him and mated with him while he slept, and she bore him countless demons that would beset the world.

Genealogy of Adam, Eve and Lilith
Genealogy of Adam, Eve and Lilith, according to the Haggada.

It wasn't until he was 130 year of age, when Adam returned to Eve, and she bore to him another son – Seth. The Genesis does mention Adam and Eve had other children, but the number and their names are not given. According to Book of Jubilees, Adam had nine other sons after the fratricide, including Seth. Unlike the Genesis, the Jubilees also mentioned a couple of daughters of Adam - Âwân (eldest) and Azûrâ; there are most likely to be a number of other daughters, but we are not certain of number nor their names. Cain took Âwân as his wife, while Seth married Azûrâ.

It was said that after the translation of Enoch to heaven, God's favourite patriarch became an archangel, named Metatron; it was left to Methuselah, his son, to get rid of all the demons that were descendants of demons that Adam had unknowingly begotten on Lilith.

Methuselah had used the sword with God's name etched on the blade. Methuselah slay 94 demons, before Agrimus, the first-born demon of Lilith, surrendered to the great patriarch. Methuselah placed all the demon-kings in iron fetters, while the lesser demons or imps fled and hid in the deepest ocean.

As you can see, the Talmudic Haggada, contained many details that were not included in the Genesis of the Hebrew Torah and in Christian Bible. There are other references to Lilith.

According to the Haggada (vol. 2, chapter 3) about Job, it was Lilith who killed his oxen and his asses, when Satan went to test Job's piety and loyalty to God. The text referred Lilith to as the Queen of Sheba.

In volume 4, chapter 2 (in regarding to Joshua), Lilith was mentioned with another she-devil – Mahlah. Who is Mahlah, I have not yet being able to determine, but I did find that she can go by her full name – Agrat bat Mahlah.

In the Haggada (volume 1, Naamah, daughter of Lamech, sister of Tubal-Cain, and descendant of Cain, was one of the women who had copulated with Shamdon, one of the Fallen Watchers (see Enoch & the Watchers, where you will find more detail about Naamah), the angels that had come to earth to take mortal women as wives. Naamah became mother of demon Asmodeus.

And in chapter 5 (vol. 4) about Solomon, he suspected that the Queen of Sheba was a demoness. When the Queen of Sheba looked at the floor, she thought the king had a throne sitting on water. The Queen lifted her dressed and walked towards the king's dais, and the glass on the floor revealed that she has hairy feet - a sign of demoness.

The Mishnah alluded to is short and simple, viz, Where is it taught that a ship is clean to the touch? From Prov. xxx. 19, "The way of a ship in the midst of the sea" (i. e., as the sea is clean to the touch, therefore a ship must also be clean to the touch).

It is indiscreet for one to sleep in a house as the sole occupant, for Lilith will seize hold of him.

Shabbath, fol. 151, col. 2.

Lilith (the night-visiting one) is the name of a night spectre, said to have been Adam's first wife, but who, for her refractory conduct, was transformed into a demon endowed with power to injure and even destroy infants unprotected by the necessary amulet or charm.

"Thou hast acknowledged the Lord this day to be thy God; and the Lord hath acknowledged thee this day to be His peculiar people" (Deut. xxvi. 17, 18). The Holy One--blessed be He!--said unto Israel, "Ye have made Me a name in the world, as it is written (Deut. vi. 4), 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord;' and so I will make you a name in the world, as it is said (1 Chron. xvii. 21), 'And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people Israel?'"

Chaggigah, fol. 3, col. 1.

Talmud, The Talmud, the Midrashim, and Kabbala



lilitu: The Sumerian Lilith

The antecedent of Lilith is the female demons known from Mesopotamian legends as lilû or lilitu.

In one of the Sumerian poems of Gilgamesh, Gilgames and the Netherworld, there is a prologue about Inanna (the Akkadian-Babylonian Ishtar) and her willow tree.

The solitary willow tree (halub tree) was on the bank of the river Euphrates, when it was uprooted by a very fierce storm. Inanna found the tree floating down the Euphrates, so she picked up tree from the water, and planted the tree in Uruk. She did so because she could later use the timber to make her "pure throne" and "pure bed". Inanna had used her foot to plant the tree and water it with care.

Though the tree had grown stout and its bark had not split, it was infested with evil vermin. There was snake at the base or roots, which she could not remove with any spell (Snake-that-Knows-no-Charm). There was a Thunderbird (Anzud bird) had a nest on the branch with young. And there was also phantom maid or Demon-Maiden (lilitu?) that made her home at the trunk.

It is this Demon-Maiden or phantom maid, which some had translated from lilitu (Lilith). Like in the passage of biblical Isaiah, the poem doesn't give any name to the she-demon. The Demon-Maiden laughed happily because the goddess was powerless to remove these vermins.

'...in its trunk a Demon-Maiden had built her home.' The maiden who laughs with happy heart, holy Inanna was weeping.
Gilgames and the Netherworld, 87-89
translated by Andrew George

The goddess first appealed to her father, An (Anu), the Sky God, for help, but he refused. She also appealed to her brother, Utu (Shamash), the Sun God, but no help was forthcoming from him.

Finally she appealed to Gilgames (Gilgamesh), as her brother. With his axe, the hero smote the Snake-that-Knows-no-Charm. Thunderbird seeing danger, gathered its brood and flew to the mountains. As to the Lilith (lilitu)....

...in its trunk the Demon-Maiden abandoned her home, and fled to the wastelands.
Gilgames and the Netherworld, 142-143
translated by Andrew George

Lilith also resembled the cannibal monster, known as Lamia, from the Greek myth, who preyed on children at night. She was a lover of Zeus, but went insane when Hera killed her baby. Lamia snatched other babies from their cribs, before devouring them.

Sources

Internet Sacred Text Archive


Haggada
The Legends of the Jews (Haggada)
trans. by Louis Ginzberg, 1909
Internet Sacred Text Archive

This text is known in Hebrew as the Haggada. The Haggada is part of the Talmudic literature containing the narrative from the Creation to the time of Esther. Most of it is parallel to the narrative of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament Bible. The Haggada followed closely to the Genesis, but it contained a lot of interpretation that can be used to supplement details or extra legend that are lacking in the Genesis. It is in the Haggada that we can find the legend of Lilith.




Bible
Internet Sacred Text Archive

Here are the following texts used from this bible:




Good News Bible: Today English Version
United Bible Societies
1976; reprinted 1986

Here are the following texts used from this bible:


Genesis
Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures
According to the Traditional Hebrew Text

The New Jewish Publication Society; 1985




The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament
trans. by R.H. Charles
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913 (2 vols)

Though there are no mention of Lilith any these text, the Book of Jubilee has genealogy that mention daughters of Adam and Eve, as well as wives of many patriarchs.

Fortunately, copies of these translations can also be found in a couple of websites.

At Wesley College, I have used the following works as my sources from the above site:




Gilgames and the Netherworld, p 142-143
The Epic of Gilgamesh
trans. by Andrew George
Penguin Classics, 1999

The antecedent of Lilith can be found in the Sumerian poems of Gilgamesh, in Gilgames and the Netherworld.




Myths From Mesopotamia
Stephanie Dalley
Oxford's World Classics, 1989




Gilgamec, Enkidu and the nether world
trans. by Krecher, Joachim and Jagersma
The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature




The Alphabet of Ben Sira
translated by Norman Bronznick
from Lilith (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~humm/Topics/Lilith/lilith.html)

(There are also another number of translation from different sources about Lilith.)