Lilith, Adam's mythological first wife
My niece has come to me with a statement that her teacher made
to her her high school "American Studies" class.
According to this teacher:
The Torah states that: God created Adam and a woman. This woman
that God created was not a good person. God then created Eve for
I do not have a Torah and have not been able to find one on-line.
If you could direct me to a on-line version of the Torah, I would
I have told her that the book of Genesis is the same in the
Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible. This must be causing doubts
in her mind, since she has brought it to my attention several
times over the last six months.
The Hebrew word "torah" can mean at least five different meanings
(that I know of):
(1) A "law" either secular or sacred. The plural (i.e.,
"laws") would be "torot."
(2) The Mosaic Law given to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
(3) The first five books of the Bible, attributed to Moses as
the author (i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and
These five books are the same for Jews and Christians. The
original language in Classical (Biblical Hebrew). These books are
also known as the Pentateuch ("penta"=five).
(4) The totality of the Hebrew Scriptures.
(5) The physical scroll on which the first five books of the Bible
I would assume that when your daughter's teacher referred to
"the Torah" she was either referring to definition 3
or 4 above (most likely #4 based on what I am about to relate).
But no matter how you understand "Torah" the idea of
a wife before Eve does not occur at all. This idea is a rabbinic
tradition and is completely non-Biblical (and I would add, quite
anti-Biblical). This first wife is referred to as "Lilith."
Following is the basic myth:
"According to Hebrew legend, the first woman God created
as a companion for the first man Adam was a strong-willed lady
named Lilith. (See Graves and Patai's Hebrew Myths and Reuther's
Womanguides.) As both had been created from dust, Lilith considered
herself equal to Adam. (They differed anatomically, of course,
with the Bible referring to a male as one who 'pisseth against
the wall' [1 Sam. 25:34; 1 Kings 14:10; 21:21].) Lilith objected
to having to lie beneath Adam during sexual intercourse, but Adam
would have it no other way. Lilith up and left him, winding up
in rabbinic tradition as a baby-killing demoness who seduces sleeping
men. Lilith is mentioned in Isa. 34:14, though the KJV renders
lilith as 'screech owl.' This first wife of Adam may safely be
called the world's first uppity woman.
"With Lilith departed, Adam was back where he started,
being without a fit helper. According to a Hebrew tradition cited
in Graves and Patai, God let Adam watch while he put a second
woman together. The process of anatomical assemblage was so disgusting
that Adam found the woman repulsive even though she was beautiful
when finished. God sent this first Eve away and tried again: while
Adam slept, Yahweh created the Eve found in Genesis 2 from Adam's
rib. God presented her to Adam, who said happily, 'This is now
bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man' (Gen. 2:23)." (from http://www.hobrad.com/andg.htm#GENDER)
Another source provides some more information:
"Early theologians had a real problem with the status
of women in regard to Genesis. Here is this supposedly weak creature
twisting Man around her finger and bringing death on the entire
race. A 'logical' answer presented itself in splitting woman into
the Madonna/whore dichotomy. There was even a Biblical basis for
Lilith. Genesis 1:27 reads, 'So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created
them.' Set opposite Genesis 2, in which Adam is created first
and Eve is an afterthought to appease his loneliness, many see
this as evidence that Adam had two wives. "Lilith is this
first wife. Since she was made of the earth, like Adam, she became
proud and refused to lie beneath him during intercourse. This
violated the command to be fruitful and multiply, since she was
not being impregnated. Some traditions hold that she was impregnated
and bore demons from him. The evidence for this is the statement
in Genesis 5:3 'Adam begat a son in his image,' implying there
had been sons not in his image. He pushed the issue of her submission,
and she uttered the Holy Name of God and flew away.
"Adam complained to God and he sent three angels to reason
with her. They found her coupling with fallen angels near the
Red Sea and bearing more demonic children. She refused to return
but promised to spare Adam's children if the names of the angels:
Sanvi, Sansanvi and Semangelaf were written near them. Even today,
some parents will charcoal a magic circle with the words 'Adam
and Eve barring Lilith' on the wall near their baby, and write
the names of the angels on the door.
"Eve was created out of Adam as her replacement. Some
say God let Adam try making the next one, but the creation was
so horrible God destroyed it before even giving it life. An amusing
Victorian story claims a dog ran off with Adam's rib and devoured
it before God found him, so Eve was made using one of the dog's
"Lilith did not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good
and Evil, and hence is immortal. She was rewarded for service
by Asmodeus, the demon of lechery, luxuriousness and evil revenge.
She now rules one of the levels of Hell in the company of Namah,
Machlath, and Hurmizah. Her power is over newborn children and
women in childbirth. She may take boys up to the eighth day and
girls up to the twentieth. She is also the mother of the Lilim
or Lilot, the Djinn, and the succubui and incubi. Other Biblical
references: Isaiah 34:14 'night hag' (NIV translates it as 'Desert
creatures' and 'night creatures.' and Psalm 91 'terror by night'."
For more in information on Lilith, "Adam's first wife,"
see the following references (particularly the first in the list).
She is identified with demons, vampires, and other Satanic things:
The Apostle Paul warned us to adhere to the word of God rather
the tradition of men: "See to it that no one takes you captive
through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition
of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather
than according to Christ. (Col 2:8)
Jesus also warned us against putting aside the word of God
in favor of the traditions of men:
"Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God
for the sake of your tradition?" Matt 15:3
"you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your
tradition." (Matt 15:6)
"Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition
of men." He [Jesus] was also saying to them, 'You are experts
at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your
tradition.'" (Mark 7:8-9)
Following is an article "Night Monster" from the
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, which discusses Lilith:
(nit'-mon-ster) (lilith; Septuagint onokentauros; Vulgate (Jerome's
Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) lamia):
I. THE ACCEPTED TRANSLATION
1. Professor Rogers' Statement
2. Exception to the Statement
II. FOLKLORE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. Paucity of References
2. References in Highly Poetical Passages
3. The References Allusive
4. Possibility of Non-mythological Interpretation
5. The Term lilith.
I. The Accepted Translation. - The term "night-monster"'
is a hypothetical translation of the Hebrew term lilith, used
once only, in Isa 34:14. The word is translated in the King James
Version "screech-owl," margin "night monster,"
the Revised Version (British and American) "night-monster,"
margin "Lilith." The term "night-monster"
is also an interpretation, inasmuch as it implies that the Hebrew
word is a Babylonian loan-word, and that the reference indicates
a survival of primitive folklore.
1. Professor Rogers' Statement: Concerning this weird superstition,
and its strange, single appearance in the Book of Isaiah, Professor
Rogers has this to say: "The lil, or ghost, was a night-demon
of terrible and baleful influence upon men, and only to be cast
out with many incantations. The lil was attended by a serving
maid, the ardat lili ("maid of night"), which in the
Semitic development was transferred into the feminine lilitu.
It is most curious and interesting to observe that this ghost-demon
lived on through the history of the Babylonian religion, and was
carried out into the Hebrew religion, there to find one single
mention in the words of one of the Hebrew prophets" (Religions
of Assyria and Babylonia, 76, 77).
2. Exception to the Statement: Exception is to be taken to
this statement, admitting the etymological assumption upon which
it rests, that "lilith" is a word in mythology, on the
ground that the conception of a night-demon has no place in the
religion of the Hebrews as exhibited in the Scriptures. It is
certainly worthy of more than passing notice that a conception
which is very prominent in the Babylonian mythology, and is worked
out with great fulness of doctrinal and ritualistic detail, has,
among the Hebrews, so far receded into the background as to receive
but one mention in the Bible, and that a bald citation without
detail in a highly poetic passage. The most that can possibly
be said, with safety, is that if the passage in Isaiah is to be
taken as a survival of folklore, it is analogous to those survivals
of obsolete ideas still to be found in current speech, and in
the literature of the modern world (see LUNATIC). There is no
evidence of active participation in this belief, or even of interest
in it as such, on the part of the prophetical writer. On the contrary,
the nature of the reference implies that the word was used simply
to add a picturesque detail to a vivid, imaginative description.
All positive evidence of Hebrew participation in this belief belongs
to a later date (see Buxtorf's Lex., under the word "Talmud").
II. Folklore in the Old Testament. - Attention has been called
elsewhere to the meagerness, in the matter of detail, of Old Testament
demonology (see DEMON, DEMONOLOGY; COMMUNION WITH DEMONS). A kindred
fact of great importance should be briefly noticed here, namely,
that the traces of mythology and popular folklore in the Bible
are surprisingly faint and indistinct. We have the following set
of items in which such traces have been discovered: "Rahab"
(rachabh), mentioned in Job 9:13; 26:12; Isa 51:9; "Tanin"
(tannin), Isa 27:1; "Leviathan" (liwyathan), Job 3:8;
Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1; Ezek 29:3; Job 41:1 passim; the "serpent
in the sea," in Amos 9:3; "Seirim" (se`irim), 2
Chron 11:15; Lev 17:7; 2 Kings 23:8; Isa 13:21; 34:14; "Alukah"
(`aluqah), Prov 30:15; "Azazel (`aza'zel) Lev 16:8,10,26
"Lilith" (ut sup.), Isa 34:14-15.
A review of these passages brings certain very interesting
facts to light.
1. Paucity of References: The references are few in number.
Rahab is mentioned 3 times; Tannin (in this connection), once;
Leviathan, 5 times; the serpent in the sea, once; Seirim, 5 times
(twice with references to idols); Alukah, once; Azazel, 3 times
in one chapter and in the same connection; Lilith, once.
2. References in Highly Poetical Passages: These references,
with the single exception of Azazel to which we shall return a
little later, are all in highly poetical passages. On general
grounds of common-sense we should not ascribe conscious and deliberate
mythology to writers or speakers of the Bible in passages marked
by imaginative description and poetic imagery, any more than we
should ascribe such beliefs to modern writers under like circumstances.
Poetry is the realm of truth and not of matter of fact. In passages
of this tenor, mythology may explain the word itself and justify
its appropriateness, it does not explain the use of the term or
disclose the personal view of the writer.
3. The References Allusive: All these references are in the
highest degree allusive. They exhibit no exercise of the mythological
fancy and have received no embroidery with details. This is most
significant. So far as our specific references are concerned,
we are dealing with petrified mythology, useful as literary embellishment,
but no longer interesting in itself.
4. Possibility of Non-mythological Interpretation: Every one
of these words is sufficiently obscure in origin and uncertain
in meaning to admit the possibility of a non-mythological interpretation;
indeed, in several of the parallels a non-mythological use is
evident. Bible-Dict. writers are apt to say (e.g. concerning lilith)
that there is no doubt concerning the mythological reference.
The reader may discover for himself that the lexicographers are
more cautious (see Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English
Lexicon of the Old Testament, in loc.). The use of "Rahab"
in Job 26:12 is not mythological for the simple reason that it
is figurative; the use of "Leviathan" in Isa 27:1 and
Ezek 29:3 comes under the same category.
In Job 40 and 41, if the identification of behemoth and leviathan
with hippopotamus and crocodile be allowed to stand and the mythological
significance of the two be admitted, we have the stage where mythology
has become a fixed and universal symbolism which can be used to
convey truth apart from the belief in it as reality (see LEVIATHAN;
"Job," New Century Bible, p. 335; Meth. Rev., May, 1913,
429 ff). The sea serpent of Amos 9:3 is not necessarily the dragon
or Tiamat, and the use of the term is merely suggestive. The term
se`ir is in literal use for "he-goat" (Num 15:24, et
al.) and is doubtful throughout. Ewald translates it "he-goat"
in Isa 34:14 and "Satyr" in 13:21. It means literally
"shaggy monster" (Vulgate, pilosus). We do not hesitate
on the basis of the evidence to erase "Alukah" (Prov
30:15, the Revised Version (British and American) "horse-leech,"
by some translated "vampire") and "Azazel"
(Lev 16:8, etc.), interpreted as a "demon of the desert,"
from the list of mythological words altogether. As ripe a scholar
as Perowne ("Proverbs," Cambridge Bible) combats the
idea of vampire, and Kellogg ("Leviticus," Expositor's
Bible, in loc.) has simply put to rout the mythological-demonic
interpretation of Azazel. Even in the case of lilith the derivation
is obscure, and the objections urged against the demonic idea
by Alexander have not altogether lost their force (see Commentary
on Isaiah, in loc.). There is a close balance of probabilities
in one direction or the other.
5. The Term lilith: One further fact with regard to lilith
must be considered. The term occurs in a list of creatures, the
greater part of which are matter-of-fact animals or birds. A comparative
glance at a half-dozen translates of the passage Isa 34:11-14
will convince any reader that there are a great many obscure and
difficult words to be found in the list. Following Delitzsch's
translation we have: "pelican," "hedge-hog,"
"horned-owl," "raven," "wild-dog,"
"ostrich," "forest-demon" (se`ir), "night-monster."
This is a curious mixture of real and imaginary creatures. Alexander
acutely observes that there is too much or too little mythology
in the passage. One of two conclusions would seem to follow from
a list so constructed: Either all these creatures are looked upon
as more or less demonic (see Whitehouse, Hastings, Dictionary
of the Bible (five volumes), article "Demon," with which
compare West M. Alexander, Demonic Possession in the New Testament,
16), or, as seems to the present writer far more probable, none
in the list is considered otherwise than as supposed literal inhabitants
of the wilderness. The writer of Isa 34:14, who was not constructing
a scientific treatise, but using his imagination, has constructed
a list in which are combined real and imaginary creatures popularly
supposed to inhabit unpeopled solitudes. There still remains a
by no means untenable supposition that none of the terms necessarily
are mythological in this particular passage. --LOUIS MATTHEWS