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Friday, February 4, 2022

The Legend Of Lilith: Adam’s First Wife

We all are used to the Adam and Eve story from the bible. That Eve was persuaded by the snake to eat the forbidden fruit, and humans became sinners. But have you heard the story about Adam’s first wife?

Based on the Jewish folklore, Adam had his first wife, her name is Lilith.

Adam’s First Wife
Image: stumagz

Lilith is a Jewish Mythological figure, developed earliest in Babylonian Talmud (Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (halakha) and Jewish theology) in 3rd to 5th century AD. Lilith appears as Adam’s wife from c.AD 700-1000 onwards, she was created the same time from the same clay as Adam, same was written in Genesis 1:26-27. However, she was not mentioned in the Torah (specifically, the Hebrew Bible’s first five books), commonly known as the Written Torah. It can also mean the continuous narrative from all the 24 books, from the Book of Genesis to the Tanakh’s end.), and has been associated with Adam for over centuries to reconcile the contradictory versions of creation in the book of Genesis.

There are two contradicting versions of the creation of humans based on the biblical book of Genesis. The first one that appears in Genesis 1:26-27 is called the Priestly account.


“26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and overall the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”-Genesis 1:26-27


The second account of creation is known as the Yahwistic version, and it is found in Genesis 2. 


“Thus, the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”-Genesis 2

Adam’s First Wife
Image: History Collection

This is the version of creation with which most people are familiar. God created Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden. Afterward, God decided to make a companion for Adam, and so He created the animals of land and the sky and see if any of them are suitable to be a man’s companion. Each animal was brought to Adam and noticed that they are not fit helper. God then put Adam on deep sleep and shaped Eve from his side. Adam then recognized Eve as part of himself and accepts her as his companion. 


The ancient rabbis noticed the discrepancy between the two versions of creation based on the Book of Genesis (called Beresheet in Hebrew), and they solved the difference.

The first one referred to the first “Eve,” which Adam was dissatisfied with, so God created the second Eve, which pleased Adam.


The Priestly account describes the making of androgyny, which is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics into an ambiguous form (Genesis Rabbah 8:1, Leviticus Rabbah 14:1). In the Yahwistic account, the creature was split into a man and a woman.


Although having two wives (two Eves), which appears early on, was not associated with Lilith’s character and the interpretation of creation’s timeline until the medieval period.


Based on Assyrian and Babylonia’s Akkadian language, the terms lili and lilitu mean spirits; in Sumerian, lili is female demons. Archibald Sayce, 1882 (a pioneer British Assyriologist and linguist held a chair as Prof. of Assyriology at the University of Oxford from 1891-1919) considered Hebrew lilit or Lilith and earlier Akkadian lilitu were from proto-Semitic. Charles Fossey, 1902 (French assyriologist) has translated it into a female night being/demon, while cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia, lilit, and lilitu were referred to disease-bearing wind spirits.


Lilith was also mentioned in Babylonian Talmud four times; not until the Alphabet of Ben Sira (c. 800s to 900s) that Lilith was associated in the first version of creation. This medieval text presented a full account of Lilith’s story as Adam’s first wife.


Based on the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam’s first wife, but they fought all the time and didn’t on matters of sex. Adam always wanted to be on top, while Lilith also wants to turn into the dominant sexual position. Lilith then left Adam; she uttered God’s name and flew into the air, leaving Adam alone in the Garden of Eden. God sends three angels (Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof) to bring Lilith back to Adam. She was found in the Red Sea, and the angels were unable to convince her to come with them even with force. They then had a deal that Lilith will not harm any newborn child if an amulet protects them with the names of the three angels were written on it. 

“The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God’s word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, ‘We shall drown you in the sea.’

“‘Leave me!’ she said. ‘I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’

“When the angels heard Lilith’s words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: ‘Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.’ She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels’ names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.”- The Alphabet of Ben Sira

It appears that The Alphabet of Ben Sira combined the legends of female demons along with the idea of the first Eve. This resulted in a story about Lilith becoming an assertive wife who defied God and her husband and got replaced by another woman and got demonized by Jewish folklore as a killer of babies. 

Legends also characterized Lilith as a stunning woman who seduces a man, copulates in their sleep (succubus), and spawns demon children. Lilith then was labeled as Queen of Demons. 

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