Marina D'Angelo

According to the Book of Genesis, God created man and woman in His own image on the sixth day. Man and woman were given control over beast, bird and other living things created in God's likeness. However, from the Hebrew Myths, Eve was not Adam's first mate. God formed Lilith, the first woman, born out of the same pure dust as Adam. The story of Lilith partly explains the discrepancy of the creation story in the text. Lilith is a midrash with the Biblical reference to man's first creation as a bisexual being; a dual bodied being later divided into two who seek one another. No man would consent to be a woman, but every man wants women to exist (deBeauvoir 131).

The midrash of Lilith begins with Lilith created with Adam. The myth says that Adam and Lilith never found peace together. Adam, expecting the woman to be completely submissive and obedient to his wishes, did not receive this reaction from Lilith. Instead of accepting her as equal, he attempted to dominate her. Lilith believed she was created as Adam's equal and refused to lie beneath him in intercourse. Lilith was a feminist, which was not accepted or recognized at that time. Lilith desired equality and/or dominance over Adam, liberating her from the deeper self connected to Adam. Because Adam tried to force her to obey, Lilith blurts out the magical name of God and leaves him. Declaring the mystical name of God gives her magical powers, and she flies to the Red Sea in Egypt. The Red Sea is a region filled with demons, here Lilith lives as a succubes. There she produces hundreds of demon children everyday. God, when hearing that Lilith deserted Adam, sends angels to fetch her. Lilith refuses to return, saying "God had created me for the purpose of weakening and punishing little children. I have power over them from the day they are born until they are eight days old if they are boys, and until the twentieth day if they are girls. None the less, I will spare those with your angels names of likeness displayed in an amulet above the child" (Rappoport, also Alphabetum Siracidis). God punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon babies perish daily and if she destroy a human infant, because of the angelic amulet, she would turn against her own. Adam complains to God about his loneliness, and the creation of Eve follows.

There are two parts to Lilith; one is her position as the original mate to Adam and later at the destroyer of children. Divergence's between the Creation myths of Genesis, which allow Lilith to be presumed as Adam's first mate, result from a combination of early Judean and a late priestly tradition. Some believe Lilith to be the demoness who destroyed Job's sons. The myth of Lilith states that she not only strangles infants but also seduces dreaming men. This demon has domain over children who issue from a man who has intercourse at candlelight, or with his wife naked, or at times when he is forbidden too. She would collect men's semen and demon babies would be created. To protect oneself from Lilith, a ring was made with naton, or charcoal, on the wall of the birthroom and inside it were written the words, "Adam and Eve. Out Lilith!" also the names of the angels were written on the door. To avoid danger, it was wise to strike the sleeping child's lips with one finger- whereupon Lilith would vanish. Another limit to Lilith's power of destruction is when the child under goes the initiation of circumcision. This symbolizes being "sealed into the Covenant" and "coming under the wings of the Shekinah". The circumcised child is literally the Child Crowned and Conquering, even if he and every one else is unaware of it. He has married the Shekinah, and the physical mark upon the sexual organ is one sign of this. The Shekinah is Nuit, and the child attaining Nuit places Lilith back into Her proper place, as part of the Child's own Self. For Lilith when recognized as one's Self loses her destructive power, and becomes fruitful.

Lilith assumes the Queenship of the Demons, and in some versions, she is married to Samael, believed to be the devil. The two of them continue to pollute the earth with demon children, creating havoc in God's world. Another segment of the midrash pronounces Adam the original father of the demon children. Even after the creation of Eve, Lilith becomes impregnated by the semen produced by masturbation and nocturnal emissions. Some stories continue to say that Samael, the devil, impregnates Eve and thus Cain is the offspring of the devil not of Adam. Lilith is accompanied by four hundred and eighty hosts of evil spirits and destroying angels, and she is constantly howling. Samael is called the Slant Serpent, and Lilith is called the Tortuous Serpent (Isa 27:1).

Lilith is not depicted in a favorable light in the text. However, modern feminists, especially Jewish feminists, show her as the ideal woman. Women see Lilith's rebellion against God and Adam as the superior example for the women's movement. Feminist critics have seen the figure of Lilith as representative of the assertive woman, heroic in her rebellion (Rigney 93). Eve and Lilith are thus associated to be two conflicting role models, submissive or rebellious. Lilith, on the one hand, is impotent, by herself she is in exile and can do nothing (Plaskow 206). Eve, when she leaves the garden, she leaves innocence for a world or responsibility but most importantly freedom, gaining her name in the Biblical narrative. Lilith excluded from the human community, even from the text, represents the price women have been told they must pay for attempting to leave a mark for themselves.

Another focus of the Lilith story is a further contrast of her and Eve. Eve is the original female, created from male. There is harmony between the sexes at the cost of the female accepting the dominance of the male. Eve is the scapegoat blamed for the fall of humanity since she introduced Adam to the Tree of Knowledge. Eve is the one that leads Adam into attaining the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He is thus made into a spiritually aware human being. Because of this, feminists tend to favor Lilith, the woman who believed in her own identity. However, innocence or purity are not Lilith's forte. Lilith bears demon, Eve bears humans. Sex by Lilith is viewed as unfruitful, unpartnered. Sex by Eve is normal and procreative in the traditional partnered way. Lilith becomes the symbol of the male sexual drive that can not be satisfied by normal means. It is sex without love, but simply sex for the sake of pleasure.

The midrash of Lilith brings out a lesson; that had the ego of either male or female not been so great, a more harmonious relationship from the beginning could have been established. The story ties in the theme that sex is the origin of evil, specifically the sex that Lilith represents. It further emphasizes the idea that God did not create humans as perfect beings. The world is not a perfect harmonious place, evil does exist and can be punishable by God. Furthermore, humans were created to think, to have the free will to choose their paths in life. Just as Lilith or Eve, human beings have the free choice to live in goodness or sin, to use their conscience to choose between right and wrong.

Works Cited

1. de Beauvoir, Simone, The Second Sex, New York: Bantam, 1961.

2. Plaskow, Judith, "The Coming of Lilith".

3. Rappoport, Angelo, The Story of Lilith.

4. Rigney, Barbara, Lilith's Daughters.


March 5, 1997

prepared for Intro. to the Old Testament
by Marina D'Angelo