Skip to content

The First Eve

    H. Freedman and M. Simon, eds. The Midrash Rabbah, 10 vols. London: Socino Press, 1939.

    Genesis Rabbah contains two references to a tradition that may be related to the Alphabet of Ben Sira, although probably not directly to Lilith. Here we find a much earlier example of the idea that Eve was Adam’s second wife. But in this tradition the first woman is unnamed, and there is no reason to think that she should be identified with Lilith. In addition, the reason given for the failure of the first marriage is entirely different than that given in the Alphabet. Whereas Ben Sira has the problem center around sexuality and dominance, R. Judah b. Rabbi has Adam apparently disgusted by seeing the process of the woman being created “full of discharge and blood” (although this may instead be a reference to menses).
    In spite of these differences, this tradition certainly serves as a probable source for Ben Sira. It may well be that Ben Sira’s primary contribution to the tradition is to connect the well known stories of the demoness with the midrash of the failed prototype for Eve. [AH]

    Genesis Rabbah 18.4

    And the man said, “This is now, etc.” (Gen 2.3)
    R. Judah b. Rabbi said: At first He created her for him and he saw her full of discharge and blood; thereupon He removed her from him and recreated her a second time. Hence it is said: This time[1]she is bone of my bone.

    Genesis Rabbah 22.7

    Out of this argument, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, etc.” (Gen 4.8), R. Judah b. Rabbi said: Their quarrel was about the first Eve. Said R. Abiu: The first Eve had returned to dust. Then about what was their quarrel?


    Notes

    [1]. The Hebrew phrase usually translated “This is now” (ZoT HaPa’aM) can also be translated “This time.” That appears to be how this interpreter understands it.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *