The Identity of Lilith

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 ribs.

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"

Connection with vampires.

Lilith is the prototype of the succubus. She comes to men as they dream and
drains their blood. This aspect features as prominantly in the legends as
her taking of children. It is her revenge on Adam that she drains his sons
as they sleep, always taking the top.

Current, nonconformist views of Lilith

From _The Chatto Book of Dissent_, edited by Michael Rosen and David
It's published by Chatto & Windus Ltd, London, 1991.


God formed Lilith the first woman just as He had formed Adam except that He
used filth and impure sediment instead of dust or earth. Adam and Lilith
never found peace together. She disagreed with him in many matters, and
refused to lie beneath him in sexual intercourse, basing her claim for
equality on the fact that each had been created from earth. When Lilith saw
that Adam would overpower her, she uttered the ineffable name of God and
flew up into the air of the world. Eventually she dwelt in a cave in the
desert on the shores of the Red Sea. There she engaged in unbridled
promiscuity, consorted with lascivious demons, and gave birth to hundreds of
*Lilim* or demonic babies, daily...

It is said that soon after Lilith left Adam he stood in prayer before his
creator and said: "God of the World, the woman that you gave me has run away
from me." Immediately God, the Holy One, dispatched the three angels,
Sanvai, Sansanvai, and Semangelof to bring her back. They caught up with her
in the desert near the Red Sea. "Return to Adam without delay," the angels
said, "or we will drown you!" Lilith asked: "How can I return to Adam and be
his woman, after my stay beside the Red Sea?" "It would be death to
refuse!"; they answered. "How can I die," Lilith asked again, "when God has
ordered me to take charge of all newborn children: boys up to the eighth day
of life, that of circumcision; girls up to the twentieth day? Nevertheless,"
she said, "I swear to you in the name of God, El, who is living and exists,
that if ever I see your three names on likenesses displayed in an amulet
above a newborn child, I promise to spare it." To this day they agreed;
however, God punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon children
perish daily, and if Lilith could not destroy a human infant, because of the
angelic amulet, she would spitefully turn against her own.

From the _Alpha Bet Sira_, ninth century

This passage is excerpted from the essay "The Coming of Lilith: Toward a
Feminist Theology" by Judith Plaskow. I found it in _Womanspirit_Rising_-_A_
_Feminist_Reader_in Religion_ ed. by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow

In the beginning, the Lord God formed Adam and Lilith from the dust of the
ground and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. Created from the
same source, both having been formed from the ground, they were equal in all
ways. Adam, being a man, didn't like this situation, and he looked for ways
to change it. He said, "I'll have my figs now, Lilith," ordering her to wait
on him, and he tried to leave to her the daily tasks of life in the garden.
But Lilith wasn't one to take any nonsense; she picked herself up, uttered
God's holy name, and flew away. "Well now, Lord," complained Adam, "that
uppity woman you sent me has gone and deserted me." The Lord, inclined to be
sympathetic, sent his messengers after Lilith, telling her to shape up and
return to Adam or face dire punishment. She, however, preferring anything to
living with Adam, decided to stay where she was. And so God, after more
careful consideration this time, caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and out
of one of his ribs created for him a second companion, Eve. For a time, Eve
and Adam had a good thing going. Adam was happy now, and Eve, though she
occasionally sensed capacities within herself that remained undeveloped, was
basically satisfied with the role of Adam's wife and helper. The only thing
that really disturbed her was the excluding closeness of the relationship
between Adam and God. Adam and God just seemed to have more in common, both
being men, and Adam came to identify with God more and more. After a while,
that made God a bit uncomfortable too, and he started going over in his mind
whether he may not have made a mistake letting Adam talk him into banishing
Lilith and creating Eve, seeing the power that gave Adam. Meanwhile Lilith,
all alone, attempted from time to time to rejoin the human community in the
garden. After her first fruitless attempt to breach its walls, Adam worked
hard to build them stronger, even getting Eve to help him. He told her
fearsome stories of the demon Lilith who threatens women in childbirth and
steals children from their cradles in the middle of the night. The second
time Lilith came, she stormed the garden's main gate and a great battle
ensued between her and Adam in which she was finally defeated. This time,
however, before Lilith got away, Eve got a glimpse of her and saw she was a
woman like herself. After this encounter, seeds of curiosity and doubt began
to grow in Eve's mind. Was Lilith indeed just another woman? Adam had said
she was a demon. Another woman! The very idea attracted Eve. She had never
seen another creature like herself before. And how beautiful and strong
Lilith looked! How bravely she had fought! Slowly, slowly, Eve began to
think about the limits of her own life within the garden. One day, after
many months of strange and disturbing thoughts, Eve, wandering around the
edge of the garden, noticed a young apple tree she and Adam had planted, and
saw that one of its branches stretched over the top of the garden wall.
Spontaneously, she tried to climb it, and struggling to the top, swung
herself over the wall. She did not wander long on the other side before she
met the one she had come to find, for Lilith was waiting. At first sight of
her, Eve remembered the tales of Adam and was frightened, but Lilith
understood and greeted her kindly. "Who are you?" they asked each other,
"What is your story?" And they sat and spoke together, of the past and then
of the future. They talked for many hours, not once, but many times. They
taught each other many things, and told each other stories, and laughed
together, and cried, over and over, till the bond of sisterhood grew between
them. Meanwhile, back in the garden, Adam was puzzled by Eve's comings and
goings, and disturbed by what he sensed to be her new attitude toward him.
He talked to God about it, and God, having his own problems with Adam and a
somewhat broader perspective, was able to help out a little - but He was
confused, too. Something had failed to go according to plan. As in the days
of Abraham, He needed counsel from His children. "I am who I am," thought
God, "but I must become who I will become." And God and Adam were expectant
and afraid the day Eve and Lilith returned to the garden bursting with
possibilies, ready to build it together.


Cavendish, Richard. _Man, Myth & Magic_. Marshall Cavendish Corp. New York. 1972. vol 12. p. 1631.
Figes, Eva. _Patriarchial Attitudes; the case for women in revolt_.

Kaye Marvin, ed. _Devils and Demons; A Treasury of Fiendish Tales Old and New_. Dorset Press.
New York. 1987.

Plaskow, Judith. "The Coming of Lilith: Toward a Feminist Theology."
_Womanspirit_Rising_-_A_Feminist_Reader_in Religion_. Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow. eds.

Rosen, Michael and David Widgery, eds. _The Chatto Book of Dissent_.
Chatto & Windus Ltd. London. 1991.

Singer, Isaac Bashevis. "The Black Wedding." _Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural_.
Marvin Kaye, ed. Doubleday and Company, Inc. New York. 1985.