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Eve Was Not The First Women: The Story of Lilith

Sarah Sol dives into biblical history to examine the portrayal of Lilith, the first woman created by God and a modern feminist icon, weaving contemporary politics with mythical tales in a plight to understand the significance of a woman as a symbol.


Disclaimer: This piece is an unbiased factual piece of writing. There will be brief mentions of rape, miscarriages, stillborn deaths, murder, kidnapping, masturbation, sex, eating children, demons, and biblical references throughout.


Many individuals are familiar with the legend that Adam was made of dust and Eve from his rib. But what if this was wrong? Various texts across cultures paint Lilith, Adam’s first wife, in different ways. Within this article, I attempt to explore all versions of her in an attempt to find out: who was Lilith really?


Story 1: This story has two endings, but the beginning starts like this:


Lilith and Adam lived in the garden of Eden together. This was portrayed in a medieval Jewish text called the Alphabet of Ben Sira. [1] Both Adam and Lilith were made by God, from dust and earth as equals.


Lilith’s values led her to refuse to lay beneath Adam during sex, as they were equals but Adam disagreed. Lilith fled the garden of Eden despite knowing the consequences, choosing independence and equality instead.


First ending: Lilith the good


When God heard of Lilith’s disappearance, he sent three angels, Senoi, Sansenoi, and Sammangel, to retrieve her. When the angels located her, they found her bearing children in a cave. [2] The angels threatened to drown Lilith and she refused to come back to the garden and sacrifice her independence. The angels told her they would kill 100 of her children every day for her disobedience. In revenge, she is said to steal the lives of children and is responsible for stillborn infants and crib deaths. [3] Though to prevent the three angels from drowning her, she swears she will not harm children who bear amulets of the three angels. [3]


After this, Lilith attempted to return to the garden of Eden but discovered she had already been replaced by Eve. Out of revenge Lilith had sex with Adam and stole his seed (some texts suggest she raped him while he slept.) With this she bears “Lilum,” which are earthbound demons and act as a replacement of her slaughtered children. Lilith continues the creation of her demon-children by taking advantage of male erotic dreams and masturbation. [2]


Second ending: Lilith the bad


The story continues that Lilith was equal to Adam and refused to lay beneath him. Though in rage, Lilith spoke God’s true name and fled the garden in anger. Adam told God this and God sent the three angels after her.


Similarly, the angels found her in a cave bearing children, and they tried to convince her to return to the garden and be with Adam. She refuses, claiming she cannot return to her first husband because she had already slept with the “Great Demon.” Lilith also tells the angels she was created to devour children and steal their lives. [3] The angels bargain with her to stay away from children, bearing their amulet, and she agrees. [1]


Feminism


It is a common view among feminists that Lilith is an icon, not only because she was the first woman, but the first independent woman created equal to man. Many Jewish feminists reclaimed Lilith as a symbol of independence and sexual liberation. This belief was soon followed by the rest of the world. Lilith first became a feminist icon through the 1960s movement – until then she was mostly viewed as a monster. A Jewish feminist magazine named their magazine after Lilith. They are an independent Jewish women’s magazine and viewed Lilith as a symbol of independence. [2]


Story 3: Man hater


Others claim she is a villain and a man-hater, taking advantage of males and stealing the lives of children just as a monster would. Lilith, in this context, represents a wild woman whom society cannot control, a shrew if you will. A woman who determines her own sexual partners, who is wild and unkempt. Someone who preys on men’s private masturbation and erotic dreams for her own advantage and for the purpose of creating her spawn. A woman who is more animal than human.


Story 4: Demoness


Many scholars believe Lilith stemmed from Lilu demons. [4] It is claimed the Lilu (male) and Lititu (female) demons were once human spirits of young men and women who had died too young. Transformed into demons, they are hungry for human victims. These creatures are said to slip through windows and into people’s houses while they sleep, seeking victims to play their husbands and wives as they never had. Individuals are warned to not sleep alone in a house at night or leave your windows open as Lilu demons may possess or take advantage of you in your sleep.


Another demon associated with Lilith is Lamashtu. Lamashtu is a female demon who threatened newborns and had a particular taste for human flesh and blood. Lamashtu would steal babies the second they were born or while they were breastfeeding. It is said she would then suck their blood and gnawn on their bones. [5] Lamashtu is described as the worst possible monster, haunting mothers long after she had feasted on their children.


These monsters are a combination of stories about Lilith and her demon children as these tales eventually converged to become a seducer of men and an attacker of children.


So was Lilith the first feminist? The first monster? A man hater or man eater? Or was she simply misunderstood? The answer is up to your interpretation.





[1] Lesses, Rebecca. “Lilith.” Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women., 1999, https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/lilith.

[2] ”Blood, Gender and Power in Christianity and Judaism.” https://www2. kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Projects/Reln91/Power/lilith.htm.

[3] Gaines, Janet Howe. “Lilith Seductress, Heroine or Murderer?” BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY SOCIETY, 2023, https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/lilith/.

[4] Pelaia, Ariela. “The Legend of Lilith: Adam’s First Wife.” 2021 2019. https://www.learnreligions.com/legend-of-lilith-origins-2076660.

[5]Joe, Jimmy. “Lamashtu: The Evil Egyptian Goddess That Killed Babies “ 1999. https://www.timelessmyths.com/copyright/.

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