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The Legend of Lilith or Liliya, Adam's first wife


According to medieval Jewish apocryphal tradition, which attempts to reconcile the two Creation stories presented in Genesis, Lilith was Adam's first wife. In Genesis 1:27, God creates man and woman simultaneously from the earth. In Genesis 2:7, however, Adam is created by himself from the earth; Eve is produced later, from Adam's rib (Genesis 2:21-22). In Jewish legend, the name Lilith was attached to the woman who was created at the same time as Adam.

After creating Adam, God realizes that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). In Ben Sira's fanciful additions to the biblical tale, the Almighty then fashions another person from the earth, a female called Lilith. Soon the human couple begins to fight, but neither one really hears the other. Lilith refuses to lie underneath Adam during sex, but he insists that the bottom is her rightful place. He apparently believes that Lilith should submissively perform wifely duties. Lilith, on the other hand, is attempting to rule over no one. She is simply asserting her personal freedom. Lilith states, "We are equal because we are both created from the earth."

The struggle continues until Lilith becomes so frustrated with Adam's stubbornness and arrogance that she brazenly pronounces the Tetragrammaton, the ineffable name of the Lord. God's name (YHWH), translated as "Lord God" in most Bibles and roughly equivalent to the term "Yahweh," has long been considered so holy that it is unspeakable. During the days of the Jerusalem Temple, only the High Priest said the word out loud, and then only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. In Jewish theology and practice, there is still mystery and majesty attached to God's special name. The Tetragrammaton is considered "the name that comprises all" (Zohar 19a).11 In the Bible's burning bush episode of Exodus 3, God explains the meaning of the divine name as "I am what I am," or "I will be what I will be," a kind of formula for YHWH (vuvh), associated with the Hebrew root "to be." The whole of the Torah is thought to be contained within the holy name. In The Alphabet, Lilith sins by impudently uttering the sacred syllables, thereby demonstrating to a medieval audience her unworthiness to reside in Paradise. So Lilith flies away, having gained power to do so by pronouncing God's avowed name. Though made of the earth, she is not earthbound. Her dramatic departure reestablishes for a new generation Lilith's supernatural character as a winged devil.

In the Gilgamesh and Isaiah episodes, Lilith flees to desert spaces. In The Alphabet of Ben Sira her destination is the Red Sea, site of historic and symbolic importance to the Jewish people. Just as the ancient Israelites achieve freedom from Pharaoh at the Red Sea, so Lilith gains independence from Adam by going there. But even though Lilith is the one who leaves, it is she who feels rejected and angry.

The Almighty tells Adam that if Lilith fails to return, 100 of her children must die each day. Apparently, Lilith is not only a child-murdering witch but also an amazingly fertile mother. In this way, she helps maintain the world's balance between good and evil.

Three angels are sent in search of Lilith. When they find her at the Red Sea, she refuses to return to Eden, claiming that she was created to devour children. Ben Sira's story suggests that Lilith is driven to kill babies in retaliation for Adam's mistreatment and God's insistence on slaying 100 of her progeny daily.

To prevent the three angels from drowning her in the Red Sea, Lilith swears in the name of God that she will not harm any infant who wears an amulet bearing her name. Ironically, by forging an agreement with God and the angels, Lilith demonstrates that she is not totally separated from the divine.

Lilith's relationship with Adam is a different matter. Their conflict is one of patriarchal authority versus matriarchal desire for emancipation, and the warring couple cannot reconcile. They represent the archetypal battle of the sexes. Neither attempts to solve their dispute or to reach some kind of compromise where they take turns being on top (literally and figuratively). Man cannot cope with woman's desire for freedom, and woman will settle for nothing less. In the end, they both lose.


Lilith and Snake

The Bible mentions the Lilith only once, as a dweller in waste places (Isaiah 34:14), but the characterization of the Lilith or the Lili (in the singular or plural) as a seducer or slayer of children has a long pre-history in ancient Babylonian religion.


Lilith

Two other references to the Lilith point to her physical appearance: she has wings and long hair.


Old Screech Owl

Isaiah 34:14 The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.

Lilith is the screech owl.


Lilith appears as the snake that tempts Eve in the Garden by many of the early Chhristain artist. See the Picture Gallary below. In these pictures, the serpant the tempts Eve is female which is that depection of Lilith.

Picture Gallary

Michelangelo's Expulsion of Adam and Eve

Lilith's Temptation of Adam and Eve

Lilith as Snake and Owl

Brigham Young's statement on Adam's wives

On the 9th of April 1852 President Brigham Young stepped up to the pulpit in the old tabernacle on Temple Square and informed a group of Elders, who had gathered here for General conference, that he was going to straighten them out on an issue which they had been debating about. The topic of disagreement centered upon who was the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh - Elohim or the Holy Ghost. President Young surprised the people who were in attendance by announcing that it was neither one of them. He said,

"Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden he came into it with a celestial body and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the archangel, the 'Ancient of Days'."