Lilith In Jewish Tradition And Its Inclination To Mesopotamia

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Lilith in Jewish tradition and its inclination to Mesopotamia

Lilith is a very important figure in Jewish culture that was considered as Adam’s first woman. The stories about Lilith began in the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia.

There are different stories and theories about Lilith’s life. One of the most popular legends speaks that Lilith decided to leave Eden and that’s why he left Adam alone. Then he lived in the vicinity of the Red Sea, lived with his children and had several lovers.

Lilith later associated with the figure of a demon who had sex with various men in order to have children. He took the human form of a woman, considered very beautiful physically.

For the Jews Lilith was never considered as a goddess. The normal thing in this culture is to use Lilith’s figure as an example to talk about women’s eroticism as something bad or harmful.

The myths about Lilith have been associated with the Hebrews, with the Sumerian civilizations and that of the Akkadians.

It has also been associated with Lilith with the history of Queen Lamia. According to legend in Greece this woman killed her own children. Then, because of the envy he felt for the other mothers, his goal was to devour all other children.

In general, you can say that there are many stories about this female figure. And each figure has its own legend.

Origin and etymology

Although he should be an important character within history, because of the role he had, about Lilith there are few certainties. To start, nothing is known about its origin exactly.

One of the hypothesis about how Lilith arose is found in the stories about two of the female demons that existed in the culture of Mesopotamia. Lilitu and Ardat Lili were two figures that were related to the demon Lilu who dominated women and kidnapped their children.

In the culture of Mesopotamia it is usual to get names of demons that begin with the word LIL. Etymologically several meanings are given to the term and that is why these malignant figures are associated with elements such as air, wind or spirits.

According to one of the hypothesis about the origin of Lilith the Jews appropriated the idea of this demon when members of this civilization were expelled from their lands and found refuge in Babylon.

The Hebrews adapted Lilith’s name to their language. He began to be known as the queen of darkness or night. In the Hebrew religion he became an evil being that kidnapped children, especially babies, when they were in their cribs during the night.

Lilith’s story according to the Hebrew tradition appears in the rabbinic writings. Although Lilith is never named in the book of Genesis 1:27, the interpretation made by the Hebrews of this chapter affirms that reference is made to it in the first chapter. Genesis’ book is where we talk about the creation of Adam and Eve.

In Mesopotamian mythology

Although Lilith seems to be more entrenched in Jewish culture, the origin of this female figure seems to be more inclined towards Sumerian civilizations. Historians such as Reginald Campbell, of English origin, has approved this theory in which he said that Lilith is part of a greater group of female demons and similar characteristics with similar characteristics.

According to Campbell Thompson, Lilith and the rest of demons that are associated with Lilitú are malignant figures that in 50% have human form and qualities and in the other 50% show divinity characteristics.

The first graphic representation of this demon was a woman with claws on her feet and wings. In Lilith Babylonian literature it is represented as one of the prostitutes that the goddess ishtar had under his command.

In the Bible

According to the reading made by Christians from the Bible, there is no reference to Lilith in the book of Genesis. This is the first book in the Old Testament, where the stories are narrated before the appearance of Christ.

For the Christian this definitively demonstrates that Eva was the first woman and the first couple Adam had. According to Genesis 1-3 the first sin committed by Adam and Eve has anything to do with Lilith.

The only mention of Lilith in the Bible occurs in Isaiah’s book. It is also found in the Old Testament, but this book has a more prophetic approach.

Lilith is named in Isaiah 34-14. “Wild cats will come together with hyenas and one satyr will call the other;There will also rest Lilith and she will find rest ". Beyond this mention it is impossible to know what the author of this part of the literary work was referring to.

Lilith could well have been an animal, a demon, the own name of someone or anything else.

In Jewish tradition

For the Jews Lilith is presented as a evil female figure that appears during the night. Its objective is to captivate men. He is also feared because he murders newborn children.

The legends about Lilith were adopted by the Jews when part of this civilization was exiled in Babylon. There are many Jewish writings where reference is made to Lilith.


This work groups the different rabbinic debates that exist on Jewish norms, stories, legends or customs. Here Lilith is described as a curse for men who spend the night alone.

Ben Sirá alphabet

Also known as the Book of Wisdom of Jesus. It is a text found in the Old Testament. For the Jews here we talk about Lilith and he is cataloged as the woman Adam had before the existence of Eva.

Lilith claimed to have the same rights as Adam and he refused to this request for equity. That is why Lilith abandoned him. Then he lived in a cave, where Lilith had as a couple to different demons with whom she even had children.

According to Legend God, he sent three angels to Earth so that Adam could recover Lilith. Despite having been threatened, Lilith chose to be punished and not return with Adam. The condemnation was that every day a hundred of the children that Lilith engendered were going to die. She, meanwhile, threatened to kill human children in revenge.

In the end, Lilith and the three angels sent by God reached an agreement. She promised not to kill any child who had an amulet with the image of the three angels. This became a tradition among the Hebrews, who began placing newborn babies chains with the names of Senoy, Sansenoy and Semanelof, the three messengers of God.

Another of the customs that the Jews had to deceive Lilith was to not cut their baby’s hair until they turned three years old. In this way they expected to deceive the demon, because it only attacked newborn children who were male.

In Greco -Roman tradition

Lilith is also associated as Lamia, a very feared female figure in the Greek culture. In this case Lamia also acted against children and was known as a murderer.

Physically Lamia had a human body from the head to the waist. The other part of the body resembles a snake. Although there were different representations of Lamia over the years.

To many stories about the origin of Lamia. On the one hand it is linked to the goddess Hécate and on the other with Hera. This second hypothesis is the most popular. The legend speaks that Lamia was punished by Hera, who murdered all the children of Lamia for lying with her partner, Zeus.

The death of all his children produced great pain in Lamia and aroused his anger. His revenge was to steal the children of all mothers and kill them. It was considered a cannibal.

In general, Jews and Greeks have many similarities among their stories about Lilith.

As a demon

Lilith’s image is more associated with malignant acts. It was very feared by pregnant women because they considered that their children could be in danger at the time of being born.

Lilith’s way of acting was killing babies at the time of birth. It was characterized by drinking the blood of the men and then ate them. He was considered a Cannibal special.

If women wanted to protect themselves from this evil figure, they had to go to some religion outside Christianity, Judaism or Islam, since for these Lilith cultures it was never considered a goddess. As protection, spells were performed, different amulets could be used or made some spell.

In the text that can be found in Jewish culture there are comparisons of Lilith with other malignant figures. There are some interpretations that claim that Lilith is not given any importance for its demonic characteristics and it is even discussed that its creation occurred first than Eva’s.

It was among the Jews where Lilith had the greatest importance as a demon or as an evil spirit.

As a symbol of feminism

The feminist movement around the figure of Lilith was very important thanks to the role of Judith Plaskow. At the end of the 20th century Plaskow dedicated himself to analyzing the most important and sacred writings of Jewish religion. She was considered the first feminist that Jewish culture had and she herself cataloged as theologian.

His work again interpreted the texts of Judaism was very important since for the first time history was seen from the eyes of a group of women and not only by men. In that work Plaskow decided to tell Lilith’s story with a new approach.

The references that were made of this female figure in Ben Sirá’s alphabet were based on. For Plaskow, Lilith and Adam, they were beings that were created and were in absolute equality. The theologian explained that the separation of Adam with what would have been her first wife was for his authoritarian attitude and the opposition to recognize Lilith as her equal.

In this way Plaskow fought first to recognize the figure of Lilith as Adam’s first woman. Then, he tried to demonstrate that since the beginning of time women demanded recognition for their rights and these were not respected.

Lilith in modern works

Lilith’s figure began to acquire feminist characteristics at the end of the 18th century and early nineteenth century. During that time in literature the most widespread genre had to do with romanticism.

One of the most relevant authors was the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The writer published in 1808 his work Faust I and there he presented Lilith. It was the first time that this female figure of antiquity was named in modern works. He appeared as a seductive and great sexuality characters.

With the passage of the most authors were presenting the stories of Lilith or Lamia in his works. Such was the case of the British John Keats, a very influential British in the poetry of romanticism.

Keats in several of his poems was inspired by the legends that surrounded Lilith. He was inspired by this figure to create attractive characters. Some literary critics consider that the protagonist of the history of the Belle Dame Sans Merci ”would be Lilith.

Lilith was also represented in other artistic movements, especially in painting. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, an English painter, was one of the most influenced authors in the feminist image of Lilith. It represented it in the Lady Lilith picture that has elements that reinforce the image of a sensual woman that caught men that was created during the romantic period.

In the painting, Rossetti painted flowers that had different meanings. The death was represented by poppies and passion without happiness was symbolized with white roses. Rossetti was also the author of a sonnet named Lilith. 

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