Lilith: Was Adam's First Wife a Vampire?

by JoHarrington

Before Eve, there was Lilith, or so some tellings of the story state. She fought with Adam and flew from Eden. Then entered folklore as a vampire or a demon.

It's a tale told more in Judaism than in the Christian versions which followed. Even then, mentions of Lilith are consigned to the Talmud and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, rather than being cemented in the Torah.

Adam had two wives (some say three) and the first was called Lilith. God created Adam and Lilith at the same time, in his divine image. But Lilith refused to submit to her husband. She screamed God's name and used her wings to fly away from Eden.

God saw that Adam was lonely. So he took a rib from the man's body and fashioned Eve from it. Thus the human race could flourish. But what of the children of Adam and Lilith?

Rosewood Figurine of the Goddess Lilith

Genesis 1:26-27

Adam and Lilith

"'Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the things that creep on earth.’ And God created humanity in the Divine image, in the image of God they were created, male and female, God created them.”

Genesis 2:21–22

Adam and Eve

"And God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."

The Legend of Lilith

The first female on Earth apparently had wings. She defied God, argued with angels and would have made Adam fetch his own damn apple.

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lady Lilith

According to the Jewish Alphabet of Ben Sira, the final straw involved sex.

God had first created an androgyne, which had separated into equal parts on Earth. One was male and the other female, perfect twin entities formed in God's own image. But Adam, fueled with testosterone, demanded submission of Lilith, particularly when it came to the act of procreation.

In short, he wanted to go on top.

In all their tumultuous relationship thus far, this was the end of it for Lilith. It was one argument too far, one demand too much. She shouted the true name of God and took to the air on her wings.

The Alphabet of Ben Sira, written circa 700-1000 CE, goes on to state that Lilith took their children with her, when she left Eden. Adam remained, estranged and alone, while she settled with their off-spring on the shores of the Red Sea. Adam turned to God for help.

Three angels tracked down Lilith. They carried a message from God that she must return to Eden. Lilith outright refused. So they issued a dire incentive. So long as she remained out of Eden, away from Adam, defying the will of God, she would suffer.

In shades reminiscent of Hera's punishment of Lamia, Lilith was forced to devour one hundred of her own children for every day that she stayed away. She loved her children. Compelled by the divine might, she had no way of stopping herself doing it. Except going back to Eden.

(Here the story still follows the original laid out by Jesus ben Sirach, the author of the Alphabet bearing his name. But it has been developed much further over the centuries.)

Lilith still refused. Each day, she consumed one hundred of her own children. Each day she birthed more. Presumably these were fathered by her older sons. Thousands were born daily. The world was becoming populated by Lilith's children, no longer according to God's great plan.

Enter Eve. If Lilith wouldn't comply, then she would be replaced.  Moreover God limited the number of children which could be born at any one time, in this new version of a human female. It safe-guarded against the future possibility of another Lilith raising a rival people.

Furious, Lilith issued her own threat. For every 100 of her children that she was still forced to devour, she would do the same with the children of Adam and Eve. However, that involved re-entering Eden, or getting them out.

John Collier's Lilith - Canvas Print

Lilith Canvas Print / Canvas Art - Artist John Collier

Pre-Raphaelite artist John Collier depicts Lilith in her most classic image. She stands in the Garden of Eden entwined with a serpent.

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The legend of Lilith explains the presence of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. As detailed in the Book of Enoch, this took place long before the events of the Great Fall. Lucifer was still on God's side, but Lilith was not.

She was the serpent, who showed Eve the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. It was Lilith who encouraged her to take an apple and present it to Adam. God had warned the couple that eating from the Tree of Knowledge would cause them to die.

Lilith laughed it off. She informed Eve, "God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

She outright stated that neither would die. Their deity had lied to them. Nor did they have to remain in ignorance, just because they'd been commanded to do so. God could be defied. She was living proof of that.

It should be mentioned that Eve was not alone with Lilith throughout the exchange. Adam was standing right alongside her.  But it was Eve who plucked an apple from the tree and bit into it first. She handed it to her husband.

What could he do? He might have been born and lived within the sight of God, loyal even when it meant the loss of all. But he had his wife and ex-wife sharing insights right next to him; and they now knew more about everything than he did. He ate the apple.

Lilith knew that God would not countenance such defiance in His perfect couple, nor could He bear the intelligence they'd thus gained. She anticipated perfectly that Adam and Eve would be ejected from paradise.

God was furious. He issued three curses. The first condemned the serpent to eternally be the enemy of mankind, the 'lowliest of all creatures', as its form had been used by Lilith. It would henceforth be forced to crawl in the dust. Secondly, He damned the very ground, because Adam worked as its caretaker. From now on, plants could fail or be poisonous.

Finally He uttered the Curse of Eve, which was excruciating agony in childbirth, as well as menstruation. The latter symbolized life-blood dripping into the dust. (Even after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ allowed women to be welcomed into God's presence again, Eve's original sin was the only one not forgiven. The punishment goes on.)

Lilith was allowed to leave. She had subsumed all that had been thrown at her and still come back fighting. She had undermined the Divine Will twice, both times with humanity as its witness. God backed away for now. But He would not let her get away with it.

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At first it seemed that God had no idea what to do about Lilith. She still sobbed as she consumed her children every day. She still gave birth to thousands more. Then she rose from her lair and attacked the progeny of Adam and Eve.

With all the limitations placed upon Eve's child-bearing capacity, it was quickly apparent that Lilith's children were going to inherit the Earth. Especially since the First Couple had lost the protection of the Garden of Eden.

Besides the cursing of the ground gave Lilith an even bigger arsenal. She would use the poisons now available to create diseases. From a certain point of view, Lilith could be seen as the Mother of Germ Warfare. Through her viral attacks, epidemics were unleashed upon Adam and Eve's descendants.

Three angels visited Lilith again. A deal was negotiated. It's unclear what Lilith gained from the bargain, as we only know what she conceded. She would only suck the life-force or otherwise devour Eve's babies until they reached a proscribed age.  For boys, this was eight weeks. For girls, it was twelve.

Moreover, Lilith would avoid any infants directly blessed by the three angels present. To signify their favor, an amulet bearing the names of Senoi, Sansenoi, and Sammangelof would be placed upon those children. Maybe Lilith was merely ensuring that a second human race could thrive. After all, feeding upon them was now her sustenance.

We do know that the angels tried and failed to force Lilith to enter captivity. We also know that she was issued a threat. If she didn't comply, then God would raise the Red Sea. Her home-land would be flooded. Her children would all be drowned.

She pretty much told them to do it, if they dared. She was going nowhere.

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Lilith must have thought that she had won this round. Nothing much happened for several generations of Adam and Eve's blood-line.

Meanwhile, the Archangel Lucifer had challenged God's authority. Their deity had denied entrance into Heaven for all humanity. But free will had denied them more than simply entrance into Paradise.

Angelic Watchers reported how the cursing of the ground caused the human race to struggle. Untold suffering was being wrought in the struggle just to stay alive.

Moreover, some of the children of Adam and Eve were interbreeding with Lilith's already incestuous off-spring. A third race had sprung up accordingly, "mighty men that were of old, the men of renown."

In short, a hybrid population of giants, which posed a very real threat to the future existence of Adam and Eve's line.

God threatened to wipe the slate clean. He would kill all life on Earth and start again with more compliant First Parents. Lucifer disagreed and several celestial beings supported his point of view. The ensuing debate turned into open defiance, then actual War in Heaven.

The Archangel Lucifer was eventually defeated and expelled from the celestial city, with all his supporters with him. It was only after all this had occurred that God could return his attention to the mess down on Earth.

However, He had been persuaded by some of the points raised by the rebel Archangel, even if He couldn't countenance the challenge. A descendent of Adam and Eve was allowed to make arrangements for the survival of his blood-line. Loyal to his divine maker, Noah was given prior warning of the Deluge. He was able to build his ark and save enough species to repopulate the Earth after it had been washed clean.

Lilith's brood, nor the hybrid race, were given no such warnings. The Great Flood was intended to drown them all.

Two hundred archangels, and their equal number of followers, had just lost the War in Heaven. It may have ended in an unsuccessful attempt at the usurpation of God Himself, but it had began with a protest against the Deluge.

They were now on Earth, exactly where the threatened Great Flood would hit. It could just as easily destroy them too.

What happened next can only be supposed. There's no description to my knowledge in any religious text. We deduce from the aftermath, in hints wrangled mostly from folklore, that Lucifer warned Lilith. There was no ark, but there were wings.

Lilith herself had them. Some of her children must have taken after her. Wingless others had to have been lifted from the global waves by the archangels or their own kin. Nevertheless, the catastrophe nearly destroyed Lilith's line.

Immortal Lilith: Mother of Monsters and Demons

Lilith herself has to have been immortal. While Adam and Eve are spoken about as ancestors only, she surfaced again. She's been called Queen of the Demons, Satan's consort in Hell.

Her descendents became those Hellish demons. Others remained on Earth, as monsters creeping from the shadows to plague humanity. They carried with them their mother's lust for vengeance and the need to feast on human beings.

They are never mentioned again in religious sources, but their mother is. She scores a name-check after the desolation of Edom, as outlined in the Book of Isaiah. Those events took place well after the Deluge, when Lilith should have long since been dead.

Descended from Esau, the Edomites were engaged in a series of wars with the Israelites. Edom eventually ceased to exist as a separate nation state, presumably through warfare and a final defeat, though this is not made clear.

Isaiah 34: 12-17

Her nobles shall be no more, nor shall kings be proclaimed there; all her princes are gone. Her castles shall be overgrown with thorns, her fortresses with thistles and briers.

She shall become an abode for jackals and a haunt for ostriches. Wildcats shall meet with desert beasts, satyrs shall call to one another; There shall the Lilith repose, and find for herself a place to rest. 

There the hoot owl shall nest and lay eggs, hatch them out and gather them in her shadow; There shall the kites assemble, none shall be missing its mate. 

Look in the book of the LORD and read: No one of these shall be lacking, For the mouth of the LORD has ordered it, and His spirit shall gather them there.

It is He who casts the lot for them, and with His hands He marks off their shares of her; They shall possess her forever, and dwell there from generation to generation.

Poisoned Lilith Poster

Poisoned Lilith
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Lilith as the Mother of All Vampires

She's immortal. She feeds on humans. Those children not acting as Hell's demons are still on the Earth, and they take after their Mum.

Image: Lilith in True BloodLilith's children on Earth originally accounted for all manner of nightmares.

Increasingly, in popular culture, these monsters in general have started to come into a sharper focus. The devouring of humans has become the sucking of blood or imbibing of life-force. Lilith's line is vampiric.

This legend explains why some human beings are locked out of Heaven after death. God wants nothing to do with them. Jesus died for Adam and Eve's line only.

Thus Lilith's descendants are doomed to join the ranks of the Undead, rising from their coffins to plague the living. They are the vampires of myth and legend; even those whose genealogy is so diluted, that they do not know that they are descended from Lilith. They thought they came from Eve.

It's a story embraced by writers of vampire fiction, including a notable appearance in the fifth season of True Blood (as pictured above). But it's not a retelling which has gained much credence amongst serious religious scholars.

Then again, the whole Lilith legend is not one with much of a foot-hold in mainstream Judaism, Christianity or Islam. She exists on the outskirts, her story dismissed by some as the dodgy ravings of a 10th century writer of Jewish apocrypha. To them, she was not air-brushed from the Creation story. She was never in it.

The serpent was just a serpent. The Deluge was a show of divine might, designed to discourage evil amidst humanity. The figure spotted in the ruins of Edom was just one of those random insertions for which we've lost all context. Perhaps some kind of animal. A snake.

It's only as a vampire that Lilith takes flight now. Still feasting on children, spreading disease, unleashing her demonic host in defiance of God's dominion. It's been a long war that she's wrought against the constraints of Eden. Adam should have let her go on top.

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Updated: on 06/14/2013, JoHarrington
 
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What do you make of the legend?


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JoHarrington on 11/05/2013

Let's hope that your daughter has all the independent, free-thinking qualities and none of the dodgy ones!

Liam on 11/05/2013

Lilith is one of my favourite characters from Juedo-Christian mythology. I've always said that if I anyone is unfortunate to have a daughter with me I'd name her Lilith

JoHarrington on 06/06/2013

The story is in one of those weird statuses where religious scholars have told it, but neither Judaism, Islam or Christianity have it in their official versions.

I think it adds loads more drama, and fills some plot-holes.

jptanabe on 06/06/2013

Cool! I'd heard of Lilith but didn't know the details. Certainly bears thinking about.

JoHarrington on 05/23/2013

Nice one and a belated congrats. Lilith is one of those figures on the periphery. She's certainly there, especially in the Jewish sources, but her legend often seems more fleshed out by alternative history writers than religious scholars. Then again, God doesn't come out of this one appearing particularly nice, so the answer might lie there.

Kari on 05/22/2013

I got a good grade overall thankfully. It was really hard to find good sources of research for her when I did though.

And like I said I love the topic. I've done private research into her and the war of angels for quite some time. I come across a lot of the variations that way. :)

And ah makes sense. Cool beans. :D

JoHarrington on 05/21/2013

Nice one! Did you get a good grade for your speech? I was interested in the variations in the legend that you found. I hadn't encountered them at all.

I did um and ah over Lilith as a Feminist icon, but the focus of the article was really on her vampiric credentials. It was already really long by then too. Maybe one day I'll do a follow up article about Lilith's symbolic use in Feminism.

Kari on 05/21/2013

I had to do a final speech for my college speech class and I chose Lilith (she was one of the options given as a topic). I wish this had existed then! ;_; Although I had found a few differences in some of this (Samael was the serpent, Cain was actually Adam and Lilith's son etc.) but still. It's all really obscure so of course the legends vary. It's all very fascinating to me. I'm curious as to why you didn't mention Lilith as a modern-day symbol of feminism to some groups. I know a lot of groups hate her being used as a symbol, but she's still famous in some circles for it. Anyway I loved this article. The whole topic is awesome to me. :)

JoHarrington on 05/10/2013

I can honestly say that I've never looked at it from that perspective. You're right. It is creepy!

I'm glad you liked it. :)

Sethisis on 05/10/2013

I know this isn't the main point of this story, but how would you react if your friend noticed you were lonely and offered to take one of your ribs to create a partner for you? It's a little bit creepy.

Fascinating stuff!



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