“There too Lilith shall repose and find a place to rest.” Isaiah 34:14
Thousands of people around the world are currently watching a television series called The Chosen, and it is definitely worth watching. If you’re not familiar with it, the story centers on Jesus and His disciples, the people in their lives, Jesus’ teachings, and the miracles He performed. The production of the show is paid entirely by private donations, and the producers have done a stunning job.
Unfortunately, some of the show, though highly entertaining, is unbiblical. Some of it is just plain historical fiction. For example, in episode one, a woman is possessed by a demon, and she calls herself Lilith. Jesus approaches her and delivers her from the demon. Once in her right mind, she begins using her birth name Mary and becomes Jesus’ first disciple.
Several parts of the woman’s encounter with Jesus are pure fiction. But the one that caught my attention most was when she called herself Lilith. And that got me wondering.
Was there a woman possessed by a demon named Lilith anywhere in the Bible? Who was she?
It turns out there is a Lilith in the Bible. But…she continues to be fictional.
Lilith in Bible Translations
Let’s look at Isaiah 34:14 from two different translations.
New King James Bible: “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the jackals, and the wild goat shall bleat to its companion; also, the night creature shall rest there and find for herself a place of rest.”
New Revised Standard Version: “Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other; there too Lilith shall repose and find a place to rest.”
Isaiah 34:14 is the only place in the Bible where you will find any mention of Lilith. And as evidenced by the above examples, you won’t find it in every Bible translation.
The more traditional Bible versions, including the King James Bible, the New King James Bible, and NIV, do not use the words Lilith or its variant lilit. Instead, they use references to nocturnal creatures such as screech owls or simply use the term “night monster.” However, some of the more modern Bible versions, such as the NRSV, AMP, and the Message Bibles, do use the term, Lilith.
The reason for the differences between versions is the Hebrew translation for Lilith is “the night.” Remember, different translations of the Bible come from different interpretations. So, when we read certain versions, the original Hebrew translation is sometimes lost or skewed, which is why Lilith is sometimes reworded as some sort of night creature.
The difference in translations also doesn’t help the point of what the prophet Isaiah was saying. In chapter 34, Isaiah is speaking of the future destruction of Edom (modern-day Jordan). He is using both real and imaginary creatures in his prophecy to describe the wasteland that is to come. So, when we read about Lilith, the prophet is using a mythical creature to illustrate the darkness and terror (“the night”) Edom will experience.
As a side note, the prophecy was fulfilled in the 6th century BC when the Babylonians conquered and destroyed Edom following Edom’s rebellion against both Judah and Babylon (2 Kings 24:1-7).
If Isaiah was talking about Edom’s destruction, why then is Lilith portrayed as a demon in the television series?
In Babylonian demonology, there were two demons, a male named Lilu and a female named Lilitu, or Lilith. Lilu had no defined function, but when Lilitu entered Israelite culture and, eventually, the Jewish Talmud, she was indeed evil.
Known by thousands of different names around the world, Lilith was a dark spirit roaming the earth during the night whose goal was to harm if not kill others and produce more demons.
In the Talmudic and Kabbalah texts, the belief was Lilith would harm mothers as they gave birth and strangle their babies. This belief was so strong families would place amulets on every wall in the mother’s room while she was in labor. Each amulet was inscribed with the names and physical forms of the heavenly angels charged to watch Lilith and believed to keep Lilith away. It became a common practice to hang these amulets up to the eighteenth century.
Other interpretations describe Lilith as someone with unbridled sexuality, hunting for men who were alone in their houses at night so she could steal their sperm to produce more demons. This ancient belief caused some Jewish sons not to accompany their dead fathers during a funeral procession. They feared shame from being close to their stepbrothers who were born out of wedlock and believed to be demons.
Still, others believe Lilith took the form of Queen of Sheba in the Old Testament. They base their belief on the words and “hard questions” she asked King Solomon in 1 Kings 10:1-13. The belief is the words were the same ones she said to Adam when she seduced him.
This is where the myth of Lilith gets even weirder.
Was Lilith Adam’s First Wife?
It’s clear Lilith is just a character of folklore and ancient, even rabbinic, legends based in demonology. Yet, some people continue to believe she was Adam’s first wife.
In the Jewish Talmud is a group of Midrash, rabbinic commentaries and interpretations of Hebrew scripture. Here is one of these interpretations concerning Adam and Lilith.
In Genesis 1:26-28, God created not just a man from the dust but also a female.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’…So God created man in His own image; in the image of God, He created him; male and female He created them.”
If God created both male and female at the same time, who was the female? We know the man was named Adam, and there was also a woman named Eve (Genesis 3:20). But Eve was born from a rib taken from Adam’s body (Genesis 2:21-23), not from the ground.
So, who was the first woman? The legend contends it was Lilith.
One Midrash called the Alphabet of Ben Sira, which is a literary collection of legends, claims Lilith was the “first Eve” who argued with Adam during a sexual encounter because she didn’t want to give up her sexual equality.
Lilith then became enraged, cursed God, and flew away. Adam requested that angels follow her. The angels found her at the Red Sea where they threatened to drown her in the sea and kill her sons if she didn’t return to Adam. She refused and declared she was created to kill infants. She would rather live a life of evil than return to Adam’s authority.
Other Jewish Midrash literature has different schools of thoughts and beliefs about Lilith. One claims Adam and Eve parted ways after God forced them to leave the garden. Adam eventually met Lilith (called Piznai in this Midrash), who was absolutely smitten with Adam’s handsomeness. They laid together, and she went on to bear demon children by him.
Lilith in the Modern Feminist Movement
The legend of Lilith is not just in ancient folklore. Stories about her are still influencing certain portions of society today such as in radical feminist movements where women are crying for equality.
Lilith has also become a popular character or motif in numerous modern tales and poems (including lesbian-oriented literature), in a Jewish feminism journal called Lilith Magazine, and in a popular women’s music concert called Lilith Fair. Wherever she shows up, the main idea and intent are the same—women don’t need men.
This modern view of Lilith has helped to legitimize demonology. She has now become a symbol of freedom from repression by men and a rallying figure for equality.
The First Female
Still, a question persists about who the female was when God first created them in Genesis 1:27. The Bible says He created a male and female in His image, but it does not tell us her name.
Or does it?
Genesis 1:29, just two verses later, says,
“And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you, it shall be for food.”
Now, turn the page and read Genesis 2:4-5.
“This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown.”
When we compare these two Scriptures, we can see that Genesis 1:29 is a recollection of things already occurred before God rested on the seventh day. They are not in chronological order. God indeed made both Adam and Eve on the sixth day. There was no other woman made for Adam but Eve, which is why she is called the “mother of all living” things (Genesis 3:20).
Therefore, we have absolute proof there never was any Lilith, nor does she exist today.
Separating Truth from Fiction
We must always look at the original context of the Scriptures. We must always seek to understand what God meant in each verse. The legend of Lilith clearly illustrates this point. So, when we look at Isaiah 34:14, we see the prophet was only using the name of Lilith as a metaphor for Edom’s coming destruction.
It’s unfortunate some “religious” texts have chosen to twist God’s words and inject demonology that some people have taken as fact. It purposely corrupts the divine word of God and should make us cautious about what we read and believe. The Bible warns us about these false teachings, so we must be vigilant. Discernment is a must.
Legends, myths, and folklore are only fictional stories and must be regarded as so. But one thing will always remain true—the word of God is holy, and its truths are timeless.