At a women’s event I attended a few years ago, a woman got up to speak about how men have oppressed women throughout history.
“I am going to talk to you all about the first woman men oppressed,” she said very boldly. “I am going to talk to you about Eve!”
There was a moment of silence as many women around the tent were stunned. And then from the back a voice shouted out,
“What about Lilith?!”
“Ah, yes,” the speaker on stage said, “I did think about Lilith, but I decided to ignore her and talk about Eve instead.”
I thought this really sums up Lilith quite well. The woman that the Abrahamic traditions forget while they are on their way to bash Eve around the head for being a weak female, but also, the woman that feminists forget about in favour of a better story. It is not just men who have erased these women from history, but women also have been selective at what they remember.
The Alphabet of Ben Sira is considered to be the oldest form of the story of Lilith as Adam's first wife. Whether this certain tradition is older is not known. Scholars tend to date Ben Sira between the 8th and 10th centuries. Its real author is anonymous, but it is falsely attributed to the sage Ben Sira. The amulets used against Lilith that were thought to derive from this tradition are in fact, dated as being much older. The concept of Eve having a predecessor is not exclusive to Ben Sira, and is not a new concept, as it can be found in Genesis Rabbah. However, the idea that Lilith was the predecessor is exclusive to Sira. According to Gershom Scholem, the author of the Zohar, R. Moses de Leon, was aware of the folk tradition of Lilith. He was also aware of another story, possibly older, that may be conflicting.
The idea that Adam had a wife prior to Eve may have developed from an interpretation of the Book of Genesis and its dual creation accounts; while Genesis 2:22 describes God's creation of Eve from Adam's rib, an earlier passage, 1:27, already indicates that a woman had been made: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." The text places Lilith's creation after God's words in Genesis 2:18 that "it is not good for man to be alone". He forms Lilith out of the clay from which he made Adam, but the two bicker. Lilith claims that since she and Adam were created in the same way, they were equal, and she refuses to submit to him:
After God created Adam, who was alone, He said,