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BILIMNAME, no.1, pp.363-395, 2018 (ESCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Doi Number: 10.28949/bilimname.381879
  • Journal Name: BILIMNAME
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.363-395
  • Eskisehir Osmangazi University Affiliated: No


It has been considered that Lilith derived from Sumerian language origin 'lil' means "air, wind", and was transferred to Akkadian language as lilitu. Lilith name is firstly encountered in Epic of Gilgamesh as a wrapped snake around Huluppu Tree of The Great Mother Goddess Inanna. As is seen in this epic, in early ancient times, Lilith is a female demon in snake form. Therefore, she has been identified with Lamashtu and Lamia which are snake forms in most cultures of Mesopotamia and Levant. It has been known that both are infanticides. Because of this identification Lilith has been described as "infanticide" until today. On the other hand, in the ancient times, Lilith has not accepted only as a demon. Her position in the eye of community always straddled the line between godlikeness and wickedness. Because in the period of Sumerian-Babylonian, in which Inanna (Ishtar) is glorified by name "Queen of Heavens and Earth", the belief predominated that the Goddess is a resource of all kinds of beauties and abundance as well as warfare and destruction. By means of this high prestige of the Goddess, it has been known that the religion of the Goddess had emancipated to women especially in her capital Uruk and in most city-states. More particularly the women who are called Kadishtu, means "sinless, stainless and lily", had monopolized agricultural economics, services of the temple of the Goddess and scholarly traditions. This position exhibits the superior social status which could be bestowed on a woman in those times. In this period, Lilith has continued her demonic character. On the other side, she has been identified with Inanna (Ishtar) and she has symbolized the harlotry of the temple. On that secondary sense Lilith has become to represent the negative sides of the Goddess with her characteristics such as sexuality, aggression and misandry. The fact that Lilith has begun to represent the negative sides of the Goddess has enabled the belief that the Goddess is baleful. Thus, the Goddess had become the focus of vulgarity, combativeness, immorality and all evils. For this reason, Inanna/Ishtar had been narrated as an aggressive goddess in myths more often. When Jahwism-Judaism began to settle in Levant region in terms of politics and religion, Lilith who had identified the religion of Goddess and demonic characters, has become the villain in the battle of Judaism against the religion of Goddess. She crossed into Jewish mythology with all her characteristics and here she has reached the peak of evil as the most dangerous feminine demon with her infertile and salacious character. First and only reference to Lilith in Hebrew Bible is in Isaiah 34:14. Her adventure in Jewish mythology has started with this reference. In this pasuk, Lilith has been mentioned as a metaphor of God's wrath to people of Edom which is the greatest enemy of Israel. Accordingly, Lilith, the Virgin of ruins and wild lands, has been described as an enormous pain which would take Edom to the age of chaos before genesis. In this passage, she is a symbol of terror which the Holy One YHWH spreads to the polytheist people. In a sense, non-believers suffered the wrath of God through her. In the Rabbinic period, the scholars accepted the myth of Lilith as it was in the ancient period and adopted it to the Jewish culture. They portrayed Lilith as a dangerous feminine devil who seduces men and causes women to suffer a miscarriage. In the Midrashic literature she has been referred as the reason of all evil factors in the history of humanity and Judaism. In accordance with this belief, in the stories of people of Edom in Hebrew Bible where they suffer fatalities, Lilith has been adapted to Esau and his devil Samael. In this new picture, she is the harlot wife of Samael and the feminine devil of Esau's lineage and people of Edom which stands against Children of Israel. In the late Midrashic period, the origin of Lilith has been traced all the way back to genesis. This once, Lilith is described as the first wife of Adam, who dissuaded Eve and caused to be expelled from the garden of Eden. By this interpretation, Jewish scholars not only have tried to clarify the paradoxical and ambiguous pasuks in Genesis, but also, they have reshaped the fall of humanity. Also, they have strengthened the religious basis of patriarchal Jewish mentality. Today, the character of Lilith is influential on feminist Jewish women. Jewish women, who are alienated from the religious and social arena because of patriarchal religious Jewish idea, leap in action by means of feminist ideas. While some of them deny the religion and Holy Bible, others try to reconcile between feminist ideas and Holy Bible and pave the way for reinterpreting the religion. Particularly, for the latter, Lilith is an important symbol. She is the voice of challenging the male-dominated life style and the pioneer of the philosophical questioning.