Origins: Isaiah 34:14

The first and only mention of Lilith in canonical scripture is found in Isaiah 34:14 which reads as follows:

Wildcats shall meet with
goat-demons shall call to each other;
there too Lilith shall
and find a place to rest.

-Isaiah 34:14, New Revised Standard

The term "Lilith" is not always translated as "Lilith." The original text reads as "lilitu" which does not seem to have a concrete translation. In Isaac Asimov's guide to the Bible, he notes that "lilitu" is a loan word from Babylonian which eventually came to be known as "night." Other translations replace "Lilith" with "screech owl" or "night hag," and in the case of the Latin Vulgate the word becomes "lamia." Lamia, as it turns out, is a Greek mythological figure who eventually becamse a child killer. This echoes the story of Lilith and in later mythology, the two became associated and occasionally synonymous with each other.

Converging mythologies aside, what does the only canonical mention of Lilith in scripture indicate? In the context of chapter 34, Isaiah is primarily focused on the oncoming judgement of the Lord. The animals listed before Lilith as well as Lilith herself are said to inherit a desolate Earth after divine judgement. Lilith is cast out of the holy land and the grace of God, a clear sign of rejection.

This information suggests that there was some sort of mythology behind Lilith when Isaiah was written, but what that story is has been omitted from the text. Perhaps the writer assumed the audience knew the story of Lilith and there was no need for elaboration. What we can glean from this mention though is that she was viewed as a negative figure from a very early point.

Next: Talmudic mentions


Lisa Connor said...

Hi, I found your blog looking for information on Lilith. She's a very interesting. I doing a series of femme fatales for my blog. Lisa :)

Linebreaker said...
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Andysk4 said...

I found this blog while researching Lilith. I've read several articles on Lilith which have mentioned Isaiah 34:14. I still consider the evidence that this passage is truly a reference to the mythological Lilith sparse.