ADAM'S HELPMEETS From Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis

By Robert Graves and Raphael Patai
Chapter 10
p. 65-69

(a) Having decided to give Adam a helpmeet lest he should be alone of his life, God put him into a deep sleep, removed one of his ribs, and closed up the wound. Adam awoke and said: 'This being shall be named "Woman"' because she has been taken out of man. A man and a woman shall be of one flesh.' The title he gave her was Eve, ' the Mother of All Living." Genesis II. 18-25; III 20.


(b) Some say the God created man and woman in His own image on the Sixth Day, giving them charge over the world; [ Genesis I. 26-28] but that Eve did not yet exist.

Now, God had set Adam to name every beast, bird and other living thing. When they passed before him in pairs, male and female,

Adam --being already like a twenty-year-old man-- felt jealous of their loves, and though he tried coupling with each female creature in turn, found no satisfaction in the act. He therefore cried:

"Every creature but I has a proper mate!" and prayed God would remedy this injustice. [Gen. 17.4; B. yebamot 63a]

(c) God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had formed Adam, except that he used filth and sediment instead of pure dust.

From Adam's union with this demoness, and with another like her named Naamah, Tubal Cain's sister,

sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons that still plague mankind. Many generations later, Lilith and Naamah came to Solomon's judgement seat, disguised as harlots of Jerusalem. [Yalqut Reubeni ad. Gen. II. 21; IV. 8]

See the Punishment of the Fallen Angels

(d) Adam and Lilith never found peace together, for when he wished to lie with her, she took offence at the recumbent position he demanded. 'Why must I lie beneath you?' she asked. 'I also was made from dust, and am therefore your equal.' Because Adam tried to compel her obedience by force, Lilith, in a rage, uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air and left him.

Adam complained to God: 'I have been deserted by my helpmeet.' God at once sent the angels Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof to fetch Lilith back. They found her beside the Red Sea, a region abounding in lascivious demons, to whom she bore lilim at the rate of more than one hundred a day. 'Return to Adam without delay,' the angels said, 'or we will drown you!' Lilith asked: 'How can I return to Adam and live like an honest housewife, after my stay beside the Red Sea?' 'It will be death to refuse!' they answered. 'How can I die,' Lilith asked again, 'when God has ordered me to take charge of all newborn children: boys up to the eighth day of life, that of circumcision; girls up to the twentieth day. None the less, if ever I see your three names or likenesses displayed in an amulet above a newborn child, I promise to spare it.' To this they agreed; but God punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon children perish daily; [Alpha Beta diBen Sira, 47; Gaster, MGWJ, 29 (1880), 552 ff] and if she could not destroy a human infant, because of the angelic amulet, she would spitefully turn against her own. [Num. Rab. 16.25]

(e) Some say that Lilith ruled as queen in Zmargad, and again in Sheba; and was the demoness who destroyed Job's sons. [Targum as. Job I. 15] Yet she escaped the curse of death which overtook Adam, since they had parted long before the Fall. Lilith and Naamah not only strangle infants but also seduce dreaming men, and one of whom, sleeping alone, may become their victim. [B. Shabbat 151b; Ginzberg, LJ, V. 147-48]

(f-j) Omitted. Merely recounts in brief other myths including God's (f) second [Gen. Rab. 158, 163-64; Mid. Abkir 133, 135; Abot idR. Nathan 24; B. Sanhedrin 39a] and (g) third [Gen. Rab. 134; B. Eurubin 18a.] 11.-13. Omitted. - M] attempts at creating a helpmeet for Adam, (h) Eve being created from Adam's tail rather than his rib, (i) first man being two-faced (i.e. a male face with a female face for the back of the head) and (j) first man being androgynous or hermaphroditic.- M.




1. The tradition that man's first sexual intercourse was with animals, not women, may be due to the widely spread practice of bestiality among the herdsmen of the Middle East, which is still condoned by custom, although figuring three times in the Pentateuch as a capital crime.

In the Akkadian Gilgamesh Epic, Enkidu is said to have lived with gazelles and jostled other wild beasts at the watering place, until civilized by Aruru's priestess. Having enjoyed here embraces for six days and seven nights, he wished to rejoin the wild beasts but, to his surprise, they fled from him.

Enkidu then knew that he had gained understanding, and the priestess said: 'Thou art wise, Enkidu, like unto a god!'

2. Primeval man was held by the Babylonians to have been androgynous. Thus the Gilgamesh Epic gives Enkidu androgynous features: 'the hair of his head like a woman's, with locks that sprout like those of Nisaba, the Grain-goddess.' The Hebrew tradition evidently derives from the Greek sources, because both the terms in a Tannaitic midrash to describe the bisexual Adam are Greek: androgynos, 'man-woman', and diprosopon, 'two-faced'. Philo of Alexandria, the hellenistic philosopher and commentator on the Bible, contemporary with Jesus, held that man was at first bisexual; so did the Gnostics. This belief is clearly borrowed form Plato. Yet the belief of two bodies placed back to back may well have been founded on observaation of Siamese twins, which are sometimes joined in this awkward manner. The two-faced Adam appears to be a fancy derived from coins or statues of Janus, the Roman New Year god.

3. Divergences between the Creation myths of Genesis I and II, which allow Lilith to be presumed as Adam's first mate, result from a careless weaving together of an early Judean and a late priestly tradition. The older version contains the rib incident. Lilith typifies the Anath-worshipping Canaanite women, who were permitted pre-nuptial promiscuity.

Time after time the prophets denounced Israelite women for following Canaanite practices; at first, apparently, with the priests' approval -- since their habit of dedicating to God the fees thus earned is expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy XXIII:18. Lilith's flight to the Red Sea recalls the ancient Hebrew view that water attracts demons. "Tortured and rebellious demons" also found safe harbourage in Egypt. Thus Asmodeus, who had strangled Sarah's first six husbands, fled "to the uttermost parts of Egypt" (Tobit VIII:3), when Tobias burned the heart and liver of a fish on their wedding night.

4. Lilith's bargain with the angels has its ritual counterpart in an apotropaic rite once performed in many Jewish communities. To protect the newborn child against Lilith --and especially a male, until he could be permanently safeguarded by circumcision-- a ring was drawn with natron, or charcoal, on the wall of the birthroom, and inside it were written the words: "Adam and Eve. Out, Lilith!" Also the names Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof (meanings uncertain) were inscribed on the door. If Lilith nevertheless succeeded in approaching the child and fondling him, he would laugh in his sleep. To avert danger, it was held wise to strike the sleeping child's lips with one finger -- whereupon Lilith would vanish. 

5. 'Lilith' is usually derived from the Babylonian-Assyrian word 'lilitu,' 'a female demon, or wind-spirit' -- one of a triad mentioned in Babylonian spells. But she appears earlier as 'Lillake' on a 2000 BC Sumerian tablet from Ur containing the tale of Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree. There she is a demoness dwelling in the trunk of a willow tree tended by the Goddess Inanna (Anath) on the banks of the Euphrates.

Popular Hebrew etymology seems to have derived 'Lilith' from 'layil,' 'night'; and she therefore often appears as a hairy night-monster, as she also does in Arabian folklore.

Solomon suspected the Queen of Sheba of being Lilith, because she had hairy legs. His judgement on the two harlots is recorded in 1 Kings III:16. According to Isaiah XXXIV:14-15, Lilith dwells among the desolate ruins in the Edomite Desert where satyrs ("se'ir"), reems, pelicans, owls, jackals, ostriches, arrow-snakes and kites keep her company.

6. Lilith's children are called 'lilim.' In the -Targum Yerushalmi-, the priestly blessing of Numbers VI:26 becomes: "The Lord bless thee in all thy doings, and preserve thee from the Lilim!" The fourth-century AD commentator Hieronymous identified Lilith with the Greek Lamia, a Libyan queen deserted by Zeus, whom his wife Hera robbed of her children. She took revenge by robbing other women of theirs.

7. The Lamiae, who seduced sleeping men, sucked their blood and ate their flesh, as Lilith and her fellow-demonesses did, were also known as 'Empusae,' 'forcers-in'; or 'Mormolyceia,' 'frightening wolves'; and described as 'Children of Hecate.' A Hellenistic relief shows a naked Lamia straddling a traveller asleep on his back. It is characteristic of civilizations where women are treated as chattels that they must adopt the recumbent posture during intercourse, which Lilith refused. That Greek witches who worshipped Hecate favoured the superior posture, we know from Apuleius; and it occurs in early Sumerian representations of the sexual act, though not in the Hittite. Malinowski writes that Melanesian girls ridicule what they call 'the missionary position,' which demands that they should lie passive and recumbent.

8. 'Naamah,' 'pleasant,' is explained as meaning that 'the demoness sang pleasant songs to idols.' 'Zmargad' suggests 'smaragdos,' the semi-precious aquamarine; and may therefore be her submarine dwelling. A demon named Smaragos occurs in the -Homeric Epigrams-.

9. Eve's creation by God from adam's rib--a myth establishing male supremecy and disguising Eve's divinity--lacks parallels in Mediterranean or early Middle-Eastern myth.

The story perhaps derives iconotropically from an ancient relief, or painting, which shows the naked goddess Anath poised inthe air, watching her lover Mot murder his twin Aliyan; Mot (mistaken by the mythographer as Yahweh) was driving a curved dagger ybder Aliyan's fifth rib, not removing the sixth one. The familiar story is helped by a hidden pun on tsela,the Hebrew word for 'rib': Eve, though designed to be a helpmeet, proved to be a tsela, a 'stumbling', or misfortune'. Eve's formation from Adam's tail is an even more damaging myth; perhaps suggested but the birth of a child with a vestigal tail intead of a coccys--a not infrequest occurence.

10. The story of Lilith's escape to the East and of Adam's subsequent marriage to Eve may, however, only record an earlier historical incident:

nomad herdsmen, admitted into Lilith's Canaanite queendom as guests (see 16.1),

suddenly seize power and, when the royal household flees, occupy a second queendom which owes allegiance to the Hittite Goddess Heba.

The meaning of 'Eve' is disputed. Hawwah is explained in Genesis III. 20 as 'mother of all living'; but this may well be a Hebraicized form of the divine name Heba, hebat, Khebat or Khiba. The goddess, wife of the Hittite Storm-god, is shown riding a lion in a rock-sculpture at Hattrusas--which equates her with Anath-- and appears as a form of ishtar in Hurrian texts.

She was worshipped at Jerusalem (see 27.2). Her Greek name was Hebe, Heracles's goddess-wife.