Let's start with a crazy question: What do Adam's first wife and nocturnal emissions have in common?
A few days ago I couldn't have answered that question. But some of my research drew me into an interesting bit of scholarship regarding gender relations, sexuality, textual criticism, Jewish lore, and demonology.
First, let's start with the obvious: Adam's first wife?
To understand the Jewish legend that Eve was Adam's second wife we need to explore the texts of Genesis 1-2 and the contrasts between the two creation stories found therein.
As biblical scholars are well aware, the first chapters of Genesis appear to be written by two different authors. The two authors are called the Elohist and the Yahwist. The Elohist is called this because he (we assume it was he) uses the word Elohim to refer to God. Elohim is typically translated "God" in English bibles. So when we read "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" the Elohist is writing.
The Yahwist, by contrast, uses the name YHWH to refer to the Deity. In many English translations YHWH is translated LORD, all caps. The Elohist story of creation ends in Genesis 2.2. The Yahwist story of creation starts at Genesis 2.3. You can see both the beginning and the ending of the two accounts as well as the switch from "God" to "LORD" in referring to the Creator:
Genesis 2.1-4It is believed that the two stories were edited together by a third author (a "redactor") working with both manuscripts.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.--End of Elohist Creation Story----Start of Yahwist Creation Story--This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens...
In some ways the two stories complement and supplement each other. But there are differences that have preoccupied scholars. One location of contrast is in the creation of Adam and Eve:
Elohist Version of Adam & Eve (Genesis 1.26-27):Most readers of the bible read the first account from the Elohist--"in the image of God he created them / male and female he created them"--as an abbreviated summary of the longer, and admittedly much weirder, account of the Yahwist, where God parades all the animals before Adam suggesting he pick a mate from them ("You know God, I'm kind of fond of that zebra over there. Those stripes are sexy..."). But really, these are two different stories.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Yahwist Version of Adam & Eve (Genesis 2.7-8, 15-23):
Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed...
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
Incidentally, egalitarians like the Elohist version best where man and woman are created at the same time as equals. By contrast, hierarchical complementarians like the Yahwist version better with the ordered creation of man before woman and woman made from man's rib.
But for this post we are interested in a Jewish legend regarding the differences between the Elohist and Yahwist versions of Adam and Eve. While many Christians read these texts as being the same story (one compressed the other more detailed) there is a Jewish tradition where these are read as two stories about two different events--the story of Adam's first wife and the story of Adam's second wife.
The two stories run like this. The first, Elohist account is the story of the creation of Adam and his first wife. For some reason (which we will get to), this wife goes missing and Adam finds himself alone. Finding this unacceptable, God makes a second wife for Adam. This is the Yahwist story, the story of making Eve from Adam's rib so she will stick with Adam (unlike the first wife).
So who was Adam's first wife? And where did she go?
This brings us to the story of Lilith.
According to Jewish legend, Lilith was the first wife of Adam. Her name comes from one of the Akkadian words (which is uncertain) lilatu ("night") or lilu ("demon" or "phantom"). As the story goes, Lilith felt herself to be Adam's equal (as the Elohist seems to suggest). Eventually, however, Lilith refused to submit to Adam, wanting to be the dominant one. Adam, with the help of God, resists this usurpation. In response Lilith either leaves or is cast out of Eden leaving Adam alone and in need of a second, more submissive wife. Enter Eve.
Is Lilith in the bible? Curiously, she is, if only obliquely. In the middle of a discussion about the destruction of Edom we read in Isaiah 34.14:
NRSVHere in Isaiah 34 we find a list of night creatures that will haunt the ruins of Edom. Some of these animals can be found at the zoo: wildcats, hyenas, wild goats. But there are some spooky creatures here as well: devils, demons, satyrs, night hags, monsters. And Lilith in particular.
Wildcats shall meet with hyenas,
goat-demons shall call to each other;
there too Lilith shall repose,
and find a place to rest.
Wild cats will meet hyenas there,
satyr will call to satyr,
there Lilith too will lurk
and find somewhere to rest.
The desert creatures will meet with the wolves,
The hairy goat also will cry to its kind;
Yes, the night monster [Lilith in footnote] will settle there
And will find herself a resting place.
Wildcats and hyenas will hunt together,
demons and devils dance through the night.
The night-demon Lilith, evil and rapacious,
will establish permanent quarters.
And wild beasts shall meet with hyenas,
the satyr shall cry to his fellow;
yea, there shall the night hag alight,
and find for herself a resting place.
And the wild beasts of the desert shall meet with the wolves,
and the wild goat shall cry to his fellow;
yea, the night-monster shall settle there,
and shall find her a place of rest.
Desert creatures will meet with hyenas,
and wild goats will bleat to each other;
there the night creatures will also lie down
and find for themselves places of rest.
As the legend continues, after leaving Eden Lilith becomes the first succubus, which fits the etymology of her name, a creature who haunts the night killing human infants and seducing men, particularly in their dreams.
Thus the nocturnal emissions.