The first Mrs Adam

Lilith painted in 1872 by John Collier. Far too raunchy to be a successful First Lady.

ADAM AND EVE WERE, as everyone knows, the first happy couple. Except that they weren’t the first couple. That would be Adam and Lilith.

Adam’s first wife doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the Bible. She’s been almost comprehensively expunged, edited out of history with an efficiency Lenin would have envied.

Almost. There are still a few traces, where Lilith’s tracks proved too stubborn to erase completely. The first comes right at the beginning of the Old Testament, in Genesis chapter 1, verse 27:

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

Get that? Man and woman created at the same time. Eve, carved as an afterthought out of a lump of Adam’s ribcage, doesn’t show up until near the end of the following chapter.

Although Lilith appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh and many other texts, the only reference to her by name in the Old Testament comes in Isiah 34, as one of a list of eight unclean animals.

So what did Lilith do to warrant being excised from history? According to the 13th century rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, she refused to become subservient to Adam, and left both him and the Garden of Eden to shack up with the archangel Samael. Her real crime: she was the first feminist. Which, in those far-off days, was enough to initiate divorce proceedings.

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