I received the following question:

Recently we have had some discussion about the character “Lilith” in the Bible. She is mentioned in Isaiah as a “screech owl”. According to the internet, she is listed in Jewish mythology and Babylonian books as Adam’s first wife and was replaced with Eve when she abandoned Adam.

The question is, did Adam have a wife prior to Eve as it implies in Genesis or is it simply a urban legend? Also, in Genesis 1:27 it indicates that God created a male and female and gave them dominion over the earth and animals. Then in Genesis 2:7 he made Adam because “there was no man to till the land”. Then Genesis 2:21 Eve is made.

We are confused of this timeline and Genesis seems to be out of sequence to what we have been taught. Can anyone shed some light on this?

The exact identification of certain animals in the Hebrew is difficult. Once it became a dead language, no one remained to remember what animals were called what, and names that occur only once in Scripture do not leave us with a lot of clues as to their identity. This certainly would be the case with the lilith. However, I see little reason in this for giving heed to Jewish fables. These sorts of things do grow up around the more spectacular of animals. I suppose one who knew nothing of vampire bats and had only heard the legends about vampires would find a vampire bat, once he actually saw one, a rather disappointing creature, though a rather strange and creepy one. I would say the same was probably true with the lilith. It was an interesting creature, but that does not mean the legends about it are anything but imagination. If I had to guess (and it would only be a guess, certainly), it would be that it was perhaps a pterodactyl.

I do not know about urban legends, but the idea of Lilith as a first wife to Adam certainly is among the Jewish myths, and the idea may or may not have come from their sojourn in Babylon.

Genesis 1:27 would seem to be a summary statement of which Genesis 2 goes back and gives further details. Since Genesis 2:5 says there was “no man to till the ground,” one might as well suppose that God originally created Adam 1 with a wife, that Adam 1 and his wife disappeared somehow, and that God created Adam 2 in Genesis 2:7. This is clearly not the case, but Genesis 2 is just telling us in much closer focus exactly what happened that Genesis 1 only told us about in broad generality. The Bible will often use just such a method of imparting information, starting out with what we might call an historical outline, and then focusing in to a more personal narrative. One example quite similar to this is Matthew 1:16, where Jesus is born of Mary, and then born again in Matthew 1:25. Of course, the Lord did not have two births. The beginning of the repeated and more detailed narrative is introduced in verse 18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows.” Genesis is only more confusing because we have a few more verses and a chapter break dividing the two narratives.

Whether or not Eve was created on day 6 is highly questionable, since Genesis 2 seems to record too many events (like Adam naming all the animals) for the events of a single day. Yet part of the statement of Genesis 1:27 may be the fact that Adam was created with Eve within him when he was created, since Eve was later taken out of him. I believe that this was literal in that Adam was probably created as both male and female combined when he was first created. This would be quite unique among higher orders of animals, though it would not be unheard of for such a thing does exist among what we think of as lower animals. That man would be quite unique in this way, being already quite unique in other ways, does not seem too much of a stretch. If this was not so, God “deciding” to create a partner for Adam was just kind of a farce, a rather silly play God was putting on, if He had created a male with no female. Adam could hardly have obeyed the command to “be fruitful and multiply” as a male with no female. Yet if he was capable of self-regeneration, then the creation of Eve was a choice by God, not a necessity. One thing that backs up this idea is that the Hebrew word for “rib” that was taken out of Adam in Genesis 2:21 is often translated “side.” If translated this way, it may well refer to the fact that the female “side” was taken out of Adam, and not a rib at all. Then, what had been combined in him and then split into two beings comes back together and is recombined in marriage, completing the picture of two becoming one.

The commands to Adam and Eve seem to have been first given to Adam himself, and then passed on to Eve after she was created. This seems to be Paul’s point in urging the women to learn from the men in I Timothy 2. He brings up Adam and Eve because Eve should have learned God’s commands from Adam and failed to do so or to listen to his teaching properly, thus falling into deception. The women of Ephesus are to learn with the right spirit so a similar thing will not happen to them. The commands were given to Eve originally as being inside Adam at the time he was created, not because she had already been made and was there. Remember, she was “the woman,” the only person ever taken from a male instead of from a female.

I agree that the sequence in Genesis is not simple and straightforward, but I think that the solution is that Adam was created, containing both male and female, on day 6, and then later (how much later we cannot say) Eve was taken out of him to become his helper and partner.

I pray this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.