The Lilith legend is ancient. It predates the Torah. The first literary reference to Lilith is found in the Sumerian
tale entitled Gilgamesh and the Huluppu Tree (circa 2000 BCE), which is part of the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the
tale Lilith is one of three creatures who haunt a great Huluppu tree situated in a holy garden of the gods. At the
foot of the tree is a snake. At the top is a bird. In the middle is Lilith, whom is described as a “maid of
desolation”. Lilith and her companions inspire fear in the goddess Inanna, who is unable to approach the tree. It
takes Gilgamesh, the great male Sumerian hero, to kill the snake and frighten the other creatures from out of
the tree and garden. The poem is remarkable in that has many similarities with the Biblical tale of Eden. First,
the tree and Lilith are located in Inanna's "holy garden", evoking the image of the Garden of Eden. Secondly,
the tree itself invokes an image of the Tree of Knowledge, in which Lilith is said to dwell in some later myths.
Lilith is also associated with a snake that recalls the serpent that tempted Eve. The poem also associates her
with a bird who flees through flight, this is also an act and capability which Lilith is said to have done.
An excellent source for the entire history of the Lilith mythos is Changing Literary Representations of Lilith and
the Evolution of a Mythical Heroine, by Amy Scerba. The material can be found online at: http://www.geocities.
com/Wellesley/Garden/4240. It can also be found at: http://feminism.eserver.org/lilith
Lilith in The Testament of Solomon (Circa 200-600 CE)
There is an interesting reference to Lilith in The Testament of Solomon. This book is doubtlessly apocryphal,
and it’s the estimates for its date of writing varies anywhere between 200 to 600 CE. However, it serves to
illustrate the common Lilith legends of the time. In the book Lilith (who goes by the alias Obizuth) is portrayed as
a demon who strangles unprotected children in childbirth. More importantly, Solomon strips away her power, at
least in part, by forcibly binding her hair. She was then hung in front of the Temple for all to see and to be an
abject lesson to the children of Israel. This tale shares interesting facets with the Sotah trial. It seems apparent
that the writer of the Testament was using elements of the bitter water trial for his story. In the Sotah trial the
hair of the woman was unloosed, the writer of Testament apparently saw this as unloosing of the adulterous
spirit within her, so that if she were guilty the demonic Lilith spirit might take hold and work its curses. In
Solomon, Lilith was made a spectacle at the Temple in plain view of all the public, much like the defiled Sotah
was made a spectacle at the Temple in view of all.