3.22 Lilith as Alukah in Proverbs 30

There is one final reference to Lilith in the Bible that is quite fascinating.  It comes in Proverbs 30:15-16, which speaks of a demoness titled Alukah.  Proverbs’ heavily mystic passages speak of two types of barren women given over to the power of Alukah.  To one woman, Alukah serves as a source of cursing and death, but to the other woman, Alukah is the catalyst in granting a promised seed.  Alukah’s dual role towards the women has obvious strong parallels to the cursing agent in bitter water trial of the Sotah.  This agent is the spirit of Lilith.  Rabbinic medieval legends identified Alukah as the mother of estries – female bird-like winged monsters whom were said to devour children and drink their blood.  Estries are the earliest known incarnations of the modern vampire legend, and their similarity to Lilith is obvious.  Rabbinic tradition holds that Alukah is a close demonic descendent of Lilith.  As we shall see, the two have so much in common; they might as well be the same creature.  Alukah is an apparent title for Lilith. 

Proverbs 30:15-16 has long been an enigma for commentators.  The faulty KJV translation listed below only befuddles the issue more.  It begins by saying that the horseleech has two daughters.  It then states three things are never satisfied, and four things do not say it is enough.  It then list four items which do not say it is enough – the grave, the barren womb, the earth not filled with water, and fire.  What is the poor reader to make of all this? 

Pr 30:15-16 (KJV)
15 The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied , yea, four things say not, It is enough:

16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.

Based on the KJV translation many commentators suggest the proverb is a commentary on greed.  However, this topic is quite out of place with the surrounding passages.  Prior passages deal with the sins of lying, pride, and improper and disrespectful relationships with parents.  Subsequent passages deal with the mysteries of sexual relations with virgins and adulterous women.  A careful study of the Hebrew will reveal that the proverb is a reference to a demoness named Alukah and her mystical power as a cursing agent in a bitter water trial.  Her curses are able to grant one barren woman a promised seed, but to another barren woman of the trial, Alukah brings the curses of death. 

The first obstacle to correctly understanding Proverbs is to correctly translate Aluwqah (hqwle – Strongs 5936) in verse 15.  The KJV renders it “horseleach.”  This is not entirely without merit, as aluwqah is a feminine noun formed from an unused root meaning “to suck”, and in Talmudic times this Hebrew noun has been used to denote leaches.  However, neither aluwqah nor its root appears anywhere else in the Bible.  This makes ascertaining its true biblical meaning very difficult.  It is now commonly understood that Aluwqah is the proper name of a well-known Middle Eastern demoness in ancient times.  Gesenius states that Aluwqah in Proverbs is a proper name of a demoness linked to the Arabic demoness Aulak (whose Arabic root also means “to suck”).  Aulak was a female night monster or vampire who sucked blood from her victim.  Likewise, the Jewish Encyclopedia links Aluwqah to Alukah, a Hebrew succubus and female vampire.  There is little doubt that the Arab’s Aulak and Hebrew’s Alukah are the same demon.  According to a comprehensive demonic pantheon compiled by historic researcher Marc Carlson of the University of Tulsa, Alukah was a direct female offspring of Lilith.  As we shall see, there are obvious reasons to hold this opinion.  The similarity between Alukah and Lilith is so vast, the two may very well be the same entity. 

The proverb of verse 15 and 16 has long befuddled readers.  Based on the KJV translation of the underlying Hebrew, comprehension is almost impossible.  A proper understanding begins with the good literal translation provided below.  In obtaining this literal translation, it is important to note four corrections to the KJV.  First, Aluwqah (“horseleach” in KJV) is actually the proper name of a demoness.  Second, Aluwqah is clearly prefixed with a lamed (l) inseparable preposition meaning “to” or “for.”  Thus, the daughters are being given over “to Aluwqah.”  This important preposition is simply ignored in the KJV.  Third, the KJV word for “satisfied” in verse 15, ta’saba’neh (hnebvt), is clearly the plural imperfect future tense of saba (ebs – Strongs 7646), and negated.  It should be rendered, “they will not be satisfied.”  Fourth, the KJV word for “say” in the same verse, amar’av (wrma), is the plural perfect past tense of amar (rma – Strongs 559) and negated.  It should be rendered “they had not said.”  My best literal translation is given below.  The word-by-word breakdown of the Hebrew is given in Table 3‑19. 

Pr 30:15-16 (My Literal)
15 To Aluwqah are two daughters – Give!  Give! 
      Three, behold, not will be satisfied of four that not had said it is enough: 

16 The grave and the barren womb; the earth not satisfied with water and fire not she had said enough.

hqwle:l 15
are two
To Alukah
lwas 16
and barren
Sheol / grave
they have said
of four
they will be satisfied
she had said
and fire
of water
are satisfied

Table 3‑19: A Literal Translation of Pro 30:15,16

With a proper translation now in hand, the two keys to understanding the proverb is to identify Alukah as a demoness and deciphering the mystical meaning of the cleverly crafted riddle.  The proverb begins by announcing that two daughters are given over to the demonic power of Alukah.  The double imperative hab (“give!”) apparently refers to the individual giving over of each daughter.  As we shall see, the remainder of the proverb is a riddle discussing the two possible fates of these daughters at the hand of Alukah. 

The riddle portion of the proverb is based on a Hebrew poetic parallelism.  It announces that three things will never be saba (satisfied) of four that have said it is not enough.  It then lists four things which have said it is not enough – 1) the grave, 2) the barren womb, 3) the earth not satisfied of water, and 4) fire.  The proverb leaves it as a riddle for the reader to deduce which are the three that will never be satisfied.  With a little reasoning, this can be easily solved.  First, consider the grave, or sheol.  Can it ever say it has enough?  No.  It will always take more and will never stop because it is satisfied.  No amount of death will ever fill the grave or sheol to satiation.  Second, consider the earth not saba (satisfied) with water.  Will this land ever be saba (satisfied)?  No.  The winds will come and dry the land.  In the end, it will always want more.  Note that by definition a land not saba cannot be saba.  Third, consider fire.  Has fire ever never said it has enough?  Has fire ever consumed a timber and refused to take its neighbor simply because it has had enough?  No.  Fire is never full and will never be satisfied as long as there is fuel.  Finally, consider the barren womb.  Has the barren womb given a seed ever said it is enough?  Yes.  A single seed given unto a long barren womb can satisfy that place.  The Bible is replete with examples of barren women who after long years of suffering finally receive a long desired child.  In utter contentment they sing prayers of thanks to God, saying it is enough.  Sarah bore Isaac and was fulfilled.  Hannah bore Samuel and was satiated.  Hence, of the four items listed which have said it is not enough, only the barren womb given seed can become saba (satiated).  All the rest cannot. 

The proverb’s secret concerning the two daughters subjected to the power of Alukah is that the one with a barren womb given seed will be satisfied, whereas dry land, the grave, and fire shall not be satisfied.  As we shall see, this proverb is a clever riddle detailing the mysterious underpinnings concerning the women undergoing a bitter water trial.  The riddle is saying that the secret to the trial is that the woman given the promised seed of the trial is saved from the curses of the trial by virtue of the seed her womb receives.  This is precisely what our study of the trial has revealed. 

In the riddle the grave represents the womb of the defiled woman, whereas the barren womb represents the womb of the innocent woman.  The dry earth always accepting water represents the belly of both women.  Any bitter waters entering their belly will be accepted.  Finally, fire represents the waters’ unstoppable fiery curses. 

With the above symbolisms defined, the parallelism of the proverb with the bitter water trial can be seen.  Recall that the women of the trial drink waters twice.  The proverb reveals that upon either drinking, any curses in the waters will be accepted by both women’s bodies — their “dry land” will never be satiated and will always absorb the bitter waters.  Likewise, when the curses enter their body they will never stop unless removed — the women’s “fire” will never be satiated and stop on its own.  After their first drinking, both women are given seed who bear away their curse to the altar.  The seed of the defiled woman is not an acceptable sacrifice before Jehovah.  It returns to her womb in her second drinking. Yet again, her belly is like an un-satiated dry land that soaks up the bitter waters.  The unstoppable fiery curses return and consume her, and she joins her seed in its insatiable grave that is her womb.  However, for the innocent woman, her seed is accepted and carries away her curse.  At her second drinking, there are no bitter waters for her belly to absorb and there are thus no unstoppable fires to consume her.  She is redeemed, and her satisfied womb is granted a second promised seed in replacement for the first, which was lost. 

Further confirming the above analogies is that fact that the four items not satisfied are grouped into two categories.  The grave and barren womb are grouped together by a vav (w) conjunctive, and the dry land and fire are grouped together by another vav conjunctive.  The lack of a vav conjunctive attached to the earth is conspicuous, given the tendency for Hebrew text to employ a massive number of conjunctives.  A little thought reveals that the reason for the proverb’s grouping is very logical.  The grave and the barren womb are abodes for dead and live bodies.  For the woman who perishes at the hands of Alukah, her womb is as a grave for the mystical seed she receives at her first drinking and for herself in her second drinking.  For the innocent woman who is saved, her barren womb is a safe abode for both her first and second granted seeds.  The initial curses of her first drinking are taken away by the first promised seed, and they never return at her the second drinking.  This explains the riddle’s second grouping of fire with the dry earth drinking up waters.  The dry earth is the belly of the women, and the fire is the curses.  When bitter waters enter their belly, the belly will soak up the waters like dry earth, and the water’s curses will consume them like fire.  This will happen every time for both women.  The innocent woman is saved in that at her second drinking there are no bitter waters to absorb or fiery curses to stop.  Her seed has saved her. 

It is obvious that the two daughters given over to the power of Alukah parallel the two types of women undergoing a bitter water trial.  One daughter shall be granted a seed and be redeemed.  The other shall suffer death and fiery curses.  This interpretation of the riddle is confirmed by the invocation of Alukah in proverb.  Alukah is the cursing spirit in the riddle.  In the bitter water trial, it is the spirit of Lilith who curses.  As we shall see, in rabbinic tradition Alukah is strongly linked to Lilith.  Pr 30:15-16 is discussed at length in The Bitter Waters Code (BWC).  There it is shown that mystical meaning of the passages imply the two daughters were inseminated by supernatural spirits, and that in this respect they are likened unto the daughters of man who the sons of God took for wives to sire the race of Nephilim. 

Alukah, Lilith, and Estries

Traditions on Alukah reveal her similarity to Lilith.  Like Lilith, Alukah sought to snatch and kill children for revenge.  Alukah is perhaps best known as the namesake mother of the Jewish vampires, the alukah.  The best Jewish references to alukah come from the writings of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, a mystical movement of thirteenth-century Germany.  The best of these writings is the Sefer Hasidim, a halachic work written by Rabeinu Yehudah HaChasid (Rabbi Judah the Pious).  There the alukah, referred to by their French name estries, were demon filled female creatures with bird-like characteristics who could fly and who unleashed their supernatural powers by releasing their long hair.  The French estries derives from strix, a Latin word for night-owl.  This Latin term was apparently used because the ancient Romans believed that the owls consumed human blood.  The striges were said to be terrible women who could turn themselves into dreadful birds of prey, with huge talons, misshapen heads, and breasts full of poisonous milk.  In later medieval legends, they continued to be associated with screech owls.  There is the fascinating possibility that the same medieval beliefs that led to the association of Alukah to owls led the KJV translators to render Lilith in Isa 34 as “screech owl.”  When faced with the proper name of a demon in the Hebrew scripture, the KJV almost always attempts to translate the name as a reference to a common animal that might be associated with it.  It may be from Alukah’s legend that the KJV translated Lilith as “screech owl.”  They were confronted with a demoness name, and in its place they used the name of the animal most closely associated with it. 

According to the Sefer Hasidim, the estries fed on the blood of victims and would eventually die if prevented from feeding.  Their favorite prey was children.  This is in keeping with Alukah’s desire for revenge against children, and matches Lilith’s legend as an enemy of Eve’s children.  According to Sefer Hasidim, estries could shape-shift into various forms and often appeared as normal humans.  In one story, a woman who was an estrie fell ill, and was watched over during the night by two unsuspecting ladies.  When one of the women fell asleep, the estrie suddenly stood up and began to unravel her hair.  It then attempted to suck out the blood of one of the sleeping women.  Fortunately, her alert companion managed to cry out and wakened her, and the two of them were able to prevent the estrie from feeding.  The estrie then sprouted wings and attempted to fly off.  This sudden transformation from woman to winged monster again matches the Lilith legend. 

The medieval texts list several different ways to restrain an estrie.  First, they could be controlled by the imposing of an oath upon them.  In addition, since their powers were somehow linked to the loosening of their hair, they could be restrained if their hair was somehow held in check.  Finally, if a known estrie (hiding in human form) was included in the prayer for the sick that is recited in synagogue, the congregation was warned not to respond with “Amen”! [1]  This is again in marvelous similarity to Lilith and the Sotah.  Lilith gained her powers by loosening her hair.  Similarly, Lilith and the Sotah were constrained by oaths, and it was the “Amen” of the woman in the bitter water trial that empowered her demonic curse against her. 

The Sefer Hasidim states that the Talmud was referring to estries when it spoke about beings who were created at twilight on the first Friday, and whose bodies were not completed when God ceased working at the onset of the Sabbath.  This again matches the essential elements of the Lilith legend and points to Alukah as Lilith.  For in a very real since, Lilith was an incomplete creation of the first Friday.  Before she could be completed by God, the mist of the deep broke through and animated her instead of God’s breath.  So Lilith was never completed by God, and this ruined incomplete creation is the reason for her demonic nature. 

Estries possessed some very unusual characteristics.  Although an estrie could be physically injured by a person, the injury could be undone if she was allowed to eat bread and salt that belonged to her assailant.  Conversely, bread and salt also worked as an antidote to injuries inflicted by the estrie.  The estrie reverted to trickery and deceit to obtain the bread and salt from their attackers.  The creatures were capable of morphing themselves into different forms, and they were not easy to recognize.  Sefer Hasidim records one case where an estrie assumed feline form.  However, a certain Jewish man recognized her true identity and struck her.  On the following day, a woman came to him and asked for some bread and salt.  The man would have complied, had it not been for another who warned him of his folly. 

As with modern vampire lore, the demonic indwelling power of the estrie did not end with her physical death.  For this reason, Rabbi Eliezer Rokeah stated that if the estrie had her mouth open when she was buried, she would continue to devour children for a year after her death.  In order to prevent this, he ordered that her mouth must be filled with earth.  Again the similarity with the Sotah and Lilith as the Serpent of the Garden is striking.  Both these women in their dying curses were condemned to eat dust of earth, which also cursed their seed to death.  Furthermore, the seed of both these women’s rivals, the innocent woman against the Sotah and Eve against Lilith, had their promised seed blessed. 

At this point, it is fascinating to list some of the striking similarities of estries with Lilith and the Sotah.  At the very least, these imply that the rabbis who wrote on estries borrowed heavily from certain elements of Lilith and precepts of the Sotah trial. 

  • The estrie was associated with birds and flight. She had great wings and talons.  Likewise, Lilith is associated with birds and wings, and had great wings like a cherubim. 
  • Estries could transform between a normal human form and their birdlike monstrosities. Lilith underwent this same transformation at least once. 
  • The primary prey of estries was children. Alukah herself sought after children in revenge.  Likewise, Lilith sought the children of Eve in revenge.  This trait even extends to the Sotah, for the initial victim of her bitter water curses was her seed. 
  • The alukah’s power was activated by unleashing her hair. Likewise, Lilith activated her powers by unleashing her hair.  This similarity extends to the Sotah, for she had her hair unloosed as part of the trial ceremony. 
  • The alukah could be rejuvenated or brought back to life with the consumption of salt and bread from the hand of her assailant. This was nominally obtained by deceit.  This reminds us of the revitalization of the bitter water curse in defiled Sotah at her second drinking from the hand of the priest.  Her curse is revitalized when for the second time she consumes the bitter waters (characterized by salt) and her grain minchah (corresponding to bread) is rejected because of her deceit. 
  • The alukah could be constrained by an oath. Lilith was constrained by an oath.  Likewise, the curse of a woman in a bitter water trial was constrained by an oath. 
  • One was warned not to say “amen” to a prayer for an alukah’s return to health. Similarly, the Sotah was warned not to say amen to the curses which would return unto her in a revitalized state at her second drinking.
  • The death or banishment of the demonic spirit indwelling an alukah was accomplished by filling her mouth with soil. So too, the end of the demonic indwelling spirit of a Sotah was accomplished through the filling of her mouth with dust of the earth in the bitter waters.  Lilith as the Serpent of Eden was likewise cursed with eating dust. 

[1] Eliezer Segal, Ask Now of the Days that are Past, University of Calgary Press, 2004.  See also http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/011025_Vampires.html