Gender Analysis #1, Sample Student Paper, Submitted 1/28/03
Lilith: The Original Patriarchal Scare Tactic
In Louis Ginzberg's translation of The Legends of the Jews, a section about the first woman can be found that would deter most women from free thinking. The story is about Adam's first wife Lilith. We find out that Adam, though marveled by the beauty God had bestowed upon him, had a feeling of isolation. Adam also was believed to be the creator by the animals and angels, as they came to him for naming. So God, would remedy these two problems by sending Adam into a deep sleep. By doing this God would show that Adam was just a human, and during this time would also grant him a companion. Lilith would then become Adam's first wife. She would be created from the dust of the earth, as Adam had been. Lilith being of the same making of Adam, insisted that she received equality on par with her husband. When this equality was not granted she fled. Adam then complained to God about Lilith abandoning him, so three angels were sent out to find Lilith. She was then told if she did not return, a terrible punishment would follow. Lilith chose the punishment, instead of living as the passive companion to Adam. God would then put Adam into another deep sleep to create him second companion. Eve would become Adam's final wife. She would not be created from dust as Adam and Lilith were. God would create Eve from a rib of Adam, and took great care so she would not show the same type of disobedience that Lilith had shown. To continue in a direction where equality is a norm; we must contradict sexist literature with understanding, removal, then recreation.
The story of "Woman" creates an image of damnation for any woman that would openly express their feelings of equality. One does not have to delve deeply into this story to find the meaning. "To banish his loneliness, Lilith was first given to Adam as wife." At this point a woman is no more than a proposed gift. She is being given to Adam for him to possess. Since this is the case, Lilith can not expect to have the same level of rights that Adam possesses. If Lilith was meant to be Adam's equal, she would not have been the gift to Adam, the gift would have instead been companionship. Two equal entities sharing the gifts that God had bestowed upon the both of them. The story says that Lilith was created in the same way Adam was, in doing this she would have the same dominate thought pattern as Adam. "Like him she had been created out of the dust of the ground." So God, the all-seeing supreme being, mistakenly created Lilith as an equal to man. Lilith, being Adam's equal, was not going to be content as a passive bystander, and with the help of Satan decides to leave Adam. "But she remained with him only a short time, because she insisted upon enjoying full equality with her husband." This section very clearly states that women should not be concerned with any type of equality with men. This was not God's intention. Furthermore, if you plan on denying God's will, and pursuing rights to the same level of man, you will be punished. "and they (angels) sought to make her go back with the threat that, unless she went, she would lose a hundred of her demon children daily by death." So, a woman that would demand equality, must defy God, and except an unimaginable punishment.
Within deeply religious families, a story of this type can have everlasting ramifications. Generation after generation would look to this story as a guide for proper female conduct. Even though this story is a myth, it has biblical excerpts throughout it. This being the case, it could reinforce the point the story in trying to promote. No person likes to be punished, even more so when the punishment is being handed down by God. Add to that the fact that the punishment will not only effect you, but also the children you have. Fear has long been used to control others, and we find this to be evident here. This story read to a young child would install a submissive behavior at a young age. Add to this a dominate father, and a passive mother, who have both already been raised in this manner, and nothing will change. Though questions about the the story can also be raised. When God attempted to make a second wife for Adam he took one of his ribs. God then fashioned woman from this rib. The story also mentioned that originally Adam had two faces. "The creation of woman from man was possible because Adam originally had two faces, which were separated at the birth of Eve." God had taken two parts of Adam to create Eve, so Adam would no longer be whole. Adam and Eve were two parts of a larger puzzle that God was constructing. Why were questions never raised about this? Even within a story that appears to promote female inferiority, Eve seems to still be an equal to Adam. What should be evident is that no story can be taken for granted, even if the message appears to be crystal clear.
To remove the influence that stories like this have, further study and translation of biblical passages are required. We must dispel assumptions, and replace with fact. Phyllis Trible's, "Eve and Adam: Genesis 2-3 Reread" attempts to do this. She suggests that one must, "reread to understand and appropriate"(74), and not let many feminist assumptions, to the meaning of biblical passages, deter from the true message. That if a person were to look deeper into the passages of the bible, the long held thought that women were a weaker sex, could be challenged. That when we look at the order of creation, the fact that woman was created after man should not "disparage"(75) her. Woman was not created to fix an error by God, but to complete a greater plan. "She in not an afterthought; she is the culmination"(75). Trible also talks about the "ring composition"(76) within her article, as another way to suggest equality. This proposes that since, "Man has no part in making woman; he is out of it. He exercises no control over her existence"(76). Man was not even present when Eve was created, so both man and woman owe their lives to God alone. So Eve would have no reason to worship or serve Adam, because he had no part in her genesis. When translations such as these can be proven, stories like "The Legend of the Jews" can be discredited. Though times are much easier for women to express their ideas, proof of equality is still required to eliminate long standing prejudices.
Though disturbing, The Legends of the Jews is a very interesting read. It can give us an understanding of how a patriarchal society continued for so long. Earlier translations of God's word held women in low regard, and stories like this only reinforce that view. An interesting question would be, why these scholars felt the need to portray women in this way? Could it all stem from the feeling of jealousy? Women have an ability that men will never have. The ability to bring a life into this world. Unfortunately, it will be a question that may never be answered, but most assuredly cause much debate.