Study Guide

Book of Isaiah Wild Animals, Demons, and Lilith

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Wild Animals, Demons, and Lilith

After cities get destroyed in Isaiah—or if God says that they will get destroyed—it's time for the wild animals and evil supernatural powers to move in: hedgehogs, ostriches, goat-demons… the list goes on. The symbolism here is pretty obvious (if it even is symbolism, and not just description): when a city displeases God it will be reduced to a state of nature. Everything human about it will dissolve, and it will be replaced with wilderness and the kinds of beings that inhabit the wilderness.

Among the various animals and goat demons setting up shop in these abandoned cities—like in Babylon or wherever—Isaiah mentions that a figure named Lilith will show up in the desolation of Edom: "Wildcats shall meet with desert beasts, satyrs shall call to one another; There shall the Lilith repose, and find for herself a place to rest." This is the scriptural basis for the tale from Jewish folklore about how Lilith was actually Adam's first wife, but due to some disagreements (about rather intimate matters), they split up. God created Eve as Adam's new wife, and Lilith went on to a new career as an evil demon, killing infants and causing problems in general.

However, despite this bad rep, Lilith got a second-wind as a feminist icon. A major all-female music festival called "Lilith Fair" was named after her, back in that now-distant and hazy decade called the 1990s (here's a full performance). (P.S. Lilith also became a positive character in George Bernard Shaw's play Back to Methuselah.)

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