Yeah, you thought we were done with Eden, didn’t you. One last bit.
Okay, we’ve been through all of four chapters of Genesis and a smidgen of the Talmud to talk about Lilith. All told, we haven’t been through that much material, but it’s densely packed with story metaphors, and implications. And that was just separately. Now let’s tackle them together.
Language becomes a recurring theme throughout these three stories. The importance of language in the ancient Hebrew culture is hard to miss. It literally starts off creation. The words are a deliberate manifestation of will and thought. This is important. Thoughts can—and often are in the case of writers—random. Anyone who has had a dream of falling only to become the Marshmallow King knows this. Even conscious thoughts are fleeting, taking the mind in odd directions to the point where tracking back to the original thought is like crisscrossing NYC subway lines. But speaking out words is deliberate and powerful.
Every act of creation that follows from the first is likewise done using language. All of the division of heavens/firmament/waters (depending on your translation) is done by God’s words. Language is so important that God must even evaluate each day’s labors and pronounce it as good before retiring. Also, the creation of man and woman is so important that it must be given exposition before the creation.
From the moment of creation Adam, Lilith, and Eve all have the ability of language. God communicates with them through words, giving the commands to name the animals, procreate, and to avoid the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Though their language does not possess the same power as God’s, their words carry force and meaning.
Lilith, especially, knows that the name of God is sacred and carries power. When she utters it in frustration (possibly justified frustration, but she took it too far) it is not God who casts her out, rather she casting herself out by invoking that name. The name itself, like the language God used to create, had power, power which removed her from paradise and transformed her into a demoness.
The Serpent, too, knew language had power, for he used words in a deliberate way to deceive Eve. He used language for a corruptive purpose, choosing words carefully in order to entice Eve to eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If anything, this is proof that the Serpent knew of good and evil—whether it was from him eating from fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil or another source is not known.
And then there’s Adam and Eve post-fruit. God questions them not because it demonstrates a lack of knowing on His part, but because the real power is in the language. The act becomes truly real after Adam and Eve speak about it. It’s interesting to note that God gave Adam and Eve the benefit of the doubt, asking “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen 3:11) knowing that there are only two ways to get such information. The aftermath (often referred to as the cursing or Fall) likewise is delivered through speech, rounding out that the language is what is ultimately powerful within these stories.
Language as power is firmly established in these three chapters of Genesis, and will go on throughout all of Genesis and carry throughout the Old and New Testaments. So these little posts about the power of language will pop up now and again, tying different stories together under the same theme.