DEMONS OF HUMAN FORM by W.O.E. Oesterley 1921
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The references to demons of human or quasi-human form in the Old Testament are not many; but when considered in the light of certain Babylonian parallels it will be seen that the mention of them is not without significance.
(a) Lilith. In Isa. xxxiv. 11-15, a passage of somewhat similar import to Isa. xiii. 21-22, but in reference to Edom, there occur these words in verse 14: "And the wild beasts of the desert (Ziyyim) shall encounter the wolves (lyyim), and the sa'ir (singular of Se'irim) shall meet with his fellow; there, in truth, shall Lilith repose, and shall find a resting-place for herself." The Revised Version translates Lilith by "night-monster," but it is a proper name. The fact that Lilith, represented at one time as a female demon, at another a male one, was well known among the Assyrians supports the belief that Lilith played a part in Hebrew Demonology in pre-exilic times; the Assyrian beliefs regarding this demon were greatly developed by the Babylonians, as we shall see in a moment. According to later Jewish teaching, which may well, however, have been handed down for many centuries previously, Lilith was a night-hag, and got her name from Layelah ("night"); the etymology was false, but Lilith was, nevertheless, the night-demon par excellence. The connexion was suggested by the similarity of the two words, as well as by the fact that Lilith was believed to be active at nights. There is an evident reference to this demon, though her name is not mentioned, in Ps. xci. 5 : "Thou shalt not be afraid because of the night-terror, nor because of the arrow that flieth by day." [According to Jewish tradition the meteor-stone was called "the arrow of Lilith."] In the Midrash to the Psalms (Midrash Tehillim) on this verse occurs the comment: "Rabbi Berechya said, 'There is a harmful spirit that flies like a bird and shoots like an arrow"; while it is a mistake to suppose that only one demon is referred to in this verse, the Rabbi is doubtless right in picturing Lilith as one who flies, for the Jewish conception regarding this demon is likely to have corresponded with the Babylonian which also pictured Lilith as flying at nights. In Babylonian Demonology a demon-triad was formed by Lilu, Lilitu, and Ardat Lili; the male, the female, and the hand-maid; the Old Testament Lilith would correspond to the second of these, Lilitu. The three are spoken of particularly as storm-demons who rush about at night seeking what harm they can do to men. They are spoken of as flying, and were therefore, though not necessarily, conceived of as having wings. Ardat Lili is once spoken of as "flitting in through a window" after a man. In later Jewish belief, which is, however, largely traditional, Lilith appears as the head of one of the three great classes into which the demons are divided, viz. the Lilin, who take their name from her. They are described as of human form, and have wings; they are all females; children are their chief victims. Lilith was conceived of as a beautiful woman, with long, flowing hair; it is at nights that she seeks her prey; she is dangerous to men, but does not appear to molest women.
(b) Keteb. It is in Ps. xci. 6 that this proper name of a demon occurs, and to understand its significance it must be read in the light of its context. In verse 5, as we have just seen, it is highly probable that the demon Lilith is referred to, although not named; the text of verse 6 is partly corrupt and must be emended on the basis of the Septuagint; it must then be translated thus:
"Nor because of the pestilence that goeth about during the dark,
Nor because of Keteb or the midday demon.
The Hebrew for "pestilence" is Deber, and if this is not a proper name, the word implies at any rate the existence of a pest-demon. We are reminded of the well-known Babylonian pest-demon Namtar; he is often spoken of as "violent Namtar," and he comes among men as the pest-bringing envoy from the realms of the dead, like a "raging wind"; his action is described in a Babylonian text thus: "Wicked Namtar, who scorches the land like fire, who approaches a man like Ashakku, who rages through the wilderness like a storm- wind, who pounces upon a man like a robber, who plagues a man like the pestilence, who has no hands, no feet, who goes about at night. . . ." The words remind one forcibly of "the pestilence that goeth about in the dark." That pestilence, and sickness of every kind, were believed to be due to the action of demons is too well known to need illustration. It is in this context that the name Keteb occurs. The word is usually translated "destruction"; it is only mentioned three times elsewhere, viz. in Deut. xxxii. 24, Isa. xxviii. 2, Hos. xiii. 4, and in the first two of these the underlying thought of demons is fairly obvious. In Rabbinical literature Keteb is used as the proper name of a demon; whether he was the "midday demon" himself, or whether two demons are referred to in the text, one cannot say for certain. That a special midday demon, whatever his name, was believed in is highly probable; the burning rays had to be accounted for somehow. In later Judaism it was believed that midday was one of the times during which demons were specially busy, and in some Babylonian texts there are some suggestive passages. The Midrash to the Psalms (Midrash Tehillim) on this verse has the following in reference to Keteb: Our Rabbis said, It is a demon (Shed). . . . Rabbi Huna, speaking in the name of Rabbi Jose, said, 'The poisonous Keteb was covered with scales and with hair, and sees only out of one eye, the other one is in the middle of his heart; and he is powerful, not in the darkness nor in the sun, but between darkness and sun(shine). He rolls himself up like a ball and stalks about from the
fourth to the ninth hour, from the 17th of Tammuz (July) to the ninth of Ab (August) ; and everyone who sees him falls down on his face.'"
(c) Alukah. In Prov. xxx. 15 the Revised Version has:
"The horseleach (mg. vampire) hath two daughters, crying (mg. called) Give, give."
The Hebrew for "horseleach" is a proper name, Alukah; very little is known of this creature excepting that she was a female demon of the Lilith type. From the context in Proverbs it is clear that she was insatiable in her desires. Among the ancient Arabs there was a corresponding female demon called Aulak. The Septuagint and Vulgate renderings imply that she was a blood-sucker.
(d) Satan. This name is derived from a root meaning "to oppose." In such an early passage as Num. xxii. 22 ff. the noun is used without any idea of a proper name; we read there: "...and the angel of the Lord placed himself in the way for an adversary (lit. "a satan") against him"; the same word is used as "a foe" in the ordinary sense in 1 Sam. xxix. 4, 2 Sam. xix. 22 (23), 1 Kings, v. 4, xi. 14, 23, 25, Ps. cix. 6, 1 though in this last passage the sense is rather that of "accuser," on account of the words which follow, "when he is judged let him come forth guilty." In Zech. iii. 1, 2, we find that a development has taken place, for here the word is used with the definite article and means the Adversary, par excellence, who accuses men before God; this passage is especially instructive because in it the word is used in a two-fold sense: "The Adversary (the satan) standing at his right hand as his adversary (satan)." It is in a similar sense that the word is used in the book of Job (i. 6 ff., ii. 1 ff.); a still further development is probably to be seen in 1 Chron. xxi. 1 ( = 2 Sam. xxiv. 1), where the word is used without the article, and the context shows that it is not an ordinary foe that is meant; so that here Satan is used as a proper name; he is, moreover, not only an accuser, but one who tempts to evil.
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