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Isaiah 34:14 in the Masoretic Text is the following:

גְשׁוּ צִיִּים אֶת-אִיִּים, וְשָׂעִיר עַל-רֵעֵהוּ יִקְרָא; אַךְ-שָׁם הִרְגִּיעָה לִּילִית, וּמָצְאָה לָהּ מָנוֹח

Here, לִּילִית is supposedly the only known mention of "lilith" in the Bible, but it gets translated to a variety of different things including things like screech owl or Lamia.

How should it be translated? Is there contextual or historical evidence to support one translation over another?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The NET Bible translator's notes:

The precise meaning of לִּילִית (lilit) is unclear, though in this context the word certainly refers to some type of wild animal or bird. The word appears to be related to לַיְלָה (laylah, “night”). Some interpret it as the name of a female night demon, on the basis of an apparent Akkadian cognate used as the name of a demon. Later Jewish legends also identified Lilith as a demon. Cf. NRSV “Lilith.”

The definition according to Strong's:

1) "Lilith", name of a female goddess known as a night demon who haunts the 
  desolate places of Edom
1a) might be a nocturnal animal that inhabits desolate places

I don't know if 1) is based on this passage or is an independent definition. It also says that the word is derived from layil <03915> meaning:

1) night
1a) night (as opposed to day)
1b) of gloom, protective shadow (fig.)

Wikipedia doesn't seem authoritative about the word's etymology.


For reference, the passage is part of a judgement against Edom. One English translation is Isaiah 34:14 (ESV):

And wild animals shall meet with hyenas;
  the wild goat shall cry to his fellow;
indeed, there the night bird settles
  and finds for herself a resting place.

Since the word is a hapax legomenon in the Bible and there seems to be no particular significance to its use here except to show Edom as desolate, I would suggest that one translation is as good as another.

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