Courtesy of Allison Merriweather

Dressed in a polka-dot bikini and high-heeled pumps, Lilith hurls lightning bolts at Adam, in Texas artist Allison Merriweather’s colorful “Lilith” (1999), from the artist’s collection. Today, feminists celebrate Lilith for insisting on being treated as Adam’s equal. In repicturing Lilith as a modern woman, they draw heavily on the medieval Alphabet of Ben Sira, where Lilith tells Adam: “We are equal because we are both created from the earth.” But the author of The Alphabet might actually have intended his tale to be interpreted as satire. Indeed, the book is rife with dirty jokes, praise for hypocrites and biting sarcasm. And the pious character Ben Sira, who retells Lilith’s story in The Alphabet, is identified as the product of an incestuous relationship between the prophet Jeremiah and his daughter.