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Adah

Esau, Wives of: Midrash and Aggadah

Esau married his first two wives, who were from among the daughters of Heth, against his parents’ wishes. According to the Rabbis, these women spent all their days in adultery and idolatry. Adah adorned herself with jewelry for harlotry, from which her name Adah is derived, with the meaning of the wearing [adayat] of jewelry (Gen. Rabbati, Vayishlah, p. 160). Adah’s other name was Basemath (based on the exchange of names between Gen. 26:34 and 36:2). This name also attests to her deeds, for she would perfume herself (mevasemet) for harlotry. Esau’s second wife, Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, was an illegitimate child resulting from an adulterous union (Tanhuma, Vayeshev 1). Judith was also named Oholibamah, a name she was given because she built places for idolatry (bamot). She dwelled in Esau’s tent, but “performed her needs elsewhere” (that is, she engaged in extramarital relations). In taking two wives, Esau acted the same as the men of the Flood generation, who also took two spouses: one to provide them with offspring, and the other to provide them with sexual pleasure (see Adah, the wife of Lamech).

Adah 1: Midrash and Aggadah

According to the aggadic tradition, Lamech took two wives, one for sexual pleasure and the other for procreation. One wife would be in his company adorned like a harlot, and he plied her with a drug that induced barrenness, so that she would not give birth; the other sat alone, like a widow. Lamech’s behavior graphically attests to the process of spiritual decline from one generation to the next and the corruption of the Flood generation.

Adah 1: Bible

According to the genealogy of Gen 4:17–19, Adah is one of the two wives of Lamech and the mother of two sons. Those sons, along with the son and daughter of her co-wife, Zillah, are in the seventh generation of naturally born human beings.

Adah 2: Bible

Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite, marries Esau, one of the two sons of Jacob and Rebekah, to whom she bears Eliphaz. Esau’s marriage to a woman outside his family’s descent line results in his exclusion from the endogamous patrilineage of Abraham’s father, Terah.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Adah." (Viewed on November 25, 2014) <http://jwa.org/taxonomy/term/9988>.

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