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Lucifer And His Fall 

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Lucifer comes from a Latin word that meant “morning star” or “light bringing.” It is also used to denote the planet Venus when it appears as the morning star. Most of us are more familiar with its use as a name for Satan. English dictionaries define it as “a proud religious archangel, identified with Satan, who fell from heaven.”

The “name” has been associated with Satan for two reasons: One, “lucifer” is the translation of the Hebrew word heylel or helel in Jerome’s Latin translation of
Isaiah 14:12 early in the fifth century A. D. The “old” King James Version transliterated the word into a proper name in this verse. Two, this translation in Isaiah 14:12 describes one who “has fallen from heaven” and been “cut down to the earth.” Because Jesus refers to Satan falling from heaven (see Luke 10:18), it has been assumed by many commentators that Isaiah is referring to the origin of the devil: a good angel who sinned and was cast out of heaven.

While this may be true about the origin of Satan, it is not what Jesus is discussing and has nothing at all to do with what Isaiah foresees. Isaiah says plainly that his prophecy denotes the downfall of the “king of Babylon” (
Isaiah 14:4). The prophet begins this oracle against Babylon in chapter 13 and continues his description of the fall of the nation and its king in chapter 14.

Isaiah employs a number of “stellar” and “heavenly” images in chapter 13 to portray the fall of the nation: “for the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give light; the sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine.” This, he says, refers to the “day of Jehovah” that comes “cruel, with wrath, and fierce anger” to make the land of Babylon a desolation (
Isa 13:9-10).

These portraits foresee the end of the exaltation of this nation used by God as a rod of His indignation against Assyria and His own people––Judah (see
Isaiah 10:5 for God’s use of nations). God later explains to Habakkuk that Babylon was guilty of blood-thirsty cruelty in conquering these nations and deserves to fall from its exalted place (Hab 2). God describes this fall in Isaiah 14:12: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O day star [Lucifer, KJV], son of morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations.”

Isaiah follows this verse by highlighting the arrogance of the king of Babylon as a “man” that boasted, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (
Isa 14:13-14). All this, as seen in Daniel 4, depicts accurately the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

The prophet sees the Babylonian king as one who exalted himself as the “morning star” but is humbled and brought low by the wrath and judgment of God. “Lucifer” is an unfortunate translation of the Hebrew word for “day star” as a personal name. But more than that, Satan is nowhere discussed in this prophecy. “Lucifer,” in the original King James Version of the Bible, is the king of Babylon—not Satan.

L.A. Stauffer

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