5-5 Lucifer King Of Babylon
Isaiah 14: 12-14: “How art thou fallen from heaven , O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High”.
2. There is no evidence that Isaiah 14 is describing anything that happened in the garden of Eden; if it is, then why are we left 3,000 years from the time of Genesis before being told what really happened there?
3. Lucifer is described as being covered in worms (v. 11) and mocked by men (v. 16) because he no longer has any power after his casting out of heaven (vs. 5-8); so there is no justification for thinking that Lucifer is now on earth leading believers astray.
4. Why is Lucifer punished for saying, “I will ascend into heaven” (v. 13), if he was already there?
5. Lucifer is to rot in the grave: “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave...and the worms cover thee” (v. 11). Seeing angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35-36), Lucifer therefore cannot be an angel; the language is more suited to a man.
6. Verses 13 and 14 have connections with 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-4, which is about the “man of sin” - thus Lucifer points forward to another man, perhaps another king of latter day Babylon- but not to an angel.
7. It should be noted that the idea of 'morning star' is translated 'Lucifer' in the Vulgate [Latin] translation of the Bible made by Jerome. Significantly, he uses 'Lucifer' as a description of Christ, as the 'morning star' mentioned in Revelation. Indeed, some early Christians took the name 'Lucifer' as a 'Christian name' in order to identify themselves with Jesus (1). It wasn't until Origen that the term 'Lucifer' took on any connotation of 'Satan' or a force of evil; and even then it was only popularized much later in Milton's Paradise Lost . 'Lucifer' in its strict meaning of 'bearer of the light' actually was applied in a positive sense to Christian communities, e.g. the followers of Lucifer of Cagliari were called 'Luciferians'. As an aside, it's worth pointing out that they were one of the groups who insisted that the devil was not a personal being and held to the original Biblical picture of sin and the devil (2).
1. The N.I.V. and other modern versions have set out the text of Isaiah chapters 13-23 as a series of “burdens” on various nations, e.g. Babylon, Tyre, Egypt. Isaiah 14: 4, sets the context of the verses we are considering: “Thou shalt take up this proverb (parable) against the king of Babylon...”. The prophecy is therefore about the human king of Babylon, who is described as “Lucifer”. On his fall: “they that see thee shall...consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble...?” (v. 16). Thus Lucifer is clearly defined as a man.
2. Because Lucifer was a human king , “All kings of the nations...shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?” (vs. 9-10). Lucifer was therefore a king like any other king.
3. Verse 20 says that Lucifer’s seed will be destroyed. Verse 22 says that Babylon’s seed will be destroyed, thus equating them.
4. Remember that this is a “proverb (parable) against the king of Babylon” (v. 4). “Lucifer” means “the morning star”, which is the brightest of the stars. In the parable, this star proudly decides to “ascend (higher) into heaven...exalt my throne above the (other) stars of God” (v. 13). Because of this, the star is cast down to the earth. The star represents the king of Babylon. Daniel chapter 4 explains how Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, proudly surveyed the great kingdom he had built up, thinking that he had conquered other nations in his own strength, rather than recognizing that God had given him success. “Thy greatness (pride) is grown, and reacheth unto heaven” (v.22). Because of this “he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws” (v. 33). This sudden humbling of one of the world’s most powerful men to a deranged lunatic was such a dramatic event as to call for the parable about the falling of the morning star from heaven to earth. Stars are symbolic of powerful people, e.g. Genesis 37: 9; Isaiah 13:10 (concerning the leaders of Babylon); Ezekiel 32: 7 (concerning the leaders of Egypt); Daniel 8:10, cp. v. 24. Ascending to heaven and falling from heaven are Biblical idioms often used for increasing in pride and being humbled respectively - see Job 20: 6; Jeremiah 51:53 ( about Babylon); Lamentations 2 :1; Matthew 11:23 (about Capernaum): “Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell” (the grave). Adam Clarke's commentary rightly notes: "The truth is, the text speaks nothing at all concerning Satan nor his fall... but of the pride, arrogance and fall of Nebuchadnezzar".
5. Verse 17 accuses Lucifer of making the “world as a wilderness, (destroying) the cities thereof; that let not loose his prisoners to their home...(that did) fill the face of the world with cities...the exactress of gold” (vs 17 & 21 R.V.; v. 4 A.V. margin). These are all descriptions of Babylonian military policy - razing whole areas to the ground (as they did to Jerusalem), transporting captives to other areas and not letting them return to their homeland (as they did to the Jews), building new cities and taking tribute of gold from nations they oppressed. Thus there is emphasis on the fact that Lucifer was not even going to get the burial these other kings had (vs. 18-19), implying that he was only a human king like them, seeing his body needed burying. Is. 14:8 records the relief that now the "Lucifer" figure would no longer cut down cedars in Lebanon and hew mountains. This is exactly the language used by Nebuchadnezzar: "What no former king had done, I achieved: I cut through steep mountains, I split rocks, I opened passages and constructed a straight road for the transport of Cedars... to Marduk, my king, mighty cedars... the abundant yield of the Lebanon" (3). Clearly the figure spoken of in Is. 14 was Nebuchadnezzar.
6. Verse 12 says that Lucifer was to be “cut down to the ground” - implying he was a tree. This provides a further link with Daniel 4: 8-16, where Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon are likened to a tree being cut down.
7. Babylon and Assyria are often interchangeable phrases in the prophets, thus, having spoken of the demise of the king of Babylon, v. 25 says, “I will break the Assyrian...”. The prophecies about Babylon in Isaiah 47, are repeated concerning Assyria in Nahum 3: 4, 5, & 18, and Zephaniah 2 :13 & 15; and 2 Chronicles 33:11, says that the king of Assyria took Manasseh captive to Babylon - showing the interchangeability of the terms. Amos 5:27 says that Israel were to go into captivity “beyond Damascus”, i.e. in Assyria, but Stephen quotes this as “beyond Babylon” (Acts 7:43). Ezra 6:1 describes Darius the king of Babylon making a decree concerning the rebuilding of the temple. The Jews praised God for turning “the heart of the king of Assyria” (Ezra 6: 22), again showing that they are interchangeable terms. The prophecy of Isaiah 14, along with many others in Isaiah, fits in well to the context of the Assyrian invasion by Sennacherib in Hezekiah’s time, hence v. 25 describes the breaking of the Assyrian. Verse 13 is easier to understand if it is talking about the blasphemous Assyrians besieging Jerusalem, wanting to enter Jerusalem and capture the temple for their gods. Earlier the Assyrian king, Tilgath-Pilneser, had probably wanted to do the same (2 Chron. 28: 20-21). Isaiah 14:13: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven...(symbolic of the temple and ark - 1 Kings 8: 30; 2 Chron. 30: 27; Ps. 20: 2 & 6; 11: 4; Heb. 7:26) I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation (mount Zion where the temple was) in the sides of the north” (Jerusalem - Ps. 48:1-2).
8. There's a good reason why the King of Babylon is described as "the morning star", or Venus. The Babylonians believed that their king was the child of their gods Bel and Ishtar, both of whom were associated with the planets- they thought that their King was the planet Venus.
9. The Lucifer-king was to "lie down" (Is. 14:8) in his destruction- and that Hebrew term occurs later in Isaiah with reference to the 'laying down' of Babylon's King and army in the grave (Is. 43:17)
10. Note that "the stars of God" can refer to the leaders of Israel (Gen. 37:9; Joel 3:15; Dan. 8:10), above whom the King of Babylon wished to arise.
11. The passage about "Lucifer" is alluding to and deconstructing a contemporary myth, in a manner which is common to much Biblical literature. "An ancient myth told how Heylel, the morning star (Venus), tried to climb the walls of the northern city of the gods to make himself king of heaven, only to be driven from the sky by the rising sun. In Isaiah 14:12-20 this mythis given a historical application" (4). Isaiah is mocking the myth, and saying that the King of Babylon was acting like Heylel in the myth- but would be thrown down not by another planet, but by God Himself.
12. "The mount of the congregation in the sides of the north" (:13) is surely an allusion to "the Babylonian Olympus, the [supposed] dwelling place of the gods, which was considered to be situated somewhere in the high Asiatic mountain range which forms the bounday or the Plain of Mesopotamia on the northern side, and is also the region of the source of the Euphrates and Tigris" (5). This location was on earth- not in Heaven. The King of Babylon, the morning star, didn't aspire to greatness in Heaven, but rather to mount Olympus, or possibly to the temple mount in Jerusalem [another possible interpretation of the mount on the sides of the north". The point of the prophecy is that it is Yahweh alone who is the ultimate and only God-King, reigning on His mount, the mountain of God, which is mount Zion, not Olympus.
13. "Lucifer" wishes to ascend into Heaven (:13). This is somewhat different from the scenario traditionally assumed- which is that Lucifer was in Heaven already, wanted to rise higher, and was therefore thrown down to earth because of his prideful intentions. But the text actually says that he wished to ascend into Heaven- so he was not there originally. The point has been made by that "heaven" was often how the capital city of a nation or people was perceived; for in that city the national god supposedly lived, thus making the city "heaven". The "Hymn to the City of Arbela" is an example in the Assyrian context- because of the gods who supposedly lived there, "Arbela is as lofty as heaven... O lofty sanctuary... gate of heaven!" (6). The desire to ascend into 'heaven' would therefore speak of the king of Babylon or Assyria's desire to capture Jerusalem and supplant her God- Yahweh- with their own gods. This idea of Jerusalem as "heaven" is continued in later Isaiah, where the Divine revival of Jerusalem is spoken of as the creation of a new or renewed 'heaven' (Is. 51:6,16; 65:17,18).
H.A. Kelly- one of the leading historians of religious ideas of recent times- observed from much research that "It was not until post-Biblical times that Lucifer was associated with Satan, or that Satan was thought to have been cast out of heaven before the creation of Adam and Eve, or that Satan had some connection with Adam and Eve" (7). The New Testament references to Jesus as the morning star, Venus, have been read by H.A. Kelly as a conscious allusion to the growing idea that Lucifer ['light-bringer', heosphoros in Greek, the dawn-bringer] / Venus, the morning star, was in fact something or someone evil (8). All the N.T. references to the morning star are positive, and all refer to Jesus (2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 2:28; 22:16). It's possible to read Jn. 1:8 in this context, too. Here John the Baptist is described as "bearing witness to the light", which was language understandable with reference to Venus, the Morning Star which is seen in the Eeast just before the Sun rises in the West.
(1) Nick Lunn, Alpha And Omega (Sutton, UK: Willow, 1992) p. 254.
(2) W.H.C. Frend, The Donatist Church: A Movement Of Protest In Roman North Africa (Oxford: O.U.P., 1952).
(3) J.B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating To The Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 3rd ed., 1969) p. 307.
(4) G.B. Caird, The Revelation Of St. John The Divine (London: Black, 1966) pp. 114,115.
(5) H. Renckens, Israel's Concept of the Beginning: The Theology of Genesis 1-3 (New York: Herder & Herder, 1964) p. 206.
(6) M. Nissinen, “City as lofty heaven: Arbela and other Cities in Neo-Assyrian Prophecy” in L. L. Grabbe and R. D. Haak, eds., Every City shall be Forsaken (JSOTSup 330) (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001) pp. 172-209.
(7) H.A. Kelly, Satan: A Biography (Cambridge: CUP, 2006) p. 1.
(8) H.A. Kelly, ibid pp. 164,165.