By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Please explain Isaiah 14.12-20. Give me what information you can in regard to “Lucifer. ” Who is he?
Reply: Isaiah 13-23 is a section of the book in which oracles of judgment are pronounced against individual nations. Chapter 13 and most of chapter 14 describe the fall of Babylon.
We consider Isaiah 14:12. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star (“Lucifer” KJV), son of the morning!” “Lucifer” is from a Latin word meaning “light-bearer” and refers to the planet Venus appearing in the evening and the morning, which is the brightest object in the sky except for the sun and moon (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2, p. 1360). The Hebrew expression was apparently first applied to Satan by Tertullian and Origen. The one who popularized “Lucifer” as a name for Satan was probably John Milton in Paradise Lost.
As Babylon was an astrological nation, it would be appropriate that the morning star (“Lucifer”) would be used as a symbol of her power, and would be applied to her king. However, some ignore this context and interpret this passage to mean the fail of Satan and his angels from heaven, connecting it with Luke 10:18 and Revelation 12:7-13.
Considering Luke 10: 18, Jesus had sent out seventy of his disciples to preach. They returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject unto us in thy name” (v. 17), “And he said unto them, I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven” (v. 18). Jesus foresaw his victory over Satan. The verse does not say that Satan fell from heaven, but it says that Jesus saw Satan fallen “as lightning from heaven.” Because the demons were subject to the seventy in Christ’s name, Jesus could see the defeat of Satan. It would be “as lightning from heaven” – sudden and fast (see Heb. 2:14). If Satan had been cast out of heaven at some time in the past, this verse does not teach it. Jesus was referring to the future and he was not relating to the past in Luke 10:18.
In Revelation 12:7-9 we are told: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon, and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him” (ASV). The 13th verse reads: “And when the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth, he persecuted the woman that brought forth the man child.” This language is obviously symbolical and is therefore not to be interpreted literally. Albertus Pieters correctly comments upon these verses (7-9): “Let us settle it firmly in our hearts, and stick to it consistently, that the Apocalypse is a book of spiritual cartoons, the pictures not in any case to be mistaken for the reality, no matter how vividly drawn. As already pointed out, the rest of, this chapter concerning the Radiant Woman, the Red Dragon and their adventures, is clearly seen by all interpreters to be symbolic; although they do not agree on what is symbolized. Is it not, then, to introduce confusion into the interpretation to suppose that the apostle suddenly shifts from symbolism to reality when he tells of the war in heaven?” (The Lamb, the Woman and the Dragon, pp. 172-173) The Revelation passage portrays a spiritual conflict in which Satan is defeated, climaxed by Christ’s victory over him. It is not denied that Satan may have, at sometime in the past been cast down from heaven, thus accounting for his origin; but the passages considered above do not so teach.
The whole context of Isaiah 14:12-20 depicts the overthrow of Babylon. The king of Babylon is pictured symbolically as a predominant bright star (“Lucifer” KJV, v. 12). But he is to be destroyed. The king’s boastful words are revealed in verses 13 and 14. “Thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.” In contrast to the king’s vision of grandeur, he is to be cast down to Sheol, the lowest depths (v. 15). Men will look at the dead body of this once mighty conqueror. Here lies the slain soldier who had made the earth to tremble, who had shaken the kingdoms and who had overthrown their cities. He had taken prisoners, carrying them to lands far from their home – “that let not loose his prisoners to their home” (vv. 16,17). In contrast to kings who die and rest in their tombs, the king of Babylon would be cast aside from his sepulcher. His body lies dishonored and unburied, as a dead body trodden under foot (vv. 18,19). The cause of him not being united with the rest of the dead in burial is seen in the statement of verse 20: “because thou hast destroyed thy land, thou hast slain thy people.” The dynasty of this wicked king is brought to an end. Babylon would be completely overthrown never to rise again. “It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation” (Isa. 13:20).
The context of Isaiah 14:12-20 shows clearly that it is the king of Babylon who is addressed as “Lucifer,” and not the devil.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 13, p. 397
July 6, 1989