Isaiah 14: Satan's Origin Story?

In this post we'll continue to look at the fall of Babylon, and we'll also look at the passage that many site as the origin story for Satan.

Introduction

Isaiah 14 continues Isaiah's prophecy about the fall of Babylon that was started in Isaiah 13. It also contains the segment that leads majority of the Christian world to believe Satan's name is Lucifer. The chapter concludes with a brief prophecy about the fall of the Philistines.

The most involved part of this section is definitely the passage concerning Lucifer. There are actually quite a few perspectives concerning the passage: some believe Lucifer is a name, other believe it is a title; some believe it refers to the earthly king of Babylon, other believe it refers to Satan. You can find various articles discussing these points of view online, if you want more details than what I provide below.

The Return Home

Photocredit: Unsplash.com/Dan Grinwis
Isaiah prophesies that when the Medes take over Babylon, Israel will be allowed to return home (and they were, by Cyrus' decree). When they returned home, non-Israelites would accompany them, just as it was when they left Egypt. Some of these people would be the same Babylonians who had previously been their captors; now Israel would be the master and Babylon the servant.

Before we move on, however, I want to make an important point about servants or slaves. We all know that the words translated to servant in the Bible could also be translated as slave. What most people don't know is how servitude and slavery in Biblical time was different (and the same) as modern slavery. As an American, specifically as a black person in the U.S., "slave" and "slavery" is defined, by default, as the transatlantic slave trade and the chattel slavery that occurred in the U.S. In this form of slavery, people were bought and sold as property; families were separated without thought and slaves really weren't looked at as human. A major difference in American slavery was that slave status wasn't based on being too poor to care for yourself (remember government assistance, soup kitchens, thrift stores, etc. did not exist until recently) or having lost a war, but solely on the color of a person's skin.

Is this the type of slavery God was dooming the Babylonians to? People often read passages like Isaiah 14:2 and bemoan the fact that God accepted and allowed slavery. The problem is, you have to set aside modern connotations and put each verse in context with all the other verses. When Isaiah penned this verse, it was on top of everything Moses had already written—Moses' writings were the law for Israel and had been created either by or with the assistance of God. There are two important things about Moses' (and many after Moses) writings that clue us in to how God viewed slavery: attention to the poor and the commandment to remember they (the Israelites) were slaves in Egypt. Too many passages to name are in favor of protecting the poor, the orphans, and the widowed. These are the people who would have become slaves. Exodus 22:21 tells the Israelites not to vex or mistreat strangers in their land and compels them to remember how they were treated in Egypt. These laws were to be remembered when Israel began taking Babylonians as servants or slaves. The type of horrific treatment of people we associate with slavery was not condoned by God. Does that mean the Israelites were better masters than the rest of the world? Probably not; they weren't known for actually following God's word. However, it does say something about how God intended for us to behave.

A Reprieve

God promised to give the Israelites rest; a reprieve from the sorrow that came with bondage. God's creation week is a reminder to us that rest will always come. He knew that we would tire and need time for resting, whether it is from work or a situation. Sometimes we are pushed to the limits, beyond what we'd like or what we think we can handle, but God knows that we need rest, and when we absolutely need this rest, He will always provide it.

Celebration

God gives Israel a proverb to chant in the wake of their victory. It appears to be a song expressing the magnificent defeat of such a powerful kingdom. The proverb contains a reminder that though the king was powerful and rich, when he died, he died like everyone else—possibly worse since worms (maggots, maybe?) would be on his dead body.

Also, the statement that the Earth was at rest and elements of it, such as the trees, rejoiced is a powerful reminder of how the Earth suffers when we engage in war.

Lucifer

Isaiah 14:12 begins the part of the chapter in which God is speaking to someone known as Lucifer. There are two main, but opposing, schools of thought on the passage. The common belief is that the person being spoken to is Satan. However, some people believe this passage is talking about the human king who was disgraced. In either case, people debate whether Lucifer is actually a name, title, or description.

Who is Lucifer?

Meaning of the Word

Lucifer actually means "light bearer" or "light bringer." It stems from the Latin root for light—luce or lux. The original Hebrew word is helel, which likely is derived from a Hebrew word meaning to shine or radiate. It is also possible that helel means "day star" or "morning star."[5][6] Despite the common perception that Lucifer is a proper name, both words are more like titles, and the context of the passage supports that usage. So, while we've turned it into a name, Lucifer probably isn't the devil's name. Given the belief that it is, and the association, it's obviously not a popular name.[2][3][4] As of 2016, 91 babies in the United States had been named Lucifer since 1980.[1]

Is Lucifer Satan?

Photocredit: Unspalsh.com/Pro Church Media
Let's talk about whether Lucifer is or isn't Satan. Most people agree that it is, but some believe God is talking to the king of Babylon, given the context of the passage. So, which is it?

First, I want to point out two other examples of God speaking to an earthly human, but really speaking to Satan. In Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:33, and Luke 4:8, Jesus is talking to Peter, but He addresses Satan, because it was Satan who placed such a thought in Peter's mind. In Ezekiel 28, a similar revelation about Satan's past is addressed when God is addressing the king of Tyre. We know God can't be talking to the literal king of Tyre after a certain point in the passage because He places the person in the garden of Eden and refers to them as an anointed cherub. In both of these cases, God is speaking past the physical human and to the entity (Satan) that is controlling the human like a puppet.

Second, let's address the issue of lucifer being a title rather than a name. Just because it isn't a name, doesn't mean it isn't in reference to Satan. Similarly, God is not God's name, it's a title. Because most of us in the U.S. are Christian, when we see God with a capital g, we assume the God of Abraham, but "god" is a generic title that people from various cultures and religions apply to any deity (real or not). God's name is actually YHWH, but we rarely use this; instead we refer to Him as God, Lord, and Father. To me it actually makes the most sense that in light of his behavior, Satan's name is never revealed, since that would only increase his fame.

Third, I think the address God makes applies to both Satan and the king of Babylon. The reason I say this is because the king has succumbed to Satan's madness. Babylon's king probably did think he could do all of things listed in the passage (we'll get to those in just a few), and probably denied God the way many leaders, entertainers, businessmen, and scholars of today do. However, the reason he believed this was because of Satan whispering in his ear. The king's situation is not so different from Eve's; Satan put the idea in the human's mind, but the human acted on the idea. Just as God addresses both Eve and Satan in Genesis 3, in Isaiah 14, God is addressing both Satan and the king.

Light & the Morning Star

This passage tightly couples "lucifer" and light, which causes much confusion considering Jesus is also highly associated with light (John 8:12). As mentioned earlier, the title, plus the reference to the son of the morning, essentially refers to this person or entity as the morning star. Yet, in Revelation 22:16, Jesus says He is the morning star. It's a bit confusing that so many of Jesus' attributes or titles have been applied to whomever is being spoken to, whether it is the literal king or Satan.

Do not forget that Satan specializes in confusion; he wants you to be unable to recognize him, so he's taken great pains to confuse your perception of him so that God's Word can be manipulated to confuse you more. People often think of him as being the opposite of God, since he is in opposition to God, but Satan's goal is to be like God. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that even as a fallen angel, Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, proving that the verse in Isaiah 14 is justified in associating the devil with light. Furthermore, when we are in submission to God, we are supposed to emulate His light. As one of God's created beings, Satan would have done this all the time before his fall.

The Fall of an Angel

God doesn't rebuke people without cause, and so far every example I've seen in the Bible, He tells us why He's rebuking the person. Throwing people in jail without reason, punishing them without informing citizens why, and other similar behaviors are telltale signs of a corrupt system. God doesn't operate that way; instead He lays it all out on the table for us to see. This way, we know that God is a just God and we learn from others' mistakes.

Satan and the king's crimes are listed as being boastful and exalting himself to the throne of God. Truthfully, this is possibly the most important passage in the Bible to read concerning our enemy, because it tells us exactly what he is attempting. All of Satan's temptations lead back to this very concept. His goal is to undermine God's authority so that it is him we are bowing to instead of God. The very first record of Satan speaking to a human (Eve in Genesis 3), this is essentially the same thought process he puts in her head. By convincing her that she could be like God if she ate the fruit, Satan became her leader because it was his ideology she chose to follow. Satan does the same when he tempts Jesus; in fact, Satan explicitly asks Jesus to bow down to him (Matthew 4:11). Another example of this mentality is that of the people in Babel; they thought they could make themselves more powerful than God, as well (which was probably inspired by the devil).

Something to really take into account when reading the charges against Satan is the usage of I. Over the course of 2 verses, the word I is used 5 times. Satan is extremely self focused. When our speech begins to imitate this pattern and everything starts with I, we should stop to re-evaluate who we're serving.

Aftermath of the Fall

Satan may get most of the world on his side, and kings like the king of Babylon may wreak havoc on the world in their conquest for power and wealth, but in the end, these people will not prosper. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that people who seek to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life will save it. It seems just as likely that those who seek power and riches on earth will lose them, while those who build their treasures in Heaven will reap their reward. Satan and the king will not be able to keep anything they achieve. God says the fall of the king will be so great that everyone will marvel at how someone so powerful could be brought so low.

The Coup of Babylon

Sometimes when there's a coup, the country survives, but in most cases there's either a collapse of the government or a serious loss of power. The same is true with the fall of Babylon. The collapse of Babylon, though described as a thorough punishment ridding the region of any and all who participated in their evildoings, was actually a fantastic event for the nations that had been taken captive. These nations were now free to rebuild their homelands. It was only after Cyrus conquered Babylon that the Israelites were permitted to return to Jerusalem and begin reconstructing the Temple, after all. The same will be true of spiritual Babylon. The pains of God's wrath that pour out on the earth during those final days will be tremendous, but after spiritual Babylon is defeated and Jesus is seated on the throne, we will finally be able to return to our perfect paradise.

Another thing that's typical of a coup is killing anyone that could pose a threat to the newly established throne. Since leadership was passed on by blood, descendants of the royal family could always stake their claim to the throne. Since this claim would be valid, it was always possible that they could rally men behind them, regroup, and become a threat to the newly established power. To avoid this, usually the entire lineage was killed. The Israelites fell victim to this when Athaliah takes the throne of Judah upon the death of her husband, she attempted to have everyone with a claim to the throne killed (2 Kings 11). A more recent example would be the murder of the entire Romanov royal family in Russia, when the Bolsheviks overthrew Tsar Nicholas II.[7] Isaiah 14:21 prophecies that this action would be taken upon the king of Babylon.

We can also find a second, spiritual meaning in Isaiah 14:21. Just as we are children of God, those who follow and worship Satan will be like children of Satan when the final judgement comes, in that they will share the fate of Satan. All of those who worshipped the beast and took his mark, as well as those who rejected Christ—basically anyone who would have claim to Satan's "throne"—will be eliminated to avoid another war in Heaven.

Rejected From the Grave

Isaiah 14:19-20 is quite interesting because it talks about the king of Babylon being cast out of the grave. Upon reading that, I was quite confused. It seemed unlikely that the grave would reject a human, and honestly sounded zombie/vampire-ish. After looking at a few commentaries and digging deeper into the passage, I realized this is more about honorable burials than literally being rejected from the grave.[8] To put this in perspective, think of ancient Egypt. The kings were given extravagant pyramids upon their deaths and while these tombs had religious significance for them, they were also lasting markers of their reign—they're still there to this day. The king of Babylon would not be celebrated when he died.

The same can be said of the antichrist and spiritual Babylon. When God renders judgement at the end of the world. All traces of sin and evil will be removed from the universe and the world will be restored to it's perfect state. Despite all the effort Satan will have put in to destroy things, his work will be completely erased.

God's Will Will Stand

If God speaks something, it is true. If God says something will happen, it will happen. In this particular passage, God is speaking a pronouncement on Babylon and Assyria (later in the chapter He mentions Palestine, as well). While this particular example is rife with bad news for God's enemies, we have to remember that all the great news He's proclaimed for His people is just as true and just as concrete. We will have enteral life, we will be blessed, and we will have a more abundant life.

Palestine

I don't know why the person who split the books into chapters decided to put the breaks where they did, but it seems to me the end of Isaiah 14 should have been verse 27 and Isaiah 14:28 would actually start the new chapter. Here, Isaiah begins a new vision that he was given in the same year that king Ahaz died. This new vision was for the people of Palestina.

Palestina would be the region we call Palestine today. The people God was referencing were likely the Philistines who lived there at the time. Surprisingly, the Palestinians of today probably aren't related to the Philistines; it's supposed that they simply inherited the name by living in the region. In fact, at one point, Jews were known as Palestinians.[9] This also explains why Isaiah is prophesying that they will be wiped out. In the end, God would set His judgement on them through famine and extinction of their culture.

Something interesting about this passage is that the serpent begets another serpent. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles make it clear that our words and actions are our fruit; these fruit identify whom we're serving. Evil can only produce more evil and the fruits of evil are evil.

Fulfillment of the prophecy may be seen in 2 Kings 18:8, when Ahaz's son Hezekiah defeats the Philistines.

References

  1. "Lucifer". Names.org; visited July 2018
  2. Mike Campbell. "Lucifer". Behind the Name; visited July 2018
  3. "Lucifer meaning". Abarim Publications. September, 10, 2014
  4. Douglas Harper. "Lucifer". Online Etymology Dictionary; visited July 2018
  5. "“Lucifer” or “Day Star” in Isaiah 14:12?". KJV Today; visited July 2018
  6. "Why are both Jesus and Satan referred to as the morning star?". GotQuestions.org; visited July 2018
  7. "Execution of the Romanov family". Wikipedia; visited July 2018
  8. "Isaiah 14:19 Commentary". Bible Hub; visited July 2018
  9. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "Israel: Origins of the Name “Palestine”". Jewish Virtual Library; visited July 2018

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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