In my last post, I said the fall of Satan is a myth based on a patch-work of four unrelated biblical passages separated from their contexts. Today, we will look at Isaiah 14.
At first glance, this passage seems filled with references to the fall of Satan:
How you have fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth…You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God…I will make myself like the Most High.”
The Background of Isaiah 14
Let us look more closely at the context of these words. Isaiah was written during the Assyrian-Babylonian crisis. Assyria, and later Babylon, conquered all the kingdoms of the mid-east. Isaiah wrote a series of prophecies against various countries, and chapters 13 and 14 are a judgment against Babylon, which absorbed Assyria’s conquered lands, defeated the southern kingdom of Judah, and carried the Jews away into the Babylonian captivity.
The prophecy begins with notice that God will take action against Babylon; it builds in intensity and ends with descriptions of Babylon’s utter destruction. In chapter 13, Isaiah gives an idea of the issue he thinks God has against Babylon, ‘I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.’
The Taunt Against the King of Babylon
Chapter 14 begins a taunt against the king of Babylon that includes the Lucifer passage. As you read it, consider whether the language is consistent with a jeer by oppressed peoples against a fallen, earthly political power, as Isaiah himself purports, or rather a reflection on the fall of an archangel at the beginning of the world?
You will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! The Lord has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers, which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued nations with relentless aggression.
As the taunt describes the destruction and pitiful state of the king, is the language consistent with the idea of a human king, as the Bible says, or of a fallen angel?
The realm of the dead below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you—all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—all those who were kings over the nations.
They will all respond, they will say to you, “You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us.” All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you.
But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a wilderness, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?”
The ‘Satan’ Passage Considered
Finally, let us reconsider the middle of the taunt that seems to ring with reference to Satan’s prehistoric fall.
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star [Lucifer in some translations], son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
This is from within the same continuous taunt. Is the language of this section consistent with a reflection on the primordial fall of a rebellious angel? One word seems to stand out as a reference to Satan virtually impossible to get around—Lucifer. However Lucifer is not a proper name but only transliterates the Latin word for light-bringer. The NIV translates it ‘morning star’.
After this passage was understood to refer to Satan, the KJV word ‘Lucifer’ was then understood as another name for Satan and entered common English usage. Had it been the equivalent Greek word, rather than the Latin, we might now associate Satan with the name ‘Phosphorus’.
We have no other use for the word ‘lucifer’ because it occurs nowhere else in common literature except as a reference to this very passage. Therefore, we assume Satan is Lucifer in this passage only because we earlier assumed that in this passage Lucifer is Satan.
Interestingly, elsewhere in the Bible (Revelation 22), another person is called the ‘morning star’, which could easily have been translated ‘lucifer’, so that with a slight change in coincidence we might today assume that ‘Lucifer’ was not a name of Satan, but of Jesus.
Once this little issue is settled, there is nothing here to suggest that this passage is anything other than a taunt against a human king as the Bible indicates—one who experienced great power but is brought low.
What do you think?
Next time, we will discover that Ezekiel 28 fares no better as a support for the fall of Satan.
Articles in this series:
Is the Fall of Satan a Myth?
The Fall of Satan in Isaiah 14
The Fall of Satan in Ezekiel 28
The Fall of Satan in Revelation 12
The Fall of Satan in the Book of Enoch
Satan in the Old Testament
Was Satan the Serpent in Eden?
Was Satan in the Desert with Jesus?
Does Satan Exist?
Do Demons Exist?