Two of the Bible’s best passages concerning the fall of Satan and the other rebellious angels are Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:1-19. But what makes these passages a bit confusing is the fact that each one also deals with an earthly ruler. Isaiah 14:12-14 pronounces God’s coming judgment upon the king of Babylon, while Ezekiel 28:1-19 pronounces it upon the king of Tyre.
You ask, “So if the passages talk about two earthly rulers, why do we bring Satan into the context?” We do it because certain parts of the passages simply cannot refer to anyone but Satan. Consider the following examples, all taken from the New King James translation.
1. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!…” (Isaiah 14:12) No earthly king of Babylon ever fell from heaven.
2. “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…'” (Isaiah 14:13) No earthly king would think that he could ascend to heaven and take over.
3. “You were in Eden, the garden of God…” (Ezekiel 28:13) No earthly king was in the garden of Eden..
4. “You were the anointed cherub who covers…” (Ezekiel 28:14) A cherub is a type of angel.
5. “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.” (Ezekiel 28:15) Because every human being is a sinner from birth, no one is perfect from the day he is created.
In light of these examples, it’s clear that God is speaking to more than the kings of Babylon and Tyre in these passages. Yes, He’s pronouncing judgment upon them, but He’s also speaking to Satan. The implication is that Satan is the real power behind their thrones. He is so closely associated with the two kings that God can speak to him even as He is speaking to them.
Okay, with all this understood, now let me explain the name “Lucifer,” which is used in Isaiah 14:12. I need to begin by saying that the King James and the New King James are the only two English translations that use this name “Lucifer.” The Hebrew word these two translations render as “Lucifer” is helel. Bible scholars are in agreement that helel literally means “shining one,” “bright one,” or even “light-bringer.” Translators have often translated it as the so-called “morning star” or “day star,” which is actually the planet Venus appearing in the east just before sunrise.
As evidence that translators agree on this meaning for helel, consider the renderings that modern translations give to Isaiah 14:12:
1. “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!…” (New American Standard Version)
2. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!…” (New Revised Standard Version)
3. “Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens!…” (Holman Christian Standard)
4. “How you have fallen from heaven, O light-bringer and daystar, son of the morning!…” (The Amplified Bible)
5. “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn!…” (New International Version)
Alright, now that we understand the literal meaning of helel, the question becomes, “Why do the King James translation and the New King James translation render the word as “Lucifer”? Actually, since the New King James simply sticks with the King James rendering, the question is really, “Why did the King James translators go with the name “Lucifer”?
The answer is found in the fact that before the Bible was ever translated into any kind of English, it was translated into Latin. The Latin translation was called the Vulgate. And what is the Latin word for “morning star”? It is “lucifer.” You see, when the King James translators came to Isaiah 14:12, they decided to just carry the name “lucifer” over from the existing Latin translation. In other words, “Lucifer” is not an English word. It is, instead, a Latin word that was incorporated into an English translation.
It’s sad that modern translators have been criticized by some for simply doing their job. When they came to helel in Isaiah 14:12, they actually translated it rather than go with some long-standing Latin word that would need translating itself because so few people know Latin. In doing so, the translators left themselves open to the charge of attempting to rob the Bible of one of its greatest teachings on the devil. Even worse than that, since Jesus calls Himself “the Bright Morning Star” in Revelation 22:16, they’ve been accused of associating Jesus with Satan or even promoting the lordship of Satan.
On this whole subject, Merrill Unger, the highly respected Bible scholar and commentator, has pointed out that Isaiah 14:12 isn’t the only Old Testament passage where the morning star and angels are linked together. The other passage is Job 38:7, which speaks of the time when “the morning stars” sang together and all the “sons of God” shouted for joy. (Job 1:6 and 2:1 plainly show that the term “sons of God” refers to angels in the book of Job.) So, you see, it really isn’t so strange that the original Hebrew of Isaiah 14:12 would describe Satan as the “morning star.” And as for Jesus using the title for Himself, that’s His emphatic way of saying that He is the true “morning star,” one far brighter and far greater than Satan.