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 cited from the New King James Version, and I’ll accompany each one with an explanation for why the passage can’t be referring to any earthly king.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!…” (Isaiah 14:12) No earthly king of Babylon ever fell from heaven.
“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 of Babylon would think that he could ascend to heaven and exalt his throne above God.
“You were in Eden, the garden of God…” (Ezekiel 28:13) No earthly king of Tyre was in the garden of Eden.
“You were the anointed cherub who covers…” (Ezekiel 28:14) A cherub is a type of angel.
“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 earthly king of Tyre could be described as being perfect from the day he was 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. Sure, He’s pronouncing judgment upon them, but He’s also speaking to Satan. You see, the implication is that Satan was the real power behind the thrones of those two kings. As a matter of fact, Satan was so closely associated with those two kings that God could speak to him while speaking to them.
Okay, with this understood, now let me explain the name “Lucifer,” which is used in Isaiah 14:12. I’ll begin by saying that the King James Version and the New King James Version are the only two major 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:
“How you have fallen from heaven, You star of the morning, son of the dawn!…” (New American Standard Version)
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!…” (New Revised Standard Version)
“Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens!…” (Holman Christian Standard)
“How have you fallen from heaven, O light-bringer and daystar, son of the morning!…” (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)
“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!…” (New International Version)
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, Son of Dawn!…” (English Standard Version)
“How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning…” (New Living Translation)
Alright, now that we understand the literal meaning of helel, the question becomes, “Why do the King James Version and the New King James Version render the word as “Lucifer”? Actually, since the New King James Version simply sticks with the King James Version rendering, the question is really, “Why did the translators of the King James Version 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. That Latin translation was called the Vulgate. And what is the Latin word for “morning star”? It is “lucifer.” You see, when the King James Version 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 these translators 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, these translators left themselves open to the charge of attempting to rob the Bible of one of its greatest teachings on the devil. Even worse, since Jesus calls Himself “the Bright and 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 helpfully 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, based upon the fact that Job 38:7 refers to angels as “morning stars,” it really isn’t so strange that the original Hebrew of Isaiah 14:12 would describe Satan (a cherub angel) as the “morning star.” And as for Jesus using that description for Himself, that’s just His emphatic way of saying that He is the true “morning star,” one far brighter and far greater than any angel, including Satan.
Excellent spade work here. And yes, modern translator get hammered over topics like this with zero justification.