What does Isaiah 14:12 mean?
ESV: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
NIV: How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
NASB: How you have fallen from heaven, You star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who defeated the nations!
CSB: Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens! You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground.
NLT: 'How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world.
KJV: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Isaiah is delivering a mocking song to be sung by future Israelites after the downfall of the powerful, vicious king of Babylon. Now he is using poetic language to describe the epic heights of the king's arrogance from which he will fall. Still sarcastically using the form of a funeral dirge, Isaiah "mourns" how the king has fallen from heaven.
This passage refers to this figure as Day star, son of the dawn." The word translated here as "day star" or "morning star" is the Hebrew term helēl'. This word is found nowhere else in the Old Testament. Many scholars understand helēl' as a reference to Venus, sometimes called the "morning star." Venus is an exceptionally bright point in the night sky, making it one of the last to be washed out by rising daylight. This day star disappears, or "falls from heaven," when the sun rises and overpowers its fading light. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament, used the term h󠅍eōsphoros, which later Greek would render as phōsphoros. The Greek word literally means a "dawn-bringer," or possibly "light-bringer." So Latin versions such as the Vulgate translated it literally as lucifer, identical to the Latin name for the planet Venus.
Translations such as the KJV follow the lead of Latin versions, though they render the word helēl' as the proper name "Lucifer." Those versions typically make a different choice when the same term is used in Latin translations of 1 Peter 1:19, where that word is applied to Jesus Christ. Over the centuries, commentators noticed similarities between this description and passages about the fall of Satan from heaven (Revelation12:7–9; Luke 10:18). Writers such as Dante Alighieri and John Milton applied this directly in their work. Over time, it became traditional wisdom to use "Lucifer" as a proper name for the Devil.
Many scholars believe Isaiah was using the Canaanite myths of his time to mock the king of Babylon's ambitions. It is possible Isaiah is using this section of his song as a secondary reference to Satan. Yet that doesn't seem to be an important part of his message. The description of the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:12–19 is more directly related to the fall of Satan.
This verse concludes with Isaiah's observation that the one who saw himself as the morning star has fallen from his imagined home in heaven. He has come all the way down to the place of the dead. The one who laid the nations low by conquering one people after another with his cruel and relentless war machine has now been laid low himself.
Chapter 14:3–23 contains a mocking, sarcastic dirge for the fallen king of Babylon. The song imitates the respects otherwise paid to honor a fallen king. Instead, this song describes celebration of both people and trees at his death. The fallen kings in Sheol rise to mock the man for his weakness. The king is sarcastically referred to as the "Day Star"—leading to speculation that this is also a description of Satan's fall from heaven. The fallen one had ambition to become like the Most High among the gods, but instead was cut down to nothing in his death.
After the oracle against Babylon in the previous chapter, Isaiah briefly describes what will follow for Judah. In compassion, the Lord will choose His people once more. He will return them to their homeland. They will sing a mocking taunt-song against the fallen king of Babylon. Isaiah pronounces oracles from the Lord against Assyria and Philistia. The Lord will break the Assyrians in His land. With heavy symbolism, Isaiah seems to prophecy that the Assyrians will defeat the Philistines with a siege four years before it happens. God's people will find refuge in Zion.
Chapter 14 follows the oracle about the destruction of Babylon with a brief encouragement to the people of Judah. The Lord will restore them to the land. They will taunt the fallen Babylonian king, using phrases many also associate with the fall of Satan. Isaiah pronounces oracles from the Lord against Assyria and Philistia. He declares that He will break the Assyrians in His land, freeing His people from their oppression. Philistia will fall at the Lord's hand to a famine inflicted on them by a power from the north. Next, Isaiah's prophecy will turn to Moab.
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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