How you have fallen from heaven,
Shining One, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low! Bible see other translations

“Shining One.” Isaiah 14:12-15, and possibly verses 12-17, refers to a spirit being that warred against God and now is known as the Devil. This was believed by many of the early Church Fathers (e.g., Jerome, Augustine, Origen, Eusebius, Ambrose, Cassiodorus, John Cassian), but that belief, long held by the Church, was in large part overturned during the Reformation. At that time, more teachers came to believe that the verses were hyperbolic and referred to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. However, if this section in Isaiah applies to Nebuchadnezzar, there is no parallel to it in Eastern literature. Scholars have searched for one without success. John Oswalt, who thinks that the section refers to Nebuchadnezzar and not to the Devil, has to admit that in spite of “vigorous investigation there is no single mythical story that can be said to be the prototype for Isaiah 14:12-15…among the numerous stories of a challenge to the high god, all the challenges are made by another god.”a

This admission by Oswalt is important because he does not believe that Isaiah is referring to the Devil even though all the parallel literature from the Eastern culture were gods challenging the Most High God, which fits exactly with Isaiah saying that the Devil, the “Shining One, son of Dawn,” challenged God.

We find the textual and contextual evidence that Isaiah 14:12-17 refers to the Devil to be compelling, and refer the reader to some of the good work on the subject that has already been done by men such as E.W. Bullinger, C.C. Ryrie, and C. I. Scofield. Godly men have long recognized the need for reading the Scriptures with a spiritual sensitivity, to see the fullness of what God is saying. One reason we believe this section of Isaiah is about the Devil is that it seems necessary that God would give some explanation of His chief adversary, and without this section and Ezekiel 28:11-19, there would be no explanation for the origin and fall of the Devil. Also, the Devil is, and always has been “the power behind the throne” of evil rulers, and so from that perspective, we can see why here in Isaiah God inserts the Devil into a section about the King of Babylon, and in Ezekiel God speaks of the Devil as “the King of Tyre.” The Devil is “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and so fitting him in with powerful ungodly kings is appropriate. Also, we would point out that although there is hyperbolic language used of kings and rulers in much of the ancient literature, the details of this section and the section in Ezekiel 28 seem to clearly refer to a divine being, not just an exalted earthly ruler.

Here in Isaiah 14:12, the Hebrew word is heylel (#01966 הֵילֵל), and it literally means “shining one.” In the Hebrew language, heylel was used as a name for the planet Venus. This in part explains how the Latin Vulgate arrived at the translation “Lucifer” (literally, “Light Bringer”), because in Latin, “Lucifer” was a word that was commonly used for the planet Venus. Thus, for the Latin Vulgate to translate heylel as “Lucifer” made perfect sense, because both heylel and “Lucifer” were used of the planet Venus. The association between the “Shining One” and Venus also explains why so many versions say, “morning star.” Venus was well known as the morning star. So heylel meant “Shining One, and was used as a name for the planet Venus, which was the “morning star.”

Further evidence that “Shining One” is a reference to the planet Venus, which was being used as a hypocatastasis for the Devil, is the fact that the Hebrew text reads, “Shining One, son of Dawn.” In Hebrew, the word translated “dawn” is shachar (#07837 שַׁחַר), and in cognate languages such as Ugaritic, it was used as a divine name. In Greek mythology, Venus was the “son of Eōs,” (“son of Dawn”). Eōs was the female Titan who was the personification of the dawn (the Titans were the first generation of gods, before the Olympian gods that were ruled by Zeus). Of course, we know that the Devil was not the son of a Greek Titan, but the reference to “son of the Dawn” in Isaiah emphasizes the fact that the Devil, and the angels who supported his rebellion, should have known that he was not the Creator God, but was himself a created being who owed allegiance to his Creator. Modern versions do not use “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12, but because “Lucifer” appeared in the Vulgate and KJV, and thus was the dominant translation of Isaiah 14:12 for around 1600 years, “Lucifer” has become one of the most well-known names for the Devil.

[For more on the name “Shining One,” see Appendix 14, “Names of the Devil.”]

John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 1-39 [NICOT], 321.

Commentary for: Isaiah 14:12