Lucifer (/ˈluːsɪfər/;loo-sif-ər) is the King James Version rendering of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל in Isaiah 14:12. This word, transliterated hêlêl or heylel, occurs once in theHebrew Bible and according to the KJV based Strong’s Concordance means “shining one, light bearer”. The Septuagint renders הֵילֵל in Greek as ἑωσφόρος(heōsphoros), a name, literally “bringer of dawn”, for the morning star. The word Lucifer is taken from the Latin Vulgate, which translates הֵילֵל as lucifer, meaning “the morning star, the planet Venus“, or, as an adjective, “light-bringing”.
Later Christian tradition came to use the Latin word for “morning star”, lucifer, as a proper name (“Lucifer”) for the devil; as he was before his fall. As a result, “‘Lucifer’ has become a by-word for Satan/the Devil in the church and in popular literature”, as in Dante Alighieri‘s Inferno, Joost van den Vondel‘s Lucifer (play) and John Milton‘s Paradise Lost. However, the Latin word never came to be used almost exclusively, as in English, in this way, and was applied to others also, including Jesus. The image of a morning star fallen from the sky is generally believed among scholars to have a parallel in Canaanite mythology.
However, according to both Christian and Jewish exegesis, in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 14, the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II, conqueror of Jerusalem, is condemned in aprophetic vision by the prophet Isaiah and is called the “Morning Ha” (planet Venus). In this chapter the Hebrew text says הֵילֵל בֶּן-שָׁחַר (Helel ben Shaḥar, “shining one, son of the morning”). “Helel ben Shaḥar” may refer to the Morning Star, but the text in Isaiah 14 gives no indication that Helel was a star or planet.
Translation of הֵילֵל as “Lucifer”, as in the King James Version, has been abandoned in modern English translations of Isaiah 14:12. Present-day translations have “morning star” (New International Version, New Century Version, New American Standard Bible, Good News Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Contemporary English Version, Common English Bible, Complete Jewish Bible), “daystar” (New Jerusalem Bible, English Standard Version, The Message, “Day Star” New Revised Standard Version), “shining one” (New Life Version,New World Translation, JPS Tanakh) or “shining star” (New Living Translation).
The term appears in the context of an oracle against a dead king of Babylon, who is addressed as הילל בן שחר (hêlêl ben šāḥar),rendered by the King James Version as “O Lucifer, son of the morning!” and by others as “morning star, son of the dawn”.
In a modern translation from the original Hebrew, the passage in which the phrase “Lucifer” or “morning star” occurs begins with the statement: “On the day the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the harsh labour forced on you, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended!” After describing the death of the king, the taunt continues:
- “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! 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.’ 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?'”
J. Carl Laney has pointed out that in the final verses here quoted, the king of Babylon is described not as a god or an angel but as a man; and that man may have been not Nebuchadnezzar II, but rather his son – Balthazar. During the trito Isaiah period of the Persian sacking of the Babylonian empire, Nebuchadnezzar was gripped by a spiritual fervor to build a temple to the moon God Sin (possibly analogous with Hubal, the primary God of pre Islamic Mecca), and his son ruled as regent. The abrahamic scriptural texts could be interpreted as a weak usurping of true kingly power, and a taunt at the failed regency of Balthazar.
For the unnamed “king of Babylon” a wide range of identifications have been proposed. They include a Babylonian ruler of the prophet Isaiah‘s own time the laterNebuchadnezzar II, under whom the Babylonian captivity of the Jews began, or Nabonidus, and the Assyrian kings Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon II and Sennacherib.Herbert Wolf held that the “king of Babylon” was not a specific ruler but a generic representation of the whole line of rulers.