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Most of what Christians know about Lucifer comes from Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. Especially in Ezekiel, however, the oracles are clearly addressed to the King of Tyre.

11 The word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“‘You were the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden,
the garden of God; ...

So, how did this become the basis by which Lucifer came to be?

Does Judaism call out a similar Lucifer narrative based on this text?

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Judaism does not consider the “adversary” (satan) from Job to be any sort of fallen angel. Aside from the rather obscure verses about the nefilim in Genesis 6, I know of no Biblical verses that Jewish scholars take to refer to fallen or rebellious angels. –  J. C. Salomon Mar 12 '12 at 22:44
    
Judaism's conception of the "fallenness" of the nephilim comes from a blending of Genesis 6 and some other literature (1 Enoch, I believe). Great add, J.C. –  swasheck Mar 13 '12 at 3:16
    
Yeah - I would have definately +1'd that as an answer... Hint, Hint :) –  Affable Geek Mar 13 '12 at 3:17
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It never would have occurred to me to read that passage as referring to the satan (or Lucifer). Later in the chapter it says "you sinned"; do angels sin? Reading the whole chapter, it sounds like the "you" is "man". –  Gone Quiet Mar 14 '12 at 12:59
    
@Monica Cellio: If you're asking a Christian, the majority would say "yes." if you were asking a religious Jew, they'd probably say "no." However, Job 4:18 seems to imply otherwise (where the Targum renders the Hebrew word תָּהֳלָה by the Aramaic עילא, which Jastrow lists one potential meaning as "falsehood" (p.1069)). May I suggest: chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1055341/jewish/… The author may not agree that angels sin, according to the Christian belief, but he does acknowledge Job 4:18 as a tricky verse. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Nov 14 '12 at 7:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Within the Tanach/Old Testament there is no association of the angelic “adversary”, the satan¹ in the books of Job and Samuel, to be any sort of fallen or rebellious angel. Aside from the rather obscure verses about the nefilim in Genesis 6, I know of no Biblical verses that Jewish scholars take to refer to fallen or rebellious angels.²

The verses in Isaiah & Ezekiel, therefore, can be applied to some actual person—the king of Babylon in Isaiah, of Tyre in Ezekiel—who set himself up as a great power—“to the heavens” or “as a god”—and was/will be cast down.³

As such, I’m not sure this is answering the question “Why is the King of Tyre conflated with Lucifer?” so much as pointing out that this is a conflation, and not necessarily implicit in the text.⁴


  1. I have written the word in italics to emphasize that I’m using it as a transliteration of the Hebrew שטן, as distinct from “Satan” as a proper name.

  2. As swasheck points out in the comments above, the extra-canonical book of Enoch does describe these fallen angels in more detail.

  3. As usual, it’s not always easy to determine whether a prophecy refers to a contemporaneous event, one being predicted for the near or distant future, or even one in the past (Ezekiel doeas this at least once, IIRC); it’s also ambiguous whether a literal king of Tyre/Babylon is intended or this symbolically refers to someone else.

  4. Well, Isaiah does say “Lucifer”, at least if you translate into Latin; but a translation into English might go, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning!” (JPS 1912).

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It is a common feature of biblical prophecy to conflate various events, people, places, etc.

  • This is related to the theology of types: some events, people, places, etc, foreshadow and picture others.
  • This gives rise to the "mountain peak" metaphor of prophecy: when looking down a range of mountains, it not easy to clearly distinguish them unless you have other resources for doing so.
  • This is also related to the progressive nature of revelation: prophecy, in a sense, both reveals and conceals.
  • Example: Christ and Solomon in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Other examples are so numerous it is hard to know where to start.

So as to the specific history of how this came to be interpreted as Lucifer, I do not know, except that the description does seem rather extravagant to be merely addressing the King of Tyre.

(The question about Judaism has already been answered better than I could, so I refrain from commenting on that.)

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Though it's not going to be popular, I would suggest that these are the preferred readings of the "Lucifer" tradition. Both here, and Isaiah 13-14, the historical and traditional attempts to reconcile prophetic language with a very concrete concept of a location (Tyre and Babylon, respectively) probably resulted in such an understanding.

I'm still on the fence as to whether or not these passages describe the ACTUAL living history of Satan and such a cataclysmic event and fall. I have no doubt about the presence of Satan, but am skeptical as to whether or not this is an actual history of his origins/fall. There is no textual evidence that it is, other than traditional interpretation. The contextual interpretation of leaders and rulers of world powers suits it just fine.

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+1; I had not realized that those whose beliefs include Satan might also read these verses in an adiabolistic sense. –  J. C. Salomon Mar 21 '12 at 18:56
    
It's a literary approach. Read it as the narrative unfolds. –  swasheck Mar 21 '12 at 21:21

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