In Isaiah 14:12, (a passage addressed to the king of Babylon) Isaiah says:

Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations!


While this passage is often interpreted to reference Satan; (with some translations reading "O Lucifer, son of the dawn/morning") often on the (in my opinion mistaken) basis of Luke 10:18. During some recent research, I came across a Wikipedia article which included a list of Canaanite gods with a summary of what these gods are known for. This article includes:

Attar, god of the morning star ("son of the morning") who tried to take the place of the dead Baal and failed.

Is this passage referencing Attar and if so, are any other passages in Isaiah 14 referencing any known legends of Attar?


That is interesting. In the Hebrew Interlinear, Isa. 14:12 transliteration "helel ben-sahar", or "son of the morning" was referring to the king of Babylon, not Satan.

Maybe God used the very words the Babylonians used in referring to their king. Shining one, and god of the morning was often a reference to Venus, which was also called Attar.

From Mythology and Lament: Studies in the Oracles about the Nations, by John Geyer:

"The outstanding mythological symbol of Isa. 14 is hyll bn shr. There is a flurry of possible explanations of this term. Etz's view (1986) that it represents the comet Halley has been noted above and rejected. hyll is found in no other source. This leads Th. Booij (1991, p.400 n.28) to surmise that, whilst mythical language is being used there is here a direct reference to the aspirations and downfall of the king of Babylon. Wildberger (1972-82), like Etz in this respect, takes hyll to be a descriptive epithet presumably from the root hll "to shine" (cf. Akk. elelu "to pruify", ellu "pure, bright") and not a proper name. Earlier scholars identified hyll and shr with different aspects of the moon (cf. CML 24.6 where Gibson translates hll as "crescent moon", referring in the glossary to Arab. hilalu). Erlandsson (1970, p.35) also refers to ellutu. He observes that the title sar gimir dadme ("king of all habitations") is used of Nergal-Irras in a threat against Babylon similar to Isa. 14. He then goes on to cite the lbnt.hll of CML 24 lines 6, 15, 40-42, "daughters of the crescent moon" or as Erlandsson suggests "daughters of hll". He also remarks that ktrt in CML 24.6 is a noun that can mean "female jubilantes, songstresses, muses" (UT no. 1335) which could be a link with Isa. 14.11. J.W. McKay (1970), having noted earlier theories, cites as the then current favorite the view that hyll means "the shining one" and refers to the brightest star of the morning, Venus. McKay's own view that the source lies in Greek mythology transmitted through Phoenicians is unacceptable to Wildberger (1972-82, p. 552) who concludes that it is impossible to identify the source and he emphasizes that the reference is now to a historical figure. Further literature is cited by Etz (1986, n.8) and O'Connell (1988, n. 11)." pp. 29-30 Source: here

Geyer goes on:

"shr is the normal word in the HB for "dawn" (cf. Booij, 1991) but might in places refer to the morning star (for example, Job 38.12; Cant. 6.10)....Wildberger regards these two [shr and slm] as hypostases of Attar/Venus referring to the morning and evening star. In Isa. 14 hyll represents Attar in descent, that is the fall of Venus at dawn which Craigie links with the failure of Attar to fill the throne of Baal. He then refers to the Babylonian cuneiform text RS 20.24 which lists members of the Ugaritic pantheon including Hurrian god Astabi (= Ug. Attar) who is equated with the certain Babylonian warrior gods." p. 30 source above.

Though the point of Geyer's works seems to try to trace the entire theme of Isa. c. 14 to a Babylonian myth, and concludes this section of his book by noting McKay's theory regarding Venus as the declining / falling star does not hold, what comes through are the meanings of the names of the Babylonian gods as "shining one" and "morning star."

Divine Right of Kingship: It was the normal practice of many ancient cultures for the kings and rulers to claim the divine right to rule over their people through adoption or affiliation with one or more of their pagan gods.

The first Mesopotamian ruler, Naram-Sin of Akkad (circa. 23rd c. BCE), declared himself to be a god at the will of the people and later referred to himself as the husband/warrior of Ishtar. Source: here

Hammurabi claimed to have been called by the gods to rule righteously:

" While the Law Code of Hammurabi (now in the Louvre) is well known for its "eye for an eye" style of lawmaking, it also sets out the nature of the relationship between Hammurabi, the gods and the people he ruled. In his view, the gods sent him to rule, with some level of compassion, over his empire. The preamble to the code says that "then Anu and Bel [both gods] called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak ..." (Translation by L.W. King)" Source: here

It appears that Nebuchadnezzar I claimed kingship by the authority of the god Marduk:

" A new Babylonian ruler named Nebuchadnezzar I (1126-1105 B.C.) came to the rescue, so to speak, defeating Elam and bringing the statue back. Leick writes that with his success, the New Year festival became increasingly important. "This complex ritual, which involved the gathering of all important Babylonian deities at Babylon, the recitation of the Creation Epic (enuma elish) and the confirmation of kingship by the god Marduk, was given new impetus, if it was not altogether invented at this time," she writes." Ibid.

For emphasis contrast this report by Mattias Karlsson on the use of the epithet "son of a nobody" from the royal inscriptions of Ashurnasirpal II:

" While I was in the land Katmuḫu this report was brought back to me: ‘The city Sūru, which belongs to Bīt-Ḫalupe, has rebelled. They have killed Ḫamatāiia, their governor, (and) appointed Aḫi-iababa, son of a nobody, whom they brought from the land Bīt-Adini, as their king.’ With the assistance of Aššur (and) the god Adad, the great gods who made my sovereignty supreme, I mustered my chariotry (and) troops (and) made my way to the banks of the River Ḫabur. On my march,I received the plenteous tribute of Samanuḫa-šar-ilāni, a man of the city Šadikanni, (and) of Amīl-Adad, a man of the city Qatnu –silver, gold, tin, bronze casseroles, garments with multi-coloured trim, (and) linen garments. I approached the city Sūru, which belongs to Bīt-Ḫalupe. Awe of the radiance of Aššur, my lord, overwhelmed them. The nobles (and) elders of the city came out to me to save their lives. They submitted to me and said: ‘As it pleases you, kill! As it pleases you, spare! As it pleases you, do what you will!’ I captured Aḫi-iababa, son of a nobody, whom they brought from the land Bīt-Adini." p. 2 Source: here

On p. 4 of this same report regarding a "son of a nobody" whom Shalmanesar III defeated is this record:

"In other inscriptions, he is described as presumptuously “trusting in the might of his soldiers” (ana gipišummānātīšu ittakil) (e.g. RIMA 3:A.0.102.8:3 ́ ́-4 ́ ́), instead of in the Mesopotamian deities and their earthly representative, the Assyrian king (Karlsson 2016: 225-26)."

Under Caesar Augustus the Eastern Provinces of Rome linked several gods / goddesses with all of the royal family.

" The Eastern provinces offer some of the clearest material evidence for the imperial domus and familia as official models of divine virtue and moral propriety. Centres including Pergamum, Lesbos and Cyprus offered cult honours to Augustus and the Empress Livia: the Cypriot Calendar honoured the entire Augustan familia by dedicating a month each (and presumably cult practise) to imperial family members, their ancestral deities and some of the major gods of the Romano-Greek pantheon. Coin evidence links Thea Livia with Hera and Demeter, and Julia the Elder with Venus Genetrix (Aphrodite). In Athens, Livia and Julia shared cult honour with Hestia (equivalent to Vesta), and the name of Gaius was linked to Ares (Mars). These Eastern connections were made within Augustus' lifetime – Livia was not officially consecrated in Rome until some time after her death. Eastern Imperial cult had a life of its own.[72]" Source: here

In order to appear legitimate before their people, many ancient kings claimed their right to rule was from the gods, or that they were representatives of their pagan gods on earth. It is very likely that the king of Babylon spoken of in Isa. c. 14 did as well. As such, God very well may have been calling the king of Babylon by the same designation of the pagan god by whom the king claimed his authority to rule... O shining one, son of the morning.

  • While you may be right, I think there could be a piece missing here: did the king of Babylon align himself with/as Attar? This was common with most Pharaos aligning themselves with Horus and often taking a name of various Egyption gods. Could that be the case with the king of Babylon too? – James Shewey Sep 10 '17 at 16:04
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    Quite possible as it seems to have been a pattern of many of the ancients to adopt one of the gods as their patron, or an affiliation with. The early Romans associated Romulus with the god Quirinus. The kings / rulers claimed god status as being born of or adopted by their principal gods - Jupiter, Zeus, Athena, etc. At one point Julius Caesar claimed Venus as his patron goddess. All of this no doubt carried forward from centuries past of Egyptian Pharaohs and Babylonian gods, and was their affirmation of their divine right of rule. – Gina Sep 10 '17 at 19:04
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    Your comment spurred me to do some more research. See new material under bold heading. I could not find any direct link between the last king of Babylon and one specific pagan deity, but the practice of claiming to be their representative or agent seems well known, and appears to be good support. Thank you again. – Gina Sep 10 '17 at 21:21

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