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Was Isaiah 14:12 not even about the devil, but just a king , when referencing the Torah but that early church council supplemented the devil for the king in the Christian bible based on motives of their own? I don't want to repeat that if it's not true.

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! [KJV]

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  • Welcome to BH. I have just added an edit of the text you are quoting, for the benefit of users. – Nigel J Mar 18 '20 at 17:11
  • Luci-fer means literally light-bearer, and, in Romance languages, usually refers to the morning star, Venus. Perhaps you meant to ask why Christians interpret (not translate) the word in question, within the given context, as referring to the evil one. The interpretation did not originate in Christianity; Scripture itself uses the same expression, heavenly hosts, as referring to either stars or angels. Since falling stars, such as comets or meteors, do exist, the conclusion, based on similitude, immediately follows, that fallen angels also exist. Daniel also calls Michael prince. – Lucian Mar 20 '20 at 4:42
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(Technically, Isaiah was/is part of the part of the Old Testament that Jews refer to as the Nevi'im - "Prophets". The Torah is considered to be the first 5 books of the Old Testament)

There is actually basis, I think, that the Isaiah text was understood by Jews to refer to a king (Nebuchadnezzar), but there was never any modification the literal text by a "church council" in the "Christian bible". Early (and most) Christians, I think did (do), however, understand Isaiah 14:12 to refer to the devil and not strictly to some king (see below).


The Bible of the early Christians was the Greek Septuagint - a Greek translation of a proto-Hebrew text completed over the course of the 2nd and 3rd centuries before Christ. The Septuagint text here reads (Ralhf's Greek text, Brenton English translation):

πῶς ἐξέπεσεν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὁ ἑωσφόρος ὁ πρωὶ ἀνατέλλων; συνετρίβη εἰς τὴν γῆν ὁ ἀποστέλλων πρὸς πάντα τὰ ἔθνη.

How has Lucifer, that rose in the morning, fallen from heaven! He that sent orders to all the nations is crushed to the earth.

The Masoretic Hebrew text (Leningrad Codex) along with its English translation from the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh, reads:

אֵ֛יךְ נָפַ֥לְתָּ מִשָּׁמַ֖יִם הֵילֵ֣ל בֶּן־שָׁ֑חַר נִגְדַּ֣עְתָּ לָאָ֔רֶץ חוֹלֵ֖שׁ עַל־גּוֹיִֽם׃

How are you fallen from heaven, O Shining One, son of Dawn! How are you felled to earth, O vanquisher of nations!


The word in question is הֵילֵל (hēlil), translated in the Tanakh as "Shining One", but also translated alternately as "morning star" (NIV), "day star" (ISV, ESV), and "star of the morning" (NASB) by other versions relying on the Masoretic Text.

The KJV and a couple other old translations use the term "Lucifer" instead of "day star" or "morning star". "Lucifer" is an Old English word derived from the Latin "lux" (light) and "fer" (bearing).


The Septuagint uses the word ἑωσφόρος (eōsphoros) here, which is simply a Greek translation of the Hebrew word הילל.


In short, I don't think there is any evidence that some Church council changed the Septuagint text to reflect Lucifer rather than a king. First, no early Church council was ever engaged in actively modifying the text of Scripture. When a local or ecumenical Church council was convened, it was for the purpose of combatting new heresies that had arisen and not, as unfortunately many are taught, for crafting new dogma. (This did not take place during the first millennium, at least). The role that Church councils did play with regard to Scripture was to confirm when necessary which books Christians should accept as being valid books of the Old or New Testaments (there were never any disputes over Isaiah).


I think that what is true, however, is that early Christians did interpret Isaiah 14:12 differently than Jews. In the Talmud, for example, I don't think we find a clear indication that hēlil referred to the devil. Rashi's commentary, for example, reads:

The morning star: This is Venus, which gives light as the morning star, הֵילֵל being derived from יהל, to shed light. This is the lamentation over the heavenly prince of Babylon, who will fall from heaven.

A note in The Oxford Jewish Study Bible gives a further explanation:

The king's vain aspirations to god-like status are mocked. Isaiah refers ironically to the king as Shining One, son of Dawn, applying to him the name of a character from ancient Canaanite myth. (The term Shining One is not known from Canaanite texts, but his father, Dawn, is described in Canaanite myth from Ugarit as the sone of the high god El. The name closely recalls Phaethon son of Eos [or "radiant one" son of "Dawn"] in Greek mythology. Phaethon, a presumptuous young god, was thrown down to earth by Zeus.). This character seems to have attempted to join the head of the pantheon, whether this was El (who was known in Canaanite texts as Most High) or Baal (whose palace was located on the summit of Mount Zaphon); Isaiah seems to mix the characteristics of these two Canaanite deities in his allusion to the myth. Similar references to a Canaanite myth in which an overreaching god is expelled from heaven occur in Ezekiel ch 28 and Ps. 82, and possibly in Gen. 6:1-4. Rabbinic commentators identify the term Shining One with the morning star (the planet Venus, at certain times visible on the horizon at dawn). Indeed, the mythological figure to whom this poem refers may have been associated with the morning star in ancient Canaanite myth.

So in the Jewish tradition, there may in fact be a connection with a king (the king of Babylon (see Isaiah 14:4), but it is metaphorical and no text was later changed.


Early Christian commentators did interpret the verse as referring to the devil. Origen (3rd century), for example, wrote:

How can we possibly suppose that what is said in many places by Scripture, especially in Isaiah, about Nebuchadnezzar is said about a human being? For no human being is said to have “fallen from heaven” or to have been “Lucifer” or the one who “arose every morning.” (On First Principles, IV.III.9)

Augustine (5th c.) wrote:

For example, what is said in Isaiah, “How he is fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning!” and the other statements in that context that speak of the king of Babylon are of course to be understood of the devil.

Perhaps readers were also influenced by New Testament Scriptures that seemed to allude to this. For example:

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven (Luke 10:18).

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Isaiah 14:12 in the original Hebrew reads:

איך נפלת משמים הילל בן שחר נגדעת לארץ חולש על גוים׃

Which, conservatively translated, means:

Oh how you have fallen from heaven, O bringer of the dawn, O son of the morning! how you were cut down to earth, who overthrew nations!


One has to be careful when reading the writings of early Christians, as well as New Testament writers, because they'll often apply Scriptures without qualification, as referring to something, whereas they are using the Scripture typologically, and not as if the fulfillment of which they are speaking is the original referent of the passage - and expect the reader to know such by the sheer fact of being familiar with the faith.

Because they believed Scripture was not only a recorded narrative of sacred history - of events - but rather that:

Hebrews 4:12 ...the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

So, for example:

Matthew 2:13-15 And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him. 14 Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: 15 That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son.

This Scripture originally referred to Israel, the corporate body of believers in Yahweh; and Matthew clearly would have known this, and all his readers, because the verse says:

Hosea 11:1 Israel was a child, and I loved him: and I called my son out of Egypt.

God called Israel his "son" in the Old Testament, yet Matthew sees this as a prefigurement of what happened with Christ, the fulfillment of what was written so the fulfillment would be recognized as approved by God: when His most, and more, true Son would be delivered from Egypt, from the wrath of Herod - a king of new Pharoah.

And this applies to most of what are called 'types' in Scripture (i.e. where something real and historical prefigures some later reality) - they often apply better to the fullfillment than to even the historical event or person of which they were written!

For example:

1 Corinthians 9:8-11 Speak I these things according to man? Or doth not the law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses: Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10 Or doth he say this indeed for our sakes? For these things are written for our sakes: that he that plougheth, should plough in hope; and he that thrasheth, in hope to receive fruit. 11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we reap your carnal things?

Here, it referred to not disallowing that which is earned or rightfully owed, using the example of oxen which have labored and are now rightfully, justly, owed it to eat afterwards. St. Paul says, "Does God concern himself with beasts? with oxen?" By which he obviously doesn't mean, and can't mean - be cruel to animals, but rather, "Did He invest his Holy Ghost in this Scripture only to prevent cruelty to animals, and not, if not much more so, to teach us about what is rightfully owed to servants of God - men, who are "of much more value" than they?" (Matthew 6:260).

Or, the sacrificing of Isaac, which is a kicking-oneself-in-the-head-for-not-realizing prefigurement of Calvary:

Genesis 22 Now it happened some time after these things that God tested Abraham, saying, "Abraham, listen to me! Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering, upon one of the mountains which I tell you to.

And rising early in the morning Abraham saddled his donkey and took his two young lads, and his son Isaac, and he split wood for a burnt offering: and he ascended to the place God had intimated to him.

And by the third day, Abraham could see the place afar off.

And Abraham said to the lads, Stay here with the donkey, while I and the lad go a little further, and there worship: and we shall return again to you.

And taking the wood for the burnt offering, Abraham placed it upon Isaac his son, and he took with him means of fire, and a knife: and both of them continued together.

And Isaac said to Abraham his father, Father, and he said, Yes my son? And he said, Look, here is something to make a fire, and the wood, but where is the lamb to be offered?

But Abraham said, God shall provide his own lamb for a burnt offering, my son. And they both continued together.

And when they came to the place God had intimated to him, Abraham built an altar, and arranged the wood, and bound his son upon the altar, over the wood.

And stretching forth hishand, Abraham took the knife with which he meant to slay his son, when the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, saying, "Abraham!" and he replied, "Yes?"

And he said, "Do not put your hand near the lad, nor do anything to him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing as you have not spared your son—your only son—from me.

And looking up, Abraham saw behind him a lamb, caught in the thicket by the horns, and Abraham took the ram and offered him for a burnt offering instead of his son Isaac.

And Abraham called the name of that place, The Lord shall provide: and even to this day it is said, The Lord shall provide on the mountain.

Clearly this is recounting an event, in narrative form. And it doesn't refer to anything else as such, than what it records. However, it was viewed as a type of what was to come. It was seen as the Word of God, which is alive, and contains much prophecy for those with eyes to see.

Abraham was known as "Father Abraham" among the Jews - the father of themselves physically, as well as the Father of Judaism the religion. This typifies God the Father, who more perfectly fits this description.

Abraham's son, who bears the wood of his sacrifice, and carries it to the top of a mountain, prefigures Christ, who bore His cross to Calvary.

The wood, of course, prefigures the cross. Cf. Wis. 14:7.

The male sheep with its head caught in the thorns, which was the actual sacrifice, and not Isaac, prefigures Christ the "unblemished [male] lamb" (Exodus 12:5) who was crowned with thorns in mockery - "behold the Lamb of God;" (John 1:29) "God will provide his own lamb, my son" (Genesis 22:8).

The Jews believing that God was yet to provide a lamb, shows that they, by tradition, expected a Calvary-like Abrahamic sacrifice, such as the Cross, even if by the time of the Cross, they had forgotten or lost sight of or hope in it.

Notice the unsual emphasis on 'Your son, your only son, whom you love,' which clearly corresponds to Jesus' unique Sonship:

Matthew 3:17 And behold a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

Notice also how, in light of the self-evident truth of Christianity, I said, "clearly refers to," even though it originally referred to something else.

This is how early Christians - the original apostles and first Jewish Christians - used and viewed Scripture.

This is what Jesus talked about on the road to Emaus (Luke 24:27, 32).


Thus, the Christian Church viewed this condemnation of the wicked king as a Scriptural type of Satan, the fallen angel, who, unlike the earthly king of Tyre, who metaphorically fell from heaven, or from the heights to which he had elevated himself or was elevated, was literal in heaven, and fell from the state of grace.


Lucifer is the Latin equivalent of Hallalel, meaning, the morning star. It is not a proper name; and only became such by association of this passage, in Latin ("Lucifer" - morning star) with Satan, to whom it was typologically applied.

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The way I read it you are asking two questions, what is Isaiah 14:12 about?, and did some early christians change it's meaning? I can't speak to the 2nd one, but on the verse itself I recommend just letting the text speak for itself.

Isaiah was a mouthpiece for Yahweh bringing His message to the the people of Israel who where struggling to follow Him which led to them being conquered by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians. The prophet had just finished a section (Chapters 1-11) regarding the Assyrians showing up to conquer along with a message of hope for restoration. (Some scholars e.g. Walter Brueggemann, etc. see multiple "voices" in Isaiah corresponding to the different time frames of Israel heading in to or out of captivities).

There is a transitional song/poem in Ch 12 and then the prophet begins a section denouncing the nations surrounding Israel, starting with Babylon, then Assyria, then Philistia, then Moab, then Damascus, then Cush, then Egypt, and then full circle back to Babylon. And finally beginning in Ch 22 Jerusalem/Israel themselves.

As all prophets messages were seemingly centered around three things, "warning, woe, and hope", the hope in this section seems to show up in 14:1-2 and then in a "remnant" e.g. Ch 19:16-25 who will remain/restore faithfulness to Yahweh.

In sum, the "smell test" makes it hard for this sojourner to fathom God's messenger was going to drop down some statement about the modern version of Devil/Satan that did not even really exist in ancient Hebraic thought, right in the middle of the messages going out about the nations surrounding Israel. I.E. I can't imagine he was doing a "we now interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you a message on the age-old enemy of God and His people who I like to call lucifer".

So my answer to your first question is YES, Isaiah 14:12 is about the King of Babylon, and per the text you may feel comfortable "repeating" that as needed. For additional wrestling with the text, what also seems interesting is that it apparently isn't even God speaking in the passage - it's "the people" of Israel throwing down some shade on the King - see 14:3-4 the "you" in the passage is the nation of Israel who has just been restored in verses 1-2. "You will take up this taunt"....which may be connected to his warning that they will be under the same situation (see Chapters 22+) if they don't T'shuvah - repent/return to following Yahweh.

Sometimes maybe we can just let the text be the text, in context. Shalom!

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