King James Bible Isaiah 14:12

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!


As a name for the Devil, the more common meaning in English, "Lucifer" is the rendering of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל‎ (transliteration: hêylêl; pronunciation: hay-lale)[3] in Isaiah (Isaiah 14:12) given in the King James Version of the Bible. The translators of this version took the word from the Latin Vulgate,[4] which translated הֵילֵל by the Latin word lucifer (uncapitalized),[5][6] meaning "the morning star, the planet Venus", or, as an adjective, "light-bringing".

Lucifer is a proper name for Satan as per popular culture. Is this usage jusfiable by the Scripture?


It will come as a shock to some that the name “Lucifer” does not occur in the Hebrew Bible; it is in neither the Hebrew text nor the Greek text. It is an unfortunate translation of the KJV (and of John Wycliffe) in Isa 14:12 which most modern versions do not have. What are the facts?

  • The Hebrew word in Isa 14:12 is “helel” (הֵילֵל), meaning, “shining one”, from the root word, “halal” meaning, “to shine”. The word was used to describe Venus, the morning (or evening) star (actually a planet!), but which easily outshines Sirius. The complete phrase in the Hebrew is “helel ben-shachar” (הֵילֵ֣ל בֶּן־שָׁ֑חַר) meaning “Venus, son of the morning”, or, “Morning star, son of the morning”.
  • The Septuagint (in Greek) translated the word, “heosphoros” which means, “Morning star”. This translation is correct.
  • The Latin Vulgate (Jerome 400 AD) translated the word, “lucifer” meaning “light bearer”. This translation is correct – for Latin.

It is apparent that the KJV translators struggled with the Hebrew and transliterated the Latin word instead of translating it. John Wycliffe (who translated from the Latin and knew no Greek or Hebrew) also appears to have been flummoxed as he left the word untranslated. They appear to ignore the fact that the same word appears elsewhere in the Latin Bible describing other things. (2 Peter 1:19, Job 11:17, 38:32, Ps 110:3)

It is only in the later English Christian tradition that “Lucifer” became a proper noun referring to the Devil before his fall, which the Hebrew does not do.

  • Excellent post Dottard. I was not aware of that. I suppose that is the price of me not having learned Hebrew. I will certainly make use of this information in the future. Thank you.
    – oldhermit
    Apr 25 '21 at 0:49
  • 1
    @oldhermit - a pleasure to be of service. Thanks for your affirmation.
    – Dottard
    Apr 25 '21 at 1:21
  • The 1611 KJV provides a marginal note at Isa 14:12, "O day star"; which may be construed as an alternative rendering; which also suggests that some KJV translators had sufficient knowledge of Hebrew. We're likely dealing with a retention from 1602 Bishops' combined with Church tradition that goes back to Origen of Alexandria and other Patristic writers including Jerome. Dec 18 '21 at 16:31

The answer to your question is in verse four. God begins this discourse by identifying the one to whom the following statements are directed.

"You will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say...."

Everything else that follows in this text is symbolism directed at Nebuchadnezzar. The language of the chapter is characteristically apocalyptic and should not to be understood as literal. We may not understand all of the applications represented by some of this imagery, but it is clear that the king of Babylon is the one to whom they are directed. It is Nebuchadnezzar whom God calls "star of the morning" (Lucifer) and "son of the dawn". The language is meant to illustrate the greatness that God had given Nebuchadnezzar, the arrogance of the man as he began to exalt himself above God, and how far he had fallen from God's favor. The end result of all of this was that God took him from power, killed him, and gave his kingdom to another.

  • The subjects of Isaiah's prophecies have been known to change suddenly and without warning between verses. Take Isa. 22:20-22 for example ― v.20-21 talks about Eliakam, whereas v. 22, talks about our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rev. 3:7).
    – carsonfel
    Apr 24 '21 at 20:11
  • @oldhermit - I like your explanation. Is it true that Nebuchadnezzar was the king to which this was spoken? I ask because I was under the impression that Nebuchadnezzar turned toward God the last we heard about him in Dan. 4:37: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
    – Xeno
    Apr 25 '21 at 0:34
  • Yes. Nebuchadnezzar certainly did become a worshiper of God. The loss of his kingdom would not come in his time, but in that of his son.
    – oldhermit
    Apr 25 '21 at 0:51
  • As a consequence of the charges brought against him by the Lord through Isaiah, Nebuchadnezzar spent some time living as a beast in the open field. When he returned to his right mind, the first thing he did was offer his praises to God.
    – oldhermit
    Apr 25 '21 at 1:02

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