The Word "Lucifer" in Isaiah 14 verse 12

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The Word "Lucifer" in Isaiah 14 verse 12

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In Isaiah 14:12, the powerful being who led a rebellion against God is referred to by a word often translated as "Lucifer." The original Hebrew designation here—used only this one time in the Bible—is Heylel. Its precise meaning is debated. Some think it means "Praise of God," seeing a relation with the Hebrew Halal ("praise"), the el at the end perhaps being a suffix meaning "God" (as in the angelic names Michael and Gabriel).

Others contend that Heylel means "brightness" or "shining one"—particularly given its apparent astronomical association. Paired here with the phrase "son of the morning," many believe the reference is to the planet Venus as the bright morning star shining in the east before sunrise. Indeed, this was evidently the understanding of the term shortly before Christ's time. The ancient Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament rendered the word as Eosphoros ("dawn bearer"), the Greek term for Venus as the morning star (also known in Greek as Phosphoros, meaning "light bearer").

This meaning was incorporated into the fifth-century Latin Vulgate translation with the word Lucifer ("light bearer" or "light bringer"), the name Roman astronomers used for the same morning star. Yet we should further consider that the angels of God were referred to figuratively in Scripture as "morning stars" (Job 38:7; see also Revelation 1:20).

A little knowledge of astronomy helps us better understand the picture here. Venus is the brightest object in the sky except for the sun and moon. We now understand it to be a planet. But to the ancients it was classed as a star—simply because their words for star meant a small, shining point of light in the sky. Notice again that the reference in Isaiah 14:12 is "son of the morning." The planet Venus is still referred to as either the morning star or the evening star—because it is visible only just before sunrise or just after sunset.

Thus the picture presented is of a grand star, likened to Venus, that wants to be grander than the other stars: "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God" (Isaiah 14:13). Before dawn, Venus rises from the eastern horizon. But before it is able to climb into the sky—to rise above the other stars and be the highest—the light of the rising sun causes Venus to disappear in the growing light of day.

The parallels between the astronomical picture and what happened in the spirit realm are striking and reinforce the points Isaiah makes here in describing this tragic angelic rebellion.