Isaiah 14:12-15 – Does Isaiah Teach the Fall of Satan?
In my sermon this week, I addressed the question: Does Isaiah 14 teach the fall of Satan? Is this text about only the King of Babylon, or is it a veiled allusion to Satan’s failed attempt to usurp God’s throne?
I shared six reasons why I don’t think Isa 14 refers to the fall of Satan. They include:
1) The context clearly refers to the King of Babylon.
2) The “Satanic interpretation” doesn’t fit the other verses.
3) The word “Lucifer” is a bad translation.
4) If anything, these verses allude to either the Tower of Babel and/or to pagan mythology.
5) This kind of poetic exaggeration is not uncommon.
6) The “Satanic interpretation” of Isa 14 totally misses Isaiah’s point about human pride.
I elaborated on each of these points in the sermon and I won’t repeat that here. But what I didn’t have time for in the sermon was to share a few quotes from the church fathers, many of whom believed that Satan is indeed hidden in Isa 14.
So to be fair, here are a few thoughts from the other side of the aisle (all quotes taken from ccel.org in location):
Origen (185-254 AD): De principiis (On First Principles)
“Most evidently by these words is he shown to have fallen from heaven, who formerly was Lucifer, and who used to arise in the morning. For if, as some think, he was a nature of darkness, how is Lucifer said to have existed before? Or how could he arise in the morning, who had in himself nothing of the light? Nay, even the Saviour Himself teaches us, saying of the devil, “Behold, I see Satan fallen from heaven like lightning.” (I.v.5)
Cyprian (200-258 AD): “Treatise on Re-baptism”
[Isaiah xiv.12. The sin of Lucifer had, very possibly, been this of rebelling against the Incarnation and the introduction thereby of an order of beings higher than himself. Hence our Lord recognised in Peter’s words the voice of the old adversary, and called him “Satan.” A premonition of his lapse.] (Editor’s note on paragraph 9 regarding “get behind me, Satan” verse in Mt 16:23)
In addition, Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1–39 (NAC; B&H Publishing Group, 2007), pg. 314, notes that Tertullian (160-230 AD) and Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) both connected the fall of Satan with Luke 10:18. Smith does not give any references, and I regrettably did not have time this week to track down those quotes.
And as an added bonus, here are Origen’s thoughts on Ezekiel 28, which is a separate but related issue where some see Satan “hiding” behind a pagan king.
For what is related in Ezekiel concerning Pharaoh king of Egypt does not at all apply to the case of a certain man who ruled or was said to rule over Egypt, as will be evident to those who give it careful consideration. Similarly, what is said about the ruler of Tyre cannot be understood of a certain man who ruled over Tyre. And what is said in many places, and especially in Isaiah, of Nebuchadnezzar, cannot be explained of that individual. For the man Nebuchadnezzar neither fell from heaven, nor was he the morning star, nor did he arise upon the earth in the morning. Nor would any man of understanding interpret what is said in Ezekiel about Egypt… (De principiis IV.i.22)