Lucifer, Who Or What? -- By: Robert L. Alden

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 11:1 (Winter 1968)
Article: Lucifer, Who Or What?
Author: Robert L. Alden


Lucifer, Who Or What?

Robert L. Alden*

[*Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Conservative Baptist Seminary, Denver, Colorado.]

Lucifer’s only mention in the Bible is at Isaiah 14:12. The marginal notes of many Bibles direct attention to Luke 10:18 where we read Jesus’ words: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” I do not approve of such a connection and will seek to show why in the following paragraphs.

The translation of the phrase helel ben shachar in Isaiah 14:12 is not easy. The ben shachar is not the problem.1 It means “son of dawn” or the like. The morning star is the son of the morning. The Hebrew idiom ben—”son” means anything closely related to or dependent on or described by the following word in the absolute state.2 But is helel a name? Is it a common noun? Is it a verb? The word helel appears in Zechariah 11:2 in parallel with a verb whose radical letters are yll. Both thus mean “howl” or “yell” and are apparently onomatopoetic. In Ezekiel 21:12 (v. 17 in Hebrew) we have a similar situation. There helel is parallel to z’q which means “cry.” Jeremiah 47:2 has a related form (hiph’il) and there the word is rendered “wail.” The Syriac version, among others, so understood the word in question. “How are you fallen from heaven! Howl in the morning:…”3

More translators and commentators chose to render the word as a noun however. The Greek has heosphoros and the Latin lucifer. Both mean “light carrier.” The translators of the Septuagint and the Vulgate along with the leading Rabbins and most of the early Christian writers understood the word as a derivative of hll, “to shine.” Hence it means “bright one” or “shining one.” This, of course, fits best with the rest of the phrase ben shachar, “son of dawn.”

Tertullian, commenting on Isaiah 14:12, said, “This must mean the devil…”4 Origen, too, readily identified “Lucifer” with Satan.5 John Milton’s Paradise Lost has contributed to the dissemination of t...

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