By Kathy Beardsley
The Hebrew meaning of the name Lucifer is “light-bearer”
According to the Strong’s Concordance: Lucifer – #1984. הלל hâlal, haw-lal′; a primitive root; to be clear (originally of sound, but usually of color); to shine; hence, to make a show, to boast; and thus to be (clamorously) foolish; to rave; causatively, to celebrate; also to stultify:— (make) boast (self), celebrate, commend, (deal, make), fool (-ish, —ly), glory, give [light], be (make, feign self) mad (against), give in marriage, [sing, be worthy of] praise, rage, renowned, shine.
The likely answer I would receive to the question “Who is Lucifer?” would be Satan since, it seems, that is what most everyone is taught from a young age, not only from the pulpit but from books, movies and so on. But did you know, there is just one verse in the Bible where the name Lucifer can be found and that is Isaiah 14:12 (below). It is used to figuratively describe a man—King Nebuchadnezzar. Allow me to show you why I say this.
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!” (Isaiah’s vision in 712 BC fulfilled in Daniel 4:30-33 570 BC).
First let me quickly address “cut down to the ground.” Nebuchadnezzar was cut down to the ground, in a manner of speaking, as we are told in Daniel for his pompous boasting.
“The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” Daniel 4:30-33
Reading this one verse alone may give the impression it is referring to Satan i.e. “How art thou fallen from heaven,” because of what we have been taught, but we all know how meanings of words and phrases can be altered over time. It takes but one person, especially one of renown, to coin a phrase or apply a meaning meant simply as an example only to have someone else popularize it with a completely different application that eventually displaces the true meaning. The new meaning/application becomes the accepted true meaning without reservation because it is not studied or investigated further. If it makes sense, it is fine the way it is.
Nebuchadnezzar was THE king of earthly kings in his time and he was not shy in making sure everyone knew that. You have probably heard the phrase “fallen from grace;” I believe it is the same comparable meaning to “How art thou fallen from heaven” and likely spoken as I inferred earlier with a sarcastic tone. Because of Nebuchadnezzar’s behavior—boasting and comparing himself to God, (verses 13, 14) the people likely felt justified in speaking to him in this manner.
“13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
Unfortunately, it is the common problematic method of pulling a verse here and there, like that of Isaiah 14:12, for verification to a particular point, teaching, or idea that causes misinterpretation and error to flourish.
Some may say, “Yeah, but what about 2 Corinthians 11:14?”
“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.“
Satan is an “imitator of light,” and the name Lucifer meaning “light-bearer” is all the commonality these two names share. Satan is never referred to as Lucifer except by man, early in our history, but sometime after the Bible was completed. If I were to say bananas and lemons are the same because they are both yellow fruit, even a child would know the differences outweigh the similarities and count them as unrelated. An unsubstantiated comparison/ideology was drawn at some point in the past and it stuck. Satan is in fact the,
1. When used as a proper name, the Hebrew word so rendered has the article “the adversary” Job 1:6-12 2:1-7
2. In the New Testament it is used as interchangeable with Diabolos, or the devil, and is so used more than thirty times. He is also called:
a. “the dragon,” “the old serpent” Revelation 12:9; 20:2
b. “the prince of this world” John 12:31; 14:30
c. “the prince of the power of the air” Ephesians 2:2
d. “the god of this world” 2 Corinthians 4:4
e. “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” Ephesians 2:2
3. The distinct personality of Satan and his activity among men are thus obviously recognized.
a. He tempted [tested] our Lord in the wilderness Matthew 4:1-11
b. He is “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils” Matthew 12:24
c. He is “the constant enemy of God, of Christ, of the divine kingdom, of the followers of Christ, and of all truth; full of falsehood and all malice, and exciting and seducing to evil in every possible way.”
4. His power is very great in the world.
a. He is a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” 1 Peter 5:8
b. Men are said to be “taken captive by him” 2 Timothy 2:26
c. Christians are warned against his “devices” 2 Corinthians 2:11 and called on to “resist” him James 4:7
d. Christ redeems his people from “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” Hebrews 2:14
e. Satan has the “power of death,” not as lord, but simply as executioner. (Easton)
We cannot allow similarity in words or descriptions to dictate synonymous meaning where it does not exist.
For example: An article written by Bodie Hodge (found on the website Answers in Genesis) includes a paragraph quoting Justin Martyr who is discussing the etymology of the name Satan with others. One particular sentence stood out to me; “showing that a compounded name was acquired by him from the deeds which he performed.” This sentence parallels my point concerning Nebuchadnezzar.
Mr. Hodge continues by saying another name appears in the Old Testament in the King James Version and quotes Isaiah 14:12. The other name is of course, Lucifer. His next statement is an example of a teaching not supported in scripture but is accepted as truth by Christians and non-Christians.
“This is the only passage that uses the name Lucifer to refer to Satan.”
He continues to explain its origin and that the name is Latin not Hebrew. That is all well and good but that does not explain how Lucifer is a reference to Satan. They are two different names with two different meanings. Satan transforming himself into an angel of light shows him to be a deceiving imitator. If he were able to imitate the sinless character of Jesus would he then be called by His name or a name that means the same? Lucifer means light-bearer and Satan means adversary and accuser. One similar characteristic does not make the two as one.
For the complete picture in context please read Isaiah 14:1-20, but for now I will summarize. Verses 1-3, though the LORD will have mercy on Jacob he will choose Israel and set them in their own land. The house of Israel will take captive their oppressors and rule over them. They will be given rest from sorrow, fear, and hard bondage.
Verse 4 begins the telling of what will occur during those days of rest. This is the key verse in connection to verse 12; they (the people) shall take up a proverb against the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar). They ask rhetorical questions and recall to him his own words based on his boastings and pompous (v. 11) attitude. Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king and figuratively speaking thought of himself to shine above all others therefore, the people call him “Lucifer, son of the morning.” That brings me back to the parallel quote from Justin Martyr “showing that a compounded name was acquired by him from the deeds which he performed.” I would add, and his words spoken.
The exclamation in verse 18 (paraphrased) that “all kings lie in glory in his own house” affirms Nebuchadnezzar’s pompous attitude. Finally, verses 19 and 20 describe more of Nebuchadnezzar’s demise and that of his seed. Instructions, the LORD’S intentions of punishment, and a final thought close out the chapter.
The takeaway: Take the time and care necessary to read the whole context of scripture thoroughly for yourself and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance in your studies so you can be a faithful student of God’s word. 2 Timothy 2:15 “ Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.“