Star Falling From Heaven, Part 3: Satan in Zechariah and Isaiah

In part 2, I told you about Satan as Serpent and Tempter. Part 3 is all about Satan in Zechariah and Isaiah.

In Zechariah, Satan does the familiar. We’ve already seen him accuse Job before the Lord (Job 1:9-11), and we’ve already seen that Revelation labels Satan as “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10), so we’re not surprised to find Satan in a familiar role here as he accuses Joshua the High Priest before the Lord:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2)

Isaiah 14 and the King of Babylon

Isaiah 14 is a passage that some have said provides additional insight into Satan and how he operates, but we will see that this passage has very little to do with Satan and his fall from heaven. Let’s first read the passage:

When the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land, then strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. 2 The peoples will take them along and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them as an inheritance in the land of the Lord as male servants and female servants; and they will take their captors captive and will rule over their oppressors.

3 And it will be in the day when the Lord gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved, 4 that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say,

“How the oppressor has ceased,

And how fury has ceased!

5 “The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked,

The scepter of rulers

6 Which used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes,

Which subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution.

7 “The whole earth is at rest and is quiet;

They break forth into shouts of joy.

8 “Even the cypress trees rejoice over you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying,

‘Since you were laid low, no tree cutter comes up against us.’

9 Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come;

It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth;

It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones.

10 “They will all respond and say to you,

‘Even you have been made weak as we,

You have become like us.

11 ‘Your pomp and the music of your harps

Have been brought down to Sheol;

Maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you

And worms are your covering.’

12 How you have fallen from heaven,

O star of the morning, son of the dawn!

You have been cut down to the earth,

You who have weakened the nations!

13 But you said in your heart,

‘I will ascend to heaven;

I will raise my throne above the stars of God,

And I will sit on the mount of assembly

In the recesses of the north.

14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.’

15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,

To the recesses of the pit.

16 “Those who see you will gaze at you,

They will ponder over you, saying,

‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,

Who shook kingdoms,

17 Who made the world like a wilderness

And overthrew its cities,

Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’

18 “All the kings of the nations lie in glory,

Each in his own tomb.

19 “But you have been cast out of your tomb

Like a rejected branch,

Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword,

Who go down to the stones of the pit

Like a trampled corpse.

20 You will not be united with them in burial,

Because you have ruined your country,

You have slain your people.

May the offspring of evildoers not be mentioned forever.

21 Prepare for his sons a place of slaughter

Because of the iniquity of their fathers.

They must not arise and take possession of the earth

And fill the face of the world with cities.”

There are a number of ways to disagree with the traditional interpretation, however. Some say that the word “Lucifer” is a clear giveaway, but the word itself is not in the original language, Hebrew, or in the Greek OT (Septuagint). Next, there are clues within the verses themselves that Isaiah 14 is about declaring doom on a king and not on Satan: “you will take up this taunt against the King of Babylon” (Isaiah 14:3), as well as other royal phrases such as “the scepter of rulers” (v.5), “the leaders of the earth” and “the kings of the nations” (v.9). Verses 18 and 19 talk about Sheol, maggots, and being a trampled corpse, phrases that refer to death for mortals. Satan has never been referred to as a king, only a prince, and he is not mortal and cannot die (anymore than angels can):

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:1-2)

Satan is called here “the prince of the power of the air,” or “the prince of this world,” but he is never called a “king” in Scripture. The Isaiah 14 passage also talks about Sheol, a reference to the grave (hadou in Greek), and Satan is not mortal and does not go into the grave where maggots are lying in wait. Thus, the passage is more about a mortal king than it is Satan. The mortal man has been told by the Lord that he will not be “united” with the other kings in burial (v. 20).

I know, I know: the “fallen from heaven” statement alludes to the fall of Satan or the falling angels, it seems, and perhaps the Lord alludes to this; but outside of this statement, we have nothing in the way to conclusively prove that Isaiah 14 is about Satan or the Devil. It’s a gloom and doom message for the King of Babylon, whose former strength will now be weakness instead. The Babylonian King will not have the honor of a proper burial as the other kings have had (Isaiah 14:18-19), meaning that the Lord God will humiliate him and bring him to nothing.

Isaiah 14 appears to be, at face value, a passage about the King of Babylon. Even with the words “how you have fallen from heaven,” there’s little in the way to suggest this passage is about Satan. As for the “I will” statements, we have no proof that Satan said any of these. From what I know, Satan would never have said “I will raise my throne above the stars of God” because he didn’t have a throne in heaven; he assembled around the Lord’s throne. Only a king like the Babylonian King would have had a throne.

Another giveaway that the subject of Isaiah 14 is mortal, if the maggots, worms, and tomb discussion isn’t enough, is that the individual is referred to as a “man” by other leaders (Isaiah 14:16). At the end of the chapter, the Lord says that He will make Babylon “a possession for the hedgehog and swamps of water” (v. 23). If the King of Babylon is Satan (hypothetical assumption), then Babylon must refer to some place other than Babylon. This is what happens when someone reads more into the text than what is there.

Isaiah 14 is a passage that refers to the King of Babylon. Though it doesn’t advance our knowledge of Satan as some assumed it would, it is an important passage to discuss because believers need to grow in hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. We can’t grow in “rightly dividing the Word of truth” if we do not learn what proper scriptural interpretation is.

In part 4, we’ll discussing Satan and Judas

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