Who is Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12?

The word lucifer (luciferum) occurs multiple times in the Latin Vulgate but only once in the KJV of the Bible. It does not appear at all in other modern translations. Many today believe that the name Lucifer is synonymous with devil or Satan. But is that really what the scriptures reveal?

Let’s take a look at the scripture

Isaiah 14:12

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.):
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!

King James Bible (1611):
How art thou fallen from heauen, O Lucifer, sonne of the morning? how art thou cut downe to the ground, which didst weaken the nations?

In the original 1611 edition of the KJV, there is a marginal note for the words “O Lucifer”. The marginal note reads “Or, O daystarre” giving ample evidence that the translators of the King James version thought the word Lucifer was interchangeable with the phrase daystar – which falls in line with other translations.

New International Version (©1984):
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

אֵ֛יךְ         נָפַ֥לְתָּ                      מִשָּׁמַ֖יִם                                  הֵילֵ֣ל       בֶּן־          שָׁ֑חַר                       נִגְדַּ֣עְתָּ
How     have fallen      heaven            star      son      of the dawn     have been cut

לָאָ֔רֶץ                      חֹולֵ֖שׁ                                      עַל־         גֹּויִֽם׃
to the earth      have weakened          and      the nations

Helel (הֵילֵ֣ל) transliterated hêlēl or heylel, occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible and according to Strong’s Concordance means “shining one, morning star”.  It’s a noun from the root word Halal. Halal (הָלַל) is a verb, which means “shine.”

πως εξεπεσεν εκ του ουρανου ο εωσφορος ο πρωι ανατελλων συνετριβη εις την γην ο αποστελλων προς παντα τα εθνη

In the Septuagint Helel (הֵילֵ֣ל) was translated as εωσφορος (Heōsphoros)(transliterated – eōsphoros), “Dawn-Bringer” – another Greek name for the Morning Star.

Morning star is the name given to the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise. “Phosphorus” or “Light-Bringer” (Greek Φωσφόρος Phōsphoros) is the ancient Greek mythological name for the planet. It is also named Ἑωσφόρος, Heosphoros, “Dawn-bringer”.

quomodo cecidisti de caelo lucifer qui mane oriebaris corruisti in terram qui vulnerabas gentes

Clementine Vulgate:
Quomodo cecidisti de cælo, Lucifer, qui mane oriebaris ? corruisti in terram, qui vulnerabas gentes ?

In the Vulgate, the Hebrew word הֵילֵל (helel) was translated as “lucifer” which means “morning star, day star, planet Venus, or bringer of light.”


Based on this verse alone, many have come to equate the term/name Lucifer (bearer of light) with Satan or the devil. How did we arrive at such a conclusion?

It may stem from the Clementine Vulgate. I believe this is the first time we see helel (הֵילֵ֣ל) – lucifer – capitalized as if it’s a name.  Perhaps because Isaiah 14:12 starts with the phrase “How you have fallen from heaven” people concluded that these verses were describing the fall of Satan. It is widely accepted but is it correct? Is Satan really the bearer of Light – the morning star that Isaiah was referring to?

Let’s look at the surrounding text.

Isaiah 13 starts out by explaining what the upcoming verses are about. It says, “The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.” The subheading which precedes chapter 13 in the NIV says “The Prophecy Against Babylon.” This heading encompasses everything through Isaiah 14:23. It’s abundantly clear these verses pertain to the future of Babylon from the time of Isaiah. There is no reason to believe that there are additional meanings to the text.

2 Peter 1:20-21 (KJV) states:

20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

If Isaiah 13:1 tells us that we are about to read a prophecy about Babylon, we should believe that we are reading exactly that, nothing more.

Isaiah 14:16 reads, “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;”

Is Satan a man? No. He is a fallen angel. So why then would someone believe Isaiah 14:12 is referring to Satan?


So what is Isaiah 14 (verse 12 in particular) saying?

I truly believe that what we are reading is Isaiah saying to the king of Babylon, you will fall from your lofty status into hell when God destroys Babylon and delivers his chosen people from your ruthless control. The people will rejoice when they see that you are made as weak as any other man. You consider yourself to be a god but you will be made weak. You think you are like the morning star but you will fall to earth. You believed yourself capable of rising above God but you will be cast to hell.

The fact that so many equate Satan with light or the bearer of light can be the result of nothing other than Satan’s deception.

In II Corinthians 11:3, 13 & 14 Paul writes:

3. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
4. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
5. And no marvel; for…

Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (New American Standard Bible (©1995))
Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (KJV)
Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (NIV)

Jesus is referred to as the morning star, but not as lucifer, nor εωσφορος. Instead, when Jesus is referred to as the morning star, the greek words used are ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρὸς ὁ πρωϊνός, literally: the star the bright of the morning.

Other instances that shed some light (no pun intended) on the subject.

Job 11:17

ומצהרים               יקום                                        חלד                        תעפה    כבקר                     תהיה׃
noonday          would be brighter        your life           forth     the morning     become

kab·bō·qer (כבקר) – the morning, morning light.
Boqer from baqar meaning dawn , day, daybreak, morning

η δε ευχη σου ωσπερ εωσφορος εκ δε μεσημβριας ανατελει σοι ζωη

Despite the fact that Helel (הֵילֵ֣ל) and kab·bō·qer (כבקר) are obviously two different Hebrew words, in the Septuigent translates both as εωσφορος (Heōsphoros)

et quasi meridianus fulgor consurget tibi ad vesperam et cum te consumptum putaveris orieris ut lucifer

Clementine Vulgate:
Et quasi meridianus fulgor consurget tibi ad vesperam ; et cum te consumptum putaveris, orieris ut lucifer.

Again, despite the fact that Helel (הֵילֵ֣ל) and kab·bō·qer (כבקר) are obviously two different Hebrew words, in the Vulgate translates both as lucifer. It should also be noted that lucifer is not capitalized even in the Clementine Vulgate version. Why did the Clementine Vulgate capitalize lucifer in Isaiah but not here? Did they believe Helel (הֵילֵ֣ל) was a name?

New International Version (©1984)
Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.

In this instance, the KJV translates kab·bō·qer (כבקר) simply as morning. Lucifer is not used.

2 Peter 1:19

et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem cui bene facitis adtendentes quasi lucernae lucenti in caliginoso loco donec dies inlucescat et lucifer oriatur in cordibus vestries

Clementine Vulgate:
Et habemus firmiorem propheticum sermonem : cui benefacitis attendentes quasi lucernæ lucenti in caliginoso loco donec dies elucescat, et lucifer oriatur in cordibus vestris :

New International Version (©1984)
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

Job 38:32

numquid producis luciferum in tempore suo et vesperum super filios terrae consurgere facis facis

Clementine Vulgate:
Numquid producis luciferum in tempore suo, et vesperum super filios terræ consurgere facis ?

New International Version (©1984)
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?

Psalms 109:3

tecum principium in die virtutis tuae in splendoribus sanctorum ex utero ante luciferum genui te

Clementine Vulgate:
Tecum principium in die virtutis tuæ in splendoribus sanctorum : ex utero, ante luciferum, genui te.

New International Version (©1984):
With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.

King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.):
They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.


About the different translations

The Septuagint (or “LXX”, or “Greek Old Testament”) is an ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible and some related texts into Koine Greek, dated as early as the late 3rd century BCE. It is quoted in the New Testament, particularly in the writings of Paul the Apostle, and also by the Apostolic Fathers and later Greek Church Fathers, and continues to serve as the Eastern Orthodox Old Testament.

Vulgate http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/efts/ARTFL/public/bibles/vulgate.search.html
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations. By the 13th century this revision had come to be called the versio vulgata, that is, the “commonly used translation”, and ultimately it became the definitive and officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church.

Clementine Vulgate http://vulsearch.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/vulsearch
After the Council of Trent, which declared in 1546 that the Vulgate alone was to be held as “authentic in public readings, discourses, and disputes, and that nobody might dare or presume to reject it on any pretence” (Sess. IV, De editione et usu sacrorum librorum), the Holy See undertook the task of producing a corrected, standard text of the Vulgate for the use of the universal Church. In 1590, an edition was duly produced in Rome by a commission of scholars, revised further by Sixtus V, and finally approved by him. After his death a further revision was carried out under the Jesuit Franciscus Toletus, and finally the work was printed in 1598 during the pontificate of Clement VIII, whose name has been attached to it since 1641. The Clementine text was the offical version of the Vulgate until 1979.

King James Version http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/ – 1611 version
In 1604, King James I of England authorized that a new translation of the Bible into English be started. It was finished in 1611, just 85 years after the first translation of the New Testament into English appeared (Tyndale, 1526). The Authorized Version, or King James Version, quickly became the standard for English-speaking Protestants. Its flowing language and prose rhythm has had a profound influence on the literature of the past 400 years. The King James Version present on the Bible Gateway matches the 1987 printing. The KJV is public domain in the United States.

The Apocrypha is not included in this comparison as it is not in the modern day printing of the King James and deemed uninspired by Protestant leaders. Although, you will find that all English Protestant (including the King James) Bibles included the so called Apocryphal books before the early 1820’s. For some reason these books were removed in all the later printing.