“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit. “Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’ Isaiah 14:12-18
The reference to “Lucifer, son of the morning” is most certainly to Satan himself. The real issue of interpretation in this passage is whether Satan is to be viewed literally as the referent of the prophecy in these verses, or whether he is to be viewed as the power behind the throne of the Babylonian king. In either case, we are given a clear picture of the certain destruction that follows pride.
It seems most likely that Isaiah is using the fall of Satan, which is an assumed fact, to illustrate the fall of the Babylonian king (who is simply a prototype and not necessarily a specific such as Belshazzar). Tertullian seems to have been the first to interpret this passage as referring to the fall of Satan (cf. And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Luke 10:18). Since the fall of Satan is actually yet future (see Rev. 9:1), it would seem that the prophet is again speaking in the present tense with the sure assurance of the future fulfillment of his prediction. He sees the rise of Babylon to a point of prominence that it had not yet achieved in his own day; yet beyond that he sees the demise of this same nation. He views her kings as attempting to ascend into heaven by the divine claims that they would make for themselves and their kingdom, then he pictures them as falling from heaven just as certainly as Lucifer himself shall one day fall under the judgment of God. Therefore, it is not inappropriate to understand the words of verses 13 and 14 as the attitude of Satan himself. Five times the personal pronoun “I” is used to emphasize the selfish determination of both Satan and Satan-empowered men to replace God Himself as the rightful ruler of this world.
The name Lucifer is actually the Roman designation for the morning star. The Hebrew (Helel) means “the bright one.” This reference illustrates the fact that the morning star speedily disappears before the far greater splendor of the rising sun. Hence, though Satan may appear as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), he shall be banished to outer darkness b the coming of the Son of God. Certainly, such claims were parallel to and inspired by the ultimate claim of Satan himself! He, too, will be brought down to hell in the final judgment (see Rev. 20:10).
In the meantime, the king of Babylon will no longer be a threat to the nations of the earth. Instead of fearing him, they shall cast him out like an abominable branch. The tragedy of national judgment is that it falls upon every generation, including the children. For those who rise up in defiance against God, there is nothing ahead for them but disaster, because “I will rise up against them” is the promise of the Lord (Isa. 14:22). He will cut off Babylon. Thus it is that this one mighty nation which caused the kings of the earth to tremble is now but a dusty reminder of a bygone kingdom of another era.