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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 14:3-6 says,
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 [mashal,”parable, proverb”] 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.”
The prophet was speaking of the day when the captivity would end. Daniel’s prophecies show that this was a very long captivity. Israel never returned, of course, nor did the captivity of Judah end when the people returned from their Babylonian captivity. Judah remained under Persian rule and later were under Greece and Rome. Captivity was to continue to the present time, and only now are we seeing God break the staff and the scepter of Mystery Babylon.
Isaiah 14:7, 8 continues,
7 The whole earth [eretz, “earth, land”] 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.”
The word eretz can mean either earth or a limited portion of it (“land”). However, the prophet goes beyond Israel’s border by speaking of “the cedars of Lebanon.” Trees are men or nations in biblical symbolism. Cedar trees represent royalty as well. This suggests that eretz should be seen as a reference to “the whole earth,” which Babylon has oppressed.
Isaiah 14:9-11 says,
9 Sheol from beneath is excited [ragaz, “any violent emotion”] over you to meet you when you come; it arouses [uwr, “opens the eyes”] 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.”
The prophet’s metaphorical language paints a picture of the king of Babylon being brought low to Sheol, the grave, where he has sent many other world leaders during his oppressive rule. Hence, “the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth” have an eye-opening experience, as it were.
Here is confirmation that the prophet was speaking of the whole earth and not merely the land of Israel and Judah.
This may also suggest that the fall of Babylon is linked to the resurrection of the dead, but that does not seem to be the prophet’s intent. Instead, he paints a picture of the king of Babylon being killed in the same manner as he had killed others. The kings of Babylon had thought their kingdom would never come to an end. Its power was too great. Its army was invincible. It could execute other kings and swallow up their lands at will.
But in the end, nothing that stands outside of God’s Kingdom can stand forever. Thus, these other kings welcome him to Sheol, and they are delighted that justice is finally established on the earth.
The Hebrew word Sheol is rendered into Greek as Hades, commonly translated as “hell.” Hence, Isaiah 14:9, KJV was rendered “hell.” The NASB, knowing that the prophet did not consider Sheol to be a flaming torture pit, refused to translate the word at all, preferring to leave it as Sheol and let the reader understand it as he may.
The Apostle Paul uses the word Hades just once in all of his writings. 1 Cor. 15:55 says,
55 O death [thanatos], where is your victory? O death [Hades], where is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:55, KJV reads,
55 O death [thanatos], where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory?
The NASB renders both thanatos and Hades as “death,” which is hardly feasible. The KJV translators found it difficult to render Hades as “hell,” because in their view hell is supposed to be victorious over most people. Furthermore, since Paul was quoting Hosea 13:14, where the word is Sheol, the KJV translators found it necessary to render Hades to mean the same as Sheol, “the grave.” We applaud the KJV translators for their rare honesty when dealing with this word.
Isaiah himself described Sheol as a place of “maggots” and “worms” (vs. 11 above). He saw no flames and heard no screams of kings being tortured. Instead, it is a place of no class distinctions, where maggots and worms eat corpses of kings and peasants alike.
Isaiah 14:12 says,
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!
The KJV reads, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” This is the passage on which the church has given the name Lucifer to Satan, or the devil. The Hebrew reads heylel ben Shehar (that is, “Heylel son of the dawn/morning”). Heylel is from the root word halal, “shine, praise, boast, glory, be foolish or mad.” Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (5th century) rendered heylel as “lucifer” (uncapitalized), and so the KJV also continued with that tradition, but capitalized it as a proper name.
The Septuagint renders it Eosphoros, “dawn-bringer,” or Lucifer, the Latin name for Venus. Isaiah used this as a metaphor for Babylon, which appeared to dominate the earth, even as Venus was bright enough to dominate the heavens. The Jewish Encyclopedia says under the heading of “Lucifer,”
The brilliancy of the morning star, which eclipses all other stars, but is not seen during the night, may easily have given rise to a myth such as was told of Ethana and Zu: he was led by his pride to strive for the highest seat among the star-gods on the northern mountain of the gods ... but was hurled down by the supreme ruler of the Babylonian Olympus.
Apparently, Isaiah knew that Babylonian story and used it against them. Babylon’s prideful attempt to overthrow the God of Heaven resulted in its downfall. In later years, the church saw this as a reference to Satan, i.e., “Lucifer,” who was said to be cast down from heaven in a similar manner.
The broad meaning of heylel, however, suggests another nuance in Isaiah’s prophecy. The root word halal can also refer to madness or wailing. Hence, the Concordant Version of Isaiah 14:12 reads,
12 How have you fallen from the heavens! Howl, son of the dawn! You have been hacked down to the earth, defeater over all nations!
This rendering pictures Babylon’s lament or wailing at her downfall. The word heylel even sounds like a howl.
There is no reason to believe that Isaiah meant to prophecy one exclusive meaning of heylel. All of the above may be packed into Isaiah’s prophecy.