The Fallen Day Star
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” (v. 12).- Isaiah 14:1-27
Babylon and Assyria, said Isaiah during the eighth century BC, would be rods of the Lord’s wrath against His people, taking them into exile because of their impenitence (Isa. 1; 8:1–10; 9:8–21; 39). Yet as we have seen, that would not be the end of Jacob’s children. The devastators of Israel and Judah would be judged (chap. 13). Moreover, as today’s passage reveals, God would again choose His people as in Moses’ day. Incredibly, sojourners—the Gentile nations—would “attach themselves to the house of Jacob.” Gentiles would bow to Yahweh, the one true God and covenant Lord of Israel, and the world would finally enjoy the Abrahamic blessing (Isa. 14:1–2; see Gen. 12:1–3).
In that day, the oppressed people of God would be saved so definitively that they could taunt the once-mighty king of Babylon (Isa. 14:3–4). Isaiah does not name the king, so he likely has no specific individual in mind. The prophecy could refer to any king of Babylon or even Assyria, for “the king of Babylon” is an ambiguous phrase. Babylon was the capital of the Babylonian Empire, but the city fell under Assyrian rule at times. If there is no specific king in view, the passage is designed to give the ancient people of God hope no matter when they lived. Any faithful child of Jacob could read this passage and know for certain that the enemies of God’s people would be destroyed one day.
Although we do not know if the passage refers to a specific king such as Sennacherib or Nebuchadnezzar, it is clear that this text is not speaking directly of the devil. Based on Luke 10:18 and Revelation 12:7–9, which describe the fall of Satan, many thinkers in church history have believed that the fallen Day Star in Isaiah 14:12–21 is the devil. Even though a specific king is not mentioned, the prophet still has a human ruler in view (vv. 3–4), so Isaiah was not talking about the Enemy when he gave this prophecy. Nevertheless, we will not be too hard on church history. Even we might draw an indirect analogy between the fall of the prideful ruler of Babylon and the fall of Satan from grace.
Babylon was indeed the rod in God’s hand to discipline Judah, though Babylon never acknowledged that fact. The king of Babylon had confidence only in himself when he came against Judah. In fact, this confidence led to claims of deity on the king’s part. That is why His reign had to come to an end. The Almighty will not long tolerate pretenders to His throne. (vv. 13–15; Acts 12:20–23).
In today’s passage, the king of Babylon is denied burial, and his corpse is left out in the open (Isa. 14:18–20b). This was the most shameful thing that could happen to a person in the ancient Near East, so the message for God’s people was this: When the Lord defeated their enemies, it would be full and final. Such is our hope. Even now, Christ is putting all His and our enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25), and one day no creature will be able to doubt that we are on the winning side.
Passages for Further Study
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343