Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28
Very little is said in the Bible about the original state of Satan and his fall from God's favor. Some argue otherwise, pointing to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 as perhaps descriptive of that event. But do these texts actually refer to Satan and his fall? Let's examine them.
1. Isaiah 14:12-15 - This text appears in a passage that is specifically identified as a taunt of judgment against the king of Babylon (vv. 3-4). The taunt may be directed at one particular king (most likely Sennacherib) or perhaps "at the whole Babylonian monarchy personified as a single individual" (Page, 38). Clearly, though, the mocking lament portrays (indeed, celebrates) the demise of an earthly power that both opposes and oppresses the people of God.
The language used in vv. 12-14 is certainly compatible with what we know of Satan's character, but may well be a use of poetic language to describe an earthly king. Many of the terms used here ("morning star", "dawn", and "sacred mountain") have been found in texts dealing with ancient pagan mythology. Page notes that "the mythology was probably rooted in the observation of the brilliant rise of the planet Venus (the 'morning star') in the early morning sky and its rapid fading with the rise of the sun" (39). If this is true, Isaiah would be utilizing (without endorsing) motifs common in pagan mythology to describe the downfall of an earthly ruler.
Others have argued that whereas all this may be true, we can still see in this description of an earthly opponent of God (the Babylonian king) his model and heavenly inspiration (Satan). But is that what Isaiah had in mind when he wrote it?
The word "Lucifer", lit., "shining one" or "star of the morning" (v. 12), is called a "man" in v. 16 and is compared with other earthly kings in v. 18. "Lucifer" was first used in the Latin vulgate to translate the Hebrew word (helel) and eventually made its way into the King James Version. According to Boyd, 'Isaiah is simply comparing the king of Babylon to the planet Venus, the morning star. It rises bright at dawn and climbs to the highest point in the sky, only to be quickly extinguished by the brightness of the rising sun. Thus, Isaiah says, shall be the career of the presently shining king of Babylon. He appears on the stage of world history as the brightest star, ascending higher and higher. But in the end he shall quickly disappear in the light of the sun' (158).
2. Ezekiel 28:11-19 - Again, vv. 1-11 refer to the "prince" or "ruler" of Tyre (a Phoenecian port city @ 125 miles northwest of Jerusalem). Vv. 2,9-10 clearly indicate that he is human, not angelic. The historical setting is the siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar from 587 to 574 b.c. The king of Tyre during this period was Ithobaal II.
Vv. 12-19 refer to the "king" of Tyre, suggesting to some that vv. 12-19 refer to a supernatural power behind the human ruler of vv. 1-11. However, this word ("king") is used elsewhere in Ezekiel of earthly rulers (17:12; 19:9; 21:19; 24:2; 26:7; 29:2-3,18; 30:10,21; 31:2; 32:2,11), leading most to believe that the "prince" of vv. 1-11 and the "king" of vv. 12-19 are one and the same ("prince" and "king" being synonymous). On the other hand, the "king" of vv. 12-19 seems to be portrayed in terms that go beyond what is true of any earthly king (e.g., "perfection," "in Eden," "created," "cherub," "holy mountain of God," "blameless").
The identification of this king as an "anointed cherub who covers (guards)" in v. 14 is considered the strongest evidence that the reference is to Satan. Others have pointed out, however, that the Hebrew text may just as easily be translated, "with a cherub." Also, it is difficult to understand how dishonest or unrighteous trade and the desecration of sanctuaries (v. 18) could have been involved in the fall of Satan. How, then, are we to understand the reference to the garden of "Eden" in v. 13? Most believe that that the king of Tyre is being compared with Adam. "Perhaps the king believed himself to be the re-embodiment of the first man, and Ezekiel is using arrogant claims made by the king himself to set his defeat in sharper relief. . . . In effect, Ezekiel would be holding the king's pretensions up to ridicule by charging that, whatever claims he might make about his relationship with the primeval period, there is at least one similarity - like Adam, he stands under divine judgment for rebelling against his Creator" (Page, 42).
Others, such as Lamar Cooper, contend that the description of the king of Tyre in Ezekiel simply cannot be exhausted by reference to this one earthly figure. He writes:
"Overlaid in these prophetic messages [in 28:1-19] are many elements that extend beyond the characteristics of the city or the king. . . . Ezekiel prsented the king of Tyre as an evil tyrant who was animated and motivated by a more sinister, unseen tyrant, Satan. . . . The sinister character of the mastermind behind God's enemies is not always recognized. The real motivating force behind the king of Tyre was the adversary, the satan, who opposed God and his people from the beginning (28:6-19)" (Ezekiel, The New American Commentary, 268-69).
When did Satan fall? The Bible gives no clear answer to this question. Some have argued that it could not have been prior to the sixth day of Genesis 1, since everything in God's creation until that time is said to have been 'very good' (Gen. 1:31). However, this declaration may pertain only to the material creation in view. Perhaps Satan's rebellion antedates Genesis 1:1. Others insist that it occurred only just before he approached Eve in the garden. We simply don't know.