Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Isaiah 14: 10-15

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.’
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!
13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.
14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit."

Honestly, I feel like I'm reliving some of my earliest days in reading the verses of this taunt-song in Isaiah 14. The tone and thoughts are not unlike things I may have said to my sisters at one time. I was never that poetic about it, nor do I recall using 'maggots.' You just never know what you will uncover in the Bible. (And, no, young readers, this is not an invitation to offer this song up on a sibling!) Moving on....

Recall from the last post that the leaders of the nations who have brought destruction and oppression upon God's people are now welcoming the "King of Babylon" into their home in Sheol, the place of death. We left with the thought that these leaders were shell-shocked by the appearance of this mightiest of the mighty ones in their midst. Verse 10 delivers what could be the ultimate of non-compliments: "You have become like us." [shudder!]
Everything that surrounded this "king," from the exquisite music of his harps to his palatial arrogance finds itself in the depths. Remember, this "king" could represent anyone from the Nebuchadnezzar/Belshazzar days to the Antichrist, and everyone in between. Though the current kingly residents of Sheol have thrones (vs. 9), the new king has a specially prepared bed, with a maggot mattress and worm covers. Do not remove tag under penalty of...oh, nevermind!

Verse 12 is the challenging verse in its interpretation. Perhaps it was made more challenging this week as I waded through commentary.

"How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!"
--vs. 12

The slightly troublesome phrase is "O star of the morning." In Hebrew, it is translated "shining one" or "light-bringer." My first thought in seeing all of that is Jesus, who called Himself "the bright morning star" in Revelation 22:16. Jesus came from Heaven, but the Bible doesn't refer to His coming as having "fallen from Heaven." That expression is usually reserved for Satan and other "fallen" angels. This is how Jesus turned the phrase in encouraging the disciples whom He sent out on mission in Luke 10:

"The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.' And He said to them, 'I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.'"
--Luke 10: 17 and 18

What makes this all the more fun is looking at the Latin. "The Hebrew for this expression—“light-bringer” or “shining one”—is translated "Lucifer" in The Latin Vulgate, and is thus translated in the King James Version." (from the footnotes in the Amplified Bible) Whoa! But isn't Lucifer another word for....!!!? Exactly! And the same word in Greek, which is phosphoros, is what Jesus uses in Revelation 22 about Himself. Messy, huh? Check out this entry from Smith's Bible Names Dictionary:

"Lucifer--(light-bearer), found in (Isaiah 14:12) coupled with the epithet 'son of the morning,' clearly signifies a 'bright star,' and probably what we call the morning star. In this passage it is a symbolical representation of the king of Babylon in his splendor and in his fall. Its application, from St. Jerome downward, to Satan in his fall from heaven arises probably from the fact that the Babylonian empire is in Scripture represented as the type of tyrannical and self idolizing power, and especially connected with the empire of the Evil One in the Apocalypse.
--Smith's Bible Names Dictionary

That was helpful for me. There is another line of thinking that the phrase speaks of the planet Venus, which delves into the mythology of the Babylonians a bit. Interesting, but it pulls me away from getting a grasp on the message of the entire passage. As you might guess, I rather like Matthew Henry's thought, as he pulls it all together, simply:

"Here is the language of his [King of Babylon's] vainglory, borrowed perhaps from that of the angels who fell, who not content with their first estate, the post assigned them, would vie with God, and become not only independent of him, but equal with him."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

My study Bible invites readers to catch the five "I will's" over verses 13 and 14. Confidence is one thing, but what this "king" is suggesting of himself was not only beyond the possible but was outright foolishness. A throne "above the stars of God...."! Who, but the vainest, speaks like that? The "mount of assembly in the recesses of the north" may refer, again, to stories of mythology:

"According to Canaanite myths, the god El presided over an assembly of gods on a mountain in Syria. Babylon was ready to claim this honor for itself.... Psalm 48:1, 2 mentions “the far north” as belonging to the Lord alone."
--Reformation Study Bible

Truly, all of these realms and claims offered up here belong only to God. Yet this was the beat that drove the heart (vs 13) of the "king."

"It is a gracious ambition to covet to be like the Most Holy, for he has said, Be you holy, for I am holy; but it is a sinful ambition to aim to be like the Most High, for he has said, He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and the devil drew our first parents in to eat forbidden fruit by promising them that they should be as gods."
--Matthew Henry
But the last word belongs to the Most High--whose "You will" trumps infinite "I will's"--who condemns the "king" to the "recesses of the pit" (vs. 15)

Still aghast over the state of the "King of Babylon".... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Isaiah 14: 16-19
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).