Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lucifer, aka, the Kings of Babylon.


Any serious study of the scriptures should be based on the basic premise that God is a loving father and certainly not a trickster or a crook.

You will love when your biological father takes you out on treasure hunt; but will you ever sign up if the treasure hunt were in a mine field? I am sure you won't.

While Jesus told us to "search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me" (John 5:39), it was an invitation to join a treasure hunt, where the hidden treasure is eternal life. There are many subtexts and allusions to Christ in the Old Testament and it is worthwhile for one to seek them out.

According to the mainstream Christian teachings, Satan / Devil / Lucifer is someone who can lead you astray and deprive you of eternal life and even capable of leading you into eternal damnation or eternal torment. It defies logic to think that God would hide information or warnings about such a dangerous character in subtexts or hidden texts.

Will you really like if the traffic signs are hidden away? If some accidents happen due to such negligence will you not initiate legal action against the authorities?

If we observe the Old Testament we can see that God has always been forthcoming about his anger, wrath and vengeance against the misdeeds of human beings. There are more than 500 warnings of severe punishment in the Old Testament. Given this, there is hardly any reason to think that God would hide the details about a nefarious character called Satan / Lucifer in some subtexts.

Obsolesce of Hebrew language:

The Hebrew language that was used in the Old Testament is an extinct language. (The Hebrew presently used by the people of Israel is a reconstructed language, based on lexicons like Strong's.) Also, Hebrew, even today has a very limited vocabulary, consisting of 100,000 words, less than one tenth of the vocabulary of English language. Though Strong's lexicon lists 8674 Hebrew words, many of them are duplicates; unique words stand at 6552. (There could be many derived words) The Hebrew used in the Old Testament uses less of synonyms and more of homophones and homonyms (Two words are homonyms if they are pronounced or spelled the same way but have different meanings). For example, the words for "well" (shaft from which we draw water) and "eye" are the same.

Languages develop and evolve very fast. For instance, the English words:
  • nice used to mean foolish, stupid, senseless, in the 12th century,
  • silly used to mean happy, blessed, pious, innocent in the 12th century,
    harmless, pitiable, weak in the 13th century,
    feeble in mind, lacking in reason, foolish in the 16th century.
This is true about every language. I left my native state of Kerala in 1990. Within the last 25 years the language of the state (Malayalam) has changed quite a lot that sometimes I need to consult someone else to figure out the meanings of some of the new expressions and phrases. If 25 years can make such a difference to a native speaker, think of a language that is removed from us by more than 2,000 years, with no original native speakers remaining.

Though James Strong did a commendable job with his Concordance, but unfortunately, it is not the lexicon or dictionary of Hebrew or Greek languages, it is just a collection of Hebrew and Greek words as used in the King James Version. Our scholars rely on Strong's lexicon to arrive at their conclusions.

Apart from these, there could be culture specific things in the scriptures that no lexicon can help us with.

With these facts in our minds, let us approach Isaiah 14, the Lucifer chapter. This is a contextual and logical study and it has nothing to do with the teachings of any group / denominations.

The context of "Lucifer"

Chapters 13-23 of the book of Isaiah is a series of nine "burdens" against various nations, most of them being the enemies of Israel. In prophetic language, "burden" means "prophecy against". Sometimes these burdens span over a couple of chapters. Sometimes there would be 2-3 burdens in a short chapter. (Please remember that chapter and verse divisions were not done by Isaiah.).
Passage Burden against Ref.
Isa 13:1 - 14:24 Babylon Isa 13:1
Isa 14:25 - 14:32 Assyria Isa 14:25
Isa 15 - 16 Moab Isa 15:1
Isa 17 - 18 Damascus Isa 17:1
Isa 19 - 20 Egypt Isa 19:1
Isa 21:1-10 "the desert of the sea", probably, Negev. Isa 21:1
Isa 21:11-12 Dumah Isa 21:11
Isa 21:13-17 Arabia Isa 21:13
Isa 22 "valley of vision",
Judah / Jerusalem
Isa 22:1
Isa 23 Tyre Isa 23:1

With the burdens against Moab, Damascus and Egypt spanning over 2 chapters, it is logical to think that Isaiah 14 is the continuation of the "burden" that started in chapter 13. Moreover, Babylon is mentioned twice in the chapter.

In the 13th chapter of Isaiah details how Jehovah had planned to bring enemies of Babylon against it. In Isa 13:17 it is said that Jehovah would bring Medes against Babylon and they would not return even if gold and silver is offered to them. Rest of the chapter is about how the land of Babylon would be desolated, making it the dwelling place of wild animals, with no human beings left alive.

Isaiah 14.

Isaiah 14th chapter starts with presenting the reason for Jehovah's anger towards Babylon. Israel was put through sorrow, fear and hard bondage in Babylon - Isa 14:3. In fact, the bondage in Babylon was at a different level than the bondage in Egypt.
  • In Egypt they were physically tortured.
  • In Babylon they were forced to forego their cultural identity and their relation with Almighty God.
  • While they were in Egypt, they used to speak their language, Hebrew.
  • In Babylon, the very first thing that Nebuchadnezzar did was to force Babylonian language on Israelites - Dan 1:4.
  • In Egypt they retained their Kosher food habits, to the extent that Egyptians considered it to be abominable. (Gen 43:32)
  • In Babylon, Israelites were forced to eat the food of Babylonians. (Dan 1:8)
  • In Egypt, Israelites were not forced into idol worship.
  • In Babylon Israelites were forced into idol worship. (Dan 3:1). Those who refused to worship idols were thrown into fiery furnaces.
  • Remember, unlike the Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar was called as "my servant" by Jehovah. (Jer 25:9; 27:6; 43:10) and all these atrocities were committed right under the nose of that servant.
A proverb/parable that is not.

With this background, Jehovah asks the people of Israel to "take up a proverb" against the king of Babylon after they have been settled in their own land.
Isa 14:4 That thou shalt take up this proverb[H4912] against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
In my understanding the whole existence of Lucifer hinges on the true meaning the Hebrew word translated here as "proverb". The word is H4912 in Strong's lexicon.

H4912 מָשָׁל (mâshâl, maw-shawl')
Apparently from H4910 in some original sense of superiority in mental action; properly a pithy maxim, usually of a metaphorical nature; hence a simile (as an adage, poem, discourse): - byword, like, parable, proverb.
This word is used 39 times in the Old Testament. As we have seen above, Hebrew employs homophones and homonyms extensively. There is no doubt that this word means proverb in appropriate contexts. There are contexts where it makes no sense when it is translated as proverb / parable. For instance, in Numbers 23 and 24, Balaam uses this word 7 times and none of it makes sense as parable / proverb.
Num 23:7 And he took up his parable[H4912], and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.
Num 23:8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?
What Balaam says here is: See, you have called me to curse Israel, but, how can I curse them because they are not rejected by Jehovah? Does it make a proverb or a parable? If you analyze all the 7 instances where Balaam uses the word, it becomes clear that the word is used to indicate a paradox or an anticlimax.

Many translators have realized that the context of Isa 14:4 does not warrant a "parable" or "proverb" and have translated H4912 as "taunt", "mockery", "song of contempt", "bitter song" and "mock". The context warrants a taunt or a mockery, because it talks about the fall of a kingdom which was once thought to be invincible.
Isa 14:4 you will taunt the king of Babylon. You will say, "The mighty man has been destroyed. Yes, your insolence is ended. (New Living Translation)
Isa 14:4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: “How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased! (English Standard Version)
Isa 14:4 that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say, "How the oppressor has ceased, And how fury has ceased! (New American Standard Bible)
BTW: does anyone "take up" a parable "against" someone? You can take up a mockery or taunt against someone, but definitely not a parable or a proverb.

Also, while a victor mocks or taunts the vanquished, things stated need not be factual. For instance, assume you have a neighbor who is jealous of your son's academic achievements. You always wanted your son to be a cardiac surgeon and both you and your son spared no effort in achieving that dream. But, unfortunately, your son failed in the final examinations. Suppose if your jealous neighbor says: "Look, he wanted to make his son greater than Dr. Ben Carson", does it literally mean that you wanted your son to be greater than the man with the Gifted Hands? Is it not natural that one would use overly exaggerated language in such situations? My analogy may not be apt, but almost same is the scenario going on in Isaiah 14, where the victors, Israel (who were brought back from Babylonian captivity and planted in their own land), making fun of the vanquished - the fallen king/kingdom of Babylon.

The words and expressions used in praises or flattery need not be factual. Once Joab employed a laywoman to present an allegory to King David to facilitate the restoration of Absalom to the royal court. While the woman realized that David has figured out that she was sent by Joab, she tells David:
2Sa 14:20 To fetch about this form of speech hath thy servant Joab done this thing: and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth.
There is nothing factual about this praise. It is unlikely that David had the knowledge of everything in earth (at best she could have meant that David was aware of the proceedings in his nation). And, there are many deeds of David that prove to us that he did not have the wisdom of angels. But, that is the way one praises or flatters a king. (While we comment "cute", "wow!" and "beautiful" on the photos of our friends' kids on Facebook, do we really mean it? Don't we try to please them?)

Continued in Part #2

In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal

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