While the world is at odds, and leaders busy themselves with strategies to fight physical wars, it should come as no surprise to God's people that we are engaged in a great spiritual battle. It is clear that people are confused about what is right and wrong, having been drawn away from the Christian ethic that infused America for many generations. Speaking of this directly to those in God's church, Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12 (New English Translation used throughout): "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens."
The apostle Peter echoes this in I Peter 5:8: "Be sober and alert. Your enemy [adversary, NKJV] the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour." If at all possible, wise military leaders never go into battle without carefully studying their opponents. They want to know how they operate, their character, their strengths and weaknesses, their methods or schemes, and so on. To be effective against our powerful and deceptive spiritual enemy, we must know him so we can be prepared to counter his attacks effectively.
Satan, the deceiver, never likes to be revealed for who and what he is and how he operates. Yet, it is imperative that we know these things because we are behind enemy lines! The apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians 2:11, "So that we may not be exploited by Satan (we are not ignorant of his schemes)," and in II Corinthians 11:3, "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds should be led astray." The apostle was concerned that church members would be easy pickings for the "roaring lion," so they needed to be aware of how Satan operates.
We know God names things for what they are. He reveals to us the Hebrew names of three great and powerful angels: Michael, Gabriel, and Heylel (also spelled as Helel). Our main focus will be on Heylel, the anointed cherub who rebelled against God, becoming the enemy, and so he is named Satan, "adversary." But before we consider the meaning of the names that describe his present character, we will look at who he was originally.
Ezekiel 28:12 informs us that he was one of two cherubs whose wings covered the throne of God. (We know there were two from the pattern that God gave to Moses for the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25.) What does a cherub look like? According to Ezekiel 10:14, "Each of the cherubim had four faces: The first was the face of a cherub, the second that of a man, the third that of a lion, and the fourth that of an eagle." Ezekiel 1:5-14 adds a great deal of detail. We can only assume that Satan may have looked similar.
Isaiah 14:12-14 records what caused Heylel's fall from his exalted position: He tried to overthrow the Almighty and set up his own throne in God's place! In verse 12, he is referred to as "Lucifer" in the King James (KJV) and New King James Versions, but the underlying Hebrew word is heylel. In English Bibles, "Lucifer" appears only this one time, but is it a correct translation?
Many assume that lucifer was the Greek equivalent to heylel. However, lucifer is not a Greek word but a Latin one, and it has the exact same meaning as the Greek word phosphoros. They both mean "light-bearer" or "light-bringer," but this is not what the Hebrew word heylel means!
Before we investigate this word's meaning, we need to read II Peter 1:19: "Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (emphasis ours).
Peter refers to Jesus Christ as "the morning star," which is phosphoros in Greek. In the Latin Vulgate the word here is lucifer. Looking into the history of the translation of the Bible, we find that it was in AD 405 that Jerome, commissioned by the Pope to translate the Hebrew Bible into Latin, gave this fallen angel, Heylel, the name "Lucifer," meaning "light-bearer" or "light-bringer."
But Jesus is the Light-bearer or Light-bringer, not Heylel!
What does the Hebrew word heylel mean? Some commentators say it means "son of the dawn" or "son of the morning." As Isaiah 14:12 is the only place this word appears in the Bible, they take the meaning from the context: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O [Heylel], son of the morning!" (KJV). Since angels are sometimes referred to as "sons of God," the translators reckoned that this being, too, was the son or product of his Creator, who is the true Light-bearer or Light-bringer. But is this what it really means?
Heylel is derived from the primitive root word halal, used 165 times in the Old Testament and mostly translated as "praise," "glory," and "boast." This reveals a little bit about this cherub, as he was created to praise and glorify God, but instead, he became boastful and sought the praise and glory for himself, as we see in Isaiah 14:13-14. When sin was found in him, God cast him back to the earth and renamed him for who and what he truly is, the adversary of God and all who stand with Him.
In Part Two, we will consider more of this being's names and titles so that we have a clearer understanding of his nature and be more aware of his devious schemes.
- Clyde Finklea
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