Below is a discussion email response I gave a while back on the topic of “Lucifer (Satan) and Judaism.” A lot of times there appear to be a disconnection between what we have accepted traditionally as doctrine such as that in discussions with friends over the topic of demonology. I tried to answer the question adequately. I included a copy of the email that was sent to help the reader understand what questions were asked.
My name is John and I’m a born again Christian of 44 years now. I’m 51 years old and have a very deep love for the Nation of Israel. I have a very dear friend who lives 15 minutes away from me, whom I give my scrap steel and iron to; I run a scrap metals business. Hadar is from Israel and is a practicing Jew. He does not recognize that Yeshua is the Messiah and for the life of me, I cannot get him to see this.
He has an advantage over me; he can read and write Hebrew and I cannot. Here is my current question:
He claims that “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14: 12-14 is NOT the devil. The King James Version makes it sound like it is Lucifer (the devil) being referred to here. Hadar’s English is not that good, so I’m not sure I’m understanding him correctly. My Matthew Henry Commentary says that it is King Belshazzar of Babylon. Can you PLEASE help me understand this passage correctly?
Hadar says Jews do not speak of the devil. Is this correct also?
He wanted me to see if I could find a group of Messianic Jews in Halifax, where he happens to be at the moment until Friday. If you get back to me soon, I will phone him with your comments and if you don’t mind, give him your contact number also so he can meet you and others who believe in Yeshua. I would love for him to meet Yeshua!!!
Being a Levy, he believes that he is going to be saved on his heritage alone; the Savior is not necessary…
Thank you, and many blessings be upon you and your nation!
Wilmot, Nova Scotia
PS: A number of months ago, I was privileged to take in a seminar that was led by Joe Amaral who spends much time working among the Jewish people and teaches and lectures in Jewish customs and culture. Maybe you’ve heard of him; I really appreciate his ministry!
Before we begin, there are a couple things I want to comment on regarding what you said in your email. Do not consider that your inability to read or write Hebrew is in any way a disadvantage. There are many resources available to you such as “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible” by Dr. James Strong that can help you in your exegetical analysis and critical interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. Also, remember faith is a gift from HaShem. As disciples of Yeshua and servants of the Lord we reach out to others by the leading of the Ruach HaKodesh (The Holy Spirit). It is by G-d’s leading us and subsequent calling those whom we are speaking to, to believe and be saved. The processes of salvation and faith are both gifts of G-d and it doesn’t matter how much you try to convince someone to believe, salvation will come by faith in G-d’s timing. Don’t be discouraged; just continue to reach out in love and to pray for your friend asking the Lord for His words of life that will speak to your friend’s heart and soul that would lead to life everlasting by faith in the shed blood of Yeshua the Messiah.
In order to examine the statement your friend posed about Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12-14 and to answer the question you asked will require more than simply looking at the Hebrew text in Yeshayahu / Isaiah. Reading your friends claim demonstrates a number of deficiencies in his understanding. This doesn’t draw into question his understanding of the Hebrew text, rather, he does not appear to have made a connection between the history and culture of the time which includes the use of the phrase “morning star” and its cultural religious background in astrology and the mythic religious cults of the day (i.e. Babylonian and Mesopotamian religious culture). Furthermore, his statement that Jews do not speak of the devil or demons suggests that he is unaware of the doctrine of demonology that is extant in the Jewish literature such as the Talmud Bavli, the Midrashim, and the Zohar (Kabbalah), etc. This means we have a lot of ground to cover in order to answer this question you have posed and to help your friend understand the origins on the interpretation of Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12-14 how it had come to refer to that of Lucifer (Satan). To begin we need to try to understand that the concept of the devil was firmly established in the first century mindset of the Jewish people and in the later rabbinic literature (Talmud Bavli). Then we can discuss how Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12-14 came to refer to Lucifer (Satan).
The Devil and Demons in the First Century
In order to understand the Jewish concept of the devil and demons in the first century we need to examine a first century text. The Ketuvei Shelachim (Apostolic Writings) is a first century text; therefore, I have chosen a few selected verses to begin our critical analysis on this topic. I want to look at the book of Matthew, chapter 12, verses 22-24. I chose these verses because we find in the text Yeshua healing a man who was demon-possessed and as a result the Pharisees responded to the miracle of healing by saying that Yeshua healed by the power of “Beelzebul the ruler of demons.” The purpose of this analysis will be to demonstrate that in the first century there was the belief that there is a “chief demon” that rules the other demons and the title of this chief demon is given “Beelzebul.” (Note that Lucifer (Satan) is also understood as being a “chief demon.”)
12:22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 12:23 All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?’ 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard this they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.’ (NASB)
In Matthew 12:22-24 we learn that demons have the power to cause serious physical maladies, in this case blindness and the inability to speak. Matthew does not mention that the demon was “cast out” but simply states that the man was brought to Yeshua and that “He healed him.” Since the blindness and the inability to speak were both the work of the demon, the exorcism of the demon and the healing of the man are synonymous. It is interesting to note that the Greek text here does not say that the man was “demon-possessed,” but that he was “demonized” (daimonizomai). The idea that a demon “indwells” a person is interpretive, not something that is explicitly demanded by the language of the Scriptures. When Yeshua healed the man there is no doubt that the man had been healed since he immediately began speaking and it was evident that his sight had been restored. Thus, as Yeshua performed miracles as a sign of His being the Messiah, they were obviously incontestable; the man had genuinely been healed. As a result, the crowd was amazed and saying “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” The miracle was a clear manifestation of Yeshua’s miraculous powers that engenders the crowd’s question. At this point we find the concept of a “chief of demons” in the Pharisees response to the crowds that “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
It appears from the text that the Pharisees responded to the crowds and not directly to Yeshua. Their response suggests that the miracle Yeshua had performed could not be denied, the man had clearly been healed. The purpose of the response was to keep the crowds from believing that Yeshua was in fact the promised Messiah. The Greek opening “houtos” (“this”) is emphatic and implies contempt of Yeshua.
Here the Pharisees ascribe Yeshua’s miraculous power to magic and the work of demonic powers. Similarly, in Matthew 9:34, Yeshua is accused of being dependent upon the “ruler of demons” which is a reference to the chief of demons whom we know today as Lucifer (Satan). This same accusation is made in our text but here the Pharisees added “Beelzebul.” Note that in Mark 3:22 Yeshua is accused of “having Beelzebul” meaning that he possessed the powers of Beelzebul. The Pharisees suggest that Yeshua casts out demons by the prince of the demons indicating that there is a “chief demon” that can command other demons. The Pharisees called the head of the house Beelzebul.
In regard to the name Beelzebul, there is a textual variant in the Greek manuscripts of the Ketuvei Shelachim. Some manuscripts have “Beezeboul” while others have “Beelzeboul.” The term Beelzeboul is based upon the Hebrew phrase ba’al zevuv, the pagan god of Ekron (see 2 Kings 1:3). This was not actually the name given to the idol god, but the mocking name applied by the Hebrews which literally means “Lord of the flies” and is a play on the Hebrew phrase baal zevul meaning “Lord of dung.” Note also that there is a rabbinic term, zevul meaning “temple,” that is sometimes applied to the temple in Jerusalem, and at other times to pagan temples in a mocking manner. See the book titled “A Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi and Midrashic Literature” by Marcus Jastrow for further study on the Hebrew word zevul.
In the apocrypha, the Testament of Solomon 6:1-2 states that Beelzebul is one that had been “the highest ranking angel in heaven” which would suggest an identification with Lucifer (Satan) as we understand it today. Similarly, in the Armenian version of Revelation 12:9, the word “diabolos” (Devil) is translated as Beelzebul. It is probable then that by the 1st century, the Jewish community used the term “Beelzebul” as an alternate name to designate Lucifer (Satan) or perhaps some lesser but powerful demon.
Beelzebul, in Matthew 12:22-24, was most likely derived from a Jewish slur on the pagan “Baal” and was used to designate a chief demon or lesser but powerful demon. The book of Jubilees 48:15 refers to “the prince mastema,” which most likely means “Satan,” while the Testament of Daniel declares “your prince is Satan.” The Talmud Bavli Folio Pesachim 110a refers to “Ashmedai the king of demons.” Ashmedai, Asmodai or Asmodeus according to Judaism is a semi-Biblical demon mostly known from the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit. The demon is also mentioned in some Talmudic legends, for instance, in the story of the construction of the Temple of Solomon. There are many variations for the spelling of this name: Asmodai/Asmodeus include Ashmadia, Ashmedai (Hebrew), Asmodaios-Ασμοδα?ος (Greek), Asmoday, Asmodée (French), Asmodee, Asmodei, Ashmodei, Ashmodai, Asmodeios, Asmodeo (Spanish and Italian, from a Latin declination), Asmodeu (Portuguese), Asmodeius, Asmodi, Chammaday, Chashmodai, Sidonay, Sydonai.
The existence of the “king of demons” or “chief of demons” in the Talmudic literature indicates that the belief in a “chief demon” such as Lucifer (Satan) is not restricted to Christianity alone. The accusation that was made against Yeshua that he practiced magical arts (by demonic influence) is therefore early. In fact, this same charge is found today in the rabbinic literature against Yeshua in the Talmud Bavli Folio Sanhedrin 43a, 67a, and Shabbat 104b. To claim that the Jewish people do not talk about the devil clearly indicates that your friend does not fully understand the extant nature of demonology that is found in the rabbinic literature. Thus, from our discussion above, we have established that there was a doctrine on demonology that existed in the first century and in Judaism today.
In addition to this consider a scripture verse from the Torah. The Torah says that making an offering to idols is synonymous with offering sacrifices to devils in Vayikra / Leviticus 17:7. Don’t believe Vayikra / Leviticus 17:7 is an example from the Torah on the existence of demons/devils? I suggest having a look at Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak (Rashi) commentary on that particular verse. Rashi considers the sacrificing to idols as that of making an offering to devils. Note also the reference made to the Midrashic Halachah on Vayikra / Leviticus called Toras Kohanim in reference to verse 17:7 in Rashi’s commentary. Having the evidence for the doctrine of demonology in the Torah, in the Ketuvei Shelachim, and in the Rabbinic literature, can your friend honestly suggest that the devil is a non-Jewish concept? If your friend hears or reads this commentary and continues to believe that demons (the devil) are not a Jewish concept, then he has an agenda to discredit your faith rather than a willingness to learn. Let’s now move on to a discussion on Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14.
How Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12-14 come to refer to Lucifer (Satan).
Now that we have established that there existed the concept of a “chief of demons” in Judaism within the first century and even today, the approach I want to take for analyzing Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12-14 is to examine a text that brings us closer to the time of the writing of the book of Yeshayahu / Isaiah. According to the beginning of the book of Isaiah, counting from the fourth year before Uzziah’s death (B.C. 762) to the last year of Hezekiah (B.C. 698), Isaiah’s ministry extended over a period of sixty-four years. We need to find a text that brings us close to the time of 698 BCE. The Scriptural text I want to look at is the Septuagint (LXX). The LXX is a Greek translation of the Tanach that was translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE in Alexandria. It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. The word “septuaginta” means “seventy” in Latin and derives from a tradition that seventy-two Jewish scholars (seventy being the nearest round number) translated the Torah from Hebrew into Greek for Ptolemy II in Philadelphus 285-246 BCE. So, to begin let’s look at the Greek LXX and the KJV together.
The Greek word “heosphoros” found here in Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12 is also found in Yoav / Job 11:17 in the LXX. It is also used in the Greek LXX text of Tehilim / Psalms 110:3. In these texts we find the KJV is translated using the Latin word “Lucifer.” The Latin word “Lucifer” is used to translated the Greek “heosphoros” in Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12 Yoav / Job 11:17, and Tehilim / Psalms 110:3. Note though that in the KJV the English translation uses “morning star” for the latter reference.
Various Greek authors have also used the word heosphoros in reference to the planet Venus for astrological purposes. The ancients also applied the “sobriquet” or “morning star” and sometimes “evening star” to the planet Venus because it reaches its maximum brightness shortly before sunrise and shortly after sunset. (see the Greek texts, Odes Pinar, the Illiad, and Hippias Major, Hippias Minor, Ion, Menexenus, Cleitophon, Timaeus, Critias, Minos, Epinomis, 98e of Plato. These Greek authors use heosphoros as a reference to the planet Venus which is also known as the “morning star.”
The Talmud Bavli applies Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12 to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in Tractate Shabbat, Folio 149b. In the Targumim, the Targum Jonathan for 14:12 we find:
The Aramaic phrase “kekokav nagha” means “as the star of the morning” or “morning star” which again is a likely reference to the planet Venus. Thus, in summary of these texts we have examined, the LXX and the Targum Jonathan, the word “Lucifer” exists in the KJV as a result of the transliteration of the Latin in the Latin Vulgate of Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12. It is interesting to note that in the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures by the seventy Jewish scholars they chose to translate the Hebrew using the word Lucifer. This is interesting since the Latin Vulgate is a 5th century text that was made by Pope Damasus I in 382 CE. There is a 500-to-600 year difference between the textual translations. This establishes that in the 3rd to 1st century BCE, the morning star was referred too as Lucifer and/or Venus. Next, let’s look at the Hebrew text.
A copy of the Hebrew from the Masoretic text is shown below.
The circled text says “helel ben shachar” which means “shining one, son of the morning” Taking a strict exegesis of the text, the prophet Yeshayahu / Isaiah is denouncing the King of Babylon so to give credit to your friend he is correct in a non-Midrashic sense. One of the principles in biblical hermeneutics is to use all of Scripture in the development and study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of the biblical texts. In a Midrashic sense, this text here alludes to the “chief demon” (Lucifer/Satan) figuratively. A Midrash is a method of exegetical exposition, interpretation, or commentary treating of the scriptures. We find the term most often in the Jewish expository literature which are divided into two classes (i) Halachah dealing with legal and ritual maters, and (ii) Haggadah, writings on any other theme, generally dealing with traditions, stories, legends, allegories, and history. Here, Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12 falls under the Haggadah classification in a Midrashic sense as a reference to the fallen one, Satan, Lucifer, etc. The Midrash on the interpretation of the verse is strengthened by the words Yeshua said when the seventy returned with joy explaining how the devils are subject to them through the name of Yeshua in Luke 10:17-22.
Yeshua states that “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” This Midrash is a combination of concepts that are derived from the text of the Ketuvei Shelachim and from tradition and may be explained in the following way.
The Greek “diabolos” which is translated literally as “devil” translates in Hebrew as “Satan” which means “adversary, opponent, rebel, or deceiver.” In Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:11-15, between the lines of a taunt against the king of Babylon, can be read the downfall of a creature who was once both powerful and beautiful but who in pride rebelled against G-d and came to oppose him. Ezekiel 28:11-19 is very similar. On the other hand, Yoav / Job 1-2 is explicit in showing Satan as the opponent of both G-d and man. In Bereshit / Genesis 3 as the serpent he tempts Adam and Chavah (Eve) to disobey G-d; the way the text is written, equating the Adversary with the serpent is clear. Hitgalut / Revelation 12:9, speaks of “that ancient serpent, also known as the Devil and Satan (the Adversary), the deceiver of the whole world.” Lucifer (Satan) is a created being, in no way equal to his Creator; yet he is the background source of all sin, evil, and opposition to G-d. The book of Yoav / Job teaches that the reason why an omnipotent and good G-d permits such opposition is a mystery, but that G-d remains in perfect and unthreatened control. This we see most clearly in Yoav / Job 40-41, where the “Behemoth” and “Leviathan” are seen to be stand-ins for the Adversary, because when G-d challenges Job to deal with them he repents “in dust and ashes (see Yoav / Job 42:6). Both the Tanach and the Ketuvei Shelachim take for granted the existence of a supernatural realm of good, obedient angels who serve G-d and evil rebellious angels (demons) who serve the Adversary.
According to the Scriptures, G-d the source of shalom will soon crush the Adversary, the ultimate source of all opposition to G-d, under our feet. This imagery draws on Bereshit / Genesis 3:15; and many other scriptures throughout the Tanach and the Ketuvei Shelachim. Note also a Jewish work written around 108 BCE, titled The Testament of Levi 18:12:
The Testament of Levi 18:12
“And Beliar [a variant of B’liya’al, another name for Satan, as at 2C 6:15] will be bound by him [the “new priest” that the Lord will raise up, 18:2], and he will give power to his children to tread on evil spirits.”
There are many books written on this topic, what I have put together here is only a fraction of what you could find if you took the time to look without the presumption that personal opinion supersedes taking the time to discover the truth.
While discussing with an unbeliever and especially one who portends to know more than he really does, one may become confused, discouraged, alarmed and even angered. That kind of a response is very easy and understandable. Some people reinterpret scripture on less than solid ground and wrestle texts out of their contexts to fit their agenda. While not in any way impugning your friend’s good intentions or bad intentions, he needs to realize that he also should not take for granted that personal opinion can provide a complete picture of the Tanach, the Ketuvei Shelachim, and that of the Rabbinic literature. In situations like this there is the necessity to follow the pattern of the Bereans, who having heard the message of the Apostles, went back to the Scriptures to prove whether what they were being taught was worthy of acceptance. In this current controversy between you and your friend, this Berean method requires more than simply studying the Biblical texts but also surveying and analyzing the extra biblical texts from the Apocrypha and the Rabbinic literature in order to obtain a clearer picture. In the Hebrew text in Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12, the words for “light bearer” is translated in latin as “Lucifer.” These terms Lucifer, “light bearer,” “morning star,” and the planet Venus all have implications in astrology and originate out of Babylon, which, quite coincidentally is found within the verses denouncing the King of Babylon. The word Lucifer was the direct translation of the Septuagint Greek heosphoros, (“dawn-bearer”); (cf. Greek phosphoros, “light-bearer”) and the Hebrew Helel, (“Bright one”) and I believe is a reference to the “chief demon” that fell from heaven because of his pride. In addition to this it does appear from the Apostolic Scriptures that Yeshua believed the same when He said “I beheld Satan fall as lightning from heaven.” I have to say from a Midrashic sense the interpretation of these verses as detailing the rebellion and fall of Lucifer from heaven is valid and accurately portrayed according to the Christian tradition. I shouldn’t have to remind your friend that Judaism is full of Midrashic writings that deal with traditions, stories, legends, allegories, and history. There is more to the interpretation of these verses (Yeshayahu / Isaiah 14:12) as referring to the fallen angel Satan than a casual reading and personal opinion. As a matter of fact, on the topic of Judaism and Midrashim, there are quite a number of Midrashim that utilize the Gematria to kabbalistically interpret the Hebrew scriptures by computing the numeric values of words from the constituent letters that are very sketchy. The use of the Gematria to weave together stories that link various portions of text in peculiar ways is nothing new to Judaism. I propose that the true reason your friend objects to the Lucifer and fallen angel interpretation of the Isaiah is because of his objections to Yeshua being the Messiah. I hope this commentary helps. Take care friend.