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The Second Coming of Saturn Part 20: Lucifer, King of the God-Gate

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The last section of Isaiah 14 appears to refer to nation-states, specifically Babylon and Assyria. What I’m about to propose is something new: I suggest that the entire chapter is directed at those nations and the entity worshiped as the father of their gods:

“I will rise up against them,” declares the Lord of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon [ḇāḇel] name and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the Lord. “And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the Lord of hosts.

The Lord of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand,
that I will break the Assyrian [ʾaššūr] in my land,
and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
and his burden from their shoulder.”
This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back? (Isaiah 14:22–27, emphasis added)

In the context of what precedes this section of Isaiah 14, I believe it refers to Babylon and Assyria as well as the spirit-beings connected to Babel and the “king-god,” Assur.

First, remember that “Babylon” was a name applied to more than one city in Mesopotamia, including the ancient city of Eridu, the site of Babel. In fact, the Hebrew ḇāḇel translated “Babylon” in Isaiah 14:22 is the same word rendered “Babel” in Genesis 10 and 11. It doesn’t mean that Babylon and Babel are the same place; it means we have to discern the meaning from the context.

God has promised that He will destroy “the offspring of evildoers” to prevent them from “fill[ing] the face of the earth with Watchers.” In this interpretation of Isaiah 14, those “evildoers” are the sons of God from Genesis 6, and the “sons” and “fathers” of Isaiah 14:21 are the Nephilim/Rephaim and the Watchers.

The prophecy against Babylon continues that thought. God’s promise to “cut off from [ḇāḇel, “gate of ‘the’ god”] name and remnant, descendants and posterity” is more than a threat to destroy the Chaldeans, the rulers of Babylon in the time of Isaiah. The “name” in Old Testament theology is more complex and nuanced than a personal pronoun or a reputation. Without going too far down a rabbit trail, because this topic could fill a book, the “name” was another aspect of a supernatural being. For example, God told Moses and the Israelites to obey the angel He sent ahead of them “for my Name is in Him.”[1] In short, “the Name in the OT is both Yahweh and a representation of Him, depending on the context. It’s not merely a phrase, but a being.”[2]

The pagans had a similar concept. As we noted earlier, the Rephaim were summoned through a necromancy ritual to Mount Hermon where “the name of El revivified the dead, the blessings of the name of El revivified the heroes.”[3]

So, in Isaiah 14:22 God prophesied the absolute obliteration of the entities connected to Babel, as well as the destruction of Babylon. The latter was fulfilled in 536 BC when Cyrus took the city; the former should be viewed in the context of Psalm 82, the heavenly courtroom scene where God decreed the death of the gods.

But it’s the reference to “the Assyrian” that’s so fascinating. Yes, it can be read as a near-term prophecy of the collapse of the Assyrian kingdom. That was fulfilled in 609 BC when the father of Nebuchadnezzar II, Nabopolassar, destroyed what was left of the Assyrian army at the Battle of Harran. However, that was fought in northern Mesopotamia, near modern Sanliurfa, Turkey. When God refers to His land and His mountains, He means Israel.

The other relevant question is this: Why does God refer to “the Assyrian,” singular? This type of description isn’t used of any of the other traditional enemies of Israel. In other words, there are no prophecies or polemics directed at “the Edomite,” “the Moabite,” “the Philistine,” or “the Egyptian.” It’s always the plural form of the name—Edomites (adômîm), Egyptians (misrayim), etc. We haven’t dug deeply enough into this passage or this character—because “the Assyrian” shows up elsewhere in the Bible.

But first, I’m going to offer another paradigm-shifting suggestion: The “king of Babylon” to whom the prophecy of Isaiah 14:3–22 is addressed was not the Chaldean ruler of the region around the city of Babylon, nor was it Satan. Let me explain.

A realistic depiction of the Tower of Babel based on archaeology at the site of ancient Eridu.

The Hebrew melek ḇāḇel also means “king of Babel.” Given that Hebrew ḇāḇel derives from Akkadian bab ilû (“gate of the gods,” or “gate of ‘the’ god”), and Isaiah 14’s focus on the netherworld and its inhabitants (the Rephaim), I suggest that melek ḇāḇel means “king of the god-gate.” Remember that Babel/Babylon was also a name for the ancient city of Eridu, home of the god Enki and his temple, the E-abzu (“House of the Abyss”).

Here’s what I’m getting at: I believe “the Assyrian,” ʾaššūr in Hebrew, is the chief god of Assyria, Assur—otherwise known as Enlil, El, Dagan, Kumarbi, and Shemihazah, and called by his followers “the king.” Here in Isaiah 14, we see this entity called melek ḇāḇel, “king of the god-gate,” which, given Babel’s location at Eridu, implies that this entity is king of the abzu—the abyss.

In short, the “king of Babylon” and “the Assyrian” were terms used by Isaiah for Assur, the principal object of the Lord’s wrath in this chapter.

However, we can take this even further. Christian commentators generally agree that Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are parallel Scriptures that describe the fall of the same entity:

How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit. (Isaiah 14:12–15, emphasis added)

The phrase “far reaches of the north,” also translated ““sides of the north” or “uttermost parts of the north,” is from the Hebrew yarketê tsaphon. That’s a reference to Mount Zaphon, the mountain sacred to Baal:

A seat was prepared and he was seated at the right hand of Valiant Baal, until the gods had eaten and drunk. Then Valiant Baal said, “Depart, Kothar-and-Hasis! Hasten! Build a house indeed; hasten! Construct a palace! Hasten! Let them build a house; Hasten! Let them construct a palace, in the midst of the uttermost parts of Zaphon. A thousand square yards let the house take up, ten thousand acres the palace!”[4] (Emphasis added)

Since Baal was identified as Satan by Jesus Himself,[5] identifying “Day Star” or “Lucifer” (Hebrew Helel Ben Shachar, literally “Light-bringer, son of Dawn”) as Satan seems like a slam dunk.

Maybe not. William R. Gallagher published a paper in 1994 that offers a compelling argument for identifying another candidate as Helel:

One could reasonably expect hll [Helel] to be the West Semitic form of Illil [that is, Enlil]. As the Ebla tablets suggest, Illil came into West Semitic directly from Sumerian. Thus this example is comparable to the development of E2.GAL:

Sum. é-gal                   Eblaite (?)                   Ug. hkl            Heb. hêkāl
Sum.den-lil                   Eblaite di-li-lu              Ug. hll              Heb. hêlēl[6]

Yes, this is technical language-geek stuff, but I need to show you that I’m not pulling this theory out of thin air. While Gallagher had the route of transmission reversed, since the evidence shows that the name Enlil derives from the Semitic il-ilû (“god of gods”), and not the other way around, he was correct in linking Helel to Enlil in Isaiah 14. And further, the etymology equating Helel with Enlil also identifies him as El, creator-god of the Canaanites.

This confuses things a bit. El’s mount of assembly was Hermon, not Zaphon. So, how can we identify Helel (i.e., Lucifer) with El, the “lord of Hermon,” if his five “I wills” in Isaiah 14 were all about establishing his mount of assembly at Zaphon?

It’s possible that setting up shop on Mount Zaphon was his ambition, but that his plan was thwarted when God cast the rebellious “sons of God” into the abyss during the Flood of Noah. As Edward Lipiński wrote, “the modern Ğebel el-Aqraʿ [Mount Zaphon] seems to have been dedicated to El before it became the mountain of Baʿal. But there are no positive elements which should allow to characterize it as the Mountain of the divine Assembly.”[7]

In short, I suggest that Helel Ben Shachar, “Lucifer,” is not Satan, but one and the same as the “king of Babel” and “the Assyrian.” Isaiah 14:1–27, then, is a condemnation of this rebel and a prophecy of his future destruction.

In support of this theory, let’s turn over a couple of additional pieces of evidence.

Lucifer (Shemihazah/Saturn) and his colleagues are chained in Tartarus until the Judgment

In Isaiah 14:19, the “loathed branch” passage, Helel/Enlil is described as being “like a dead body trampled underfoot.” The Hebrew word translated “dead body” is peger, a cognate for the Eblaite word pagrê, which we encountered earlier as one of the epithets of Dagan, l pagrê (“lord of the corpse”). Dagan is another identity of this creature. In Isaiah 14, the prophet masterfully incorporated several clues to the identity of the divine rebel—Helel = Enlil = El, while peger points to Dagan—and then mocked this entity and the cult of the dead that arose after the destruction of the Nephilim, the evildoers’ offspring whose spirits were venerated as Rephaim by the pagan neighbors of Israel.

Upon arrival in Sheol, Helel is consigned to “the far reaches of the pit.”[8] Besides being a humiliating reversal of his goal to establish his throne “in the far reaches of [Zaphon],” it identifies his new abode as a place of dishonor in the underworld. In fact, “far reaches of the pit” is a good description for the unbroken darkness of the abyss.

In Ezekiel 32, the chapter that refers to the chiefs of the gibborim “in the midst of Sheol,” we find Assur (ʾaššūr) in Sheol with his host, “whose graves are set in the uttermost parts of the pit.”[9] In other words, Assur and his company have the same underworld address as Helel Ben Shachar in Isaiah 14, the yarketê bôr (“far reaches/uttermost parts of the pit”). This may seem like hyperbole, a detail tossed in by the prophets to emphasize the evil of Helel/Assur, but it suggests that there’s something unique about this entity:

The notion that those killed in heroic battle have a special place in the afterlife is a shared feature of Ezekiel 32 and Greek heroic literature, even as Ezekiel 32 may be the only text in the Hebrew Bible to give such a detailed description of this geography. […] Assur is relegated to the “uttermost edge of the Pit” (רוב יתכרי) in v. 23—presumably in the sense of distance and ignobility—and could thus be in a class of its own.[10]

Assur is the Watcher chief Shemihazah, and he is indeed in a class of his own—the leader of a rebellion that affects the world through his demonic offspring to this day.

If we turn back to Ezekiel chapter 31, we see a long diatribe against the Pharaoh of Egypt. Like Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, which condemn the king of Babylon and the prince of Tyre by comparing those mortal rulers to divine rebels against the authority of God, Ezekiel 31 compares Pharaoh to Assyria, and there are reasons to read Assyria as Assur, the small-g god who’s the subject of this book.

Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude:
“Whom are you like in your greatness?
Behold, [Assur] was a cedar in Lebanon,
with beautiful branches and forest shade,
and of towering height,
its top among the clouds. (Ezekiel 31:2–3)

The reference to Lebanon is a clue. It’s frequently used in the Old Testament to evoke images of Bashan and its connection to Mount Hermon, the Watchers, the Nephilim, and the netherworld.

The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it,
nor the fir trees equal its boughs;
neither were the plane trees
like its branches;
no tree in the garden of God
was its equal in beauty.
I made it beautiful
in the mass of its branches,
and all the trees of Eden envied it,
that were in the garden of God. (Ezekiel 31:8–9)

Here is where the identification becomes apparent. The trees in Eden represent other spirit beings, and Assur (Shemihazah, chief of the Watchers) was beyond compare. This is similar to the description of the rebel in Ezekiel 28:12–15—perfect, wise, beautiful, blameless in his ways. Since Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 are parallel passages dealing with the same divine rebel, Ezekiel 31 appears to corroborate our theory that this entity, under his variety of names and identities, played a far more important role in this supernatural war than we’ve realized. And the punishment he received is appropriate for his crime:

“Thus says the Lord God: On the day the cedar went down to Sheol I caused mourning; I closed the deep over it, and restrained its rivers, and many waters were stopped. I clothed Lebanon in gloom for it, and all the trees of the field fainted because of it. I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit. And all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the world below. They also went down to Sheol with it, to those who are slain by the sword; yes, those who were its arm, who lived under its shadow among the nations.

Whom are you thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below. You shall lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword.

This is Pharaoh and all his multitude,” declares the Lord God. (Ezekiel 31:15–18, emphasis added)

The Hebrew word translated “the deep,” tehôm, refers to the abyss.[11] What Ezekiel described was not a tree cast into Sheol; it was the punishment of Shemihazah and the Watchers, the “sons of God” who “left their proper dwelling” and are “in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.”[12] Such would be the fate, Ezekiel prophesied, of Pharaoh.

The difference between Pharaoh and Assur/Enlil/El, etc., is that the once-perfect chief of the Watchers gets out of the underworld for a brief time in the last days. Believe me, you don’t want to be here when he returns from the abyss.

The good news is you don’t have to be.

Next: Molech

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[1] Exodus 23:20–21.

[2] Michael S. Heiser, “The Name Theology of the Old Testament.” In Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016).

[3] Spronk (1986), op. cit., p. 171.

[4] Ugaritic text KTU 1.4 v 49–57. In Wyatt (2002), op. cit., p. 104.

[5] Matthew 12:22–26, Revelation 2:13.

[6] William R. Gallagher, “On the Identity of Hêlēl Ben Šaḥar of Is. 14:12–15.” Ugarit-Forschungen: Internationales Jahrbuch für die Altertumskunde Syrien-Palästinas, 26 (1994), p. 137. Thanks to Dr. Douglas Hamp for calling my attention to this.

[7] Lipiński, op. cit., p. 64.

[8] Isaiah 14:15.

[9] Ezekiel 32:22.

[10] Brian R. Doak, “Ezekiel’s Topography of the (Un-)Heroic Dead in Ezekiel 32:17–32.” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 132, No. 3 (2013), pp. 619–620.

[11] B. Alster, “Tiamat.” In Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 867.

[12] Jude 6.

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