Satan's fall

The Fall

The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist. –Charles Baudelaire

Satan - Character Study

What does the bible say about Satan and his character?

Isaiah and Ezekiel

Much of what we believe about Satan is taken from two specific sections in the bible that are not necessarily about Satan. In fact, there is considerable dispute over the interpretations of Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. Some highly regarded bible study material such as my NIV study bible emphatically state that the texts have nothing to do with Satan. There are equally reputable commentaries that support the connections. I'm presenting both with emphasis added to point out the sections that support the connection. [all emphases mine]

Ezekiel 28:1-10 1. The word of the LORD came to me: 2. "Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: " 'In the pride of your heart you say, "I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas." But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. 3. Are you wiser than Daniel ? Is no secret hidden from you? 4. By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. 5. By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud. 6. " 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: " 'Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, 7. I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor. 8. They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas. 9. Will you then say, "I am a god," in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a man, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you. 10. You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD .' "

So far, so good. The text is clearly about the ruler of Tyre. A man with great political power who had offended God by using Jerusalem's destruction as an opportunity to enrich himself. But notice how the language shifts in verses eleven through nineteen.

Ezekiel 28:11-19 11. The word of the LORD came to me: 12. "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: " 'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.' "

You could call these metaphors, and many do, but would God call a human king "model of perfection" or "guardian cherub"? Would God refer to a man as "blameless"? Would a man be "on the holy mount of God" or need to be thrown "to the earth"? There is a definite shift in the language between the first half of chapter 28 and the second half. The prevailing view is that the ruler of Tyre is being manipulated by Satan. This is one of the fun sections of the bible, where you can memorize it and then debate someone when they take a position.

When taken out of context, the passage in Isaiah seems to be clearly about Satan, but it is part of a prophecy against Babylon that begins in chapter thirteen. If you have a King James bible, this is the passage that calls the devil Lucifer. Like Ezekiel, many will tell you this passage has nothing to do with Satan, but notice the "I will's" in the text.

Isaiah 14:12-15 12. How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13. You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." 15. But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.

The passage is clearly about the king of Babylon, an Assyrian king that came before Nebuchadnezzar. Because of the language however, and the events in Revelation 18, it is easy to interpret this king as a prefiguration of the beast ruling Babylon in the end times.

Revelation 13:4 Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?"

Revelation 17:3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.