One of my favorite things about studying the Second Temple Period (500 BCE-100 CE) is taking a look at how the authors of the NT interpreted the Jewish Scriptures/Old Testament for their communities. As promised, we’re going to take a look at the “fall/casting down of Satan” according to Scripture. We’ll take a look at Isaiah 14.12-15, Ezekiel 28.12-18, and Revelation 12.7-17 to see how the author of Revelation alludes to these passages from the JS/OT. First, we’ll start off with a brief discussion of Isaiah 14.12-15, which reads:
12 “How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
13 “But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit. (NASB)
In these verses, Isaiah is prophesying against the Babylonians by comparing them to the morning star of Ancient Near Eastern mythology. A morning star is brilliantly bright, yet it immediately vanishes when the sun rises. In Ancient Near Eastern mythology, the morning star attempts to overcome the sun by climbing beyond all the other heavenly bodies to the mountain of the gods in order to challenge the supremacy of the sun. Although the morning star tries to overcome the sun every day, the rising sun casts the morning star back into darkness, which is a symbol of Sheol, the “holding place” for departed human spirits.
In a similar way, the unlimited pride and arrogance of the Babylonians (the morning star) drove them to attempt to conquer the world and to take the place of God (the sun). Isaiah prophesies that Babylon will be cast down just like the morning star, and that is exactly what happened. King Cyrus and the Medo-Persian army overthrew the Babylonians in 539 BCE. In 478 BCE, the Persian king Xerxes destroyed the city of Babylon, and by the end of the second century BCE, Babylon was deserted. Babylon, the morning star in this passage, never reached its ambitions. Instead, God cast their ambitions to Sheol.