Is Lucifer "Satan" in the Old Testament?

Two passages on the OT -- Is. 14:12-22 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 -- are often suggested as providing a "biography" of Satan; from thence come other presumptions.

Is this a valid interpretation? To start, here are the passages in question:

Isaiah 14:12-22 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned. Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities. For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.
Ezekiel 28:12-19 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.

From the start, a telling sign against an identification with Satan is that the equation here was made in the 3rd and 4th century AD, by church writers -- not by Jews of the OT or NT era. This does not mean it is wrong, but it does place a greater burden of proof on claimants.

As it happens, it is the passage in Ezekiel that is considered more detailed, and is used to support the Isaiah passage's interpretation, so dealing with Ezekiel will address the matter sufficiently. Our primary sources are the commentaries by Cooper (Ezekiel, 266ff) and by Allen (Ezekiel 20-48), which provided the most thorough explanations available to us. Cooper stands for a mild endorsement of the equation with Satan, while Allen dismisses it.

Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.

This portion by itself is not determiniative. Ancient kings were regarded as the repositories of wisdom; the point of "beauty" may be vanity (cf. Prov. 31:30) which would fit as well with the king of Tyre's honor status as leader of a wealtrhy nation. There is nothing particular here to point us towards Satan, or away from Satan.

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

It is here that attempts to connect with Satan gain some apparent ground. By way of deduction, commentators like Cooper conclude that since the literal king of Tyre could not have been in the garden of Eden, the verse must be alluding to someone who was (even if indeed comparing the king of Tyre to that whoever).

But is that required? Not at all. The factor which tells the story is creative Jewish use of the prior Scriptures. Eden for Ezekiel is a type of the wealthy city of Tyre; a virtual "paradise" for its residents and for the king of Tyre especially. There is no need to seek a "certain person" who actually was in Eden.

The role of the jewels is not clear. Cooper supposes a connection to the Jewish priesthood (these are 9 of the 12 jewels) would be confusing; I disagree, and he does not explain what the confusion would be. In contrast, Allen notes that the king of Tyre doubled as a priest; so that the stones may express that king's role (9 of 12 stones signifying, may I suggest, a priest inferior to Yahweh's priests), as well as the wealth of Tyre.

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

It is perhaps this passage that makes the strongest case for an equation with Satan. But the reference to the ruler as a "cherub" no more means an actual cherub is in view than it means a dragon or a giant tree is actually in view in the next chapters about Pharaoh -- and this point is made even stronger by the fact that cherubs were a key symbol of Phoenician and Tyrian iconography.

The references to a holy mountain and stones of fire are peculiar in any setting. Those who suggest Satan in view here are compelled to suggest a vivid anthropomorphism, for obviously a spirit being is not walking on an actual mountain or among actual stones. Thus indeed Cooper's claim that this must be more than a "strictly human creature" fails, for the metaphor requires an interpretative massage regardless of who we think this is.

Allen points out that the language suggests accounts of mountains as abodes of gods, and also points to a very late use of the phrase "in all my holy mountain" in a description of the return to Paradise. The fiery stones may relate to a picture in the Gilgamesh epic of a garden in which fruit and leaves took the form of jewels, which would be an appropriate image of Eden to use when addressing a pagan king.

The context may elude us because of lack of informing material, but given the creative use of imagery, there is no automatic ground here to identity Satan as the party of intent.

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

This repeats images from above and thus suggests nothing new. However, it raises a point to note the "multitude of thy merchandise," which fits the trading nature of Tyre (a significant city-state for that practice) but doesn't meld well with Satan, who is no salesman.

As a consequence of this and further portions of the passage, exegetes like Cooper are compelled to suggest "a shift of focus back and forth" between the king of Tyre and Satan, and to claim that with this reference, the allusions to Satan are "temporarily abandoned." We would suggest rather that this is an explanation that begs the question.

Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.

There is again little new here; it may be noted that there is little channce that a spirit being will be brought to literal ashes, or will be seen by people. A king of course won't likely be made literally ashes either; this is normal "trash talk" of the ANE variety.

In summation, Cooper lists numerous traits of the personality in Ez. 28 and Is. 14. With the exception of language associated with Eden and the mount of God, none of this would not fit a human king; and once we recognize the creative use of imagery and their contexts, these portions fall behind an identification of a human leader of Tyre as well.

Finding Satan here is an excellent exercise in midrashic typology -- but in terms of actual justification from the intent of the text, there is little that can be found.

-JPH