One thing that I’ve come to appreciate more and more with the ESV is it’s clarity and lack of need to argue with the translation. I was struck by this yesterday in Sunday School. We’ve been studying Isaiah and had reached the 14th chapter, one that many who love to debate about the end times love. When I asked for a volunteer reader for Isaiah 14, the volunteer read from the King James.
To set up the difference in verse 12, the context was my guide in studying. The immediate context is God’s judgment on te real, actual, historical nation of Babylon. It occupies the majority of chapters 13 and 14. What’s more, there are linguistic similarities in both chapters describing the pomp and arrogance of the Babylonians and the magnitude of their end, all referring to the heavens. Whether it’s a comparison of Babylon to the stars, Isaiah 14:13&14 (ESV):
13 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; 
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
or poetically descriptive of God’s coming judgment (Isaiah 13:9-11, ESV)
9 Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.
Either way, there is a thematic unity in the two chapters. All this is incredibly easy to see with the ESV, and for that, I’m thankful.
Now, the meat. In the ESV, verse 12 fits well into this theme:
12 “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!
From other histories, we know that Babylon did lay low the nations (e.g., Judah). From the immediately succeeding context, we know that, in their pride and arrogance, the Babylonians sought to set themselves in the place of God (vv 13&14). So, the “Day Star, son of Dawn” would seem to indicate an actual person, likely a king of Babylon.
The King James Version, by contrast, translates it thusly:
12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
Now, my Hebrew is very rusty, so I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of translation and exegesis. However, from a context, assuming both translations are sufficiently accurate, the ESV’s is much clearer. It preserves the context, as opposed to drawing attention elsewhere.
Secondarily, Lucifer and pride go hand in hand; pride is the source of most of our sin, we putting ourselves before God. So, Lucifer has some weight to it. But for me, the context wins me over to the ESV’s rendering. It’s truly amazing how a clear, concise translation that strives for a rigorous faithfulness to the original text can give a fresh understanding to a text. We didn’t hit 14:12 yesterday, but I’ve warned those that like to banter about with the Apocalyptic arguments that I will present an argument, from context, for a more historic understanding. And once we understand the text, then we can move to application.
This is just another reason I’m not looking for a new translation. Two years in, and I love it!
Solo Deo Gloria,