Why do some versions of the Bible not include the name Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12?

Why do some versions of the Bible not include the name Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12?

This page was adapted from an answer at Truth and Tidings Magazine by David Oliver.

Lucifer is a name that means the "shining one, light-bearer, morning star" (Brown-Driver-Briggs). In the English language, we capitalize names, but in Hebrew this is not the case; without using capitals in the Hebrew text, translators must sometimes make an intelligent guess as to whether a word is a general noun or a name. This is a case in which the translators of various Bible versions have come to different conclusions.

If John Nelson Darby’s French translation of this verse (cited by the person who sent in these questions) were translated back into English, the Hebrew word would be the "brilliant star." However, in Darby’s English Bible translation, the text says, "How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning!" A Bible translator may choose whether to translate a word as a general noun (as in Darby’s French translation) or a proper name or title (as in his English translation).  This is done based on the context of the words. This involves some degree of interpretation in translating. Because there is a variety of opinion on how the translation should be done, perhaps some translators (ESV, NASB, YLT, and others) gave a neutral translation.  That is, they did not interpret the text, but simply translated the words exactly.

The problem with translating this verse is determining where the quote from "all the kings of the nations" (v 9) stops. The words of their mourning for the fallen king of Babylon (v 4) continue at least to the end of verse 11. The passage likely contains a reference to Canaanite and Syrian mythology (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, TWOT).  The son of one of the gods attempted to, but was unable, to hold the throne. He "attempted to climb to the highest point of heaven and as the dawn star [emphasis added] was ever condemned to be cast down into Hades." If the heathen kings are still speaking in verse 12, they may be citing this mythology when "the dawn star" was thrown down. Even if this is the reference, the Spirit of God moves from this to the more profound incident of which this is a reminder (perhaps elements of the myths were actually perversions of truth revealed long before). Only one truly aspired to superiority above other angelic creatures ("upon the mount of assembly" with a throne above "the stars of God" in v 13, also see Job 1:6; 2:1; and 38:7) and to be "like the Most High." The pride of the king of Babylon was like Satan’s pride, and the fall of the king is similar to Satan’s condemnation to be in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:10). The "light-bearer" or "morning star" in this passage is Lucifer, Satan himself, whether the word is translated "morning star," "light-bearer," or "day star" rather than "Lucifer."

D. Oliver