🔼The name Helel: Summary
- Shiner, Shining One
- From the verb הלל (halal), to shine or praise.
- From the verb ילל (yalal), to howl or wail.
🔼The name Helel in the Bible
It's not clear whether the name Helel should actually be considered a real name, but probably not. It seemingly occurs only one time in the Bible, in the famous observation of the prophet Isaiah, addressed to the king of Babylon: "How you have fallen from heaven, helel, son of the dawn!" (Isaiah 14:12). Some enthusiasts believe that Isaiah was really talking about satan, but no, he wasn't. The prophet Ezekiel wrote a similar taunt, but addressed to the king of Tyre this time: "You had the seal of perfection. Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty, you were in Eden, in the garden of God" (Ezekiel 28:12-13). The key to all this is that these prophets lamented the once greatness and righteousness of Babylon and Tyre, which they wasted on their desires to be powerful and wealthy. See for a further discussion of this our article on the name Hannibal.
Apparently, the translators who produced the trend-setting Septuagint figured this helel to be a person: none other than Venus, the morning star, and inserted the common epithet εωσφορος (eosphoros) into their text. This epithet consists of (1) an unusual form of the noun ηως, meaning dawn (or the name Ηως; the deity Eos or Aurora) and (2) the verb φορω meaning to bear or bring (see the names Bernice and Fortunatus).
When Jerome had a go at this text and translated it into Latin (the Vulgate), he too lunged for the common epithet of Venus, and wrote Lucifer (from the Latin noun lux, meaning light, and the verb fero, meaning to bring; they even had an adjective lux-fero, meaning light-bringing).
In the centuries that followed, somehow the name Lucifer became applied to satan, and herds of enthusiasts began to apply Isaiah 14 to the devil. But contemporary demonology is as botched as the devil himself, and most modern interpreters diligently steer clear of the association. The King James Version still printed Lucifer in their translation of Isaiah 14:12, but the Darby translation was the last to follow. Young reads "shining one"; the ASV has "day-star"; NIV reads "morning star" and NAS has the similar "star of the morning".
BDB Theological Dictionary deems helel to be an appellation that means shining one, "i.e. star of the morning". HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament back-tracks from the onomastic interpretation of the Septuagint and Vulgate, and declares Helel to be both a proper name and a hapax legomenon (a word of which only one recorded instance is known).
Here at Abarim Publications we feel that the whole onomastic approach is wrong, and HAW is doubly wrong. The word הילל occurs four more times in the Bible.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Helel
The "name" Helel is thought to come from the verb הלל (halal), meaning to shine:
The verb הלל (halal) means to shine (what exited stars do) or praise and cheer (what exited souls do). It may even denote too much of a good thing: to be raving mad. From the second sense derive: noun הליל (hillul), praise or rejoicing; noun מהלל (mahalel), agent or place of praise, and noun תהלה (tehilla), song of praise. From the third sense come nouns הוללה (holela) and הוללות (holelut), both meaning madness.
However, the form הילל occurs four additional times in the Bible (in Jeremiah 47:2, Ezekiel 21:12, Joel 1:5 and Zechariah 11:2), and the Masoretes punctuated these words nearly in the same way as our "name" Helel. The major translations consistently interpret these four instances of הילל as imperative forms of the verb ילל (yalal), meaning to howl or wail:
The verb ילל (yalal) means to howl or wail and describes a collective yet chaotic expression of dismay or lament. Nouns ילל (yelel) and יללה (yelala) mean a howling or a wailing.
The meaning of noun תולל (tolal) is a bit complicated but from form and context scholars have deducted that it means something like "they that made us wail."
Here at Abarim Publications, we guess that Isaiah 14:12 reads: "How you have fallen from heaven; Wail, son of the dawn!"