The Inspiration Behind The Lucifer TV Show
Lucifer is one of the best shows on Netflix. It follows a devilish character who leaves the pits of hell for the city of Los Angeles. Who knew the adventures of Satan in the real world would include him owning a nightclub and helping the LAPD fight crime.
While we wait for season 5, check out the surprising inspirations behind the show. What are biblical allusions connected to Cain and Abel have in common with Uriel? Is the flaming sword a real thing? Is Azrael a real angel? If so, what’s the story behind Azrael Blade? Prepare yourself to be enlightened.
The Lucifer we’re talking about, distinctly different from the one in the Good Book, has always been an important and potent character in the DCU. That makes him an ideal candidate for a sinful small-screen adaptation but who could have guessed it would take the form of a police procedural?!
While his biblical origins are obvious, Lucifer Samael Morningstar was taken from the pages of Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman series of comics and then fleshed out in Mike Carey’s spin-off really is his own brand of the beast. So the show is based on a comic book series and inspired by the bible.
So, in a way that would bolster his infernal ego, let’s start by taking a closer look at the nuances of the main character himself. It seems that the series is mostly based on the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible references, especially judging by the choice of names for many of the main characters. You know, Samael, Gabriel, Michael.
And obviously that includes Lucifer himself, but our Lucy is more a mixture that combines characteristics from different religions to give us a singular mythological figure. Lucifer, The Devil, and Satan are typically regarded as one and the same but interpreted through the lens of different languages and religions.
Though some see them as three distinctly different beings. Our biggest hint about how Lucifer combines these three elements comes in the very first episode, where we get one of the most obvious biblical references in the form of the registration on Lucifer’s classic ‘62 Chevrolet Corvette - the fallen one.
In the Christan Bible and the Old Testament, the fallen angel associated with the Devil is often regarded as Satan which was more of a title than a character. However, it’s in the Hebrew Bible that we get the title "son of the morning", an angel who was "cast down to the earth” because of his misbehavior and rebellion against God.
The Hebrew “Son of the morning” made its way into Latin and was used in the King James Version English translation of the Bible as a proper name - Lucifer. In that way, Lucifer is so good they named him twice since his last name in the series is also a Latin translation of Lucifer’s name. But, there’s another peculiar detail about his middle name - Samael.
In the Hebrew Bible, Samael resembles the Christian concept of Satan to some extent but the key difference is that he is not regarded as pure evil - he actually does good in his role assigned by God: that of punishing sinners. And we’ve seen him doing a pretty good job of this for 4 seasons straight.
The meaning of Samael’s name really has a striking resemblance to Luci’s onscreen nature and is the key to understanding his complex character. The last two letters “el”, means literally “of God”, which explains why almost all archangels have this character in their names
It’s the first two letters, Samech and Mem that are the most meaningful here, in that they stand for “bitter beverage or poison”. You might naturally think that Samael could be thought of as “the poison of God”, but depending on the context this phrase could mean “drug”, “potion” or even “medicine”.
The duality of poison and potion perfectly fits the Lucifer of the TV series. Though he’s still the DEVIL, by all means, he is also the main remedy to many evils, taking on one of the hardest tasks placed upon him in the series - restoring justice and healing society by punishing culprits. Just as Samael should!
While we’re on that first episode, let’s look at one more biblical reference - Delilah. If you needed a quick recap, in the Bible, Delilah was Samson’s lover and betrayed the Hebrew champion for a quick buck by revealing the secret of his stunning strength and cutting off his hair.
POP CULTURE INSPIRATIONS
In the series, the death of Lucifer’s friend and singer Delilah actually inverts the biblical myth because in this case, she’s the one who was betrayed. But the whole thing has a shockingly unexpected connection between the King of Hell and the Thin White Duke himself.
That’s right, I’m talking about David Bowie! When Lucifer finds out that Delilah was murdered by her manager so he could launch her music to the top charts because of the “grieving audience” phenomenon, Luci remarks a similar boost happened with David Bowie’s album Blackstar after the singer passed away.
But there’s another connection between the Prince of Lies and the Goblin King! While we’ve already mentioned that the series is based on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, did you know that Gaiman drew his inspiration for Lucifer from Ziggy Stardust? He revealed all to the Chicago Tribune:
“The young, folk singer-period Bowie was the inspiration. I imagined Lucifer as a junkie angel, and young Bowie was the closest we got”.
LUCIFER BIBLICAL REFERENCES
So many deeply meaningful connections and we haven’t even got past the first episode! But let’s depart from the comics for a moment and explore some of the more obscure biblical references from the show. Season Two brings up the well-known story of Cain and Abel long before we actually meet the brothers themselves on the show.
This Old Testament tale from the book of Genesis has been incredibly influential on much of literature over the years, with allusions in art as widespread and highbrow as Claudius killing his brother the King in Shakespeare's Hamlet to the Lion King where Scar kills Mufasa.
So it’s no wonder that Lucifer and Uriel’s dynamic is reminiscent of this established story. Since there’s no need to go over this well-known fable again, let’s talk a bit more about the more obscure story connected to Uriel and Lucifer - Azrael's blade. In Lucifer, Uriel reveals that he borrowed his sword from Azrael - the angel of death.
It’s worth mentioning that Azrael is actually a milder version of death, especially compared to other common depictions of angels of death from various other sources. Azrael’s traditional duty as an angelic being is to help transport the souls of the deceased after death, more like the Ancient Greek figure of Charon (who also features in Dante’s Divine Comedy).
Though there’s no direct reference to Azrael’s blade in Biblical texts, the personification of Death is described as holding a sword in the Book of Revelation. The angel of Death is also often depicted in pop culture holding a scythe which may also be related to Azrael’s blade. But let’s get back to Uriel, who brought the blade to Earth.
Uriel has had a variety of roles in his depictions in pop culture, but biblical tradition he’s seen as an angel of wisdom. Lucifer adds to this long resume by giving him another job. He welcomes the souls of the dead and greets all those who are righteous which sounds like more of Azrael’s Angel of Death deal, right?
But Uriel’s name holds the key to unlocking the reason as to why he’s the one who brings the blade to Earth. Uriel means “God is my Light” and he turns out to be the one who brings just the FIRST part of what turns out to be a FLAMING sword.
If you’re up on your Old Testament (or you’ve just finished watching Good Omens), you may recall that we also see flaming swords in the book Genesis where, as Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, it says that God “placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life”.
So these mighty flaming swords DO exist in the Bible but there’s no discussion of a special one that one was broken into 3 pieces. In that case, it seems like the writers invented this MacGuffin in order to make the plot a bit more intriguing for us.
Let's not forget, though, that Samael, who is ALSO often regarded as an angel of death, holds a sword of his own. Yep, Samael was also there at the Garden of Eden and is ALSO also known as a consort of Adam's first wife, Lilith who… we’ll get to later.
Suffice to say, Eve wasn’t Adam’s first rodeo… if you know what I mean. Some Hebrew biblical narratives recount Lilith and Samael created a whole bunch of demons the old-fashioned way; including a son Asmodai, the so-called “Sword of Samael”.
The name could come from his father’s Kabbalic name, "severity of God". Lilith isn’t just some fringe belief, though, and also comes up in the series. Eve explains that Lilith is Adam’s first wife and is the mother of demons, including Mazikeen.
But Eve also goes on to say that “Lilith tamed the beasts of the night. Stupid, perfect Lilith”. Lilith has her roots in Jewish mythology, described as a dangerous demon of the night whose aspect represents lust and domination or control over men.
There’s no mentioning of Lilith taming anything in theology but we can assume that, since she’s the mother of demons, it’s sort of her job to keep them under control in Hell. In episode 11 of season 1, Amenadiel opens up to Maze and gleefully admits that he’s somehow at fault for THAT story about Lucifer and the goat.
We were left wondering what that hilarious story could be, and the next episode where Lucifer and Chloe have to investigate the murder of a member of a satanic church gave us a hint. The members of the cult seemingly worshipped the Devil, representing him in a fashion that resembled a goat.
This looks very much like a medieval personification of Baphomet, a historical point of confusion until modern times, which still annoys Lucifer no end. Lucifer’s brother being the one who convinced everyone to associate the image of the Devil with that of a goat.
It does a great job of tying what you could say is a plot hole in REALITY, as there’s no indication of any connection between the goat and the Devil in any Biblical sources. So if that’s not from the Bible, how did this goat-headed man come to be such an iconic symbol of evil?
THE HORNS OF LUCIFER
The story dates back to 1120s and to French chronicles of the Crusades... but don’t fall asleep just yet as it isn’t all that obscure! If you are a fan of such scholarly works as Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code or National Treasure with Nicolas Cage, you’re probably well familiar with the Knights Templar.
This used to be one of the most powerful Catholic military orders and was for many years the main Christian source of financial authority for the Church. Furthermore, all SORTS of conspiracy theories swirl around their secretive activities.
The Order became so mighty and had such a large membership that various rumors about the source of the power started to circulate, and one of those rumors was that they had strayed from the church and started worshipping Baphomet.
True or not, the order was accused of idolatry and the theory goes that since King Philip IV of France allegedly owed huge debts to the Knights Templar, he decided to use the rumors to dissolve the Knights... and sneakily erase his debt.
And that’s where the idea of the devil and the image of Baphomet got incontrovertibly linked in people’s collective consciousness. Though the series is already PACKED with great mythical and biblical references, we can only guess at what new characters and stories may be introduced in the final season.