“He is to take the two goats and place them before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then Aharon is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for Azazel. Aharon is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat whose lot fell to Azazel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.”-Leviticus 16:7-10
Today we’re going to take a look at a ritual that has mesmerized the Jewish people for centuries.
I’m talking about the Scapegoat Ritual and it is indeed fascinating and jam-packed with mysterious symbolism.
The ritual begins with Aaron taking two male goats and standing them outside the Tabernacle sanctuary.
He then casts lots over the goats.
The outcome of this will determine which goat will be offered up as a HATTA-AT to purify the sins of the people of Israel and which one will become the Scapegoat.
Let’s take a look at verse 8 which is arguably a real head-scratcher of a verse.
“Then Aharon is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel.“
Who or what in the world is AZAZEL?
Most Bibles will simply say “scapegoat” in place of AZAZEL but the original Hebrew is AZAZEL, so it’s the meaning of this word that we’re going to explore.
The truth is, the real meaning of AZAZEL has been the source of endless debates among both Jewish and gentile scholars.
Here are the two main interpretations offered up by scholars and why these interpretations are fallacious.
AZAZEL is an obscure Hebrew noun that means “total destruction”.
WHY THIS INTERPRETATION IS FALLACIOUS:
The ONLY other place the word AZAZEL can be found in Hebrew writings is in the Book of Enoch and it refers to the name of a demon. (For your reference, the Book of Enoch is NOT considered inspired literature. It belongs to those class of books scholars title Pseudepigraphic literature).
According to Rashi (a great Hebrew sage), AZAZEL means “rocky precipice”. The reason this interpretation came about is because by the time of Yeshua, the Scapegoat ritual changed to where the scapegoat was pushed backwards off of a steep cliff where it would fall to its death.
WHY THIS INTERPRETATION IS FALLACIOUS:
There is no command or requirement in the Scriptures that says we’re to push the Scapegoat off of a cliff. Also verse 10 makes it clear that the AZAZEL goat is to NOT be killed nor in anyway to be considered a sacrifice. It is assumed it will die out in the wilderness. This is in contrast to the other goat which will indeed be killed as a sacrifice.
Currently, the prevailing viewpoint is that AZAZEL was indeed a name assigned to an evil spirit or a demon that dwelled out in the wilderness.
The Scriptures do seem to paint this picture.
The notion being brought forth is that one of the goats will become a HOLY sacrifice to the Lord and the other will be sent off into an UNHOLY domain inhabited by this demon AZAZEL who may be representative of satan.
Let’s explore this idea of AZAZEL being the demon ruler of the desert wilderness.
Biblically speaking, the wilderness is often considered to be a place of wickedness, death, and darkness.
We often read of demons being cast out and driven into the dry and lifeless wilderness.
The question that comes to mind is this: Is AZAZEL just a word being used as a synonym for evil or is AZAZEL literally referring to the name of a specific demon?
Let’s take stock of what the Scriptures seem to be presenting to us here.
So two goats are picked.
One is for God and the other is for something that is against God or anti-God.
The goat set apart for God will be offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of Israel.
The other goat, called AZAZEL, that is set apart for the thing against God, will be used to carry away all of Israel’s sins and impurity.
The High Priest, as the mediator for Israel, will transfer all the sins of Israel onto the scapegoat and then the scapegoat will be sent far away into the wilderness.
Now what I’m going to share with you next is admittedly not Scripture but comes from ancient Hebrew folklore.
I’m sharing this information with you because it gives us great insight into the Jewish mindset concerning AZAZEL a full 100 years before Yeshua’s birth.
According to the Book of Enoch, AZAZEL was a fallen BENEI ELOHIM who had relations with human women.
Do you remember what BENEI ELOHIM means?
It means “a son of God”.
In other words, AZAZEL was a divine being who was exiled into the wilderness and believed to have jurisdiction over magic and sorcery.
So the idea being brought forth is that the Scapegoat represents the source of all evil.
Or you could say AZAZEL represents our chief adversary, the devil or satan himself.
Here’s the picture being portrayed.
Satan through his tactics, lies and deceptions tempts and causes Israel to sin and commit much iniquity.
However, the Lord takes all of Israel’s iniquity and sins and places them onto scapegoat who in turn carries those sins and iniquities away back into the devil’s domain.
Picture satan throwing a hand grenade into your living room with the firm intent of killing you and your family.
However, before the grenade explodes, God in His Perfect timing picks up the hand grenade and throws it back into the devil’s domain.
And here’s the thing.
God has rigged the hand grenade in such a way that there’s nothing satan can do about it.
He can’t throw it back and he can’t stop it from detonating.
It will explode in the devil’s domain.
This isn’t a perfect illustration but it does give us an idea of what the scapegoat ritual was all about.
The scapegoat ritual is an awesome demonstration of the invincibility of God and how no matter what satan cannot win over Him.
Via this ritual, the Lord mocks satan and lets him know that ultimately all the evil he had planned for others will be turned back on him.