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Bible Q

What does the Escape-Goat, Azazel, mean in Leviticus 16:8?

And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:8 KJV)

The reading Azazel is found is several modern English translations: ESV NRSV. The KJV reading is retained in NIV NASB.

  • And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. (Leviticus 16:8 ESV)

  • but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. (16:10)

  • And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.(16:26)

The Hebrew here (lo-azazel  לַעֲזָאזֵֽל) is a unique term, but not as obscure as people claim. Those who claim that it is the name of a demon are usually unaware that in Hebrew (az עֵז) is just the standard word for goat and has just been used in Leviticus 16:5 for the two goats. Likewise there is nothing mysterious about -azel (אָזַל); this is a verb used for something disappearing entirely.For ease of reference this is the verb azel H235 in Strong’s Concordance based numbering per KJV text:

* Deu 32:36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, H235 and there is none shut up, or left.
* 1Sa 9:7 Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent H235 in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?
* Job 14:11 As the waters fail H235 from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
* Pro 20:14 It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone H235 his way, then he boasteth.
* Jer 2:36 Why gaddest thou about H235 so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria. (KJV)

So this is in old English, the Escape-Goat, Goat-azel, Goat-gone-away, or Gone Goat, Az-azel, not a mysterious name. And to confirm that the Greek Septuagint renders the verses  (en twi apopompaiwi,  ἕνα τῷ ἀποπομπαίῳ) “to that one to be led away”, clearly meaning the one goat to be led away. Likewise in Latin this became  “the other [lot] to the sent-away goat” (alteram capro emissario).

More importantly there is no theological or biblical reason for a goat to be given to a demon which still has no name, unless the Gone-Goat is given to a never before mentioned demon suspiciously also named Gone-Goat?

And from the Christian point of view where the goat to be sacrificed generally represents the obedient son of God and the sins of the people going away purchased by the sinless son’s sacrifice, the idea of the sins of the Israelites being carried by a gone-goat to a demon of the wilderness also named Gone Goat makes no sense whatsoever. The point of the original allegory of the sacrifice is not to give a wilderness demon a sin-eating role in the Day of Atonement. Any more than a sin-eating demon appeared in Gethsemane to eat the sins of mankind which Jesus was to bear on the cross.

This makes no sense either in the rabbinical view of sacrifice nor in any Christian interpretation.


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