In Leviticus 16, we read of the sacrificial offering on the Day of Atonement. Among other sacrifices, the high priest would take two goats for atonement of the people. One, he would kill as blood sacrifice on the altar, and the other, he would transfer the sins of the people onto the goat by confession and the laying on of his hands. This action of transferring the bloodguilt onto the “other” is where we got the concept of “scapegoat.”
But that is not the most fascinating piece of this puzzle. For in verses 8–10 and 26, the priest is told to send the goat “away into the wilderness to Azazel” (v. 10)! You read that right: Azazel.
Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 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.
The name Azazel is not explained anywhere in the Old Testament, but we’ve heard that name before in the book of Enoch. Azazel was one of the lead Watchers who led the rebellion of 200 Watchers to mate with the daughters of men. And that Watcher was considered bound in the desert of Dudael.
The natural question arises whether this is the same sacrifice to goat demons that Yahweh condemns in the very next chapter in Leviticus:
So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore.
But a closer look dispels such concerns. Read on. Continue reading