Tuesday, February 10, 2015

#79. Azazel. The Scapegoat (Leviticus xvi.).

     The day of Atonement has always been held to be a very solemn and searching type of that One Sacrifice, once offered, for sin, by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Like all types of divine things, we shall find that it utterly breaks down in some features.  Yet even these are not to be regarded as faults, but inherent in the very nature of the case.  For example, observe how, in  Hebrews ix.,  the Holy Spirit lays hold upon several such inadequacies in type:--

     “Into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people” (Heb. ix. 7).
     “But Christ . . . . . by a greater and more perfect tabernacle . . . . . neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place” (Heb.ix.11,12).

     Here we have heaven itself instead of the tabernacle made with hands;  here we have “His own blood” instead of the blood of bulls and goats;  and here we have no need for an offering for His own sins, for this High Priest was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.

     The immediate cause for the great symbolic rite of the Day of Atonement was the action of Nadab and Abihu in offering strange fire unto the Lord.  While access to the presence of the Lord is a most blessed privilege of the redeemed, unholy familiarity must not be allowed, lest it breed contempt, and consequently

     “The Lord spake unto Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the Lord, and died:  and the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark;  that he die not” (Lev. xvi. 1, 2).

     “That he die not” has allusion to the fate of the two sons, Nadab and Abihu.  It is repeated in  xvi. 13, where, in contrast with the strange fire that called down judgment, Aaron was to take

     “A censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense, beaten small, … that he die not” (Lev.xvi.12,13).

     Our earlier studies of the offerings will have prepared us to appreciate more readily a good deal that is written in  Leviticus xvi.,  and as the scapegoat has become the most controversial subject in the passage, we shall at once devote ourselves to its consideration.

The   goat   for   Azazel.

     The peculiar feature of this atonement is that, not one, but two, goats are presented before the Lord, one being subsequently slain and the other, the living goat sent away and let go in a land not inhabited.  The margin of the A.V. draws attention to the fact that the word rendered “scapegoat” is the Hebrew word Azazel, and further investigation shows that, placed in juxtaposition, are the expressions “one lot for the Lord” and “the other lot for Azazel”, which has lent colour to the suggestion that Azazel must be a person.  We do not think that it would be edifying to indicate the many different explanations of the allocations of these lots that have, from time to time, been put forward, but we give a few in order that the reader may be able to judge of the matter for himself:--

     NEWBERRY  gives a note explanatory of Azazel, “Heb. Hazah-zeel, from hez a goat, and ahzal to depart”.

     ROTHERHAM  says:  “Azazel is a title of an evil being, opposed to Jehovah, to whom, on the great day of propitiation, the live goat was sent, not as a sacrifice to Satan, but rather because of the death of the other goat, in virtue of which he cries aloud to Satan, ‘Slay me if thou durst, I claim to live!  I have already died in my companion whose death is accounted mine’.”

     THE OXFORD GESENIUS  translates Azazel, “entire removal”, which is very similar to the view of Tholuck and Bahr, who take the word as a form of azal, to remove.

     Another view is that the goat of Azazel is not a type of Christ at all.  This interpretation holds that it symbolizes the unbeliever, who is sent away from the presence of the Lord bearing his sin, and Barabbas is mentioned as the antitype of the goat whose life was spared.  Taking this last view first, we cannot accept it because of the simple statement in  Lev. xvi. 5:  “Take two kids of the goats for a sin offering”.  Surely, if the Lord intended us to understand that only one of the goats was a type of the Lord’s offering, this statement would have been qualified.  The fact that no one knew which goat would be for the Lord and which for Azazel necessitated that they should both be without blemish, and therefore types of Christ.

The   scapegoat.

     Let us now examine the Scripture afresh, and go back, beyond modern speculation, to the interpretations of earlier times.  The Latin Vulgate renders Azazel by Hircus emmisarius, which means “a goat for sending away”.  The LXX translates Azazel by apopompaios, which is a word made up of apo, “away” and  pempo, “to send”.  In non-biblical usage this word meant “the turner away”, “the averter”, and carried with it a good deal of superstition, but there is no reason for rejecting the simple meaning of the LXX, “the sent away”.  Now “the goat for sending away” is the literal meaning of the Hebrew words Az Azel.   Az is a Hebrew word for “goat” and is so translated in the A.V. fifty-five times.  In five other places it is translated “she goat” and once “kid”.  Some find difficulty here, as the “kids” taken in  Lev. xvi. 5  are not “she goats”.  On the other hand there are two words available when “he goats” are to be specified, attud (Numb.vii.17 & in sixteen other places), & tsaphir (II Chron. xxix. 21 and in four other places).

     The words used in  Leviticus xvi.  are more general, and do not constitute a legitimate objection.  Azel is the verb, “to send away”.  With the simple etymology of the word before us, coupled with the ancient testimony of the Septuagint, of Symmachus, of Aquila and of the Latin Vulgate, we believe the A.V. is correct and that the goat for Azazel is the goat for sending away, the “escape” goat, the one set free.

     This live goat is atoned for.  Verse 10 reads, “to make an atonement with him”.  There are some who uphold this rendering, but as the same preposition is used in verses 6, 16 & 18 it must be rendered similarly, “to make an atonement for him”.  The note in The Companion Bible on  Lev. xvi. 10  is as follows:--

     “ ‘With him’, Heb. ‘for him’.  See verses 16, 18.  The scapegoat was not used to make atonement, but atonement was made for it.  Hence he was to be ‘let go’ free.  See verse 22.”

     The two goats are therefore to be considered together as exhibiting God’s method of dealing with His people’s sin.  The idea expressed by some, that the live goat symbolizes those whose sins are unforgiven is disposed of by the following facts:--

     First, the goat on whom the Lord’s lot fell is killed;  its blood makes atonement.

     “Because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins” (Lev. xvi. 16).

     “In all their sins.”  This must not be minimized.  Atonement has been made concerning all the sins of the people.

     Secondly we read:--

“And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place” (Lev.xvi.20).

     This is a reference to verse 16, and assures us that the work of atonement was “finished”, “ended”, “accomplished”, as the word kalah is translated.  Even in dealing with types of the offering of Christ, it is a serious thing to introduce any measure of uncertainty.


     “When he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place . . . . . he shall bring the live goat . . . . . and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat” (Lev. xvi. 20, 21).

     By comparing verse 16 with verse 21 we find that atonement was made for Israel’s transgressions in all their sins, and confession was made of all these transgressions in all their sins.  These confessed sins were forgiven sins, and the whole point of the passage turns upon confession.   Psalm xxxii. &  Psalm li.  bear eloquent and moving testimony to the need for the confession of sins, even though they be atoned for.

     “When I kept silence my bones waxed old . . . . . I acknowledged my sins . . . . . I said I will confess my transgressions” (Psa. xxxii. 1-5).

     “Wash me … cleanse me … for I acknowledge my transgressions” (Psa.li.2,3).

     “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I.John.i.9).

     Some have asked whether, if the epistles assure us that God has forgiven us all trespasses, it is of faith that we ask to be forgiven.  The Scriptures written for our learning do not teach us to ask for forgiveness, but it is for our moral good that, while rejoicing in the freedom of His grace, we nevertheless confess our sinnership.  It is just as true for us as for Israel that we should both confess and forsake all known evil (Psa. xxviii. 13), otherwise we may come under the judgment of  Romans vi.,  and be found teaching that, because we are under grace, we may continue in sin.

     Fourthly, these atoned-for and confessed sins are now sent away:--

     “Confess over him . . . . . and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness . . . . . unto a land not inhabited:  and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness” (Lev. xvi. 21).

     Jewish tradition has unwarrantably mutilated this part of the inspired law.  We read in their account that the live goat was taken to some precipitous place and there dashed to pieces down the rocky slope.  Sadly enough, some Christian expositors have enlarged upon this imagination as though it were resident in the type.  The truth is all the other way.  There can be no second sacrifice for the same sins in a type like this.  The live goat carries away confessed sins, atoned sins, into a land of “separation”.  The live goat is “let go”.

     In  Leviticus xiv.  we have the same words used in connection with another double symbol.  There, two birds, one dead and one living, instead of two goats, one dead and one living, the words “let loose” and “let go” in  Lev. xiv. 7 & 53  being the same as are used of the live goat.  The living bird is dipped in the blood of the bird that was slain, and then “let loose”.  In the case of the live goat, sins that have been atoned for are confessed over it instead, and it, too, is then “let go”.

     The word “forgiveness” in  Eph. i. 7  is aphesis, which, in works outside the Scriptures,  is variously translated “let go”, “to set free”, “quittance”, “discharge”, “divorce”.   Luke iv. 18  this word “forgiveness” occurs twice in the phrases “deliverance to the captive”, “to set at liberty them that are bruised”.

     The scapegoat seems to be in the mind’s eye of the prophets when they wrote:--

     “I will forgive their iniquity (the goat slain) and I will remember their sins no more” (the goat set free) (Jer.xxxi.34).

     “Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity? (the goat slain) … Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (the goat set free) (Micah vii. 18, 19).

     “Thou hast, in love to my soul, delivered it from the pit of corruption (the goat slain), for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back” (the goat set free) (Isa. xxxviii. 17).

     We have touched upon the symbol and pledge of resurrection, in the live goat, for though it may be deduced, it is not prominent, the complete removal of sin being the immediate purpose of this glorious type.  Let us all thank God for the sacrifice slain — let us not omit praise for Azazel, “the goat that was sent away”.

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