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<< Leviticus 16:20   Leviticus 16:22 >>


Leviticus 16:21-22

In Colossians 2, Paul warns the churches at Colossae and Laodicea against any philosophy or system of beliefs—specifically mentioning “the tradition of men”—that detracts from Christ's sovereign position and role under the Father (verses 4, 8-9). He points out that the brethren there were already “complete in Him” (verse 10). This does not mean that they had already achieved spiritual perfection or that their salvation was assured, but that they had no need of anything supplementary to what was already available in Christ.

Many see Satan's binding (Revelation 20:1-3) as the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, yet if these Colossians were still awaiting Satan's binding—after having been resurrected to glory, no less!—before their sins were completely removed from view, how could the apostle write that they were already “complete” in Christ? On the contrary, those who come under Christ's blood are not awaiting the final resolution of their transgressions when Satan is bound; their previous sins have already been completely taken care of.

Paul continues:

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

Notice the definitive wording. There is no hint here—or anywhere else—that God's people are awaiting Satan's binding so their sins can finally be expiated. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and those wages have already been paid in full. Therefore, we are alive in Christ now, and not waiting for an imagined final payment on the debt when Satan is bound.

The phrase “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements” in Colossians 2:14 is often misinterpreted as meaning that God's law has been done away, yet in the Greek sentence structure, it is parallel with “having forgiven you all trespasses.” The “handwriting of requirements” is the written record of violations against God's ordinances. Paul says that this “handwriting”—the record of sins, not the laws—was expunged, reiterating that our sins have been forgiven. Other translations say He “erased,” “blotted out,” or “destroyed” it. The record is completely obliterated, in God's reckoning.

Verse 14 says that Christ has “taken it out of the way.” Strong's Concordance states that the Greek word for “taken,” airo, means “to lift up; by implication, to take up or away; . . . by Hebraism to expiate sin.” It means the same as the Hebrew word used for “bearing” in Leviticus 16:22, nasa' (Strong's #5375).

In addition, airo is in the perfect tense, indicating action completed in the past. The live goat lifts up, carries, and takes away the sins placed on its head by the high priest (Leviticus 16:21-22). In Colossians, Christ is declared to have lifted up, taken away, and expiated the record that was against us—an exact match to what is said about the goat of departure.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Three)



Leviticus 16:21-22

The releasing of the azazel into the wilderness (Leviticus 20:21-22) is commonly—but incongruously—linked with the binding of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3). This linkage is problematic because the account in Revelation makes no mention of sins—whether mankind's or Satan's—being placed on Satan's head. Instead, the express purpose for his binding is “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished” (verse 3). He is bound to cut off his influence, not to provide any sort of expiation.

In addition, since the book of Revelation is generally dated around AD 90-100, John's vision did not occur until the very end of the apostolic generation. Earlier, Jude had written to exhort the beleaguered first-century church “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3; emphasis ours throughout). “The faith” is a specific faith, indicating a well-defined body of beliefs. However, when Jude wrote his epistle, Satan's binding had not yet been foretold. It was not revealed to John until after “the faith” had already been delivered to the saints.

Similarly, Paul writes to Timothy that the “Holy Scriptures”—which, at that point, would have consisted of what is generally called the Old Testament—“are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15). Even without the book of Revelation, the first generation of Christians had all they needed to understand God's plan.

The matter of how sin is atoned for is at the very core of being “wise for salvation,” and Paul's words indicate that “wisdom” was already available from 1) what had been written before, and 2) God-given faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, the apostolic generation understood salvation—including the Day of Atonement and how sins are expiated—without the revelation that Satan will be bound. The former is not dependent on the latter.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Three)



Leviticus 16:20-22

The unique offering on the Day of Atonement for the sins of Israel consisted of two goats (Leviticus 16:5). The first goat was killed, and the high priest cleansed the sanctuary and the holy objects with its blood. The second goat—the azazel, the goat of departure—had all the sins of the people laid on its head, bearing them to an uninhabited land, a land “cut off.”

Jesus Christ fulfilled the roles of both sacrificial animals: He died to provide a covering of blood and open the way to the Father, and He also bore the sins of many, taking them to the land of forgetfulness—the grave. Isaiah 53 prophesied that the Messiah would accomplish this. Scripture is silent about sins being placed on Satan's head or his bearing sins in any way.

The name of this holy day derives from the Hebrew yom kippur. Kippur means “expiation,” while its root, kaphar, can be translated as “cleanse,” “disannul,” “forgive,” “pardon,” “purge,” “put off,” and “cover.” It is “the Day of Atonement [kippur], to make atonement [kaphar] for you before the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:28). Leviticus 16:30 summarizes: “For on that day the priest shall make atonement [kaphar] for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” The holy day deals with providing a solution to the people's defilement—and, therefore, separation from God—through cleansing and removal of sins. As Leviticus 16:21-22 makes plain, the ceremony involves the sins of the people, not of Satan.

The identity of the “goat of departure” has been mired in controversy, yet even without poring over the ritual's details, we can see that the name of the day indicates only one logical way this can take place. The expiation of mankind's sins—the atoning, cleansing, disannulling, purging, and putting away of sins—is what the Savior does, by the very definition of the word, rather than what the Adversary does.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Three)



Leviticus 16:21-22

Scripture plainly teaches that Christ bears our sins (Isaiah 53:4, 11-12; I Peter 2:24; Hebrews 9:28). Yet, we introduce grave error if we gloss over either the Bible's general teaching on sin or whose sins, in particular, are atoned for in Leviticus 16.

One error lies in blaming Satan for the sins of humanity, then interpreting the azazel to represent Satan bearing mankind's sins. Apocryphal tradition holds that all sin should be ascribed to a fallen angel named Azazel, and even today it is commonly taught that the real cause—the actual author—of human sin is Satan. However, the Word of God shows that this is not true.

There is no question that Satan deceives (Revelation 12:9). He broadcasts his attitudes, and we all have tuned in to them. Ephesians 2:2 establishes that an evil spirit influence is at work in the world today. Paul calls the Devil “the god of this age” (II Corinthians 4:4), and John declares that “the whole world lies under [his] sway” (I John 5:19).

However, “there is a spirit in man” that is the basis of mankind's reason and free moral agency (Job 32:8; I Corinthians 2:11). This biblically revealed truth means that, while a malignant spirit can affect the spirit in man, it does not force a person to act. This outside spirit gives people terrible information on which to base their decisions, but God says they have enough evidence of His power and divine nature to make them without excuse (Romans 1:20).

The ancient Israelites did not have God's Spirit, yet He still set life and death before them, commanding them to choose (see Deuteronomy 30:15-20). They had only the spirit in man, but the power to choose was still theirs. Earlier, God had warned Israel, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them” (Deuteronomy 11:16; emphasis ours). God's admonition shows that if they allowed themselves to be deceived, it was due to their not “tak[ing] heed.” They could blame only themselves. Satan exerts influence, sometimes powerfully, but the responsibility to choose life still belongs to the individual.

When we sin, it is not because Satan authors it. James 1:14 says that we sin when we are drawn away by our desires, which give birth to sin (verse 15). We sin because our hearts are not yet like God's heart, which cannot be tempted. The core problem is not what Satan does—though it is certainly problematic—but the desperately evil human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). The solution is a new, spiritual heart like Christ's (Ezekiel 36:26).

The common view of Leviticus 16 holds that the goat being led away and released is a type of what happens to Satan. However, neither Satan's binding (at the beginning of the Millennium; Revelation 20:1-3) nor his being cast into the Lake of Fire (sometime after the Millennium; Revelation 20:10) corresponds with the azazel being set free. While not every symbol will necessarily match up in a spiritual fulfillment, it is hard to see how these things even begin to match up. The goat is commanded to be released (Leviticus 16:22), while the fallen archangel is confined, restrained, and (later) cast into fire—completely dissimilar actions. In short, there is no scriptural support for Satan fulfilling the part the live goat plays.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat—Satan or Christ? (Part Two)



Leviticus 16:21-22

The sins in view are human sins, yet some propose that what is being expiated is Satan's portion of human sin. In other words, in any given sin, the individual plays a part and Satan plays a part, and thus God must deal with Satan's sins after the first goat is offered to cover humanity's sins.

However, we need to double-check that math very carefully. The Bible says nothing about a co-sinner. God does not split up the death penalty, such that a person earns part of the death penalty, while Satan earns the rest.

Leviticus 5:17 says, “If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity” (emphasis ours). Sinning in ignorance—including transgressing due to deception—does not mean that less of a sin has been committed against God's holy, spiritual law. Regardless of what led to the infraction, when a sin is committed, the sinner earns the wages of sin. There is no concept of a partial sin or divided guilt in the Scriptures. If a sin involves two beings, then each has committed sin, and both earn the death penalty, as in the case of Adam and Eve (cf. I Timothy 2:13-14). That is the correct biblical math.

Think about this in terms of money. We each incur our own debt when we sin, and the debt is not shared, no matter how we incurred it and no matter who said what. If a generous benefactor pays our debt for us, then we are in the clear. Our debt's cancellation, though, is in no way pertinent to the slick salesman who suggested that we take it on in the first place. The deceiver is responsible for his lies, and we are responsible if we listen to him and make ourselves indebted.

The principle of “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) is why the Bible places such emphasis on drawing near to God, resisting Satan, loving the truth, and guarding ourselves against deception. The danger is not that Satan will make us sin, as he cannot force anybody to sin. The danger is that we will sin and incur the death penalty by not taking heed. That God gives us so many admonitions means that we incur guilt when we let that happen—it is ours, not Satan's.

Symbolically, to represent the guilty party, the substitutionary animal has sins placed on it that are not its own. Obviously, Satan has his own guilt, so he cannot be a substitute for anyone else. The Bible says these are human sins, and it is fallacious to try to explain away its clear statements.

In addition, if Satan were responsible for all human sin, then what would be the need to show a symbolic transference taking place? Under this assumption, the sins of mankind are already on his head! His guilt has never left him, so it does not need to be placed back on him. Yet, the Atonement ritual specifies that the sins be placed on an innocent party's head—one that is not already responsible for those sins. At every turn, Satan fails to fit into what Leviticus 16 says.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat—Satan or Christ? (Part Two)



Leviticus 16:20-22

The entire sacrificial system pointed to Jesus Christ in some way; it was a “tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). This certainly includes all the instructions in Leviticus 16. There is a pitfall, however, in trying to make the sequence of the ritual precisely fit the timing of Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection. This is crucial to understand because some identify the azazel as Satan on the assumption that the role of the azazel can only be fulfilled after Jesus was resurrected.

The assumption is this: In Leviticus 16, the Lord's goat is slain to make payment for sin, understood to be a type of Christ's sacrifice. After His resurrection, He ascended to heaven to take on the role of High Priest. This line of reason leads to the conclusion that, since the first goat represented the slain Christ, and the high priest represented the resurrected Christ, then the azazel must represent someone entirely different from Christ.

Yet, even though the entire sacrificial system pointed to Christ, the order in which He fulfilled things did not match the instructions given to Israel. He completely fulfilled the essence of those instructions, but it is impossible—and unnecessary—to fit the timeline of the reality into that of the shadow, the type. We will follow a brief tangent to see this, taking as our example God's instruction concerning the consecration of the Aaronic priesthood.

Exodus 29 provides a specific order in which the various sacrifices for dedicating priests to their office were to be carried out. Performed first, the sin offering acknowledged sin and made symbolic atonement before anything else was done. Next came the whole burnt offering, representing a life given in complete service to God (different from a life sacrificed in payment for sin). Offered with the burnt offering was a grain offering, which similarly represents a life given—lived—in complete devotion to fellow man.

Though this is not a complete expounding of Exodus 29, the order of these elements teaches that we cannot approach God until payment for sin has been made (sin offering), and that our highest priority after our justification is wholehearted devotion to God (burnt offering). Only after that can we truly love our fellow man and be devoted to him (grain offering).

In contrast, Jesus' fulfillment of these sacrifices occurred in a different order. He did not become the sin offering until after He had lived a life of complete devotion to God and man—that is, after He had already fulfilled the burnt and grain offerings. Similarly, He did not qualify to be our High Priest until after He had fulfilled the burnt offering, grain offering, sin offering, and other offerings like the Wavesheaf and the Passover. What we see is that the actual sequence in which Christ fulfilled all these things was not identical to the sequence given to Israel in Exodus 29. However, He fulfilled their spiritual essence, which the Father accepted.

Returning to the Atonement ritual, we observe the same thing. The instructions begin with the high priest entering the Holy Place (Leviticus 16:3-4). If, in interpreting the ritual's symbols, we require this chapter to follow the sequence that took place in Christ's fulfillment, we are immediately faced with an impossibility: He did not qualify to be High Priest until after His earthly work was completely finished—after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension (see Hebrews 5:9-10). Therefore, trying to match the Leviticus 16 instructions with what actually happened leaves us starting out with Christ's earthly work already complete and after His installation as High Priest.

It is not necessary to match up the order of these things, nor is it required that the azazel's antitype be fulfilled only after Christ's resurrection. Forcing a rigid, sequential fulfillment of Leviticus 16 results only in tying ourselves in symbolic knots.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Three)



Leviticus 16:8-22

The typical approach to this chapter hinges on defining the word azazel, the Hebrew word for the second goat, often translated as “the scapegoat.” However, there is no obvious definition scripture for the word.

Scholars are little help in arriving at a definition, for scholars can be found to support whatever view one desires. A typical explanatory note is found in The Comprehensive Commentary of the Holy Bible, which gives this unrooted viewpoint: “See different opinion in Bochart. Spencer, after the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians, thinks Azazel is the name of the devil, and so Rosenmuller, whom see.” Yet, if the wise of this age cannot give scriptural backing for their views, of what value is their scholarship? Are the “oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians” based on the Word of God or dependent upon the traditions of men?

Many have based their understanding of Leviticus 16 on tradition, which claims that azazel is the name of a fallen angel. The original, 58-lesson Ambassador College Correspondence Course says this about azazel: “Ancient Jewish literature knew the Devil by this name. It is, for example, spelled Azalzal and Azael in apocryphal literature” (Lesson 37, p. 4, 1965; emphasis ours).

The updated, 32-lesson edition contains a few more sources (Lesson 37, p. 10, 1986). However, the authors do not use the Bible in their evidence, as the Bible does not identify the live goat as a type of Satan. Instead, the authors quote Arabic tradition that azazel is the name of a demon. They quote a book entitled Islam and Its Founder. They also quote a couple of Protestant theologians on their respective opinions.

The real bombshell, though, is this excerpt:

Let's notice a modern Jewish commentary that makes it clear that the azazel goat represented Satan the devil: "Azazel . . . was probably a demonic being. . . . Apocryphal Jewish works, composed in the last few centuries before the Christian era, tell of angels who were lured . . . into rebellion against God. In these writings, Azazel is one of the two leaders of the rebellion. And posttalmudic documents tell a similar story about two rebel angels, Uzza and Azzael—both variations of the name Azazel. These mythological stories, which must have been widely known, seem to confirm the essentially demonic character of the old biblical Azazel" (Union of American Hebrew Congregations, The Torah-a Modern Commentary, page 859). (Emphasis ours; ellipses theirs).

This last source is a devastating admission. Jewish tradition is used as the final and most important proof, yet its foundation is “apocryphal Jewish works, composed in the last few centuries before the Christian era.” The best-known apocryphal Jewish work from that era is the Book of Enoch.

The Book of Enoch bears the name of one of God's faithful servants, yet it was actually written by individuals during the intertestamental period (circa 300-100 BC). While containing biblical themes and names, it also includes many things that directly contradict the rest of the biblical canon.

In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is a fallen angel who teaches mankind unrighteous ways. As a result, he is bound and sentenced to the desert forever. It also contains another tradition typically taught on the Day of Atonement—that Satan is the author of human sin: “And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.” In other words, the ascribing of all human sin to a fallen angel is from the very same Jewish tradition that identifies the azazel as a demon. Yet neither aspect of that tradition is backed up by Scripture.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat—Satan or Christ? (Part One)



Leviticus 16:20-22

Most of what happened with the first goat and its blood was out of view of the congregation, as it was used to "make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness" (verse 16). More meaningful to the people was what happened to the second goat, “the goat of departure,” which they could watch as it carried their sins out of sight.

One of the best-known Messianic prophecies provides an unambiguous fulfillment of the live goat's bearing of sins:

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. . . . He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:4, 11-12; emphasis ours)

Scripture also describes the Messiah's “bearing” of transgression as acceptance, forgiveness, and pardon (Job 42:8-9; Psalm 25:18; 28:9; 32:1, 5; 85:2; Micah 7:18). The Hebrew word means “to lift up,” “to carry,” and “to take away.” It is tied to forgiveness because it is as if He carries the sins out of sight. While the Bible also uses it to refer to what men do—such as “carry” (Genesis 47:30) and “forgive” (Genesis 50:17)—it is never used to refer to Satan.

Christ's bearing of sins goes beyond paying the penalty, fitting perfectly with one of the meanings of azazel, “complete removal” (compare Psalm 103:12). In Isaiah 53:12, the bearing is linked with intercession. They are not the same thing, but the parallelism indicates that an active work occurs in carrying the sins until they are completely removed from view, figuratively “as far as the east is from the west.”

We see the same thing in the New Testament. I Peter 2:24 says Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” Not only did He bear the sins, but He did it by Himself, just as the azazel did (Leviticus 16:22). He did not share that role. The author writes in Hebrews 9:28, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.” His single and singular sacrifice both cleansed the sanctuary and bore away the sins of many.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat—Satan or Christ? (Part Two)



Leviticus 16:20-21

A common view of the azazel goat—sometimes translated as "scapegoat"—is that it represents Satan, on whose head the sins of humanity will be placed. However, the source of this interpretation is the apocryphal Book of Enoch.

In the Book of Enoch, “Azazel” is the name of a demon blamed for all the sins of mankind (Enoch 10:8). He is not the chief demon—not actually Satan (Enoch 6:3; 9:7). Azazel is bound and cast into darkness, confined to the desert until the day of judgment:

And again the Lord said to Raphael: 'Bind Azâzêl hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dûdâêl, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light. And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire. (Enoch 10:4-6)

Bizarrely, all of humanity's sins are ascribed to this demon, not to the chief demon, yet in Leviticus 16, the sins are allegedly placed on Satan's head. If this demon is the fountainhead of mankind's sins, why is Satan held responsible? Even so, this is the clever counterfeit that links the Hebrew word azazel with something evil. Without the Book of Enoch, nothing ties Leviticus 16 to the binding of Satan.

Notice the contrast between what happens to the biblical azazel (“goat of departure” or "complete removal") and what befalls Satan. God's purpose for the azazel goat is to “bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land.” His purpose for Satan's binding is “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.” These purposes are also completely dissimilar.

Satan's binding effectively and thoroughly stops his work as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). While the pit facilitates temporary protection from his influence, God will release Satan to deceive again (Revelation 20:7-8). Satan remains unrepentant and continues his evil work. His binding provides a reprieve but no atonement.

In contrast, the live goat acts as a substitutionary sacrifice, and by itself, this nullifies the possibility of it representing either Satan or another demon. The goat's role was to bear iniquities. In the ritual, the sins were those of the children of Israel. Scripture provides multiple witnesses that Jesus Christ bears mankind's sins (Isaiah 53:11-12; I Peter 2:24; Hebrews 9:28) and that God would lay the iniquity of us all on the Messiah (Isaiah 53:6).

Conversely, neither Satan's nor a demon's sins are in view in Leviticus 16. An unblemished animal—symbolizing sinlessness—could in no way represent either of them, and for the same reason, neither qualifies to be a substitutionary sacrifice. In addition, there is no biblical basis for placing humanity's sins on Satan's or a demon's head.

Revelation 20 makes no mention of atonement, justification, reconciliation, cleansing, propitiation, human sin, or any other theme found in Leviticus 16. Instead, Satan is bound to curtail his influence on the nations, not to satisfy God's justice. Scripture provides no legal foundation for his binding to pay the debt for sin, whether his own or mankind's. The wages of sin is death, and the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), but the confinement of Satan neither pays those wages nor facilitates that gift.

David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Five)




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Leviticus 16:21:

Leviticus 16:20-22
Colossians 2:13-14

 

<< Leviticus 16:20   Leviticus 16:22 >>



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