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Bible verses about Azazel Bearing Sins
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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)


 

Leviticus 16:22

This verse stipulates that the azazel must “bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land” (emphasis ours throughout). The Hebrew word for “uninhabited land” (Strong's #1509; used only here) literally means “a land cut off.” It derives from Strong's #1504, defined as “to cut down or off; (figuratively) to destroy, divide, exclude, or decide.”

Jeremiah, the presumptive author of Lamentations, employs this root to describe the state of death: “The waters flowed over my head; I said, 'I am cut off!'” (Lamentations 3:54). Isaiah 53:8, part of a Messianic prophecy, uses it similarly: “He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.”

Jesus Christ was cut off from the land of the living; He was taken to “a land cut off.” Similarly, Psalm 88, a Messianic psalm, also describes the Messiah as being “cut off” and put into a “land of forgetfulness”:

Adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and who are cut off from Your hand. . . . Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? (Psalm 88:5, 12)

These terms are figurative language for the grave, where no thought or memory occurs, nor knowledge or device (Psalm 6:5; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). In taking our sins to the “land cut off” and to the “land of forgetfulness,” they are not merely paid for but ultimately forgotten.

In common usage, “forget” and its forms indicate activities of the mind. However, in Hebrew thought, “forgetting” goes beyond the mental realm and into that of action, that is, forgetting contains an act that demonstrates that the forgotten thing is no longer a factor. The Hebrew words for forgetshâkah (#7911) and nâshâh (#5382)—mean “to ignore,” “to neglect,” “to forsake,” or “to willfully act in disregard to a person or thing.”

When God forgets our sins, He makes a conscious choice to ignore them—to forsake their occurrence, as it were; to disregard them—so that His actions are not swayed by what we have done. We may still feel other effects from our sins, but as far as God is concerned, He no longer looks at us through the lens of those transgressions. They have been borne away.

Jesus Christ fulfills all aspects of this unique sin offering: His shed blood paid for sin, and He bore those sins to the land of forgetfulness—to the grave—completely removing them from view. Thus, Hebrews 9:28 says that when He appears a second time, it will be “apart from sin.” In Isaiah 43:25, God says, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 53:6 states that “the LORD has laid on Him [the Messiah, not Satan] the iniquity of us all.” It is already finished—we are not still waiting for those transgressions to be sent away in the future.

Similarly, under the New Covenant, He promises, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Jesus bore sin out of sight, being cut off.

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


 

Leviticus 16:29

On the Day of Atonement, God requires that absolutely no work be performed (Leviticus 16:29; 23:28-31; Numbers 29:7), symbolizing that human effort is completely useless in making the proper atonement needed to keep living after sin. The Israelites could do nothing but observe what occurred at the Tabernacle, watching as the young goat was led away with all their sins. Likewise, we can do absolutely nothing to add to Christ's atoning work. Thus, it is a day without work for us as well.

Israel's works nearly condemned the nation to obliteration. In particular, the Golden Calf was a work of Aaron's hands (Exodus 32:4-5). No matter how he tried to pass it off, he deliberately fashioned an idol out of gold, something he had to work at. Similarly, the work of Nadab's and Abihu's hands included offering profane fire (Leviticus 10:1). In Haggai 2:14, God remarks on Israel's spoiling of everything she puts her hands to: “'So is this people, and so is this nation before Me,' says the LORD, 'and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.'” The works of men always contain defilement, so on the day when God removes the filth, no work can be done, lest more corruption be introduced.

The only work permitted on the Day of Atonement was performed by the high priest and by the man who led the azazel away, and both had to have an atonement made for them. For us, it is a day of solemn remembrance of the perfect work of our High Priest, who gave us precious access to the Father and removed our sins.

Atonement is also a day of afflicting one's soul. This requirement could serve as a reminder of the fasting Moses did during his interactions with God. There is overwhelming gravity in all that was involved when he fasted for forty days on back-to-back-to-back occasions. Two of those times involved meeting directly with God, receiving a pattern for life from His incomparable mind. The middle period of fasting reflects how seriously God regarded the sins and the enormity of what was at stake due to Aaron's and the nation's transgressions.

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


 

Zechariah 3:1-5

Zechariah 3 shows a future fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. This book was written after Judah's return from Babylon. Even after that national chastening, the people were still carnal, just as Israel is today. Here, the prophet receives a vision of the high priest, Joshua. Notably, the chapter contains the same elements and sequence as Leviticus 16. It starts with the cleansing of the high priest and ends with the cleansing of the nation. What is missing is the sacrificial animals, and this is because, here, God is providing the atonement through a different means.

The essential function of the high priest was to represent the nation to God, which is part of why the Golden Calf incident was so appalling—the nation's representative was directly involved in the sin of idolatry. Similarly, in Zechariah 3:3, the high priest is depicted in filthy garments, yet in verse 4, the filth and iniquity are taken away. The high priest receives rich robes, symbolic of righteousness from God Himself (compare Revelation 19:8).

Verse 5 mentions the high priest's turban. Exodus 28:38 reveals that the purpose of the turban was to bear iniquity, so the high priest symbolically carried iniquity throughout the year. Then, on Atonement, the iniquity was symbolically transferred to the goat of departure and sent away. In Zechariah's vision, the priestly garments are filthy, and a clean turban is needed. The high priest's defilement shows that the nation had been completely unclean. But God restores the high priest, giving His explanation in verses 8-9:

Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, you and your companions who sit before you, for they are a wondrous sign; for behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription, says the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

Zechariah makes no mention of animal sacrifices. This removal of iniquity can only come through the Messiah, the Branch mentioned in verse 8 (see also Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 6:12).

Leviticus 18:28 speaks of the land becoming defiled and vomiting out its inhabitants. The Day of Atonement is an annual type of bearing away of sin, out of the land, so the land and its people become clean before God. This national cleansing of land and nation, however, did not happen at Christ's first coming. Though the means of that true cleansing was created through His sacrifice, it has not yet been applied. God's cleansing of the land and people of Israel is still future.

The beginning of this vision (verses 1-2) contains another significant factor. Note that God rebukes Satan before He cleanses the nation. There is a possible connection here with Satan's binding (Revelation 20:1-3): In other instances of God rebuking a party, it typically goes beyond divine words and involves divine action (see Psalm 9:5; 68:30; Isaiah 17:1-3). God's rebuke may find its fulfillment in Satan's binding, and Israel's cleansing follows it.

The critical point is that atonementexpiation, satisfaction of the legal debt—can come only through Christ's removal of guilt, not through anything that happens to Satan. The nation is cleansed by God removing the iniquity, not through rebuking the accuser. In this vision, if Satan were only rebuked—and in parallel, if Satan were just bound—the nation would remain in its defiled state, still separated from God, unatoned.

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


 

Revelation 20:1-3

Identifying Satan as the fulfillment of the azazel goat (often translated as "scapegoat") in Leviticus 16 originates with extra-biblical sources, overlooks Scripture's consistent statements about the responsibility for sin, discounts the principles and requirements of the sacrificial system, and ignores the finished expiatory work of Jesus Christ. Leaping over these foundational planks, some conclude that the azazel and the binding of Satan are linked.

However, the stated purpose of Satan's binding is to curtail his deception of the nations throughout the Millennium. It will not be a permanent measure, nor will it be final justice or the true solution to mankind's estrangement from God. Nothing in Revelation connects Satan's binding with any sort of expiation of sin.

Not a single scripture shows that Satan is the author of all human sins, an idea based on the “Book of Enoch” and human reasoning. In spite of Satan's influence, each person is still responsible for his own sins. Satan will pay the penalty for the sins he has committed, and with His own life, Christ has already paid for the sins of those who accept His sacrifice.

Asserting that Satan is the author of humanity's sins gives rise to the claim that mankind cannot be “at one” with God until Satan is out of the way. Part of the confusion has arisen because the word “atonement” can be separated out into “at-one-ment.” Regrettably, this linguistic feature often leads to a wrong conclusion about the meaning of the word.

The primary meaning of atonement is “expiation”: “to provide legal satisfaction, such that guilt is removed, and the obligation of punishment is paid.” It can include cleansing, forgiving, pardoning, purging, and covering. The effect of atonement is that two formerly estranged parties are brought back into agreement—they are “at one”—because the controversy between them has been legally satisfied.

The focus on the Day of Atonement is the means of atonement, which Satan's binding cannot legally achieve. It will neither remove mankind's guilt, nor lift the curse of the law. Regarding the separation between God and man, that gulf can only be bridged through the atonement God provides through Christ.

The idea of man and God becoming reconciled through Satan's binding also overlooks the fact that during the Millennium, the Devil will be unable to influence anyone—yet people will still be sinning. Will the defanged Satan still be the cause of their sins? Will humanity be unified with God just because Satan's broadcast stops?

On the contrary, during Jesus' final Passover (John 13-17), He repeatedly returned to the themes of peace, unity, and oneness with God, all of which are possible with Satan still on the loose. All this occurs through Christ's work, mainly through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Humanity can become “at one” with God only through the Son, not merely by keeping the evil one at bay.

Also, if Satan's binding were the actual solution to human sin, then all sins committed after he is loosed would remain unatoned. Will the people who arise in the second resurrection put their faith in Satan's prior binding—trusting that it would provide expiation for their sins, too—or will their object of faith be Jesus Christ?

Satan, however, is not the factor keeping us separate from God—our sins are (see Isaiah 59:1-2), which Satan cannot cause us to commit. What hinders mankind from being unified with God is the presence of sin rather than the presence of Satan. Jesus Christ alone supplies the solution to sin.

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


 

 




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