What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is a Sabbath of solemn rest, set apart by its unique requirements to afflict one's soul and do absolutely no work (Leviticus 23:26-32). Within its instructions are a few rituals that make it even more extraordinary. Chief among these is the ceremony of the two goats found in Leviticus 16, part of a larger cleansing ritual performed once a year by the high priest.
With the passage of time and the difficulties of translation, the instructions for the two goats are far less clear to us than they were to their original recipients. In particular, the Hebrew word azazel, used for the second goat (Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26), is surrounded by speculation and contradictory assertions. A common belief among Sabbatarians is that azazel is the name of a wilderness demon. From this foundation springs the conclusion that the azazel goat—often translated as “scapegoat”—represents Satan.
If we solely use the Bible as our source, we will find no definitive statement for azazel representing Satan. What appears instead is that Satan—whose original name was Helel—has coopted the term to apply to himself in the same way he coopted one of the titles of Jesus Christ, “light-bringer” or “light-bearer” (Lucifer), for himself (see Isaiah 14:12; II Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). Yet it is not possible for Satan to be a part of the atonement God provides for His people, a role that can be fulfilled only by the Savior.
Strong's Concordance does not define azazel as a name at all, instead giving the meaning as “goat of departure.” It identifies two roots for this word, the first of which means “goat” or “kid” (#5795). The second root (#235) means “to go away, hence, to disappear.” The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon says it means “complete removal.” These definitions not only fit with the Hebrew, but they also align with the instructions in Leviticus 16.
But to start with azazel as the name of a fallen angel—representative of Satan—is, at best, to begin with a conclusion, and at worst, to base crucial understanding on an apocryphal tradition. When we look at the totality of what Scripture says, a very different picture emerges.
There is wisdom in not basing a doctrine on the meaning of a word, since meanings can change or become lost with time. A far more solid foundation beyond a word's common definition must be laid. Moving past the definition of azazel, then, another foundational principle of Bible study is that significant matters—especially doctrinal ones—must be established by “two or three witnesses.” By comparing what the azazel goat accomplishes with the rest of God's revelation, its role—and thus, its identity—becomes clear. There is no second, let alone third, witness for Satan playing a role within this chapter or in the atonement for sin.
David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat—Satan or Christ? (Part One)
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 theSavior 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)
This opening shot reveals two very important principles to begin our quest to find out how to keep the holy days.
The first, repeated twice in one verse, is that these festivals are God's feasts, not Israel's, not the church's. He is their Source, He set the times, He gave them meaning, and He is their ultimate Object. We could say they are all about Him—and His plan and our part in it with Him. Our observance of these days is to focus on Him and His teaching, and with that comes wonderful spiritual and physical benefits.
The second principle appears in the command to "proclaim [them] to be holy convocations." These divinely appointed times are set apart for calling together. In today's language, a primary purpose of the feasts of God is to bring God's people together, not just for fellowship, but also for instruction and most importantly, to honor and worship God Himself. These holy times, then, contain a vitally important corporate aspect, producing unity in purpose, doctrine, and relationships within the Body of Christ.
The next verse, Leviticus 23:3, presents a third important principle: "Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings." Along with the weekly Sabbath, the seven annual holy days—the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag Hamatzot), Pentecost (Shavuot, also called the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest), the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, also called the Fast), the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth), and the eighth day (often called the Last Great Day)—are also Sabbaths.
Like Sabbaths, they are holy convocations, as can be seen in the ensuing instructions. In most cases, the wording is that the holy day "is a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it" (see Leviticus 23:7-8, 21, 24-25, 35-36). This means that we are not to attend to our normal, weekday work—the kinds of activities that we do on the other six days of the week. This includes not only our paying jobs, but also the ordinary work that we would do around the house, on our cars, in our yards, at the local community center, etc.
In the instructions for keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread, though, God stipulates, "No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you" (Exodus 12:16). Feasting is part of the holy day experience. God wants us to eat and drink of the abundance that He has bestowed upon us in thanksgiving and joy on His appointed times, so He allows us to prepare food on the holy days. Even so, it is still better to prepare as much of the food beforehand, as on a weekly Sabbath, to get the most from the feasts.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How Do We Keep God's Festivals?
This is probably the least understood and least appreciated of all God's holy days. The world looks upon it as a curiosity. The Jews keep it as the most solemn day of the year. They, at least, realize that this day has solemn implications, but they do not know what they are.
There is an interesting interpretation within this verse in the word "atonement." The Hebrew word underlying it, kippur, does not literally translate into "atonement," but as "covering." The translators have interpreted the concept of covering and inserted a word that instead describes the effect of being covered. The covering of our sins causes atonement. This is the implication and meaning that we derive from other verses. The forgiveness of sin—the covering by the blood of Jesus Christ—enables us to be reconciled to God.
Had this not been done, there would be no opportunity for us to be at one with God; our sins would still be a barrier separating us and God. Because there was an atonement made by the blood of Jesus Christ, this gaping divide is bridged. Thus, the word kippur is interpreted as "atonement."
That this is a festival implies the act of eating and drinking in a convivial atmosphere. Though this Day of Atonement is a festival, there is no eating or drinking permitted—at least physically. The reason we have trouble relating to this day is because of the Adversary, who is, above all others, striving to hide its meaning behind a smokescreen of disinformation. He has tried to obliterate its significance from the minds of those who are aware of his existence.
If we were to mention the Day of Atonement to most Protestants or Catholics, they would likely give us blank stares or shrug their shoulders. To them, the day has been literally obliterated. They would have no clue what we were talking about.
Satan has also obliterated its significance to the Jews. They are aware of the day, of course, knowing it as Yom Kippur, and realize that it has solemn significance and is most holy. But they do not understand what it means. It does not mean the same thing to them that the Bible teaches us it means, mainly because they do not believe in Christ nor in His atoning blood. Therefore, they cannot make the proper connection between the blood of Christ and the blood of the goat that is slain during the symbolic ceremony on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility
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