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What the Bible says about Two Goats of Leviticus 16
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 16:5

The two goats of the unique Day of Atonement ceremony are first mentioned in Leviticus 16:5, which contains an often-overlooked detail: “And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering” (emphasis ours throughout unless otherwise noted).

The “two kids of the goats” together are a single sin offering. That is, the two young goats are distinct elements that jointly accomplish this offering for sin; both parts are absolutely required for the offering to be accepted. A typical sin offering consists of only one animal, but this sin offering consists of two. This shows that something additional is being accomplished here, something beyond just the payment for sin.

The biblical sin offering, detailed in Leviticus 4, is God's prescribed way to show sins being paid for through a death. While “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4), God still required blood to be shed to remind the people that sin incurs the death penalty.

A critical part of the sin offering involves the priest placing his hands on the head of the animal before it was slain to show that the animal would stand in the place of the party under judgment. The unblemished, innocent animal, representing the guilty party, symbolically received the guilt. This detail is reiterated four times within the instructions for the sin offering (Leviticus 4:4, 15, 24, 29), as well as in the initial consecration ceremony for Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:10). A sin offering is incomplete without this symbolic transference taking place.

Every sacrificial animal—through the requirement of it being unblemished—is portrayed as being sinless (Deuteronomy 17:1; Leviticus 22:17-25). The Pentateuch contains at least forty injunctions that the sacrificial animals, either in specific offerings or in general, had to be without blemish or defect. In addition, Malachi 1:6-14 records God's indignation at later priests for offering blind, maimed, and diseased animals. A reason the animals had to be of the highest quality is that they were offered to God, who deserves only the best. A second reason is that every sacrificial animal prefigured the Savior, who was entirely without blemish or defect.

In the symbolism of a substitutionary sacrifice, an innocent participant is chosen to bear the sins of the guilty. However, this utterly fails to apply to Satan, for his millennia of sin make it impossible for him to be pictured as unblemished or innocent. Not by any means!

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

Leviticus 16:8

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)


 




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