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What the Bible says about Escape Goat
(From Forerunner Commentary)

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 20:1-3 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)

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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