“And Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 Then he shall take the two goats, and set them before the Lord at the door of the tent of meeting; 8 and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Aza′zel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer it as a sin offering; 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Aza′zel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Aza′zel.
20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat; 21 and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities upon him to a solitary land; and he shall let the goat go in the wilderness.In my earlier study groups, we skipped over the subject of Aza'zel and focused on the scapegoat, and I think we ignore him because there does not seem to be any New Testament correlation for us. Maybe looking through the eyes of Jewish writers on him might be helpful, The following is from "The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia" which presents several interpretations,
The name of a supernatural being mentioned in connection with the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi.). After Satan, for whom he was in some degree a preparation, Azazel enjoys the distinction of being the most mysterious extrahuman character in sacred literature.I guess that pushes the Nephilim down a notch.
Unlike other Hebrew proper names, the name itself is obscure.
The Rabbis, interpreting "Azazel" as "Azaz" (rugged), and "el" (strong), refer it to the rugged and rough mountain cliff from which the goat was cast down (Yoma 67b; Sifra, Aḥare, ii. 2; Targ. Yer. Lev. xiv. 10, and most medieval commentators).Rather than release the scapegoat into the wilderness, the later practice after Jerusalem has become the center of worship, according to Yoma vii. 4, will be to take the scapegoat to a cliff and push him over it out of sight. (see last paragraph in this post).
Most modern scholars, after having for some time endorsed the old view, have accepted the opinion mysteriously hinted at by Ibn Ezra and expressly stated by Naḥmanides to Lev. xvi. 8, that Azazel belongs to the class of "se'irim," goat-like demons, jinn haunting the desert, to which the Israelites were wont to offer sacrifice (Lev. xvii. 7 [A. V. "devils"]; compare "the roes and the hinds," Cant. ii. 7, iii. 5, by which Sulamith administers an oath to the daughters of Jerusalem. The critics were probably thinking of a Roman faun).How one gets to "goat-like demon" from "rugged and strong" is beyond me.
Evidently the figure of Azazel was an object of general fear and awe rather than, as has been conjectured, a foreign product or the invention of a late lawgiver. Nay, more; as a demon of the desert, it seems to have been closely interwoven with the mountainous region of Jerusalem and of ancient pre-Israelitish origin.I am sure that he will make a comeback somewhere. Maybe as the leader of a motorcycle gang,
Leader of the Rebellious Angels.Aza'zel was one bad dude, and the best way to defeat a devil is with an angel,
This is confirmed by the Book of Enoch, which brings Azazel into connection with the Biblical story of the fall of the angels, located, obviously in accordance with ancient folk-lore, on Mount Hermon as a sort of an old Semitic Blocksberg, a gathering-place of demons from of old (Enoch xiii.; compare Brandt, "Mandäische Theologie," 1889, p. 38). Azazel is represented in the Book of Enoch as the leader of the rebellious giants in the time preceding the flood; he taught men the art of warfare, of making swords, knives, shields, and coats of mail, and women the art of deception by ornamenting the body, dyeing the hair, and painting the face and the eyebrows, and also revealed to the people the secrets of witchcraft and corrupted their manners, leading them into wickedness and impurity;
until at last he was, at the Lord's command, bound hand and foot by the archangel Raphael and chained to the rough and jagged rocks of [Ha] Duduael (= Beth Ḥadudo), where he is to abide in utter darkness until the great Day of Judgment, when he will be cast into the fire to be consumed forever (Enoch viii. 1, ix. 6, x. 4-6, liv. 5, lxxxviii. 1; see Geiger, "Jüd. Zeit." 1864, pp. 196-204).The Jewish Encyclopedia continues,
There has been much controversy over the function of Azazel as well as over his essential character. Inasmuch as according to the narrative the sacrifice of Azazel, while symbolical, was yet held to be a genuine vicarious atonement, it is maintained by critics that Azazel was originally no mere abstraction, but a real being to the authors of the ritual—as real as Yhwh himself.I agree. One would think that if the Hebrews went so far as to sacrifice a valuable animal to him, Aza'zel was a pretty real being to them.
This relation to the purpose of the ceremony may throw light upon the character of Azazel. Three points seem reasonably clear. (1) Azazel is not a mere jinnee or demon of uncertain ways and temper, anonymous and elusive (see Animal Worship), but a deity standing in a fixed relation to his clients. Hence the notion, which has become prevalent, that Azazel was a "personal angel," here introduced for the purpose of "doing away with the crowd of impersonal and dangerous se'irim" (as Cheyne puts it), scarcely meets the requirements of the ritual. Moreover, there is no evidence that this section of Leviticus is so late as the hagiological period of Jewish literature.Why, after all of their rebellions against the One Almighty God would the Hebrews make an offering to a demon?
(2) The realm of Azazel is indicated clearly. It was the lonely wilderness; and Israel is represented as a nomadic people in the wilderness, though preparing to leave it. Necessarily their environment subjected them in a measure to superstitions associated with the local deities, and of these latter Azazel was the chief. The point of the whole ceremony seems to have been that as the scapegoat was set free in the desert, so Israel was to be set free from the offenses contracted in its desert life within the domain of the god of the desert.So maybe this was Azazel's send off.
(3) Azazel would therefore appear to be the head of the supernatural beings of the desert. He was thus an instance of the elevation of a demon into a deity. Such a development is indeed rare in Hebrew religious history of the Biblical age, but Azazel was really never a national Hebrew god, and his share in the ritual seems to be only the recognition of a local deity. The fact that such a ceremony as that in which he figured was instituted, is not a contravention of Lev. xvii. 7, by which demon-worship was suppressed. For Azazel, in this instance, played a merely passive part. Moreover, as shown, the symbolical act was really a renunciation of his authority. Such is the signification of the utter separation of the scapegoat from the people of Israel. This interpretation is borne out by the fact that the complete ceremony could not be literally fulfilled in the settled life of Canaan, but only in the wilderness. Hence it was the practise in Jerusalem, according to Yoma vii. 4, to take the scapegoat to a cliff and push him over it out of sight. In this way the complete separation was effected.It sounds like it might be better to be the scapegoat in the wilderness than to be the scapegoat in Jerusalem.