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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

a-za'-zel (`aza'zel apopompaios; the King James Version Scapegoat, the Revised Version, margin "removal"):


1. The Passages to Be Considered

2. The Proposed Interpretations

(1) The Etymology

(2) The Explanation


1. The Significance of This Action

2. The Jewish Liturgy

I. The Meaning of the Word

1. The Passages to Be Considered:

This word is found in connection with the ceremony of the Day of Atonement (which see). According to Leviticus 16:8, Aaron is to cast lots upon the two goats which on the part of the congregation are to serve as a sin offering (Leviticus 16:5), "one be lot for Yahweh, and the other lot for Azazel." In Leviticus 16:10, after the first goat has been set apart as a sin offering for Yahweh, we read: "But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before Yahweh, to make atonement for him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness." In Leviticus 16:26 we read: "And he that letteth go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water." Before this, in Leviticus 16:21f mention had been made of what should be done with the goat. After the purification of the (inner) sanctuary, of the tent of meeting, and of the altar, the living goat is to brought, "and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all. their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a man that is in readiness into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a solitary land: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." But in this last mentioned and most important passage the term under consideration is not found.

2. The Proposed Interpretations:

(1) The Etymology.

Some have derived the word from `az plus 'azal (fortis abiens, "passing away in his strength" or from an intentional alteration of 'el plus `azaz, robur Dei, "strength of God"; compare below the angel of the Book of Enoch); while others have regarded the word as a broken plural of a substantive in the Arabic `azala, and translated it as "lonesomeness," "desert." Now there is an inclination to regard it as a reduplication from `azalzel, derived from the root `azal. If we accept this view, although it is without certainty and an exact analogue cannot be found, we could conclude from the way in which this noun has been formed that we have before us not an abstract term (remotio, "removal," or abitus, "departure"), but a concrete noun, or an adjective, longe remotus ("far removed") or porro abiens ("going far away").

(2) The Explanation.

In Leviticus 16:10, 22, 26, we would have an acceptable sense, if we regarded this word as expressive of a distinct locality in the wilderness. But this interpretation is impossible, since the law in Leviticus 16 was given during the wanderings in the wilderness and accordingly presupposed a constant change in the encampment, even if this should be regarded only as the historical background. By the use of the same preposition le- in connection with Yahweh and Azazel, it seems natural to regard the expressions as entirely II and to think of some personal being. Some interpret this word as referring to a demon of the wilderness (compare Psalm 106:37 Deuteronomy 32:17 Leviticus 17:7 2 Chronicles 11:15; Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14 Matthew 12:43; Luke 11:24; Revelation 18:2) and explain the term as "one who has separated himself from God," or "he who has separated himself," or "he who misleads others." But a demon of this kind could not possibly be placed in contrast to Yahweh in this way; and as in the Book of Enoch 6:6; 8:1; 9:06; 10:4; 13:1; 69:2 one of the most prominent of the fallen angels who taught mankind the arts of war and luxury, revealed secrets to them, and is now bound in the wilderness, and is there preserved for the final judgment, because he was mainly responsible for the presence of evil in the world, is called Azael (also Azazel, or Azalzel), it is highly probable that this name was taken from Leviticus 16. In later times the word Azazel was by many Jews and also by Christian theologians, such as Origen, regarded as that Satan himself who had fallen away from God. In this interpretation the contrast found in Leviticus 16:8, in case it is to be regarded as a full parallelism, would be perfectly correct. But it must be acknowledged that in Holy Scripture, Satan is nowhere called by the name of Azazel, and just as little is the wilderness regarded as his permanent place of abode. Against these last two interpretations we must also recall that in the most significant passage, namely, Leviticus 16:20, the term Azazel is not found at all. The same is true in the case of the ceremony in connection with the purification of leprous people and houses (Leviticus 14:7, 49), which throughout suggests Leviticus 16. In this place we have also the sevenfold sprinkling (compare Leviticus 14:16 with Leviticus 16:14f); and in addition two animals, in this case birds, are used, of which the one is to be slain for the purpose of sprinkling the blood, but the other, after it has been dipped into the blood of the one that has been slain, is to be allowed to fly away. In this way the essential thought in Leviticus 16 as also in Leviticus 14 seems to be the removal of the animal in either case, and it is accordingly advisable to interpret Azazel adjectively, i.e. to forego finding a complete parallelism in Leviticus 16:8, and to regard the preposition in connection with Yahweh as used differently from its use with Azazel, and to translate as follows: "And Aaron shall cast lots over both goats, the one lot [i.e. for the one goat] for Yahweh, and one lot for the goat that is destined to go far away." On the preposition le- used with the second Azazel in Leviticus 16:10, compare Exodus 21:2. With this interpretation a certain hardness yet remains for our linguistic sense, because we cannot find a good translation for the adjective. But in favor of this interpretation and against the personal interpretation we can appeal also to the feeling of the Septuagint translators who translate apopompaios, diestalmenos, and also to that of Aquilos, who translates tragos apoluomenos, apolelumenos, kekrataiomenos, and of Symmachus who translates aperchomenos, aphiemenos. (The general idea expressed by all these words is "removal," "sending away," "releasing" or "dismissal.") It is true that the Septuagint in one place translates eis ten apopompen, which however could be also an abstract circumlocution for a conception that, though used elsewhere, is yet awkward. In the Vulgate, we have caper emissarius and Luther says "der ledige Bock," which are probably based on a wrong etymology, since `ez signifies only a goat or perhaps this word "Bock" is here only supplied from the connection, and that quite correctly, so that Luther and the Vulgate can also be cited in favor of our interpretation.

II. What Is Done in Connection with Azazel.

1. The Significance of This Action:

Both goats, according to Leviticus 16:5, are to be regarded as a single sin-sacrifice, even should we interpret Azazel as demon or Satan, and we are accordingly not at all to understand that a sacrifice was brought to these beings. This too is made impossible by the whole tenor of the Old Testament in general, as of Leviticus 16 in particular, so that in 16:8 the two members introduced by the preposition le- would not at all be beings of exactly the same importance. Both goats, so to say, represent two sides of the same thing. The second is necessary to make clear what the first one, which has been slain, can no longer represent, namely, the removal of the sin, and accordingly has quite often aptly been called the hircus redivivus. But what is to be represented finds its expression in the ceremony described in Leviticus 16:20f. Whatever may be the significance of the laying on of hands in other connections, whether the emphasis is placed more on the disposal or on the appropriation of the property, at this place it certainly is only a symbol of the transfer of guilt, which is confessed over the goat and is then carried into the wilderness by the goat upon which it has been laid. In order to make this transfer all the more impressive, both the hands are here brought into action, while e.g. in Leviticus 1:4 only one hand is used. The fact that the goat is accompanied by somebody and that it is to be taken to an uninhabited place is to indicate the absolute impossibility of its return, i.e. the guilt has been absolutely forgiven and erased, a deep thought made objectively evident in a transparent manner and independently of the explanation of Azazel, which is even yet not altogether certain. In the personal interpretation, we could have, in addition to the idea of the removal of the guilt, also a second idea, namely, that Azazel can do no harm to Israel, but must be content with his claim to a goat which takes Israel's place.

2. The Jewish Liturgy:

The actions in connection with Azazel, as was also the case with the Day of Atonement, were interpreted more fully by the Talmud and the traditions based on it (compare ATONEMENT, DAY OF, sec. III, 2). The lots could be made of different materials; in later times they were made of gold. The manner of casting the lots was described in full. The goat that was to be sent into the wilderness was designated by a black mark on the head, the other by one on the neck. On the way from Jerusalem to the wilderness, huts were erected. From a distance it was possible to see how the goat was hurled backward from a certain cliff, called Beth-Hadudu (Beth-chadedun, 12 miles East of Jerusalem). By means of signals made with garments, news was at once sent to Jerusalem when the wilderness had been reached.

Wilhelm Moller

Strong's Hebrew
5799. azazel -- entire removal
... 5798, 5799. azazel. 5800 . entire removal. Transliteration: azazel Phonetic
Spelling: (az-aw-zale') Short Definition: scapegoat. ... 5798, 5799. azazel. 5800 ...
/hebrew/5799.htm - 6k

... Asmoneans, [43]112. Assumption of Moses, the, 7, [44]21, [45]95 ff. Atonement, day
of, [46]226, [47]229. Azazel, [48]21, [49]58. B. Babylon, [50]309, [51]310. ...
// 2.htm

... of the book, and very ancient heathen elements are still visible through the
transformations effected by the priests of Israel, as in the case of Azazel xvi. ...
/.../ to the old testament/leviticus.htm

Synagogues in the City; and Schools.
... In the place noted in the margin, these words are related concerning the sending
away the goat Azazel, or the scape-goat: "The chief priests permitted not an ...
/.../lightfoot/from the talmud and hebraica/chapter 36 synagogues in the.htm

Tsok: and Beth Chadudo.
... When they sent forth the goat Azazel, on the day of expiation,"before that, they
set up ten tents, a mile distant one from another: where some betook ...
/.../lightfoot/from the talmud and hebraica/chapter 54 tsok and beth.htm

'The Scapegoat'
... whether the Revised Version is right in retaining the Hebrew word untranslated,
and, by putting a capital letter to it, marking it as a proper name ('for Azazel ...
/.../maclaren/expositions of holy scripture k/the scapegoat.htm

Mark Now, Whether He who Charges us with Having Committed Errors ...
... Moreover (the goat), which in the book of Leviticus [4493] is sent away (into the
wilderness), and which in the Hebrew language is named Azazel, was none other ...
/.../origen/origen against celsus/chapter xliii mark now whether.htm

The Day of Atonement
... Many learned men thing that this word scapegoat, Azazel, was the name of the devil
who was worshipped by the heathen in the form of a goat; and they tell us ...
/.../spurgeon/spurgeons sermons volume 2 1856/the day of atonement.htm

Sige Relates to Marcus the Generation of the Twenty-Four Elements ...
... apostate,. Which Satan, thy true father, enables thee still to accomplish,.
By means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel,". Thus ...
/.../irenaeus/against heresies/chapter xv sige relates to marcus.htm

The Book of Enoch
... And God sent Uriel to Noah, the son of Lamech, to warn him of the flood, and ordered
Raphael to bind Azazel, and lay him in a dark cleft in the wilderness ...
// book of enoch.htm

... disciplined army under chieftains. At their head appears one who is variously
named Satan, Sammael, Mastema, Azazel. Their fall, according ...

Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary

the scape-goat

Easton's Bible Dictionary
(Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26, Revised Version only here; rendered "scape-goat" in the Authorized Version). This word has given rise to many different views. Some Jewish interpreters regard it as the name of a place some 12 miles east of Jerusalem, in the wilderness. Others take it to be the name of an evil spirit, or even of Satan. But when we remember that the two goats together form a type of Christ, on whom the Lord "laid the iniquity of us all," and examine into the root meaning of this word (viz., "separation"), the interpretation of those who regard the one goat as representing the atonement made, and the other, that "for Azazel," as representing the effect of the great work of atonement (viz., the complete removal of sin), is certainly to be preferred. The one goat which was "for Jehovah" was offered as a sin-offering, by which atonement was made. But the sins must also be visibly banished, and therefore they were symbolically laid by confession on the other goat, which was then "sent away for Azazel" into the wilderness. The form of this word indicates intensity, and therefore signifies the total separation of sin: it was wholly carried away. It was important that the result of the sacrifices offered by the high priest alone in the sanctuary should be embodied in a visible transaction, and hence the dismissal of the "scape-goat." It was of no consequence what became of it, as the whole import of the transaction lay in its being sent into the wilderness bearing away sin. As the goat "for Jehovah" was to witness to the demerit of sin and the need of the blood of atonement, so the goat "for Azazel" was to witness to the efficacy of the sacrifice and the result of the shedding of blood in the taking away of sin.
Azazel (3 Occurrences)
... viz., "separation"), the interpretation of those who regard the one goat as
representing the atonement made, and the other, that "for Azazel," as representing ...
/a/azazel.htm - 20k

Aza'zel (3 Occurrences)
Aza'zel. Azazel, Aza'zel. Azaziah . ... Leviticus 16:8 And Aaron shall cast lots
upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel. (See RSV ...
/a/aza'zel.htm - 7k

... Amos 9:3; "Seirim" (se`irim), 2 Chronicles 11:15 Leviticus 17:7 2 Kings 23:8; Isaiah
13:21; Isaiah 34:14; "Alukah" (`aluqah), Proverbs 30:15; "Azazel (`aza'zel ...
/n/nightmonster.htm - 17k

... Amos 9:3; "Seirim" (se`irim), 2 Chronicles 11:15 Leviticus 17:7 2 Kings 23:8; Isaiah
13:21; Isaiah 34:14; "Alukah" (`aluqah), Proverbs 30:15; "Azazel (`aza'zel ...
/n/night-monster.htm - 17k

Scapegoat (3 Occurrences)
... Leviticus 16:8-26; RV, "the goat for Azazel" (qv), the name given to the goat which
was taken away into the wilderness on the day of Atonement (16:20-22). ...
/s/scapegoat.htm - 9k

Sending (188 Occurrences)
... Leviticus 16:10 But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive
before the LORD, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel...
/s/sending.htm - 37k

Placed (297 Occurrences)
... Leviticus 16:10 But the goat for Azazel is to be placed living before the Lord,
for the taking away of sin, that it may be sent away for Azazel into the waste ...
/p/placed.htm - 34k

Letteth (11 Occurrences)
... Leviticus 16:26 And he that letteth go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes,
and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp. ...
/l/letteth.htm - 9k

Goat (92 Occurrences)
... (6.) Hebrews tayish, a "striker" or "butter," rendered "he-goat" (Genesis 30:35;
32:14). (7.) Hebrews `azazel (qv), the "scapegoat" (Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26). ...
/g/goat.htm - 48k

Tent-circle (45 Occurrences)
... Leviticus 16:26 And the man who takes away the goat for Azazel is to have his clothing
washed and his body bathed in water and then he may come back to the tent ...
/t/tent-circle.htm - 20k

Bible Concordance
Azazel (3 Occurrences)

Leviticus 16:8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for Jehovah, and the other lot for Azazel.

Leviticus 16:10 But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before Jehovah, to make atonement for him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness.

Leviticus 16:26 And he that letteth go the goat for Azazel shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.



Azazel: The Scapegoat

Related Terms

Aza'zel (3 Occurrences)



Scapegoat (3 Occurrences)

Sending (188 Occurrences)

Placed (297 Occurrences)

Letteth (11 Occurrences)

Goat (92 Occurrences)

Tent-circle (45 Occurrences)

Demon (26 Occurrences)

Demoniac (7 Occurrences)


Azaz (1 Occurrence)

Bathed (45 Occurrences)

Day (17670 Occurrences)

Selection (71 Occurrences)

Atonement (112 Occurrences)

Divination (25 Occurrences)

Afterwards (143 Occurrences)

Decision (174 Occurrences)

Washed (113 Occurrences)

Scape-goat (3 Occurrences)

Priest (500 Occurrences)

High (4559 Occurrences)

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