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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Encyclopedias
Goat Scape

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

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The particulars respecting the two goats, one of which was to be offered in sacrifice and the other suffered to escape, are contained in . The two goats were to be brought to the door of the tabernacle and the high-priest was to cast lots upon them, 'one lot for the Lord, and the other forsthe scape goat,' or rather 'for Azazel.' The goat on which the lot of the Lord fell was to be brought and offered up for a sin-offering, but the goat on which the lot of Azazel fell was to be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, to let him go for a scape-goat (or 'for Azazel') into the wilderness. Of the former the blood was to be carried within the veil to be sprinkled upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat, in order that atonement might be made for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel. When, on the other hand, the live goat was brought, the high-priest was to lay both his hands upon his head to confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel; after which he was to send it by the hand of 'a fit man' that it might bear upon it all their iniquities into a land not inhabited.

The only difficulty here, and that is a great one, is with respect to the meaning of the word Azazel, which our translators, in common with a large class of modern commentators, regard as applied to the goat itself, and render it by 'scapegoat.' Others produce reasons, not easily answered, for showing that the word must be taken as a proper name. Then arises the question, What is the name? Several of the Rabbinical writers regard it as the name of the place to which the scape-goat was conducted; but this notion has obtained little attention among Biblical scholars. Others, taking a hint from the Septuagint, which translates the difficult phrase by 'one lot for the Apopompeus,' or 'the sender away,' or 'the averter,' hold it to denote one of that class of demons or deities called by the Latins Dii Averrunci, or 'the deities who send away or avert evil from their votaries;' in which case the word would denote here a demon dwelling in the wilderness, and placated by victims. It is hard to suppose that a solemn ceremony was framed so as to give some sanction to the notion supposed to be involved in this statement. A step further, however, brings it more within the range of our recognition—this is, that Azazel is but a name for Satan, as was the opinion of most of the Jewish writers and of the early Christian church; and that the meaning of the ceremony is, that while the remission of sin is effected by the sacrificed goat (for without shedding of blood there was no remission, ), the other was laden with the sins already, through the other goat, pardoned, by way of symbolically notifying the fact to Satan, and of triumphing in his discomfiture. That, in any case, the liberated goat is understood to bear away the burden of pardoned sin, so that it shall be seen no more, and stands in the place which the victim goat would have occupied could it have been brought to life again after having been offered, seems to be shown by the somewhat parallel case of the two figures used in the purification of the leprous person (Leviticus 14), one of which is slain, and the other dipped in its blood, and then suffered to fly away. There is another more common explanation, which, if correct, forms a very beautiful interpretation of the typical rite. This view recognizes the substantial typical identity of the two goats, and in the victim goat sees Christ dying for our sins, and in the liberated goat views Him as rising again for our justification. But it must be admitted that the whole subject forms one of the greatest difficulties of Scripture.





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Goat Scape'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​g/goat-scape.html.
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