Click here to learn more!
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
[so Milton] (Hebrews Azazel', עֲזָאזֵל ), a word of doubtful interpretation, occurring only in the ordinance of the festival of expiation (Leviticus 16:8; Leviticus 16:10; Leviticus 16:26).
1. Some contend that it is the name itself of the goat sent into the desert. So Symmachus τράγος ἀπερχόμενος Aquila τράγος ἀπολελυμένος, Vulgate hircus emissarius; but not the Septuagint (for τῷ Ἀποπομπαίῳ in Leviticus 16:8, is by no means to be explained, with Theodoret and Cyril, by τῷ ἀποπεμπομένῳ, nor the Mishna (for the expression שֵׂעִיר הִשְּׁתִּלֵּחִ, hircus emissus, of Yoma, 4, 2; 6:1, 2, is only added as a gloss on account of the occurrence of שִׁלִּח in the Hebrews text). It should also be observed that in the latter clause of Leviticus 16:10, the Sept. renders the Hebrew term as if it was an abstract noun, translating לִעֲזָאזֵל by εἰς τὴν ἀποπομπήν. Buxtorf (Heb. Lex.) and Fagius (Critici Sacri in loc.), in accordance with this view of its meaning, derived the word from עֵז, a goat, and אָזִל, to depart. To this derivation it has been objected by Bochart, Winer, and others, that עֵז denotes a she-goat. It is, however, alleged that the word appears to be epicene in Genesis 30:33, Leviticus 3:12, etc.
But the application of עֲזָאזֵל to the goat itself involves the Hebrew text in insuperable difficulties. In v. 10, 26, the azazel clearly seems to be distinguished as that for or to which the goat is let loose. It can hardly be supposed that the prefix which is common to the designation of the two lots should be used in two different meanings, if both objects were beings.
2. Some have taken Azazel for the name of the place to which the goat was sent.
(1) Aben-Ezra quotes the words of an anonymous writer referring it to a hill near Mount Sinai. Vatablus adopts this opinion (Critici Sacri, in Leviticus 16).
(2) Some of the Jewish writers, with Le Clerc, consider that it denotes the cliff to which the goat was taken to be thrown down. So Pseudo- Jonathan, Saadias, Arabs Erpenii and Jarchi, interpret a hard or diffcult place (comp. Mishna, Yoma, 6, 6).
(3) Bochart (Hieroz. 1, 749 sq.) regarded the word as a "pluralis fractus" signifying desert places, and understood it as a general name for any fit place to which the goat might be sent. This has the approbation of Hackmann (Praecid. Sacr. 1, 232-275). But Gesenius remarks that the "pluralis fractus," which exists in Arabic, is not found in Hebrew. Moreover, on this interpretation the context (ver. 10) would contain a palpable tautology, for the goat was to be sent to Azazel in the wilderness. Moreover, no such place as Azazel is elsewhere mentioned; and had it been a mountain, הִר would not have been omitted.
3. Many of those who have studied the subject very closely take Azazel for a personal being to whom the goat was sent.
(1) Gesenius gives to עֲזָאזֵל the same meaning as the Sept. has assigned to it, if ἀποπομπαῖος is to be taken in its usual sense; but the being so designated he supposes to be some false deity who was to be appeased by such a sacrifice as that of the goat. He derives the word from a root unused in Hebrew, but found in Arabic, עָזִל , to remove or take away (Hebrews Lex. s.v.). Ewald agrees with Gesenius, and speaks of Azazel as a daemon belonging to the preMosaic religion.
(2) But others, with scarcely less superstition, have regarded him as an evil spirit, or the devil himself. So, among the rabbins, Menahem, who mentions the four arch-daemons Sammael, Azazel, Azae1, and Machazeel. In Pirke Elieser, c. 46, it is stated that Azazel, for the propitiation of which the goat was let loose, is the same daemon with Sammael (compare Eisenmenger, Entd. Judenth. 2, 157; Zohar, ad Genesis 2, in Castell, Opp. Posth. p. 309). In the apocryphal book of Enoch, Azazel (not Azazyel) is among the chief of the spirits by whose doctrine and influence the. earth was corrupted (8:1; 10:12; 13:1 sq.; 15:9), and among the Greek writers the same name (Azalzel, Ἀζαλζήλ) occurs (Fabric. Cod. pseudepigr. 1, 18, 183; sometimes Azaol, Ἀζαήλ, but this by confusion for another daemon, Asael); and in Syrian authors (Cod. Nasar. 1, 240) it is the name of an evil spirit otherwise called Barbag. The same title (Ἀζαζήλ ) among the Gnostics signified either Satan or some other daemon (Epiphan. Haer. 34); on which account Origen (contra Cels. vi, p. 305, ed. Spenc.) did not hesitate, in the passage of Leviticus in question, to understand the devil as meant. From the Jews and Christians, the word passed over to the Arabians (see Reland, De Rel. Mo. hammed. p. 189); and so, in later magical treatises, Azazel and Azael are reckoned among the genii that preside over the elements. Among moderns this view has been copiously illustrated by Spencer (De legibus Hebraeorum ritualibus, 3, diss. 8, p. 1039-1085), and has been assented to by Rosenmü ller (ad Leviticus in loc.), Ammon (Bibl. Theol. 1, 360), Von Coln (Bibl. Theol. 1, 199), Hengstenberg (Christol. I, 1, 36). The following are the arguments used in its support:
(a) The contrast of terms ("to the Lord," "to Azazel") in the text naturally presumes a person to be intended, in opposition to and contradistinction from Jehovah.
(b) The desert, whither the consecrated goat of Azazel was sent away, was accounted the peculiar abode of daemons (see Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:13-14; Baruch 4:35; Tobit 8:3; Matthew 12:43; Revelation 18:2; Maimonid. Nevoch. 3, 30).
(c) This interpretation may be confirmed by the early derivation of the word, i. q. עזזאּאל, signifying either strength of God (comp. Gabriel), if referred to a once good but now fallen angel, or powerful against God, as applied to a malignant daemon. Spencer derives the word from עִז, fortis, and אָזִל, explaining it as cito recedens, which he affirms to be a most suitable name for the evil spirit. He supposes that the goat was given up to the devil, and committed to his disposal. Hengstenberg affirms with great confidence that Azazel cannot possibly be any thing but another name for Satan. He repudiates the conclusion that the goat was in any sense a sacrifice to Satan, and does not doubt that it was sent away laden with the sins of God's people, now forgiven, in order to mock their spiritual enemy in the desert, his proper abode, and to symbolize by its free gambols their exulting triumph. He considers that the origin of the rite was Egyptian, and that the Jews substituted Satan for Typhon, whose dwelling was the desert.
On the other hand, this explanation is forbidden by the total absence in the O. Test. of any reference to evil genii; and it would be especially abhorrent to the spirit of the Mosaic economy to suppose a solemn offering of this kind to have been made out of deference to any of those daemons the propitiation of which the law so explicitly condemns (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 22:17; comp. 2 Chronicles 11:15; Psalms 106:37). The obvious objection to Spencer's view is that the goat formed part of a sin-offering to the Lord. Few, perhaps, will be satisfied with Hengstenberg's mode of meeting this difficulty.
4. A better explanation of the word renders the designation of the lot לָעֲזָאזֵל, "for complete sending away" = solitude, desert, by reduplication from עָזִל (the root adopted by Gesenius), being the Pealpal form, which indicates intensity (see Ewald, Kr. Gr. p. 242; .comp. Lehrgeb. p. 869), so as to signify total separation. (Tholuck, Hebr. p. 80; Bahr, Symbolik d. Mos. Cultus, 2, 668), i.e. from sin, q. d. a bearer away of guilt; a sense agreeable to the rendering of the Sept. (άποπομπαῖος, as explained by Suidas, and as used by Pollux, v. 26), the solution of Josephus (Ant. 3, 10, 3), and the explanation of other ancient writers (Cyrill, contra Julian. 9; comp. Suicer, Thesaur. Eccles. 1, 468). The only objection that has been offered to this interpretation is that it destroys the exact antithesis between Jehovah and Azazel, by making the latter a thing and not a person, like the former. But this assumes that it was the design of Moses, in expressing himself thus, to preserve an exact antithesis, which is by no means evident. If we render "the one for Jehovah and the other for an utter removal," a meaning sufficiently clear and good is obtained. (See ATONEMENT, DAY OF).
For a farther discussion of the import and application of this word, see Prof. Bush, Azazel, or the Levitical Scape-goat, in the Am. Bib. Repos. July, 1842, p. 116-136; Hermansen, Obs. de nomine Azazel (Havn. 1833; comp. Theoleg. Literaturbl. 1835); Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1012 sq.; Schaffshausen, De hirco emissario ejusque ritibus (Lips. 1736); Shroder, De Azazelis hirco ejisque rit. (Marb. 1725); Von Slooten, De hirco qui expiationis die cessit Azazeli (Franec. 1726); Frischmuth, De hirco emissario (Jen. 1664-1668); Zeitmann, Dehirci emissarii ductore (Jen. 1701). (See SCAPE-GOAT).
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Azazel'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/azazel.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.