Could The Scapegoat Really Be Christ?
By Ron Corson
By Ron Corson
The SDA church is rather unique in the Christian community, her view of Azazel the Scapegoat of Lev. 16 is completely opposite that held by most Christians. The SDA church holds that Azazel represent Satan not Christ. Here is what the book Seventh-day Adventists Believe... A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines:
Satan is Bound. The events that take place at this time were foreshadowed in the scapegoat ritual of the Day of Atonement in Israel’s sanctuary service. On the Day of Atonement the high priest cleansed the sanctuary with the atoning blood of the Lord’s goat. Only after this atonement was fully completed did the ritual involving Azazel, the goat that symbolized Satan, begin (see chapter 23). Laying his hands on its head, the high priest confessed ‘"all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat’" (Lev 16:21). And the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness, ‘"an uninhabited land’" (Lev. 16:22).
Similarly, Christ, in the heavenly sanctuary, has been ministering the benefits of His completed atonement to His people; at His return He will redeem them and give them eterrnal life. When He has completed this work of redemtion and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, He will place the sins of His people upon Satan, the originator and instigator of evil. In no way can it be said that Satan atones for the sins of believers--Christ has fully done that. But Satan must bear the responsibility of all the sin he has caused those who are saved to commit. And as "a fit man" led the scapegoat into an uninhabited land, so God will banish Satan to the desolate and uninhabited earth (see chapter 23 of this book).
Understanding the above view it would seem appropriate to compare these two diametrically opposing views of Azazel, the scapegoat. As an overview here is what Ungers Bible Dictionary has to say:
1. By some it is thought to be the name of the goat sent into the desert. The objection to this is that in vers. 10, 26 the Azazel clearly seems to be that for or to which the goat is let loose.
2. Others have taken Azazel for the name of the place to which the goat was sent. Some of the Jewish writers consider that it denotes the height from which the goat was thrown; while others regard the word as meaning "desert places"
3. Many believe Azazel to be a personal being, either a spirit, a demon or Satan himself. The cabalists teach that in order to satisfy this evil being and to save Israel from his snares, God sends him the goat burdened with all the "iniquities and transgressions" of his people once a year. But we think it entirely improbable that Moses under divine guidance would cause Israel to recognize a demon whose claims on the people were to be met by the bribe of a sin-laden goat.
4. The most probable rendering of Azazel is "complete sending away," i.e., solitude. The rendering then would be "the one for Jehovah , and the other for the utter removal" (page 111)
The Jews have a rather mixed tradition, some hold it is the name of the place the goat was taken and others that it is an evil spirit, in that vain the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia says:
and adaptation to Jewish religious practice of an old, pre-Israelite, idolatrous rite, which was apparently so deeply rooted in Jewish folk-practice that it could not be rooted out." (Page 561-2)
The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia finishes the section by saying:
But by far the majority of the Christian church holds to the concept that Christ is represented by the scapegoat. Here are some examples from readily available reference works which see Jesus Christ as the Scapegoat.
Eatons Bible Dictionary
Adam Clarke's Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Whole Bible Commentary
John Wesley's Notes on the Bible
1599 Geneva Bible Notes
Also found in the writings of the early church fathers Justin Martyr and Barnabus . (Origen held the opposite view, but one must remember it was Origen which gave us the idea that Lucifer in Isaiah 14 is the Devil also. He also thought that the Leviathan in Job was also the devil).
But the question must ultimately come down to where does the evidence from the Bible lead us. Which of these two opposing views have the most Biblical support. Since the SDA position has already been stated above it appears to be a good beginning point. The 3 evidences which the SDA’s Believe book mentioned were: (1) the scapegoat was not slain as a sacrifice and thus could not be used as a means of bringing forgiveness. For ‘ without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Heb 9:22); (2) the sanctuary was entirely cleansed by the blood of the Lord’s goat before the scapegoat was introduced into the ritual (Lev 16:20); (3) the passage treats the scapegoat as a personal being who is the opposite of , and opposed to, God (Leviticus 16:8 reads literally, ‘One to Yahweh and the other to Azazel’). Therefore, in the setting of the sanctuary parable, it is more consistent to see the Lord’s goat as a symbol of Christ and the scapegoat Azazel--as a symbol of Satan."
1. "The scapegoat was not slain." This ignores how symbolism is used. The high priest was not slain either yet he served as a model of the mediation which Christ establishes between God and man. And what about the candlesticks, the bread and a host of other things present which symbolize elements of Christ’s ministry. If the scapegoat is viewed as an example of how Christ completely removes from mankind their sins, it becomes an especially meaningful illustration. God removing from His people all their guilt, sin and transgressions. It must be remembered that no symbol used in the sanctuary service could even come close to encompassing all that the Messiah was to do. Therefore many different symbols were used.
For the blood of sheep and goats does nothing. It is symbolic for the gift God gives us through Jesus Christ.
Heb 10:4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (NIV)
The atonement was symbolized through the sacrifice of the animal. Just as the scapegoat symbolizes the removal of our sins. As if they were thrown into the sea, or separated by the sky. We are dealing with symbols here. The remains of the goat sacrificed were then taken outside the camp and burned, this does not mean that Christ must be burned, the lesson was taught already, at some point all symbols lose their meaning.
The Bible tells us who it is that takes away the sins of the world, and that person is Jesus Christ.
I Jn 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (NIV)
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (NIV)
Isa 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (NIV)
Isa 53:11-12 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV)
Isa 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (NIV)
Heb 9:28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (NIV)
Heb 9:26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NIV)
1 Pet 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (NIV)
I Jn 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (NIV)
2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)
Christ fulfills the antitypical symbol of the scapegoat. There is no need for Satan to bare anyone's sins. He has his own sins to bare and they will prove to be unbearable. But the evidence that Satan will have sins transferred upon him at the end of time must be considered. Unfortunately for those holding the scapegoat as Satan position no Biblical support is available. They have but one reference which really has little to do with the situation regarding the Day of Atonement. Calling attention to the verses in Rev 20:2-3 they note the banishment of Satan for a 1000 years chained and confined to the bottomless pit, where he can no longer deceive the nations till the thousand years are finished.
(2) the sanctuary was entirely cleansed by the blood of the Lord’s goat before the scapegoat was introduced into the ritual (Lev 16:20)
It is important to note that the above is a false assumption since the atonement is not completed until after the scapegoat is sent away, and further offerings are made. (atonement is made for Most Holy Place, Tent of Meeting and the Altar, Lev 16:20 "When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. (NIV) Later we see the atonement continues Lev 16:24 He shall bathe himself with water in a holy place and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. (NIV))
All the symbols on the Day of Atonement should be taken together, it is unfortunate that some feel the need to separate the elements instead of searching for the general meanings which the rituals point toward. The entire day is about the cleansing of the people.
Lev 16:30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. (NIV)
(3) The passage treats the scapegoat as a personal being who is the opposite of , and opposed to, God (Leviticus 16:8 reads literally, ‘One to Yahweh and the other to Azazel’).
If this were really true then Satan would truly be the one who removes sin from Israel. But as was pointed out above there is not one indication in the Bible that Satan in any way carries away any sin.
To stand two things in contradistinction suggests they are both personal beings is an unwarranted suggestion. Consider what Jesus said: Matt 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (KJV) Mammon is money, wealth, riches etc. it is not a personal being.
Instead of opposing positions it could be a form of Parallelism, both are for the Lord, Lev 16:10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. (NIV) the meaning of Lev 16:8 He is to cast lots for the two goats-- one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. (NIV) indicates two functions, one killed as sacrifice and one to show sins removal. Verse 7 shows us that both goats were presented before the Lord. Thus it is clear that both are used in the Atonement. This atonement is to God not to Satan. Notice verse 5 "From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering." (NIV) Both goats are a sin offering, both are for atonement also (verse 10, 16 respectively refer to the scapegoat, and the goat killed.)
There is no opposition both are used for God to reveal the intended lesson. Both goats were used were the highest quality, why not use a disgusting and deformed goat for Satan. The reason is that both the sacrificed and the goat of removal as well as the other animals and the priest and the water and so much more are symbols for Jesus Christ. The concept of placing Satan in the Day of Atonement ritual is totally out of place with all the other symbols used in the sanctuary and its services.
When considering the limits of the symbols used it makes perfect sense to see each article or symbol as one small phase of the Messiah’s ministry and plan of redemption. All can only vaguely foreshadow but through the light of the New Testament we can clearly see in what direction the rituals were pointing. The many acts and sacrifices on the Day of Atonement all meet their true meaning in Jesus Christ. (The book of Hebrews is the primary source for the interpretations involving the sanctuary)
It may be helpful at this point to show that a lamb used in the Old Testament may mean an animal from sheep or goat species, and even of age over 1 year old. This is somewhat different from the way we view the term lamb today. Speaking of the Passover lamb the Bible says: Exod 12:3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. Exod 12:5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. (NIV) This makes such verses as John 1:29 far more clear: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (NIV)
It is not so much to the Bible that people go to find the idea that Satan is the scapegoat. It is interestingly to the pseudoapocryphal book of 1 Enoch. The book of Enoch was written not earlier than 300 BC and possibly as late as 100 BC. It is a book which recounts the journeying of Enoch under divine guidance, through the entire earth and through the seven heavens, and all the mysteries of heaven and earth. Widely accepted by Christians till the time of Jerome it is now rejected by the majority of Christianity and also by Jews. But the use of the word Azazel is found in this book. Since many have never actually read the book of Enoch the following is included to give the reader a sense of what this book is about.
Azazel as introduced in 1 Enoch.
1 And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all 2 colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they 3 were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjaza taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, 'Armaros the resolving of enchantments,
Baraqijal (taught) astrology, Kokabel the constellations, Ezeqeel the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiel the signs of the earth, Shamsiel the signs of the sun, and Sariel the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven . . .
Sounds quite a bit like many a pagan myths doesn’t it. Now the second mention of Azazel.
1 And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being 2 shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth. And they said one to another: 'The earth made without inhabitant cries the voice of their cryingst up to the gates of heaven. 3 And now to you, the holy ones of heaven, the souls of men make their suit, saying, "Bring our cause 4 before the Most High."' And they said to the Lord of the ages: 'Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings, and God of the ages, the throne of Thy glory (standeth) unto all the generations of the 5 ages, and Thy name holy and glorious and blessed unto all the ages! Thou hast made all things, and power over all things hast Thou: and all things are naked and open in Thy sight, and Thou seest all 6 things, and nothing can hide itself from Thee. Thou seest what Azazel hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were
(preserved) in heaven, which 7 men were striving to learn: And Semjaza, to whom Thou hast given authority to bear rule over his associates. And they have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the 9 women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins. And the women have 10 borne giants, and the whole earth has thereby been filled with blood and unrighteousness. And now, behold, the souls of those who have died are crying and making their suit to the gates of heaven, and their lamentations have ascended: and cannot cease because of the lawless deeds which are 11 wrought on the earth. And Thou knowest all things before they come to pass, and Thou seest these things and Thou dost suffer them, and Thou dost not say to us what we are to do to them in regard to these.'
There is nothing inspired about this book, It is replete with mythological names, and that causes people to look at it as some sort of authority to explain Azazel? There is really no reason that Christians should appeal to this book. It is true that Jude makes a reference to one line of the Book, but that is hardly an endorsement. And further not one New Testament author gave any indication of Azazel being Satan.
Even the book of Enoch does not equate Azazel with Satan.
However the Pagan influences seen in the book of Enoch do bring us back to the interesting coincidences which exist in the Bible and other ancient myths. There is evidence which suggests that God took religious practices which the people were familiar with and recast them to better indicate what God had in mind for His plan of redemption of mankind. This is a bit outside the scope of this article but it is an important consideration, that should be kept in mind. The following is from Ugarit and the Bible (http://www.theology.edu/ugarbib.htm):
"KTU (Keilalphabetische Texte aus Ugarit), the standard collection of the Ugaritic texts) relates the same procedure at Ugarit' with one notable difference--at Ugarit a woman priest was involved in the rite as well."
(All of these tables were written in the period around 1300-1200 BCE.)
Some may feel that it is inappropriate for God to take pagan practices and adopt them for His use. But there is really no reason to object, God meets people where they are and in the case of Israel they were a people coming out of 400 years of slavery in a foreign land. The only problem comes when the previous pagan implications are adopted. God had no intention of having His people sacrifice to devils or goat demons in fact in Lev 17 He forbids such things. Lev 17:7 They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.' (NIV) (Some versions read demons or saytres instead of goat idols.)
But we move back to the pagan conceptions when we remove Christ from the scapegoat and replace Him with Satan. All other Sanctuary symbols relate to God’s act of forgiveness of His people. In which case Satan has no part at all. Sin is not an entity that can or needs to be transferred about. The scapegoat illustrates God’s removal of sin from our lives. It is blotted out, forgotten. There is no need of it to be placed on Satan at the end of time. To do this is to confuse the symbol used to teach a lesson with what the lesson really is. And finally the Bible never says that sin is transferred to Satan either at the Day of Atonement or at the end of this age.