Yom Kippur: Leviticus 16

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue

Yom Kippur

 Leviticus 16

A subject of much debate among those who do not understand Yahshua’s role as the perfect Olah offering to G-d, is the command for Aharon as the High Priest to take two male goats, one to be designated for Adonai and one for Az’azel (Lev. 16:5-22). This narrative illustrates how Yahshua took the sin of the world upon Himself and was sent away to Golgotha outside Jerusalem, to bear all our transgressions. In our parashah, the narrative goes like this:” “Aharon is to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the transgressions, crimes, and sins of the people of Israel; he is to put them on the head of the goat and then send it away into the desert with a man appointed for the purpose. The goat will bear all their transgressions away to some isolated place and he is to let the goat go in the desert.”

Some of the confusion stems from various interpretations of the word “Azazel”, and the fact that there were two goats and some cannot make the connection between Yahshua’s role as taking on the sin of the world “and”His role as the perfect offering/sacrifice to Adonai for the sins of the world.

“Azazel” is interpreted as “scapegoat”; in rabbinic Judaism “for the complete removal”; Rashi explains that Azazel was a high mountain, a rocky cliff, as it says “to a land cut off (16:22).” Indeed, Yahshua was taken to a hill, Golgotha, a place cut-off from Jerusalem. So, Rashi was correct without understanding the depth of his explanation. According to the Book of Enoch which brings Azazel into connection with the Biblical story of the fall of the angels, located on Mount Hermon, a gathering-place of demons of old (Enoch xiii). Azazel is one of the leaders of the rebellious Watchers 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, dying 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 YHVH’s command, bound hand and foot by the archangel Raphael and chained to the rough and jagged rocks of [Ha] Dudael (= 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). In 1 Enoch and 3 Enoch :The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.

 1 Enoch 10:8

According to 1 Enoch (a book of the Apocrypha), Azazel (here spelled ‘ăzā’zyēl) was one of the chief Grigori, a group of  fallen angels who married women. This same story (without any mention of Azazel) is told in Genesis 6:2–4:

That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. […] There were giants in the earth in those days; and afterward, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

1 Enoch portrays Azazel as responsible for teaching people to make weapons and cosmetics, for which he was cast out of heaven. 1 Enoch 8:1–3a reads:

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 coloring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways.

G-d sees the sin brought about by Azazel and has Raphael “bind Azazel hand and foot and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert – which is in Dudael – and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever, and cover his face that he may not see light.”

Several scholars have previously discerned that some details of Azazel’s punishment are reminiscent of the scapegoat rite. Thus, Lester Grabbe points to a number of parallels between the Azazel narrative in 1 Enoch and the wording of Leviticus 16, including “the similarity of the names Asael and Azazel; the punishment in the desert; the placing of sin on Asael/Azazel; the resultant healing of the land.” Daniel Stökl also observes that “the punishment of the demon resembles the treatment of the goat in aspects of geography, action, time and purpose.” Stökl remarks that “the name of place of judgment (Dudael) is conspicuously similar in both traditions and can likely be traced to a common origin.”

Azazel’s fate is foretold near the end of 1 Enoch 2:8, where God says, “On the day of  the great judgment shall be cast into the fire. […] The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.”

Medieval Jewish commentators

The medieval scholar Nachmanides (1194–1270) identified the Hebrew text as also referring to a demon, and identified this “Azazel” with Samael who is also considered the Satan; venom of G-d; the Accuser. He saw the sending away of the goat as a symbolic expression of the idea that the people’s sins and their evil consequences were to be sent back to the spirit of desolation and ruin, the source of all impurity. He believed the very fact that the two goats were presented before G-d, before the one was sacrificed and the other sent into the wilderness, was proof that Azazel was not ranked alongside G-d, but regarded simply as the personification of wickedness in contrast with the righteous government of God.ref=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azazel#cite_note-Jewish-1″

Maimonides (1134–1204) says that as sins cannot be taken off one’s head and transferred elsewhere, the ritual is symbolic, enabling the penitent to discard his sins: “These ceremonies are of a symbolic character and serve to impress man with a certain idea and to lead him to repent, as if to say, ‘We have freed ourselves of our previous deeds, cast them behind our backs and removed them from us as far as possible’.

The rite, resembling, on one hand, the sending off of the basket with the woman embodying wickedness to the land of Shinar in the vision of Zechariah 5:6-11, and, on the other, the letting loose of the living bird into the open field in the case of the leper healed from the plague (Lev. 14:7), was, indeed, viewed by the people of Jerusalem as a means of ridding themselves of the sins of the year. So would the crowd, called Babylonians or Alexandrians, pull the goat’s hair to make it hasten forth, carrying the burden of sins away with it (Yoma vi. 4, 66b; “Epistle of Barnabas,” vii.), and the arrival of the shattered animal at the bottom of the valley of the rock of Bet Ḥadudo, twelve miles away from the city, was signalized by the waving of shawls to the people of Jerusalem, who celebrated the event with boisterous hilarity and amid dancing on the hills (Yoma vi. 6, 8; Ta’an. iv. 8).

I present the previous detailed explanation to show that Yahshua indeed took the sins of the world upon His head, was taken outside Jerusalem to die alone and forsaken, just as the scapegoat was taken out into the desert and abandon, to die alone and forsaken. Yet, because of His obedience to YHVH (Yahshua in another aspect of His Complex Unity as Father), was the perfect burnt offering (Olah), acceptable to atone for the sins of men that they “might be saved.” John 3:16 reads “For G-d so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.” We all have free will. Yahshua accepted the role of Scapegoat for Azazel and total burnt offering (Olah) to provide us a choice between Life and Death. How we choose to live our lives will determine our destiny. G-d’s predestination simply means He knows the beginning from the end and knows how we will choose to live our lives. He does not determine who will be saved and who will be lost as Calvinistic theology would have us believe. We are NOT pawns on this earth; rather we were born to serve G-d and make His Name known throughout the nations.

Again, Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘I am Adonai your G-d. You are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Egypt, where you used to live; and you are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Kena’an, where I am bringing you; nor are you to live by their laws. You are to obey my rulings and laws and live accordingly; I am Adonai your G-d. You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am Adonai.” Notice that He did not say “obey my laws and rulings until the New Testament is written and I become incarnate in the form of a man to teach you new laws and different rules!” Anyone who considers themselves a lover of G-d must follow the laws and rulings of G-d in order to live, just as He said.


Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart