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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
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Hebrew - scapegoat

Animal that carried away the sins of the people into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:8,Leviticus 16:10,Leviticus 16:26). On the Day of Atonement, when the high priest went once a year into the holy of holies to offer sacrifices for the sins of his family and for all the people, two goats were brought before him. By lot, one was chosen to be “for the Lord.” This goat was slain as a sin offering, and its blood was sprinkled on the cultic objects to help cleanse the altar, the sanctuary, and the tent of meeting from defilements of the past year.

The second goat was said to be “for Azazel.” The word Azazel is usually interpreted to mean “the goat of removal,” or scapegoat. However, the term may also refer to a rocky place in the desert or to a demon of the desert. By laying his hands on the goat's head, the priest transferred the sins of the people to it and then had the goat led away into the desert, picturing the removal of the sins.

In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is identified as the leader of the fallen angels who lies bound beneath rocks in the desert awaiting judgment. The goat is led to that area and thrown to its death from a cliff. See Intertestamental History; Pseudepigrapha.

Although the scapegoat is not mentioned by name in the New Testament, Hebrews 10:3-17 contrasts sanctification through the sacrifice of Christ with the blood of bulls and goats which can never take away sins. See Sanctification.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'SCAPEGOAT'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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