While there were many sacrifices done on Yom Kippur, let us now concentrate on this amazing and mysterious one. It is the sacrifice of the two goats. One was sacrificed to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle, while the other was let go to Azazel. Who or what is Azazel? Why was the second goat not sacrificed but instead let go into the wilderness to meet with Azazel? We read that this second goat took on itself all the sins of Israel. This passage on the two goats is read every Yom Kippur in the synagogues and it is right here where we can really see the Messiah, the Mediator between man and God.
Let us go to the moment this goat is sent to Azazel. This passage is found in only 4 verses, Leviticus 16 Vs.7-10. When reading the different translations, the reader will be confused as to the relationship between the goat that is being led into the wilderness, and the Azazel to whom it is going. The problem is that in the majority of translations, the word Azazel is rendered into English as scapegoat, and so the reader will be confused between the Azazel and the goat when in fact, they are very different from each other.
To avoid the many confusing English translations, let us read from a translation based on the Schocken Bible, a Jewish literal translation of the Torah. Here the text becomes clearer, and the message is indeed very powerful. “He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. One lot for YHWH and one lot for Azazel. And the goat for which the lot of Azazel came up is to be left standing-alive, before the presence of YHWH, to effect-atonement upon it, to send it away to Azazel into the wilderness”. Do you see where this translation brings us? There is an amazing unveiling of the mystery as we see God, Azazel and the goat.
We are told in vs. 10 that this goat was to effect atonement. Furthermore, just before Aaron was to let go of the live goat, we read this in vs.21-23, “Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness”.
This goat is very important for it carried all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions. Shouldn’t we know more about it? The problem is that Leviticus 16 cuts the story short. We read that the goat went to Azazel and that is all.
But a fuller picture will emerge once we figure out who Azazel is. From the first century and on, many rabbis identified Azazel as the chief of the demons, the devil himself. The name is believed to have been derived from the word zim, the name given to demons roaming the desert, as they are described in Isaiah 13-14. This word comes from the Hebrew word zaha, which came to describe jealousy and anger. And to this word is added the word el, for god, so we have Azazel, the god of anger and jealousy.
Now if Azazel is the evil one, we ask what does the goat symbolize, the one who carried all the sins of Israel and was sent to Azazel? Only one could ever fill this task; that is the Messiah Himself, the Redeemer of Israel, who carried the sins of the whole world and confronted the evil one and triumphed over him opening the way for us to God. He is the one who now allows us personal access into the Holy of Holies.
Where, we might ask, is the goat going? There is an emphasis on the word wilderness, midbar. Three times we are told in Leviticus 16 that the goat was sent in the wilderness to meet Azazel (vs.10,21,22). This reminds us that Yeshua was Himself sent into the wilderness to confront Satan. Mark opens his book with this information. We read in Mark 1: 13, “And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him”. The words wild beast is one word in Greek, therion, often describing evil spirits and used in Revelation to describe the devil as the wild beast that comes out of the abyss in Rev. 11:7. This same word is used for the Antichrist in Revelation 13:1 when John saw a beast coming up from the sea.
So, the wilderness is where Yeshua was sent to confront Satan, the Azazel. And so we have in Leviticus 16, God, Azazel and the Goat; God, the devil and Yeshua who is our Mediator.
In Deut. 18: 15, 18b Moses prepared us to meet and to recognize this Messianic figure. We read, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him, …and the LORD said, “It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him”.
If Moses and Aaron were, and by their own admittance, not good enough to save Israel, another would then be needed; and this one is Yeshua, the Messiah.
The Torah gives us another great connection with the goat. The word for this particular goat for Yom Kippur is the combination of two words; שִׂעֹיר עִזִּים (Sahir Rizim), the male-goat. The first time this one is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 37:31. When a Hebrew word or combination of words is used for the first time in Scripture, we look to see a deeper meaning.
Gen. 37:31 says, So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood. Joseph was a type of the Messiah. Out of jealousy, his brothers sold him to strangers and dipped his tunic into the blood of a male-goat to make Jacob believe that he died. But Joseph rose, forgave his brothers and at the end saved them from famine.
This is what Yeshua will do in the end. He not only really died for His people, but for all people and though now He is despised and rejected, One from whom many hid their faces, He is the Mediator who will forgive. Leviticus 16 cries out for everyone to see Him. At Yom Kippur we see that Yeshua is both the High Priest and the sacrifice, not only the goat, but all other sacrifices combined.
And these truths are emphasized in the Brith Chadasha, and especially in the Book of Hebrews where the word High Priest is mentioned 16 times and always points to Yeshua. For it was fitting for us to have such a High Priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those High Priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. Hebrews 7:26-27
Considering the great difficulties of the priests and the High Priest to fulfill their tasks, now that there is no temple, no functioning priesthood, the office of High Priest is now fulfilled by the Messiah Yeshua.