Sunday, March 09, 2008

Leviticus 16:20-22 - The Scapegoat

Pray and Read: Leviticus 16:7-10, 20-22, 26
16:7 And he shall take two of the hairy goats and cause them to stand before the face of YHWH at the opening of the Tent of Meeting. 16:8 And Aaron shall give lots upon the two of the hairy goats, one lot for YHWH and one for the goat of going away.[1] 16:9 And Aaron shall bring the hairy goat that the lot fell upon for YHWH and shall make it a sin offering. 16:10 And the hairy goat that the lot fell upon for a goat of going away, it shall stay alive before the face of YHWH to make atonement over it to send it away as a goat of going away toward the wilderness.

16:20 And when he has finished making atonement for the holy place and the Tent of Meeting and the altar, then he shall bring near the hairy goat, the living one. 16:21 And Aaron shall lay his two hands upon the head of the hairy goat, the living one, and he shall confess over it all the depravities of the sons of Israel and all of their transgressions in all their sins, and he shall give them upon the head of the hairy goat, and he shall send (him) away in the hand of a ready man toward the wilderness. 16:22 And the hairy goat shall bear upon it all their depravities to the land cut off, and he shall send away the hairy goat into the wilderness.

16:26 And the one setting free the hairy goat, the go-away goat, shall wash his garments and bathe his flesh in the waters, and afterward he shall come into the camp.

Key Truth: Moses wrote about the scapegoat in Leviticus 16 to point Israel to their Messiah who would bear away all their sin.

Key Application: Today I want to show you how the Christ forgives and bears away all your sin and guilt so that it will never return.

Sermon Points:
1. Christ will forgive your sin (Leviticus 16:20-21a).
2. Christ will send your guilt away (Leviticus 16:21b-22).

Contextual Notes:
Last week we were in this same passage, Leviticus 16, and we talked about the Day of Atonement when the high priest, dressed in white, went in once a year with blood and incense to cleanse Israel of its sin before the Lord’s Presence. You might remember we intentionally skipped some verses last week, and today we will deal with them because their subject called for a separate discussion of the picture of Jesus Christ in the scapegoat.

The scapegoat gives us an incredible picture of Jesus Christ as we move quickly toward the Easter holiday.

The main point here is that the two goats represent one sacrifice, and the one sent away was connected with the one slain, similar to the two birds we discussed in the cleansing of the leper. The sins of the people, which were cleansed through the blood of the first goat, were then laid on the second goat and sent away, completely away. Had it been possible, the same goat which was killed would have been sent forth.

The scapegoat is mentioned in the Bible only once, here in Leviticus 16. The English word scapegoat seems to have been invented by the famous English Bible translator and martyr of the faith William Tyndale in his attempt to translate what literally reads “for Azazel.”[2] Your Bible translation may have Azazel instead of scapegoat. In fact, those translations even capitalize the transliterated word as a proper noun, claiming “for YHWH” is paired with “for Azazel.”

That phrase, “for Azazel” has caused considerable controversy. Some think it refers to the desert wasteland, some to a mountain named Azazel (that has never been identified), and some think it is the name of a demon of the desert derived from the Egyptian god Typhon.[3] Some cults use this phrase to teach that Azazel is Satan himself and he is the sin-bearer – a heinous lie.

The more you read the more outlandish it gets. And they bring extra-biblical information to bear on a word that we have nowhere else in Scripture, so we have no Biblical help from anywhere else. In so doing, they bring in ideas foreign to the Old Testament and the Torah. Some scholars, even evangelical ones, ignoring the image of Christ in the scapegoat, say that the goat with its sins is being sent to Satan or Azazel. Other scholars, try to separate Azazel into an Arabic root, azaz and Hebrew el, meaning “fierce god,” hence, demon. Look, this passage is not about demon-worship. It is an immaculate image of Christ’s wiping away of the world’s sins and guilt.[4]

Why can’t we use a little common sense? Look at the word in Hebrew, since that’s the language in which Leviticus 16 is written, and see עז ez, the noun goat, and אזל azal, the verb go away. Albert Barnes and William Tyndale saw it. Tyndale coined the term scapegoat. We can call it the goat of going away or the go-away goat, but let’s stay with the text and let our imagination rest on this one. Well, that’s my rant.

Exposition: Note well,


a. Only after the sacrifice of the first goat (16:20). The scapegoat could not be sent away until the first one’s blood was shed.

b. Ray Stedman: “You see, forgiveness is not an easy thing for God to display. He can't do as many people seem to think he can -- simply look at our evil and say, "Oh, well, that's all right. Forget about it. I love you anyway. Just go on." If that were the way that we are forgiven then God would deny his character as a just God. But God is just and, in a sense, his justice struggles with his love. God's justice says, "Everyone who deliberately commits transgressions must be set aside from my presence. He cannot come before me." This book teaches that again and again. God's justice excludes us from his presence and sends us away. If God were just, and only just, he would wipe out the human race without exception. Not one of us could stand.

"But God's love doesn't want to do that. Yet how can his love be expressed unless his justice is satisfied? That is what the death of Christ does. When God's Son hung on the cross God did not spare him a thing! He poured out upon him every bit of his wrath against sin. Every bit of his justice was satisfied in the death of his Son upon the cross. Thus God is vindicated. The whole world can now look at that event and say, "Yes, God is just -- even though he loves us." The death of Jesus freed God to show his love to us. Apart from his death you and I would never have known that he is a God of mercy, of compassion, and of tender, forgiving grace.”[5]

c. Brought forward (16:20). Once the lots were cast, the high priest tied a tongue-shaped piece of scarlet cloth to the horn of the scapegoat and another around the throat of the goat to be sacrificed. The scapegoat was then turned around to face the people, waiting until their sins should be laid on him, and he would carry them to a land not inhabited. What a picture of Christ on trial with Pilate! He was brought forward before the people to stand in front of them, just as He was about to be led forth to bear the iniquity of the people outside the city and carry their sin to an uninhabited place. Pilate’s famous statement, “Ecce homo!” This is the Man!

d. Confessed sins of Israel on goat’s head (16:21). Both goats represent one message. Sacrifice and the bearing away of sin are locked into one another. The dying goat represents the essence of sacrifice. The sent away goat represents the effect of the sacrifice. The one teaches that sacrifice is a necessary condition of pardon. Forgiveness was not given because the offerer confessed his guilt or because ‘God was merciful,’ but because the goat had been slain as a sin offering.[6]

e. Charles Spurgeon: “So we have this great and glorious thought before us, that by the death of Christ there was full, free, perfect remission for all those whose sins are laid upon his head. For I would have you notice that on this day all sins were laid on the scapegoat’s head—sins of presumption, sins of ignorance, sins of uncleanness, sins little and sins great, sins few and sins many, sins against the law, sins against morality, sins against ceremonies, sins of all kinds were taken away on that great day of atonement. Sinner, oh, that thou had a share in my Master’s atonement! Oh! that thou could see him slaughtered on the cross! Then might you see him go away leading captivity captive, and taking your sins where they might never be found.”[7]

f. APPLICATION: Jesus will forgive your sin, but you must confess it. You must make use of the opportunity He has given you to get clean before Him. Do you struggle with guilt over past sin? What is eating at you right now as you sit here listening to my voice? Is there a sin eating a hole in you? Is there something that you did forty years ago that you cannot get past? The Lord forgives sin. Why don’t you confess it to Him, put it on His head. Let Him handle it. Let Him heal you of it. Let Him take it and remove it from you and your family forever.


a. To a Land cut off (Amplified) place of no return (). Christ bore our sins to the place of death. Christ, having died on the cross for our sin, has born them away, no more to return to us, just like the goat would never return from the separation of the desert.[8]

In Ephesians 4:9-10 Paul says He went to the depths: “9(What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.).”

Isaiah shouts Isaiah 53:6: 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.;" That's the scapegoat.

Isaiah 44:22: 22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you."

Jeremiah cries out in Jeremiah 31:34: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."; and in Jeremiah 50:20: 20 In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "search will be made for Israel's guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.;" The prophet Micah says in Micah 7:19: 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

The Psalmist says in Psalm 103:12: 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

The writer of Hebrews agrees in Hebrews 8:12: For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

And Paul trumpets from the mount in Romans 8:1-2: 1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

And see John the Baptizer standing in the Jordan pointing to Jesus. John 1:29: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

b. Sent away in care of a ready man (16:22). In later years when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, the goat was led out through Solomon’s Porch (where Christ was paraded on trial) and the Eastern Gate (the same gate Christ rode into on Palm Sunday) to the Mount of Olives (where Christ sweated blood at Gethsemane and I believe was located the spot of Calvary). At that time a “ready man” took the go-away goat, at the time of Christ it was a non-Israelite, a symbol that Israel would hand Christ over to the Gentiles![9] That ready man, though, is even welcome in the camp once he washed his clothes (put off his old ways of sin) and bathed his flesh (came to faith in Christ through the washing of regeneration). This is a picture of the missionary God giving life even to the Gentiles.

c. The two goats together make one whole lesson. The one which was slain made ‘atonement . . .because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel,’ but that expiation was not actually effective till Aaron had ‘laid his hands on the head of the live goat, and confessed over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, . . .and put them on the head of the live goat, and sent him away into the wilderness.’ The sacrifice of the slain goat did not accomplish the pardon or removal of the people’s sins, but made it possible that their sins should be pardoned and removed. Here is the working together of repentance and faith. By these the possibility is turned into an actuality for as many as believe on Christ.[10]

Have you laid your hand on Christ? Faith is only a condition of forgiveness, not a cause. It was not faith which was the reason for forgiveness, but God’s love which had provided the sacrifice. God does not pardon for pardon’s sake, nor does he pardon for Christ’s sake, but for Christ’s sake He pardons them who believe. ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.’

Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “Azazel.” .
Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 249-50, 253-9.
Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, “Leviticus 16:20-22,” A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.
B. Janowski, “Azazel,” Karel van der Toorn, et. al, eds., Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, (Boston: Brill), 1999, 128-131.
Alexander Maclaren, “The Scapegoat,” Leviticus 21:22, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers.
Leland Ryken, et. al., gen. eds., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, (Downers Grove: IVP, 1998), 763-4.
Philip Schaff, ed., New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I: “Azazel.” .
A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary, (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), I: 195.
Charles Spurgeon, “The Day of Atonement,” Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 2., sermon preached August 10, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, London, .
Ray Stedman, “The Need for Presentation,” sermon preached January 16, 1972.

[1] Most of the scholarship has focused on עזאזל Azazel in two roots ((zaz and el, thus – strong (in bad sense) / god). I can’t understand why they don’t see in it what William Tyndale apparently saw, i.e., עז ez and אזל azal – goat / gone away). Adam Clarke concurs on the roots. Further, the obvious parallel to the two birds in the cleansing of the leper (Albert Barnes concurs) (Lev 14:52-53) and the use of הַחַי֒ there to describe the living bird strengthens the case. This parallels Genesis 6:19; 8:17 which uses הַחַי֒ to command Noah to bring two of every kind of living thing into the ark.
[2] Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 763.
[3] JFB Commentary, Leviticus 16:20-22, e-sword.
[4] Alexander Maclaren, “The Scapegoat,” Leviticus 21:22, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers.
[5] Ray Stedman, “The Need for Presentation,” sermon preached January 16, 1972, posted at .
[6] Maclaren.
[7] Charles Spurgeon, “The Day of Atonement,” Spurgeon’s Sermons, vol. 2., preached August 10, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, London.
[8] A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary, I: 195.
[9] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 249-50, 253-9.
[10] Alexander Maclaren, Leviticus 21:22.