« Azariah Azazel Azymites »

Azazel

AZAZEL a-zê´zel or a-zā´zel (Heb. ‘aza’zel): The word translated ” scapegoat” in the A. V., found only in Lev. xvi, in the legislation concerning the Day of Atonement, where the high priest is directed to take two goats as sin-offering for the people, to choose by lot one of them ” for Yahweh” and the other ” for Azazel” (ver. 8), and to send the latter forth into the wilderness (ver. 10, 21-22; see Atonement, Day of ). The meaning of the word has occasioned much discussion. Starting from the fact that ” for Yahweh” and ” for Azazel” stand in opposition (ver. 8), many think that it is the name of a being opposed to Yahweh,—a desert-monster, a demon, or directly Satan. Such as attempt an etymological interpretation then explain it as characterizing the demon or Satan as removed or apostatized from God, or a being repelled by men (averruncus), or one which does things apart and in secret (from azal, ” to go away” ). Others conceive of Azazel, not as a proper name, but as an appellative noun and modified reduplicated form of a root ‘azal, ” to remove, retire,” signifying longe remotus or porro abiens. The sense of verses 8, 10, and 26, then, is that the goat is designated by the lot as an azazel, i.e., something which is to go far away, and is sent into the wilderness as such; and the idea is expressed symbolically that with the sending away of the goat, sin has also been removed from the people for whom atonement has been made, and they regard themselves as freed and released from their sins. The contrast between ” for Yahweh” and ” for Azazel,” however, in ver. 8 favors the interpretation of Azazel as a proper noun, and a reference to Satan suggests itself. It has been urged that nowhere else in the Pentateuch is Satan mentioned, and that afterward, when the idea of Satan comes out more fully in the consciousness of the Old Testament congregation, the name Azazel is not found. But it may be that Azazel—whatever its meaning may be—was the name of an old heathen idol or of one belonging to Semitic mythology and thought of as the evil principle, which older Judaism made the head of the demons as later Judaism used the name of the Philistine Baal Zebub. A definite explanation, satisfactory to all, can hardly be looked for. The name of Azazel, like Belial and Beelzebub, is transferred from the Old Testament language into the Book of Enoch as designation of a power of evil.

W. Volck†.

Bibliography: H. Schultz, Old Testament Theology, i, 403-406, Edinburgh, 1892; Diestel, Set-Typhon, Asasel, und Satan, in ZHT, 1860, pp. 159 sqq.; G. H. A. von Ewald, Die Lehre der Bibel von Gott, ii, 191-192, Leipsic, 1874; Oort, in ThT, x (1876), 150-155; S. R. Driver, in Expositor, 1885, pp. 214-217; Nowack, Archäologie, ii, 186-187; Benzinger, Archæologie, p. 478; DB, i, 207-208; EB, i, 394-398; consult also the commentaries on Leviticus. For ethnic analogies cf. J. G. Frazer, Golden Bough, ii, 18-19, London, 1900.

« Azariah Azazel Azymites »
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