Gracefully Truthful

Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Leviticus 16:5, 8-10, 26

5He is to take from the Israelite community two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.

8 After Aaron casts lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for an uninhabitable place,9 he is to present the goat chosen by lot for the Lord and sacrifice it as a sin offering. 10But the goat chosen by lot for an uninhabitable place is to be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement with it by sending it into the wilderness for an uninhabitable place.

26The man who released the goat for an uninhabitable place is to wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; afterward he may reenter the camp.

The Original Intent

1) Why were there two goats for the sin offering?

While the Bible doesn’t tell us why there were two goats required, we can make some educated guesses. One possible reason is that the 2 goats tied back to Abraham. 

The law was that one goat took on all the sins of the people and then was sent out into the wilderness to die, while the other was sacrificed on the altar for sin. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was the son of the bondservant Hagar (Genesis 16) and was born according to the flesh (Galatians 4:23), and Isaac, who was the son of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and was born according to the promises of God. 

Ishmael represents the flesh (our attempt at pleasing God with our own goodness). Isaac represents the Spirit (acknowledgement that only Christ can be our righteousness). Abraham had to make two sacrifices.

In Genesis 21, he had to send Ishmael away into the wilderness because God told him to listen to his wife and she wanted him gone. So, in a sense, he sacrificed Ishmael. He didn’t want to send him out. In Genesis 22, Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his “only” son, Isaac. He took him to Mount Moriah, bound him, and was willing to sacrifice him to God when God sent a ram in his place. 

The Everyday Application

1) Why were there two goats for the sin offering?

There is a constant wrestling within every believer, I believe. We know that we’re saved by grace, but oh, how we wrestle with our flesh. I believe that Christ had to die for our sins. He was the Lamb without blemish. But sometimes, we think we need to do our part to get into Heaven.

Let me tell you something! Jesus did it all!!! Jesus+nothing=everything. But we ARE called to die to our old self. We are no longer slaves to sin. We must die to sin and live for Christ.

So, although Christ died for us and paid the price in full, His love should compel us to die to our flesh, die to our sin, send it far, far away into the wilderness!! Christ offered His life for us, and we are to offer our lives for Him.

The Original Intent

2) What are the different views of the meaning of “Azazel” or uninhabitable place or scapegoat?

The Christian Standard Version translates “Azazel” or “scapegoat” as an uninhabitable place. The original Hebrew term was Azazel. One goat was to be chosen for the Lord and the other was to be chosen for Azazel.

Azazel is obviously a name. It could be the name of a place or the name of a person. Leviticus 16 is the only place in Scripture that this term is used, so it’s difficult to determine its actual meaning.

The four possible meanings that theologians have determined are as follows: the name of a demon, a location, an abstract noun, or a compound word.  

The Everyday Application

2) What are the different views of the meaning of “Azazel” or uninhabitable place or scapegoat?

Regardless of which definition we land on, the point that is stressed in this yearly ritual is the removal of sin. Let’s not forget that as we dive into what Azazel could mean.

In early Jewish writings, Azazel was frequently portrayed as a demon that lived in the wilderness which would explain why they’d take the goat to the wilderness. The most important thing is that the sin of the people was entirely removed from them, just as ours was from us when we decided to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Finally, some believe that it’s a compound word that combines the Hebrew word for “goat” (el) and “to go away” (azal) making it mean the goat that goes away. Our sin went away when Christ defeated sin and the grave on the cross and we decided to follow Him.

As Isaiah 53:4-5 says, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” 

Thank You, Jesus, for being our scapegoat!!! 

The Original Intent

3) Why did the one who released the scapegoat have to wash his clothes and bathe before being considered clean?

God laid out very specific rules about what is considered clean and what is considered unclean in Leviticus. Whenever someone came into contact with something unclean, they were commanded to undergo a very ritualistic cleaning. They weren’t allowed to stay in the camp if they were unclean.

You can imagine how unclean the person taking this goat into the wilderness would be considered. He was not considered unclean because the goat was physically unclean. He was considered unclean because the goat symbolized all the sins of all the Israelites, and I can guarantee you that was a lot of sin if those people were anything like us! 

The Everyday Application

3) Why did the one who released the scapegoat have to wash his clothes and bathe before being considered clean?

When you are exposed to sin, what is your first response? Are you drawn to it, or do you feel like running home and taking a shower?

I think washing our clothes and bathing our bodies is a beautiful picture of how we should view sin. We should want no part in it, and when we come into contact with it, we should feel unclean. 

Sometimes, I wish we had a ritual every year where we could picture our sins heaped on an animal. I think it would make us want to take that animal far, far away from us.

God, I pray that that’s how I view sin. Help us, Lord, to be done away with sin. Help us to send it away from us. Help us to run away from it. Remind us that our sins were heaped on You when you were on the cross.

Let that be a visual reminder to us to live clean and holy lives. Help us to repent when we’ve sinned. Help us run back into the arms of the One who has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west. 

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