Seventh-Day Adventists/Lev 16:10 "Atonement"
Recently I asked Anthony to explain the phrase "to make an atonement" in Leviticus 16:10 and this is his response:
I would appreciate it very much if you could also furnish your take on this matter. Thanks very much.
Dear Brother Mike:
The Hebrew word “azazel” is sometimes translated “scapegoat” (see KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV), but is often left untranslated (see CEB, ESV, GNT, NLT, NAB, RSV). Other versions translate it “goat of departure” (YLT), “emissary goat” (DRB), and “goat that removes sin” (NCV). The Amplified version uses “azazel”, but adds either “removal” or “dismissal”. From this brief survey we can see that the exact meaning of azazel is highly disputed. It is common for Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, and commentaries to note the great difficulty this word presents for translators. If, as SDAs state, azazel meant “Satan” there would be no such acknowledged difficulty among scholars.
The problem of translating azazel is further complicated by the fact that it only occurs four times in the entire Bible (Leviticus 16:8, 10 [twice], and 26). Perhaps owing to the difficulty in translating this word some commentators seemingly in frustration actually make lists of those who agree with them and those who disagree as if Bible difficulties are settled by a vote! I believe that the best thing we can do in determining who or what is represented by the scapegoat/azazel is to carefully examine what the Holy Spirit has had recorded in those verses. We should look for clues to help us identify who or what the scapegoat/azazel represents. You may wish to read all of chapter 16, but in the interest of space and time I will record vs. 5-26. I will use the New American Standard Bible in all Bible references in this study unless otherwise noted.
5 He shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 Then Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household. 7 He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 8 Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.
11 “Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself. 12 He shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil. 13 He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, otherwise he will die. 14 Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
15 “Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 He shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and thus he shall do for the tent of meeting which abides with them in the midst of their impurities. 17 When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides. 19 With his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times and cleanse it, and from the impurities of the sons of Israel consecrate it.
20 “When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. 21 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. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.
23 “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. 24 He shall bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on his clothes, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 Then he shall offer up in smoke the fat of the sin offering on the altar. 26 The one who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; then afterward he shall come into the camp.
From the above verses we learn that the two goats together were one sin offering (v. 5). Since both goats were “for a sin offering” and presented before the Lord (v. 7) they both had to be perfect, without blemish. “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 17:1). Extra-biblical sources reveal that the two goats had to be exactly alike in size, color, and value since either one could be chosen to be sacrificed to the Lord. We also learn from the above verses that the scapegoat had the atonement made on it (v. 10). Further we learn that all the sins of Israel were transferred to it (v. 21). Then the scapegoat took all these sins of Israel away from the camp into the wilderness (vs. 21-22). Lastly we learn that the man who led the scapegoat into the wilderness must wash his clothes and bathe before he can return to the camp (v. 26).
Now let’s highlight some of the clues that we found in the passage above so as to better ascertain the identity of the scapegoat/azazel. First note that both goats had to be without blemish or defect in order for the sacrifice to be acceptable. Therefore, the scapegoat/azazel could not be a representation of Satan for Satan is anything but an acceptable sacrifice. “He shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two male goats for a sin offering…” (v. 5). The Bible teaches that both goats comprise the one sin offering. They are “for a sin offering”. We also learn that both goats take part in the atonement (vs. 10, 16-18). Of the scapegoat the Bible says that it “…shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it…” (v. 10). Therefore, the scapegoat/azazel could not be Satan since whenever atonement was made on an animal that animal was always an acceptable spotless sacrifice. The scapegoat had all the peoples sin put on it to be taken away (vs. 21-22). No where does the Bible say that Satan would take our sins away, but it does say that Jesus will take away our sins. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29). “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
Based on what we have studied I conclude that the Lord’s goat and the scapegoat are two aspects of the same atonement which typifies our atonement. One innocent victim shed its blood cleansing the sanctuary and the other innocent victim bore the sins of God’s people away forever. These actions are accomplished by the once forever Atonement of Jesus Christ. He is the anti-type of the Lord’s goat because he cleanses us by his blood. “…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7; cf. Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5). The Lord’s goat cleansed the sanctuary and later the Temple. Jesus’ blood cleanses the New Covenant Temple, God’s people. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NKJV; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16). The scapegoat bore the sins of God’s people in his body. Jesus is the anti-type of the scapegoat because he bore our sins in his body. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross…” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV; cf. Isaiah 53:6, 11, 12). The scapegoat carried the sins of God’s people into the wilderness never to be counted against them again. Jesus carried our sins away never to be counted against us again. “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25; cf. 38:17; Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 7:19).
To sum up: I believe that primarily the action of the two goats represented the concept of the atonement. The first or Lord’s goat represented the blood of an acceptable sacrifice covering our sins. The second or scapegoat represented the complete removal of our sins by God. Further I believe that secondarily both innocent victims represented Christ who actually covered and removed our sins by the actions of his Atonement.
Thanks for the question,