|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:1-14 Without entering into particulars of the sacrifices on the great day of atonement, we may notice that it was to be a statute for ever, till that dispensation be at an end. As long as we are continually sinning, we continually need the atonement. The law of afflicting our souls for sin, is a statue which will continue in force till we arrive where all tears, even those of repentance, will be wiped from our eyes. The apostle observes it as a proof that the sacrifices could not take away sin, and cleanse the conscience from it, that in them there was a remembrance made of sin every year, upon the day of atonement, Heb 10:1,3. The repeating the sacrifices, showed there was in them but a feeble effort toward making atonement; this could be done only by offering up the body of Christ once for all; and that sacrifice needed not to be repeated.
Verses 7, 8. - It must be carefully noted that. as the two goats made one sin offering (verse 5), so they are both presented before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. By this solemn presentation they became the Lord's, one as much as the other. After this, Aaron is to cast lots upon the two goats. The two goats, of the same size and appearance as far as possible, stood together near the entrance of the court. And by them was an urn containing two lots. These the high priest drew out at the same moment, placing one on the head of one goat, the other on the head of the other goat. According as the lot fell. one of the goats was taken and at once offered to the Lord, with a view to being shortly sacrificed; the other was appointed for a scapegoat, and reserved till the expiatory sacrifices had been made, when it too was offered to the Lord, and then sent away into the wilderness. After the lot had been chosen, the two goats were distinguished from each other by having a piece of scarlet cloth tied, the first round its neck, the second round its horn. One lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. The last word is in the original la-azazel, and being found only in this chapter, it has caused a great discrepancy of opinion among interpreters as to its meaning. It has been diversely regarded as a place, a person, a thing, and an abstraction. The first class of interpreters explain it as some district of the wilderness; the second understand by it an evil spirit; the third take it as a designation of the goat; the fourth translate it, "for removal." The first interpretation may be summarily rejected. If a localized spot were meant, that spot would have been left behind by a people constantly on the move. The second hypothesis - that azazel was an evil spirit, or the evil spirit - has been embraced by so considerable a number of modern expositors, that it is necessary to dwell upon it at some length. But, indeed, it has little to recommend it. It has been argued that azazel must be a proper name, because it has no article prefixed to it, la-azazel. This is a grammatical error. When a noun expresses an office or a function, and has the preposition le or la prefixed to it, it does not take an article in Hebrew any more than in French; e.g., in the verse, "Jehu... shalt thou anoint to be king (or for king) over Israel; and Elisha... shalt thou appoint to be prophet (or for prophet) in thy room" (1 Kings 19:16), the Hebrew is le-melek and le-navi, without the article. The same idiom will be found in 1 Samuel 25:30; 2 Samuel 7:14. With greater plausibility it is argued that verse 8 contrasts Jehovah and Azazel, and that if la-Yehovah be translated "for Jehovah," or "for the Lord," la-azazel must be translated "for Azazel." It may be allowed that there is a prima facie likelihood that, where words are thus contrasted, if one designates a person, the other would designate a person. But it is an incredibly rash assertion that this is always the case. All depends upon the idea which the speaker or writer has in his mind and desires to express. As part of the same argument, it is urged that the preposition, being the same in both clauses of the sentence, must be translated by the same word. This is certainly not the case. The natural meaning of le with a proper name is "for," and with a word expressing the performance of some function (technically called nomen agentis) it means "to be" (see the passage quoted above from 1 Kings 19:16). Unless, therefore, azazel be a proper name (which has to be proved, not assumed)the preposition need not and ought not to be translated by "for" but by "to be." The word le is used with great latitude, and often in a different sense in the same sentence; e.g., Exodus 12:24; Leviticus 26:12. The objections to the theory that azazel means an evil spirit are of overwhelming force. It will be enough to name the following.
1. The name azazel is nowhere else mentioned. This could not be, if he were so important a being as to divide with Jehovah the sin offering of the congregation of Israel on the great Day of Atonement.
2. No suitable etymology can be discerned. The nearest approach to it is very forced - "the separated one."
3. The notion of appeasing, or bribing, or mocking the evil spirit by presenting to him a goat, is altogether alien from the spirit of the rest of the Mosaic institutions. Where else is there anything like it?
4. The goat is presented and offered to Jehovah equally with the goat which is slain. To take that which has been offered (and therefore half sacrificed) to God and give it to Satan, would be a daring impiety, which is inconceivable. That la-azazel means "for removal" is the opinion of Bahr, Tholuck, Winer, and others. There is nothing objectionable in this interpretation, but the form of the word azazel points rather to an agent than to an abstract act. Azazel is a word softened (according to a not unusual custom) from azalzel, just as kokav is a softened form of kay-kay, and as Babel is derived from Balbel (Genesis 11:9). Azalzel is an active participle or participial noun, derived ultimately from azal (connected with the Arabic word azala, and meaning removed), but immediately from the reduplicate form of that verb, azazal. The reduplication of the consonants of the root in Hebrew and Arabic gives the force of repetition, so that while azal means removed, azalzal means removed by a repetition of acts. Azalzel, or azazel, therefore, means one who removes by a series of acts. "In this sense the word azazel is strictly expressive of the function which is ascribed to the scapegoat in verses 21, 22; namely, that he be sent away, bearing upon him all the iniquities of the children of Israel into the wilderness.' It properly denotes one that removes or separates; yet a remover in such sort that the removal is not effected by a single act or at one moment, but by a series of minor acts tending to and issuing in a complete removal. No word could better express the movement of the goat before the eyes of the people, as it passed on, removing at each step, in a visible symbol, their sins further and further from them, until, by continued repetition of the movement, they were carried far away and removed utterly" (Sir W. Martin, 'Semitic Languages'). That it is the goat that is designated by the word azazel is the exposition of the LXX., Josephus, Symmachus, Aquila, Theodotion, the Vulgate, the Authorized English Version, and Luther's Version. The interpretation is founded on sound etymological grounds, it suits the context wherever the word occurs, it is consistent with the remaining ceremonial of the Day of Atonement, and it accords with the otherwise known religious beliefs and symbolical practices of the Israelites. The two goats were the single sin offering for the people; the one that was offered in sacrifice symbolized atonement or covering made by shedding of blood, the other symbolized the utter removal of the sins of the people, which were conveyed away and lost in the depths of the wilderness, whence there was no return. Cf. Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us;" and Micah 7:19, "He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." The eighth verse should be translated as it stands in the Authorized Version, or, if we ask for still greater exactness, And Aaron shall east lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and one lot for a remover of sins.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he shall take the two goats,.... The sin offering for the people, a proper emblem of Christ, this creature being clean and fit for food, denoting the purity of Christ, and his being suitable and wholesome food, as his flesh is to the faith of his people; and because comely in its going, as Christ was in his going from everlasting, and in his coming, into this world, travelling in the greatness of his strength; and even by reason of its having something in it unsavoury and offensive, and which made it the fitter emblem of Christ, as a surety of his people; for though he had no sin inherent in him and natural to him, yet he appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh, and had sin imputed to him, which rendered him obnoxious to divine justice: the number of these goats was two, typical either of the two natures in Christ; his divine nature, in which he is impassable, and lives for ever, which may be signified by the goat presented alive and let go; and his human nature, in which he suffered and died, and may be fitly represented by the goat that was slain; or else of the two estates of Christ before and after his resurrection, his being put to death in the flesh and quickened in the Spirit; or rather this may signify the twofold consideration of Christ as Mediator, one with respect to his divine Father, to whom he made satisfaction by his death; and the other with respect to Satan, with whom he conflicted in life, and to whose power he was so far delivered up, as not only to be tempted, and harassed by him, but through his instigation to be brought to the dust of death; See Gill on Leviticus 16:10; and these two goats, according to the Jewish writers (y), were to be alike in sight or colour, in stature and in value, and to be taken together: Christ, the antitype of them, is the same dying and rising; the same that died, rose again from the dead; the same that suffered, is glorified; and the same that went up to heaven, will come again in like manner:
and present them before the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation; at the east of the court, and the north of the altar, as the Misnah (z); so that their faces were towards the west, where the holy of holies, the seat of the divine Majesty, was, and so said to be before the Lord, or over against where he dwelt: this presentation may have respect to the death of Christ, when he presented himself to God as an offering and a sacrifice; and which was done publicly in the sight of great multitudes, and on the behalf of the whole congregation of the Lord's people, and before him against whom sin is committed, and to whom satisfaction is given.
(y) Misn. Yoma, c. 6. sect. 1.((z) Ib. c. 3. sect. 8.
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