The Goat to Azazel
In the KJV, the goat given “to Azazel” is rendered “Scapegoat”. This is in keeping with the KJV’s tendency to
render the names of demons as common animals. However, the lamed (l) inseparable preposition meaning “to”
that is attached to Azazel makes it clear that the goat is given l’Azazel , or “to Azazel”. Furthermore, there is
consensus from the Kabalah and Talmud that Azazel refers to either a demon, a place in the wilderness, or both.
Lev 16:10 (KJV)
10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement
with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
Lev 16:10 (My Literal)
But the goat that ascended upon him the lot for Azazel, he will continue to live to the face of Jehovah, for an atonement is
upon him for letting him go to Azazel of the wilderness.
The most natural reading of Lev 16:10 suggests Azazel is a demon or god. This is due to the parallelism of
roles with the goat given “to Azazel” with the goat given “to Jehovah”. However, many writers of the Talmudic
period, including the notable Rashi, write only of Azazel as being a place to which the goat was taken and killed.
But as we shall see, Azazel most likely refers to both a person and a place. It refers to the demon Azazel, and at
the same time may be understood to mean that place where that demon was buried under a great mountain of
rock and bound by the angel Rafael in the Book of Enoch. This is the same place where the goat to Azazel was
taken on Yom Kippur. So when the goat was taken “to Azazel”, Azazel could be understood as referring to the
demon trapped in that dread place, or the locale itself. As already mentioned, many Talmudic writers may have
wished to downplay the demonic role of Azazel, and simply referred to Azazel as the name of the place where
the goat was taken.