The meaning of Azazel (Leviticus 16:8) likely resembles a fallen angel. In this passage, we read of one goat for the Lord and the other for Azazel.

Then, in Leviticus 17:7 (NASB)

7 And they shall no longer offer their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the prostitute. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations.”’

How is Leviticus 16:8 not considered a sacrifice to Azazel?

  • This question assumes that the word "azazel" refers to a supernatural being, yet that interpretation is hardly obvious from the Bible text itself, which is usually understood to be the name of a wilderness area. Which denomination(s) hold this unorthodox belief? May 21 at 2:50
  • @RayButterworth the meaning of what Azazel is a separate question which I've linked too in the question. You're welcome to answer that other question with your findings but you might be surprised to know that belief is not as unorthodox as you claim May 21 at 7:03

4 Answers 4


How is Leviticus 16:8 not considered a sacrifice to Azazel?

This is a great question. At its most primitive level, of course it is a sacrifice to Azazel, since

  • It is something of value (a goat, without blemish).
  • It is given to Azazel as part of a ritual

That it is given to Azazel is clear by the words "for Azazel" - the "lo" - preceeding the proper name which was written on a tablet and hung on the poor goat's neck before they pushed it over the cliff. So at the end of this process, the Israelites had two less goats, and Azazel had one more goat, so the Israelites were giving the devil his due. If you were an anthropologist objectively observing what was happening, without any theological training in Leviticus, you would classify this as a sacrifice to Azazel.

However there are legalistic concerns that argue the Israelites were not sacrificing to Azazel, and this being the law, it is these concerns that should prevail:

  • Which goat was for Azazel was chosen by lot, and thus by God. Therefore it was not the Israelites that were selecting the goat, and in fact God was orchestrating the whole thing.

  • The purpose of this goat is similar to the other paired animals offerings (e.g. two birds, one flies away and the other is sacrificed) in that the animal driven away is symbolically carrying the sins away from the Israelites. So we should interpret "to the devil" as "to be driven out of God's camp and into the area that belongs to the devil" rather than "I am giving a gift to the devil in order to obtain a favor from the devil".

So God was the one demanding the sacrifice, however God was requiring that Azazel get something here, and God was choosing which goat he'd get. I think this is also prefiguring Luke 22.53 "but this hour and the power of darkness are yours" (NASB).

  • So, in your understanding, why was God requiring Azazel ‘get something’? Something for what?
    – Dave
    Feb 9, 2021 at 17:15
  • @Dave Is the Luke 22.53 reference not clear enough? Then try Luke 24.7, which is a reference to Luke 22.53. Christ is the scapegoat. Or are you asking why Christ must be handed over? That can't be answered in the comments.
    – Robert
    Feb 9, 2021 at 19:47
  • No, sorry, but I can’t quite ‘tie’ the Luke references to this. Don’t misunderstand me, your answer here (and answers elsewhere) reflect a good understanding, and are worth considering. When you say “giving the devil his due”, any chance you could elaborate?
    – Dave
    Feb 9, 2021 at 21:46
  • The statement "At its most primitive level, of course it is a sacrifice to Azazel" does not follow from the mentioned reasons. Sending "something of value" to X "as part of a ritual" does not necessarily imply that said item of value is being sacrificed to X. Proof: there could be a hypothetical ritual as part of which good food is sent to the poor, and in that case nobody would say that the food is being sacrificed to the poor.
    – Johannes
    May 20 at 22:35

This question verges on a truth that is important. There are traditional explanations, but this isn’t one of them, it it provided for thought.

Leviticus 16 outlines Yom Kippur. It is about ‘sin’, in particular, covering it. Why cover? Because if it’s uncovered, it can be judged, and in the case of the Israelites, it would be. Now here is the pivotal question - and also where this outline breaks from the traditional interpretation. Who judges? That was the what the second goat, the one released, was all about.

The ‘sin’ of the people was ‘put’ onto the goat, and it was released as a ‘sign’ that these ‘sins’ (those for that coming year), where ‘covered’, and therefore could not be ‘judged’. And that sign was for the ‘entity’ that judged, the accuser. Whose was represented by Azazel.

But, you can’t tie this ritual outlined in Leviticus 16 to what is being described in Leviticus 17. While the Israelites were in the wilderness, they were outside of the allocated land set aside for them, so were ‘vulnerable’, or exposed to both other gods (sons of god/Satan) and the associated demons (‘un-housed [no body] spirits.)

It was these ‘spiritual forces’ that sort to oppress the Israelites. They were Gods chosen nation. This identifies them with the ‘seed’ that was prophecied to crush Satan’s head. Hence they were constantly targeted, and needed ‘protection’, via the sacrificial system.


The is before you but because it is so near to you it remains unseen. This is akin to looking for one’s glasses as they sit on the head. This is the great secret hidden in plain sight all throughout the NT. The true Scripturally represented Jesus (and he according to his own words in the synoptic gospels) vs Jesus of Christianity, particularly Pauline antinomian godman. Christ vs Antichrist…two “images” aka two thieves, both off center, erected alongside the middle pillar of the true Christ lifted up by Rome and denounced by the chief priests and sages of his own people, in the place of the skull, beyond the gates outside the City.

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    Nov 1, 2021 at 13:10

Sending an animal to a region in which God allows an angel to have some degree of influence does not imply that said animal is being sacrificed to said angel. Particularly when said animal is bearing all the iniquities of the people (Lev 16:22).

That sending to an uninhabited region a live animal which bears the evil that has been taken away from the people does not amount to offering a sacrifice to the angel (in monotheism) or lesser deities (in polytheism) that may inhabit that region is clear in the similar rituals of several cultures of the 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C.E. in the Syro-Anatolian region which are described in [1], from which I quote:

The extant ancient Near Eastern texts describe an apotropaic practice of sending away a live animal to an uninhabited region in order to ward off any malevolence threatening people or a place, such as evil, impurity, or plague. As the examples noted above and others reveal, the affliction, after having been removed from the body of the patients, is “loaded” onto the sent-away animal, with either a verbal accompaniment or with threads tied around its body. Following the release of the live animal, it is sometimes said that the entity, whether a god or a person, that encounters it receives the malevolence it carries. Thus, finally, the patient is purified.

Note that in the only case of those mentioned in the article in which the evil-laden animal is sent to personal deities, namely the Luwian-Hittite ritual, it is clear that the animal is not a sacrifice that will please those deities:

Then they release the mouse, (saying):

“Zarni[za], Tarpattašši—You, take this for yourself, and we shall [gi]ve you (something) [el]se to [e]at.”

[1] Noga Ayali-Darshan, "The Scapegoat Ritual and Its Ancient Near Eastern Parallels" TheTorah.com (2020).

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