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Some scholars believe that Azazel is a fallen angel (demon "the book of Enoch") who brought sin to mankind; then how could God used Azazel to take away mankind's sin again?

“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. - Leviticus 16:6-10 ESV

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    You will need to clarify by providing some reference about the Azazel representing either demons or Satan (or similar). This question might be better posed as something like, "What does "Azazel" represent in the rite of the Day of Atonement of Lev 16?"
    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 24 at 6:26
  • Thanks for an interesting question... I enjoyed researching it. Commented Jun 7 at 13:56

2 Answers 2

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Let me first premise my answer. Ehrlich succinctly summarized,

“Azazel—No one knows who he is or what he is. What previous scholarship said about him has no substance and cannot be relied upon.” [Pinker]

This is also true at the present time, almost a century later.


It's true that in Jewish mythology, Azazel is a demon. Therefore, based on this idea I'll pose an answer to your question.

He is considered to be among the archangels who rebelled against Yahweh and subsequently procreated with human females. Furthermore, he is thought to have played a role in guiding humanity towards the development of civilizations, imparting knowledge in areas such as the arts and warfare, thereby diverting them from Yahweh. [1]

According to Aron Pinker,

“Most modern scholars believe that Azazel is a supernatural entity of ancient origin connected to demons, believed to live in the desert, and the ritual is an adaptation of the purification rites of the ancient Near-East…Albright noted the parallels between the scapegoat and the Greek Pan and the satyrs as well as a number of Southwest-Asiatic goat deities.” [Pinker]

Robert Helm points out something similar,

Although many scholars have identified Azazel with a demonic figure to whom the sin-laden scapegoat was dispatched,' the term remains undefined in the biblical text.

In Helms' article he tries to demonstrate "that two noncanonical Jewish works, I Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham, reveal a tradition in which Azazel was regarded as a demon, and in which the scapegoat rite was utilized as a symbol of demonic expulsion. Hence it will be argued that a segment of ancient Jewish apocalypticists found a symbol of eschatological victory over demonic forces in the rite involving Azazel and the scapegoat."

According to John J. Parsons,

a few commentators have suggested that the ritual of the sent goat was a sort of "concession" made to the devil. They argue that the name "Azazel" refers to a name of a particular demon (perhaps even of the devil himself) that was associated with the wilderness regions (see Matt. 4:1). Instead of allowing illegitimate sacrifices made to the "goat demons" (Lev. 17:7), the ritual of the ritual of "banishing the goat" acknowledged the power of spiritual darkness, and constituted a repudiation of "the force that rules desolate places, whose power is revealed in bloodshed, war, destruction, and under whose authority are the demons, the se'irim, the he-goats" (Nachmanides, Moreh Nevuchim). [Parsons]

One idea is that this ritualistic act was based on the notion that the entity was responsible for introducing sin to them, and thus, by returning the sins, they were cleansing themselves from its influence. [2]

By banishing the goat out of the city, they also banished whatever power they believed Azazel had. [1]

References
Pinker, A. (2009). A Goat to Go to Azazel. The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, 7. https://doi.org/10.5508/jhs.2007.v7.a8
Parsons, J. https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Acharei_Mot/Scapegoat/scapegoat.html
Helm, R. M. (1994). Azazel in early Jewish tradition. Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS), https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2168&context=auss
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    It seems to me that Azazel stands in opposition to YHWH, in other words HaSatan. One goat is sacrificed while one goat is released. Jesus bar Joseph was sacrificed but Jesus Barabbas was released. My best guess is that the scapegoat was a prophetic marker to help Jews recognize that Jesus/*Yeshua* was the sacrificial offering for sin.
    – Dieter
    Commented Apr 25 at 5:22
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I have to disagree with @Jason's premise: "No one knows who he is or what he is." Of course such things cannot be known with certainty but we do have substantial information about Azazel from the Book of Enoch, which is quoted several times in the NT. For example, 1 Enoch 4 states:

1 And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth... 4 And they said to the Lord of the ages, "... 5 Thou seest what Azazel hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were in heaven..."

10 And again the Lord said to Raphael, "Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein... And on the day of the great judgement he shall be cast into the fire.... The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel, to him ascribe all sin."

Here we see that Azazel was a chief among the evil angels. Since "Satan" is not mentioned in the Book of Enoch it is even possible that Azazel is a proper name and "Satan" is an office, a inverse example of the name "Ramses" being a proper name not mentioned in Exodus, where the kings of Egypt were called by the name of their office - "Pharaoh." Origen (Contra Celsum 6:43) goes so far as to directly identify Azazel with Satan.

Be that as it may, it is clear that the Book Enoch sees Azazel as a chief demon, if not the king of the demons responsible for "all sin." Enoch also portrays Azazel as being specifically consigned to the desert regions by God. This brings us to the question: "how could God use Azazel to take away mankind's sin again?"

A possible answer is provided in Jewish tradition. According to the Pirḳe R. Eliezer 46, the goat is offered to Azazel as a bribe so that he (who is identical with Samael or Satan) would not prevent the actual atonement of sins on that day.

The Holy One, blessed be He, hears the prayers of Israel rather than their accuser, and He makes atonement for the altar, and for the sanctuary, and for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation both great and small.

We should also note that sacrificing a living animal while setting another one free is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

Leviticus 14:

The priest shall order that two live, clean birds... be obtained for the one who is to be purified (from leprosy). 5 The priest shall then order that one of the birds be slaughtered... When he has purified the person, he shall let the living bird fly away over the countryside.

Conclusion: One Jewish tradition holds that the goat for Azazel was sent into the desert as a kind of payment to Satan to ensure that God would hear Israel's prayers on the Day of Atonement, rather than listening to Azazel's accusations. In other words, it is part of the atonement "equation" rather than being offered to Azazel as an atoning sacrifice in itself. On the other hand, the scapegoat may be set free in a similar way to the bird being set free in Leviticus 14, whether as an offering for Azazel or simply representing liberation from sin, which is actually accomplished by the sacrifice of the other goat.

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