Jacqueline C.R. De Roo, «Was the Goat for Azazel Destined for the Wrath of God?», Vol. 81 (2000) 233-242
This article is a proposal to read the enigmatic word lz)z(, occurring in Lev 16,8.10.26, as a metathesized form of l)zz( on the basis of textual, semantic and contextual evidence, and to interpret it as a reference to the powerful wrath of God. This interpretation of the expression Azazel fits its biblical context, because the goat for Azazel evidently had an atoning function (Lev 16,10), it was a means to atone for sin (vv. 21-22). Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, making atonement for sin is equated with appeasing Gods wrath (Num 16,46-48; 25,6-13). Likewise, the goat for Azazel, carrying the sins of the people, is for the powerful wrath of God, to placate his anger. The proposed interpretation of the goat for Azazel ritual may also have been in the mind of some post-biblical interpreters, both Jewish and Christian.
c. The word lz)z( is a contraction of lzlz( and means entire removal, derived from the Aramaic root lz( to remove, intensified by the reduplication lz. According to this interpretation, for Azazel signifies for the entire removal of guilt6.
d. Many modern biblical scholars believe that the word lz)z( is the name of a demon on the basis of the following arguments: 1. According to Lev 16,8, Aaron is supposed to cast lots for two goats: one for YHWH and another for Azazel. The first goat is for a supernatural being, therefore it is likely that the second one is too7. 2. A direct contrast seems to be made between the destinations of the two goats and between YHWH and Azazel. Demons are opponents of YHWH. 3. The goat designated for Azazel is driven into the wilderness, which is often described as the abode of demons (Lev 17,7; Isa 13,21-22; 34,11-15; Tob 8,3; Matt 12,43). 4. Post-biblical Jewish interpreters identified Azazel with Asael, the leader of the fallen angels mentioned in 1 Enoch (8,1; 9,6; 10,4-8; 13,1; compare 4Q180 1 7-8)8.
e. An interesting variation of the last view discussed has been proposed by H. Tawil. He suggests that lz)z( is a scribal metathesis deliberately altered to conceal the true demonic nature of this supernatural being and proposes the reading l)zz( on the basis of textual evidence, rendering it as fierce god (zz( fierce plus l) god). On the basis of comparison made with Ugaritic and Akkadian texts, Tawil identifies Azazel with Môt the Canaanite god of the netherworld9.
f. B. Janowski and G. Wilhelm argue that the goat for Azazel ritual is derived from a South Anatolian North Syrian ritual tradition in which animals, such as donkeys and birds, were used as substitutes for humans in order to appease magically an angry deity. Like Tawil, they believe lz)z( to be a metathesized form of l)zz(, but render it as divine anger (zz( anger/fierceness plus l) of a deity)10.