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.
In Leviticus 16, given that atonement for sin is intrinsically related to the idea of pacifying Gods anger, the expression lz)z(l in vv. 8, 10, 26 may convey this very notion. The first goat is for YHWH: it will be offered to him as a sacrifice. The second goat is for the powerful wrath of God, that is, for placating Gods anger. The laying of hands during confession of sin and the explicit statement that the goat carries the sins of the Israelites to a barren region suggest that their sins are transferred onto the goat24. The goat becomes a symbol of evil. In a barren region, the goat would die from starvation and his death would appease the anger of God25.
The Identification of Azazel with the Leader of the Demons
In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the identification made between Azazel in Leviticus 16 and the demon Asael spoken of in Enoch is very clear, because the two names are spelled in exactly the same way: l)zz( occurs both in a paraphrase of Leviticus 16 (11QT 26,13) and in an Enoch-like recounting of how the angels fell into sin (4Q180 1 7-8)26.
As mentioned before, Tawil has proposed the translation fierce god for l)zz( and he has also drawn attention to the identification made between the Azazel of Leviticus 16 and the Asael of Enoch. He views the name Azazel given by post-biblical Jewish interpreters to the leader of the demons as a description of his fierce character, his wicked desire to destroy humans27. However, such an explanation of the name Azazel does not account for the identification made.
Instead, my interpretation of the expression Azazel may well have been in the mind of some early Jewish interpreters (such as the Qumran sectarians), because it is reconcilable with the idea that Azazel is a demon. Rather than a description of the demons character, the name Azazel could have been an allusion to the doom which awaited this rebellious being28. The book of Enoch gives a long description of how Asael/Azazel will be punished, because he is viewed as the one responsible for all sin. The Lord tells the angel Raphael to ascribe to Azazel all sin, because the whole earth has been corrupted by his teaching through his actions (10,8-9; cf. 13,1-3). It is obvious how Jewish interpreters could easily have viewed the goat for Azazel spoken of in Leviticus 16 as destined for the demon Asael, because he carried all the sins