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.
both represent Christ. According to Tertullian, the goat driven into perdition (a clear reference to the goat for Azazel) marks the Lords suffering: he was cursed and spit upon and pulled about and pierced. The other goat symbolizes Christs offering for sin32.
Likewise, Barnabas states that both goats were types of Christ and, therefore, had to look identical (7,10). The author makes an intriguing statement concerning the second goat: The first goat is for the altar, but the other is accursed (e)pikata/ratoj) (7,9; cf. 7,7). The accursed goat is a clear reference to the goat for Azazel which, according to Barnabas, represents Jesus. The identical word e)pikata/ratoj cursed also occurs in Gal 3,13 in reference to Christ: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree". Here Paul is alluding to Deut 21,23. Of course, it is difficult to say whether the author of the Epistle of Barnabas (which could be as early as late first century AD) would have had access to Pauls writings. Yet we may assume that he would have been familiar with many of the ideas conveyed by Paul33. Pauls notion of Jesus being accursed is clearly echoed in Barnabas 7,7.9. The question arises: How is the expression for Azazel interpreted in the Epistle of Barnabas? The interpretation found in the Septuagint (see discussion above) does not seem to be reflected in this early Christian letter. Instead, the exegesis of Leviticus 16 given in this article may have been in the mind of the apostolic father, because in the book of Deuteronomy, to which Paul in Gal 3,13 alludes, to be accursed is equated with experiencing the wrath of God:
The anger of YHWH and his jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him (Deut 29,19; in English 29,20).
The anger of YHWH burned against this land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book (Deut 29,26; in English 29,27).
Therefore, Barnabas 7,7.9 may well reflect the idea that the goat for Azazel was accursed in the sense of destined for the powerful wrath of God.
Although the New Testament writers never mention explicitly that Gods anger was upon Jesus, this idea seems to be implied. Shortly before his suffering and death, Jesus begs his Father remove this cup from me (Matt 26,39; Mark 14,36; Luke 22,42; John 18,11), the cup signifying in all likelihood the cup of Gods wrath spoken of by the prophets (Isa 51,17.22; Jer 25,15), and used as a metaphor for punishment and divine retribution for sin34. Moreover, it can be argued that Paul in Rom 3,24-25 speaks of Christs death as a propitiation (i(lasth/rion), that is, his death appeased the anger of God against sin, resulting in the sinners deliverance from Gods wrath (cf. 1 Thess 1,10)35. These implied references in the New Testament