Bible study 106 – Leviticus 16

Do you know Yom Kippur? Sadly, I know the name mainly from the Yom Kippur War, which started when an Arab coalition attacked Israel on the same day as Yom Kippur in 1973. You see, it’s an important day of observance for the Jews, and its rituals are described in this chapter.

It is a “sabbath of sabbaths”, and you should fast and completely abstain from work. But originally, the main point was to get rid of all the uncleanness that had amassed in the tabernacle for the past year; and as you have probably already guessed, this involved Aaron sacrificing several animals and throwing their blood everywhere. (Don’t worry, the Jews don’t actually do animal sacrifice any more since the Romans destroyed their temple in 70 AD, not even on Yom Kippur. The Samaritans do, though.)

The ritual also involves choosing one goat for God, and one goat for “Azazel”. All the sins of Israel are to be put onto this second goat, which is to be sent into the wilderness to Azazel. Exactly who or what Azazel is remains unclear, but the implication that it was some kind of deity comparable to God might have been what made later monotheistic rabbies interpret it as “the goat that goes away”, or the “scapegoat“, which is how “Azazel” was translated in the King James bible.

Leviticus 16:8
(…) and Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel.

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One Comment on “Bible study 106 – Leviticus 16”

  1. […] Shavuot (unnamed in the text); the trumpet blasting festival; the sabbath of sabbaths (also in chapter 16); and the festival of […]


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