THE GOAT FOR AZAZEL

In this article, we are going to examine the ritual that was conducted anciently by the Israelites on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  I believe this ancient ceremony is significant regarding the fulfillment of end-time prophecy.  First, let's start by looking at what the Scriptures tell us about this ceremonial observance:

LEVITICUS 16:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died;
 2 and the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
 3 But thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and shall have the linen breeches on his body, be girded with the linen girdle, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water, and then put them on.
 5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.
 6 And Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house.
 7 Then he shall take the two goats, and set them before the LORD at the door of the tent of meeting;
 8 and Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel.
 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD, and offer it as a sin offering;
 10 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.
 11 Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house; he shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself.
 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small; and he shall bring it within the veil
 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat which is upon the testimony, lest he die;
 14 and he shall take some of the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times.
 15 Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood within the veil, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat;
 16 thus he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel, and because of their transgressions, all their sins; and so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which abides with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.
 17 There shall be no man in the tent of meeting when he enters to make atonement in the holy place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel.
 18 Then he shall go out to the altar which is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar round about.
 19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.
 20 And when he has made an end of atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat;
 21 and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and send him away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.
 22 The goat shall bear all their iniquities upon him to a solitary land; and he shall let the goat go in the wilderness.
 23 Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting, and shall put off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there;
 24 and he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people.
 25 And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn upon the altar.
 26 And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
 27 And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be carried forth outside the camp; their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned with fire.
 28 And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.
 29 And it shall be a statute to you for ever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves, and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you;
 30 for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the LORD.
 31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute for ever.
 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father's place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments;
 33 he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly.
 34 And this shall be an everlasting statute for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins." And Moses did as the LORD commanded him. (RSV)

As this passage of Scripture shows, the high priest was to enter into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) only one time per year, on the Day of Atonement (10 Tishri on the Hebrew calendar).  This entry into the Most Holy Place was allowed so atonement could be made for the people, to cleanse them of their sins so that they would be clean before the LORD [YHVH] (Lev. 16:30).

The ceremony with the two goats is the main focus of the rite conducted on the Day of Atonement.  In addition to the information recorded in Leviticus 16, we are given additional details about this observance in the Mishnah, which is the body of Jewish oral law recorded in the 2nd century CE.  The tract Yoma describes this ceremony in detail.

In Yoma we are told that a box was brought to the high priest which contained two lots, one marked "for YHVH" and the other marked "for Azazel."  The high priest put his hands in the box and brought out a lot in each hand; he held up the hand which contained the lot for YHVH.  The high priest then tied a crimson thread on the head of the goat which was to be sent forth (the goat for Azazel), and another crimson thread around the throat of the goat which would be slain as a sin offering (the goat for YHVH).

After the high priest atoned for his own sins and those of his family by the blood of the bull (Lev. 16:6, 11-14), the goat which had been designated "for YHVH" was brought to him.  The high priest then slaughtered this goat, and its blood was used to purify the Most Holy Place from the uncleanness of the Israelites.  Who or what did this goat represent?  The author of Hebrews clearly shows us the answer:

HEBREWS 9:11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. (NKJV)

Unquestionably the goat chosen "for YHVH" was symbolic of Yeshua the Messiah.  As the High Priest of the New Covenant, he entered the Most Holy Place in the heavenly Tabernacle and cleansed us of our sins with his own blood, not that of a goat:

HEBREWS 9:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another.  26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NKJV)

Through our acceptance of the sacrifice of Yeshua, we have access to the Most Holy Place in heaven and can go into the very presence of God our Father:

HEBREWS 10:19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (NKJV)

Now after the goat for the LORD had been slain and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat, the goat for Azazel was brought to the high priest.  He laid both hands on its head and made the following confession:

"O Lord, your people, the house of Israel, has committed iniquity, transgressed, and sinned before you.  Forgive O Lord, I pray, the iniquities, transgressions, and sins, which your people, the house of Israel, have committed, transgressed, and sinned before you, as it is written in the Torah of Moses, your servant, For on this day shall atonement be made for you to clean you.  From all your sins shall you be clean before the Lord" (Yoma 6:2, The Mishnah, A New Translation)

At that time the high priest gave the goat for Azazel over to the man who was to lead it out into the wilderness.  Anyone could be chosen for this task, but later high priests made it a practice of selecting someone other than an Israelite to lead the goat.  The goat was taken to a ravine, thought by some scholars to be a precipice about 12 miles east of Jerusalem.  At that time, the man leading the goat divided the crimson thread on the head of the goat.  Half of it he tied to a rock, and the other half he tied between the horns of the goat.  He then pushed the goat backwards until it fell into the ravine.  Because of the steep and jagged nature of the chasm, the goat for Azazel was usually dead before it had fallen halfway down the mountain.

Who or What is Azazel?

We've seen from the Bible who the goat for YHVH represented, but what about the goat chosen for Azazel?  Who or what did this goat represent?  What is the true meaning of the Hebrew word 'azazel used in Leviticus 16?

These questions have caused a lot of disagreement among theologians.  Generally, scholars have advanced four different explanations for the etymology and meaning of 'azazel.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) outlines these four theories:

Azazel.  This word appears four times in OT, all in Lev 16 (8, 10, 26) where the ritual for the Day of Atonement is described.  After the priest has made atonement for himself and his house, he is to take two goats on behalf of Israel.  One is to be a sacrifice to the Lord, the other is to be the "scape goat," i.e., the goat for Azazel.  In all four appearances of this word, it has the preposition "to" attached to it.

This word has been variously understood and translated.  The versions (LXX, Symmachus, Theodotian and the Vulgate) have understood it to stand for the "goat that departs," considering it to be derived from two Hebrew words:  'ez "goat" and 'azal "turn off."

By associating it with the Arabic word 'azala "banish," "remove," it has been rendered "for entire removal" (IDB loc. cit.).

The rabbinic interpretation has generally considered this word to designate the place to which the goat was sent:  a desert, a solitary place, or the height from which the goat was thrown (cf. Lev 16:22).

The final possibility is to regard this word as designating a personal being so as to balance the "Lord."  In this way, Azazel could be an evil spirit (Enoch 8:1; 10:4; cf. II Chr 11:15; Isa 34:14; Rev 18:2) . . . standing logically in antithesis to Lord. . . .
(pp. 657-658, vol. II)

Regarding the four possible derivations of the word delineated above, the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis says of 'azazel:

This word appears 4x in the prescriptions governing the Day of Atonement . . . Its undetermined origin and limited use in the OT has resulted in much speculation and uncertainty with regard to its precise and original meaning . . . Four major explanations have been suggested for the word . . .

The fourth position suggests that the Azazel is a reference to a desert demon . . . In support of this position is the book of Enoch, which uses this name for a chief demon (En 8:1; 9:6; 10:4-8; 13:1-2; 54:5; 55:4; 69:2).  The OT also associates the appearance of goats with demons . . . Furthermore, the desert or wilderness is frequently described by both the OT and NT as the abode of evil spirits (Isa 13:1; 34:13; Matt 12:43; Luke 11:24; Rev 18:2).  This interpretation also balances the parallel expression "for the Lord" in 16:8 and makes sense of the remaining grammatical expressions. . . .

The fourth [position] makes the most grammatical sense.
(pp. 362, 363, vol. 3)

Regarding the use of 'azazel in Leviticus 16, The Abingdon Bible Commentary states:

The translation dismissal in the R.V. mg. here (cf. removal in A.S.V. mg.) is inadmissible, being based on false etymology.  What the word meant is unknown, but it should be retained as the proper name of a wilderness demon. (p. 289)

In his Bible dictionary, James Hastings states:

'Azazel must have been such a[n evil] spirit, sufficiently distinguished from the rest, in popular imagination, to receive a special name, and no doubt invested with attributes which, though unknown to us, were perfectly familiar to those for whom the ceremonial of Lv 16 was first designed. (pp. 207-208, vol. 1, A Dictionary of the Bible)

In I Chronicles 5:8, the father of Bela, a Reubenite, is named "Azaz," which means "strong."  This name comes from the Hebrew verb 'azaz, which means "to be strong."  Regarding this word, TWOT says:

The verb 'azaz can be predicated of both God and man. . . .  When used of man, this word carries the idea of prevailing as in a war or struggle . . . or as being belligerent, particularly to God. . . . (pp. 659, vol. II)

The Soncino Chumash says that 'azazel "is a compound of azaz, 'to be strong,' and el, 'mighty'" (p. 706).   The Hebrew word 'el is often translated as "God" in the Old Testament.  It is frequently used in combination with other words in proper names (i.e., Daniel - "God is my judge"; Samuel - "name of God"; Penuel - "face of God"; etc.).  Therefore, as a proper name, Azazel could positively mean "strong one of God" or negatively it could imply "belligerent toward God."

Azazel in the Book of Enoch

The Book of Enoch (also called First Enoch) gives us quite a bit of information about a renegade angel named Azazel.  Regarding the origin of the Book of Enoch, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says:

First Enoch is obviously a composite work, consisting of at least five different parts. . . .  Since Aramaic fragments of ten different MSS, representing four parts of the book, have been found in the Qumran caves, it is quite certain that the book in its several parts was originally written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek at an early date.  Considerable fragments of the Greek version have been found . . .  The Greek version was translated into Ethiopic.  In 1773 a traveller, James Bruce, brought three MSS in Ethiopic from Abyssinia to Britain.  We now possess twenty-nine MSS, but all of them more or less corrupt.  We have no materials to trace the history of the five parts of Enoch as individual books or as a collection.

Few objective criteria exist by which to date the production of these books and their collection.  Most scholars believe they were written between 165 and 64 B.C., but conclusions vary considerably.
(p. 156, vol. 1)

Furthermore, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary says of the Book of Enoch:

Portions of the work were well known in Christian circles.  1 En. 1:9 is quoted explicitly in the Epistle of Jude (vv. 14-15) . . .  The work was accepted as Scripture in various early Christian writings (e.g., Barn. 16:5; cf. 4:3; Clement of Alexandria Ecl. ii; Irenaeus Adv. haer. iv.16.2) . . . (p. 337)

Clearly, the Book of Enoch was widely known and used by early believers.  It's apparent that Jude considered his quote from Enoch to be genuine.  Because the present version has suffered corruption while coming down to us through the centuries, it is not now considered to be holy Scripture.  However, it is reasonable to assume that the original text did faithfully record the words of Enoch.

Since Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch, we can also do so, if we are careful to ensure that what is used does not contradict or conflict with the Bible.  By combining what we are told about Azazel in the Book of Enoch with what the Bible reveals, we can come to better understand the ceremony performed on the Day of Atonement and also end-time events.

Let's start with some background information from the Book of Enoch about a very important event that is recorded in Genesis 6:

GENESIS 6:1 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. . . .  4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them.  Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (NKJV)

This same event is addressed in much greater detail in the Book of Enoch:

ENOCH 6:1 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto 2 them beautiful and comely daughters.  And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another:  'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men 3 and beget us children.'  And Semjaza, who was their leader, said unto them:  'I fear ye will not 4 indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.'  And they all answered him and said:  'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations 5 not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.'  Then sware they all together and bound themselves 6 by mutual imprecations upon it.  And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn 7 and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it.  And these are the names of their leaders:  Samlazaz, their leader, Araklba, Rameel, Kokablel, Tamlel, Ramlel, Danel, Ezeqeel, Baraqijal, 8 Asael, Armaros, Batarel, Ananel, Zaqlel, Samsapeel, Satarel, Turel, Jomjael, Sariel.  These are their chiefs of tens.  7:1 And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them . . . (The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, R.H. Charles)

The "sons of God" mentioned in Genesis 6:2, 4 are identified as angels in the Book of Enoch.  This was the commonly accepted understanding of this Scripture until at least two centuries after Yeshua.   For additional information on what the Bible teaches about these sons of God, refer to "Genesis 6 - Who Were 'The Sons Of God'?"

As you can see from the list of angelic chiefs named above, Azazel was not one of the angels specified as having come down on Mount Hermon.  An angel named Semjaza is identified as the leader of the small group of angels who lusted after human women.  However, we soon see Azazel appear in the antediluvian world:

ENOCH 8:1 And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all 2 colouring tinctures.  And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they 3 were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. . . . (The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, R.H. Charles)

Although Azazel is not initially listed among the rulers of the 200 angels who came down to earth to mate with human women, he appears soon after this event.  Later in the book (Enoch 54:4), Azazel is shown to be the ruler of this host of rebellious angels.  Azazel, a powerful, high-ranking evil angel, apparently sought to take advantage of the lawless environment in the period of angelic rebellion before the Flood to wreak havoc on humanity.  He accomplished this by teaching mankind how to make weapons and the art of warfare, among other things.  This displeased God greatly, and Enoch shows that He decreed a stiff punishment for Azazel's sins:

ENOCH 10:1 Then said the Most High, the Holy and Great One spake, and sent Uriel to the son of Lamech, 2 and said to him:  'Go to Noah and tell him in my name "Hide thyself!" and reveal to him the end that is approaching:  that the whole earth will be destroyed, and a deluge is about to come 3 upon the whole earth, and will destroy all that is on it.  And now instruct him that he may escape 4 and his seed may be preserved for all the generations of the world.'  And again the Lord said to Raphael:  'Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness:  and make an opening 5 in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein.  And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may 6,7 not see light.  And on the day of the great judgement he shall be cast into the fire. . . . 8 . . . the whole earth has been corrupted 9 through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin. (The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, R.H. Charles)

We see from the excerpt we just read that Azazel's punishment was to be bound and cast into an opening made in the desert and sealed up there, covered by rough and jagged stones in darkness.  He was to remain in this place until the time of his judgment, when he would then be cast into the fire.  When we examine the punishment later decreed for the remainder of the angels who sinned before the Flood, we get a little more information about this place where Azazel and the other demons were imprisoned:

ENOCH 54:3 And there mine eyes saw how they made these their instruments, iron chains of immeasurable weight.  4 And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying:  "For whom are these chains being prepared?  And he said unto me:  "These are being prepared for the hosts of Azazel, so that they may take them and cast them into the Abyss of complete condemnation, and they shall cover their jaws with rough stones as the Lord of Spirits commanded.  6 And Michael, and Gabriel, and Raphael, and Phanuel shall take hold of them on that great day, and cast them on that day into the burning furnace, that the Lord of Spirits may take vengeance on them for their unrighteousness in becoming subject to Satan and leading astray those who dwell on the earth." (The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, R.H. Charles)

As the Book of Enoch shows, the hosts of Azazel were bound in chains and cast into the Abyss, to be covered with rough rocks just as Azazel had been.  It's logical to conclude that this Abyss is the same place into which Azazel was earlier cast.

The Bible gives us some information about this place of restraint for the demons.  First, let's look at an incident during the ministry of the Messiah that Luke records:

LUKE 8:26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when he stepped out on the land, there met him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!" 29 For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. 30 Jesus asked him, saying, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion," because many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him that he would not command them to go out into the Abyss. 32 Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged him that he would permit them to enter them. And he permitted them. 33 Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned. (NKJV)

As the passage of Scripture above shows, the demons who inhabited this man were terrified of being banished by Yeshua into the Abyss.  Evidently this is the same place of restraint where Azazel and his host of evil spirits were being kept, and the demons who had possessed this man definitely did not wish to join them there in their prison.

Clearly some demons and fallen angels are free to spawn evil in the physical world.  However, there are Scriptures which confirm that a portion of these evil spirits are currently restrained in darkness and chains, as the Book of Enoch details:

JUDE 6 And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great Day.  7 Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they [the angels], indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (NRSV)
II PETER 2:4 . . . God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; (NKJV)
I PETER 3:19 . . . He [Messiah] went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. (NKJV)

The Scriptures above show what we have already seen in the Book of Enoch.  Jude specifically states that it was those angels who committed sexual sins with human women that were being kept in age-lasting chains in darkness.  These same angels are referenced by Peter in his second epistle.  We are even told that the preincarnate Messiah went and preached to these imprisoned angels in the days while Noah was preparing the ark.

Azazel in the Bible

By combining what we have seen from the Book of Enoch with the Bible, we can understand who Azazel is and why he is currently imprisoned.  Now let's see what the Bible tells us about Azazel and his host of evil spirits at the end of the age.

In the book of Revelation, John gives us a prophecy regarding the unsealing of the Abyss and the release of the evil spirit beings imprisoned there.  This event, symbolized by the sounding of the fifth trumpet, is part of God's wrath on an unrepentant mankind:

REVELATION 9:1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star from heaven fallen unto the earth:  and there was given to him the key of the pit of the Abyss.  2 And he opened the pit of the Abyss; and there went up a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.  3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.  4 And it was said unto them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.  5 And it was given them that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months:  and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when it striketh a man.  6 And in those days men shall seek death, and shall in no wise find it; and they shall desire to die, and death fleeth from them.  7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared for war; and upon their heads as it were crowns like unto gold, and their faces were as men's faces.  8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as teeth of lions.  9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war.  10 And they have tails like unto scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt men five months. (ASV)

The "star" which falls from heaven to earth is an angel who has the key to the pit of the Abyss.  This angel opens the Abyss and releases the demons and evil angels imprisoned there to torment humanity.  God uses them for five months as an instrument of His wrath; they are allowed to inflict pain on those on the earth who don't have God's seal on their foreheads (Rev. 7:2-8).

REVELATION 9:11 They had for their king the angel of the Abyss, whose name, in Hebrew, is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon, or the Destroyer. (NEB)

In Revelation 9:11, the mysterious angelic "king" of the Abyss is called by the names Abaddon and Apollyon.  Both these names mean "destroyer."  If you will recall, the primary sin for which Azazel was imprisoned was for teaching men how to create weapons and destroy one another through warfare.  It seems likely that Azazel and Abaddon/Apollyon are the same being.  Although not specifically mentioned by these names elsewhere in the Bible, Azazel plays a major role in the events at the end of this current age.  For additional information on this powerful fallen angel and his activities in the end-time, see my article "Who Is The 'Destroyer'?"

In Revelation 9:11, Azazel is identified as the king of the evil spirits who is released from the Abyss.  This point identifies him throughout the rest of the book of Revelation.  Twice Azazel is specifically referred to as the "beast" who will come up out of the Abyss:

REVELATION 11:7 When they [the two witnesses] have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the Abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. (NASU)
REVELATION 17:8 "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the Abyss and go to destruction. . . ." (NASU)

Going back to the ceremony performed on the Day of Atonement, we saw that the sins of the people were placed on the head of the goat for Azazel.  Then this goat was led into the wilderness and was eventually pushed over a cliff backward to its death, carrying with it the sins of the people.  The Bible records a very similar fate for Azazel:

REVELATION 19:19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army.  20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image.  These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. (RSV)

This precise destiny for Azazel is confirmed in the Book of Enoch:

ENOCH 10:7 . . . On the day of the great judgement he [Azazel] shall be cast into the fire. . . . (The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, R.H. Charles)

As both the Bible and the Book of Enoch record, Azazel/Abaddon will be cast into the lake of fire at the end of this age of mankind.  His defeat will inaugurate the reign of the Messiah on the earth for a thousand years.

CONCLUSION

The religious ceremony performed by the high priest on the Day of Atonement had great figurative significance.  The reality of Azazel's initial banishment and his eventual future vanquishment was portrayed symbolically for centuries through this ritual.  Just as the goat "for YHVH" in this ceremony pictured the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah for the cleansing of our sins, the fate of the goat chosen by lot "for Azazel" on the Day of Atonement depicted Yeshua's soon-coming triumph over Azazel and the forces of evil at the end of this age.

Bryan T. Huie
December 28, 1998

Revised: September 26, 2012

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