Aaron sacrificed to Satan?

The sacrifice made to Satan by Aaron as “divinely” ordained

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons)

Would Christians be surprised to learn that the Bible depicts Aaron as being commanded by God to give something valuable to Satan? In fact, in this article I will contend that there is enough to show that it was not merely the giving of something, but it was actually a kind of sacrificial rite that was offered. Yes, there is a sacrificial rite unto Satan according to the Bible. This sacrificial rite is connected to the process of atonement of sins as we shall see.

“And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel.” (Leviticus 16:8)

The context of the above as anyone who is familiar with the book should know is the method of atoning for sins whereby two goats are chosen as a sin offering. One might wonder, “Where does it mention Satan?” Well, the verse itself does not specifically mention the word Satan, but another word or rather name is used to represent the devil or Satan which is Azazel. We will provide more details on this in due course. A fundamentalist Christian at this point would immediately scramble and put together an argument in his head which goes along the the following lines, “The two goats are meant for different things. They should not be conflated into one as if they were intertwined and thereafter provide a basis for the suggestion that Satan is involved in the work of atonement. The goat sent to Azazel is not the offering. The offering was made only to the Lord”  Such musings need not be dissected in order to be refuted. One need only cite verse five from the same context which says, “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.” This verse shows that both goats are meant as ‘offerings’. The verse also shows that one must not be given in the absent of another, hence Barnes’ Notes of the Bible states that “the two goats formed a single sin-offering.”

Some Christians would try to argue that Azazel is not at all representative of an evil personal being who is Satan, the devil. Some different interpretations may be suggested e.g. the name of the wilderness, but they would be wrong in attempting such a recourse. Very early sources that we have including the position held by most Biblical scholars hold that it does refer to Satan. John Eadie who was Professor of Biblical Literature and Exegesis to the United Presbyterian Church writes:

“The language in the original is precise and peculiar. It reads “And Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats – ONE FOR JEHOVAH, ONE FOR AZAZEL.” What we are to understand by Azazel has been much disputed. The language appears to us to imply the personality of Azazel – “One for Jehovah, One of Azazel.” By Azazel we are inclined to understand Satan, as do almost all ancient versions, which leave the word, as they do the names of other persons, untranslated.[1] (emphasis[bold] added)

Professor Craig A. Evans writes:

“It was believed that in the last days Satan would be bound: “the Lord said to Raphael, ‘Bind Azazel hand and foot” (1 Enoch 10:4). Raphael is an archangel and Azazel is an archdemon, possibly Satan himself (cf. 1 Enoch 21:4, 6)” [2] (emphasis added)

Bishop of Natal Reverend John William Colenso writes:

“The acceptance of Azazel, v.8,10,26, as the name of a personal being placed in opposition to Jehovah, seems to be the only mode of justifying the relation in which the two lots stood to each other … The greater number of critics are inclined to take Azazel as the name of an evil spirit to whom the goat was sent…. Several Jewish traditions point to the same conclusion. The name Azalzel, easily corrupted from Azazel, is applied to a fallen angel in the book of Enoch, which was most likely written by a Jew about 40 A.C. … Origen expressly says that Azazel denoted the Devil…. ” [3]

It should be noted that Colenso says after the above quoted text that the goat that was laiden with sins were sent to the devil as a gesture of returning the product(sins) to its producer(the devil). This may be the interpretation that some assert in order to grapple with the fact that Satan is involved in the atonement process, but it cannot be truly proven beyond a shadow of doubt. The text as it is seems to suggest that Satan is on equal bargaining terms with God which is why he is mentioned in the same verse side by side. It would seem that according to this passage the atoning process would not be complete without Satan being involved. Hence it is not unfeasible to argue that Satan was also the object to whom sacrifice was offered.

Author Dr. Sue Sandidge writes:

“…we are probably safe in assuming that the writer of First Enoch, a Jew living in Judea, had access to the same religious tradition that the Priestly author did. It is hard to imagine that there was anything in Jewish tradition that the Priestly author did not know, and so we can speculate that he knew the tale of Azazel, leader of the fallen angels, who was later known as Satan himself … the Apocalypse of Abraham, clearly identifies Azazel with Satan…” [4]

Roland J. Faley in his commentary on Leviticus in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary writes:

“With most modern commentators, he(De Vaux) explains the term as the name of a supernatural being, a devil whose customary haunt was the desert (Isa 34:14; also 1 Enoch 9:6; 10:4-8; crf. de Vaux, AI 509; H. tawil, ZAW 92 [1980] 43-59).” [5]

A Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature edited by the Biblical scholar John Kitto has the following on Azazel:

“Now, in respect to language, there can be no objection to interpreting Azazel as meaning Satan.

…The manner in which the phrase לעזאזל, ‘for Azazel,’ is contrasted with,’ליהוה’, ‘for Jehovah,’ necessarily requires that Azazel should denote a personal existence, and, if so only Satan can be intended.” [6]

Charles Beecher drives the point home as he writes:

    The third opinion is, that Azazel is a proper name of Satan. In support of this, the following points are urged: –

    The use of the preposition implies it. The same preposition is used on both lots, La-Yehovah, La-Azazel, and if the one indicates a person, it seems natural the other should. Especially, considering the acts of casting lots. If one is for Jehovah, the other would seem for some other person or being; not one for Jehovah , and the other for the goat itself.

    What goes to confirm this is, that the most ancient paraphrases and translations treat Azazel as a proper name. the Chaldee paraphrase and targums on Onkelos and Jonathan would certainly have translated it if it was not a proper name, but they do not. The Septuagint, or oldest Greek version, renders it by άποπομπαίος, a word applied by the Greeks to a malign deity, sometimes appeased by sacrifices.

    Another confirmation is found in the Book of Enoch, where the name Azalzel, evidently a corruption of Azazel, is given to one of the fallen angels, thus plainly showing what was the prevalent understanding of the Jews at that day.

   Still another evidence is found in the Arabic, where Azazel is employed as the name of the Evil Spirit.

   In addition to these, we have the evidence of the Jewish work Zohar, and of the Cabalistic and Rabbinical writers. They tell us that the following proverb was current among the Jews: “On the day of atonement, a gift to Shammael.” Hence Moses Gerundinensis feels called to say that it is not a sacrifice, but only done because commanded by God.

   Another step in the evidence is when we find this same opinion passing from the Jewish to the early Christian Church. Origen was the most learned of the Fathers, and on such a point as this, the meaning of a Hebrew word, his testimony is reliable. Says Origen: “He who is called in the Septuagint άποπομπαίος, and in the Hebrew Azazel, is no other than the Devil.

   Lastly, a circumstance is mentioned is mentioned of the Emperor Julian, the apostate, that confirms the argument. He brought, as an objection against the Bible, that Moses commanded a sacrifice to the Evil Spirit. An objection, he never could have thought of, had not Azazel been generally regarded as a proper name.

   In view, then, of the difficulties attending any other meaning, and the accumulated evidence in favor of this, Hengstenberg affirms, with great confidence, that Azazel cannot be anything else but another name for Satan. [7] (emphasis added)

It has been mentioned earlier that alternative views regarding Azazel exist and we will go through a couple of them one by one in brief.

1) Azazel refers to the goat itself that is set loose. This cannot be the case because as we have already seen above. Both YHWH and Azazel are affixed with the same preposition which carries the same sense. Thus it is states:

“The manner in which the phrase לעזאזל, ‘for Azazel,’ is contrasted with,’ליהוה’, ‘for Jehovah,’ necessarily requires that Azazel should denote a personal existence, and, if so only Satan can be intended.”

2) Azazel refers to the place the goat was let loose. This cannot be the case because the place is specifically specified in verse ten where it says to let go of the goat  ‘hammidbara la’azazel, that is, into the wilderness to Azazel. This shows that there is a distinction between Azazel and the place itself.

The real objection that a Christian could make is that the verse does not suggest that a sacrifice was to be made to Satan as it was made to God. At this point it is pertinent to mention that some of the citations above appeal to this position, that is, they argue and recognise that Azazel refers to Satan or a demon, but they do not see it as a problem since they believe that the goat sent to Satan was not meant as a sacrifice as it were to God. Moses Gerundinensis objection as mentioned by Beecher that it is not a form of sacrifice because it is God’s command is hardly a strong argument. The sin offering made to God in Leviticus is specifically the commands given by God according to the Bible. Does that then mean that those sacrifices described as sacrifices are not really sacrifices since God commanded them? No, that would be totally illogical.

Another form of the objection is to say that while the offering made to God in Leviticus 16 is specifically slain, the one sent to Azazel or Satan is not slain, hence the latter is not a sacrifice. A sacrifice essentially in their view means the slaying of a creature for/to a particular object e.g. God. Before we go into the rational arguments that will completely destroy this fallacious thinking let us recap what Beecher said: “The Septuagint, or oldest Greek version, renders it by άποπομπαίος, a word applied by the Greeks to a malign deity, sometimes appeased by sacrifices.” Contemplating this admission one would not be out of bounds to interpret the word used in the Septuagint as an allusion to what the Greeks had previously done to their deities where they would sacrifice creatures including goats to their deities. It would then mean that Azazel acts as the object to which the sacrifice is made similar to the practice done by the ancient Greeks to their deities. However, we will not press on this point because the author did not furnish much evidence for the proposition and there are other scholars who contend that the reading in the Septuagint actually disfavours the interpretation that Azazel is Satan e.g. Archie T. Wright who will be cited later. Be that as it may, we may opt to choose either camp. In any case, Beecher also reports that Jews would say, “On the day of atonement, a gift to Shammael.” This would mean that the goat was a kind of gift to Azazel or Satan. Satan deserves gifts? Coming to the rational problems that arise when one says that the setting loose of the goat to Satan is not a form of sacrifice as the goat is not slain but released alive unlike the goat slain to YHWH as a sacrifice. An important note before we continue: The goat that was sent into the wilderness was sent to its death and was not meant to be caught and eaten later. If a man called John kidnapped a 12 year old girl and set her loose in the middle of the Sahara desert to die would he be categorised as a murderer? Any sane person will say yes. The act of slaughtering someone with a sword and killing someone by leaving him stranded in the middle of a hot desert to starve and get picked by the vultures are equally vile and both are equally categorised as murder. The time difference does not have any bearing whatsoever on the result of both actions i.e. murder. Thus if an ancient priest took a child and released him into the desert/wilderness to an object(god or satan) without any sustenance to survive that is a form of sacrifice. The scholar Gesenius held that Azazel is an expiator and said that it was some kind of false deity who was to be appeased through the sacrifice of a goat. [8] Vince Garcia writes the following:

Interestingly, the demon Azazel, mentioned in the Book of Enoch as one of the leaders of the angels in the Genesis 6 incident, is also mentioned in Lev. 16 in connection with the Yom Kippur sacrifice. The sins of the people would be conferred upon the goat for Azazel (the Scapegoat), and this goat would be taken into the wilderness a few miles southeast of Jerusalem and cast off the cliff of Haradan into an abyss, at the bottom of which azazel was believed to be imprisoned. (The Bible does not mention this but this is what the Jews did with the goat.) [9]

The above clearly indicates that the goat was not actually set loose in the wilderness to roam about as it likes, rather it is forcibly taken to a cliff then thrown into a deep chasm to its death. This looks very much like a form of sacrifice does it not? Whether the goat was immediately put to death or dies of starvation in the wilderness has no consequence on the fact that both methods are meant to kill it just as the goat given to YHWH is killed. The parallel is very clear. In some of the quotations we have seen that the prepositions used for YHWH and Azazel in Leviticus 16:8 are exactly the same in form and sense. We have established thus far that just as the goat is killed to YHWH the other goat is also killed to Azazel. Therein lies a clear parallel. Further more, we have also shown that one of the ways the Christian scholars established that Azazel is a person entity like YHWH is by looking at the preposition that is evenly distributed to both. Therein lies a clear parallel. We suggest that the parallel goes further. We contend that the sacrifice made to YHWH parallels the sacrifice made to Azazel, the Satan in Leviticus 16:8. Both were sacrifices directed to two different beings. They mutually coexit. One is given to the other without the absent of an offering to the other also. Yes, as we have seen earlier that both goats are described as offerings which means that there is an offering to YHWH and another offering to Satan. Another objection that may be raised is that the goat was sent to Satan not as a means of atoning for sins or as an animal for sacrifice. Rather, it was sent to him with the sins of the community as a form of mockery to him. This objection is refuted by verse 26 in the Septuagint which says that the goat is dispatched for the remission of sins. This means that the purpose of the goat sent to Satan is atonement. In a footnote to the Septuagint rendering of verse 26 Archie T. Wright writes:

“In the later traditions which adopt the idea of the personification of Azazel as a demon in the desert, the sins of Israel are laid upon the scapegoat not upon Azazel; the goat is then removed from the camp. The tradition presents the idea that the scapegoat is being made a sacrifice to the demon Azazel in the desert.” [10]

In conclusion, the evidence shows that Azazel is indeed a name of Satan or one can say that it refers to him. The preponderance of evidence also shows that he was sacrificed to just as YHWH was the object of sacrificial rites. Although there will still be a lot of people who will deny that there was any sacrifice given to Azazel, what they cannot deny is that he did have an important role to play in the remission, atonement and expiation of sins as we have clearly proven in the article.

Disclaimer: We bear witness that there is no God except Allah and that Aaron/Harun was His messenger to the Bani Israel who never had dealings with demons or Satan. He is free of the mistakes and errors enumerated above and found elsewhere in the Bible.

References:

[1] Eadie, J. (1870). A Cyclopedia of Dictionary of Eastern Antiquities, Geography, Natural History, Sacred Annals and Biography, Theology, and Biblical Literature, Illustrative of the Old and New Testaments. London: Charles Griffin & Company. p. 577

[2] Evans, C. A. (2003). The Bible Knowledge Background Commentary: Matthew – Luke. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Cook Communications Ministries. p. 248

[3] Colenso, J. W. (1871). The New Bible Commentary by Bishops and Clergy of the Anglical Church Critically Examined. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. p. 30

[4] Sandidge, S. (2005). Forty years in the Wilderness: Moses Leads the Bible’s Lost Generation. United States: Xilbris Corporation. p. 262

[5] Faley, R. J. (1990). Leviticus. In Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer & Roland E. Murphy (Eds.), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 72

[6] Kitto, J. (ed.)(1846). A Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, Vol.1. New York: Mark H. Newman. p. 775

[7] Beecher, C. (1864). Redeemer and Redeemed : An Investigation of the Atonement and of Eternal Judgment. Boston: Lee and Shepard. pp. 67-68

[8] Nichol, F. D. (2005). Answers to Objections. U.S. : Teach Services, Inc. p. 722

[9] Garcia, V. (2011). The Resurrection Life Study Bible: a Revolutionary Look at the New Testament. U.S. : Xulon Press. p. 447

[10] Wright, A. T. (2005). The Origin of Evil Spirits. Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. p. 113

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Aaron sacrificed to Satan?”

  1. Jesus says:

    excellent , brilliant and scholarly article. I hope more and more like this from you brother ,inshallah ,can i akhi ?

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      Jazakumullah khair akhi. I will try my best to produce more and more articles for you insha’Allah :D.

    • Ibn Anwar says:

      By the way akhi, have you checked out the article on the ‘Salah’ of Allah recently? added more information in the Addendum section.

      • Jesus says:

        Brother i have read the addendum ,it bears the mark of your articles ,scholarly and well argued .Thanks for the article and the addendum.

        Brother what the verse is trying to say is even more clear when we read the context

        In Quran 33:53 God says “O you who have believed, do not enter the houses of the Prophet except when you are permitted for a meal, without awaiting its readiness. But when you are invited, then enter; and when you have eaten, disperse without seeking to remain for conversation. Indeed, that [behavior] was ANNOYING/CAUSING TROUBLE the Prophet,….”

        God is saying the believers not to enter the house of the prophet except when permission is given and to leave after meal and also not to seek conversation after the meal as this will TROUBLE the Prophet

        The word used over here is ‘yuzee’ which means to ANNOY ,CAUSE TROUBLE.

        This behavior of believers was causing ‘yuzee’ to the prophet .So God is telling the believers not to cause trouble to the prophet by their mentioned behavior.

        Then God says in verse 56 that “GOD and His angels ‘sallu’ the prophet. O you who believe, you shall ‘sallu’ and regard him as he should be regarded.

        I think what God is trying to say is ,God and his angels sent blessings on the prophet or they are a source of peace to the prophet and God is also asking the believers to be a source of peace to the prophet instead of a source of annoyance.

        • Ibn Anwar says:

          Thank you for reminding me of this excellent point akhi. I have added this particular point in the addendum section in the article together with some new citations and info. Check them out. Jzk.

Leave a Reply