Leviticus 16:8 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
(8) And Aaron shall cast lots.—The lots consisted of two small tablets which at an earlier time were of box or ebony wood, but which during the later part of the second Temple were made of gold, and were kept in a wooden chest. On the one was engraved the words “For Jehovah,” and on the other “For Azazel,” the expression in the original, which is translated scapegoat in the Authorised Version. The high priest, after shaking the chest, put both his hands into the urn and simultaneously took out the two tablets, one in each hand. Hereupon he put the tablet which he had in his right hand upon the goat that was standing on his right side, whilst the tablet in his left hand he put on the goat on his left side. If the tablet with the in scription “For Jehovah was in his right hand the chief priest who stood at the right of the pontiff exclaimed “Hold up thy right hand on high!” and if it happened to be in the left hand, the chief of the principal household, who stood on his left, called out to him “Hold up thy left hand.” Hereupon the high priest laid the two lots on the two goats, the one in the right hand on the goat at his right, and the one in the left hand on the animal at his left, exclaiming at the same time, “To the Lord a sin offering!”
And the other lot for the scapegoat.—Better, and the other lot for Azazel. The word, which only occurs in this chapter, probably denotes the utterly banished demon, the prince of the evil spirits, who with his legions occupies the desert regions and desolated places. (Comp. Isa. 13:21; Isa. 34:14; Mat. 12:43; Luk. 11:24; Rev. 18:2.) As the removal or pardon of sin is often represented in the Bible by its being banished into the uttermost parts of the earth and seas (Mic. 7:19; Psa. 103:12), nothing could be more striking or convey to the people the idea of absolute forgiveness better than this symbolical act of sending the goat laden with the sins of the congregation to the wilderness, the abode of the prince of darkness, back to the author of all sin. The rendering, scapegoat, is contrary to the manifest antithesis of the verse. If the one member “For Jehovah” denotes a person, the second member “For Azazel,” which forms the contrast, must, primâ facie, also denote a person. Besides, the translation scapegoat cannot be admitted in the next verse but one, where, if adopted, it would literally be “to send the goat to the scapegoat in the wilderness” .(see Lev. 16:10), or in Lev. 16:26, where it is, “and he who taketh away the goat to the scapegoat.”
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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
Charles John Ellicott (1819 - 1905) was a distinguished English Christian theologian, academic and churchman. He briefly served as Dean of Exeter, then Bishop of the united see of Gloucester and Bristol.
His works include:
- An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1897. (Editor)
- A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1878.