The word ‘scapegoat’ is now used to refer to someone who gets the blame for the wrongdoings, mistakes, and faults for the reason of practicality. But, the term actually originated from a Jewish custom that was practiced during Bible times.
Once a year, the people of Israel celebrate Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement to atone them from their sins and be clean before the Lord. “For on this day [Yom Kippur] shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins.” (Leviticus 16:30)
In the same chapter of the Book of Leviticus, we read about God’s instructions to Moses on how the festival shall be observed, and animal sacrifices have central parts.
“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the Azazel.” (Leviticus 16:6-8)
A bull will serve as Aaron’s sacrifice to atone for him and his household. And one goat will be the animal sacrifice for the nation while the other will be the Azazel.
Az is the Hebrew word for goat and azel for “to carry” or “take away.” Azazel is, therefore, the goat bearing the community’s sins, symbolically placed upon it. It is then taken away into the wilderness.
When the Bible was translated into English, William Tyndale coined “scapegoat” to interpret the Azazel. It means “escape goat,” the goat that gets to escape into a barren place.
Some ancient Jewish writings record that Azazel is taken to the wilderness and pushed from rocky cliffs to ensure death.
But, today, God has provided the ultimate scapegoat who bore our sins and died a horrific death. Jesus took the sins of the world and died on the cross. His blood is our atonement, and in Him, we are made clean. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Reference: Jews for Jesus