I am a Scapegoat
Headlines on MSNBC: "LA Cardinal: I'm a 'scapegoat' for Sex-abuse Crisis". I find it interesting that the word 'scapegoat' has moved into American vocabulary. In our reading through the Law section we read about this provision. In Lev. 16 we read of the events on the Day of Atonement. Along with the sacrifices that were offered there were two goats. One goat was offered as a sin offering and the other was released into the wilderness. This second goat was said to 'for Azazel (ESV Lev. 16:8). The word "Azazel" occurs three times here in Lev. 16: verses 8, 10, and 26.
Scholars continue to discuss the meaning of the word 'Azazel'. Some see it as a proper name (as indicated in the ESV), although they don't know whether it is the name of a place or perphaps of a demon that was said to haunt that region. Others see it as a combination of 'ez (meaning the goat) and 'azal (meaning that goes away). Thus they understand it in a rather literal word - the goat the goes away. Whatever side you take on this discussion, it indeed is a goat that goes away and with it goes the sin of the people.
The priest was to take the goat and lay both hands upon its head and confess over it all the iniquities of the people" (vs. 21). Having done this the goat was sent into the wilderness. Verse 22 tells us that "the goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness" (Leviticus 16:22).
The picture is that when sacrifice for sin is made God removes the sin. The goat pictures the effect of the removal of sin - It is gone. It is an intriguing picture of the removal of sins from the people. God is said to remove our sins 'as far as the east is from the west' (Psalm 103:12). God will remove the sin so that it is never to be brought up again. It is gone, carried away by the 'goat that is sent away'.
It is interesting that such scapegoat is not mentioned in the New Testament. We know that through the offering of Jesus our sins are forgiven, atoned for, removed. Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah that under the New Covenant sins would be 'remembered no more' (Heb. 8:12). I understand this to mean that God has forgiven them and will not bring them up again. I don't take this that God 'forgets' in the sense of no longer knowing that such happened. Indeed, Christ as carried our sins (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus is the lamb of God "who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). Prophetically Isaiah said "the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).
Warning: warped sense of humor. If one really is a scapegoat then he would be sent away into a desolate place and never heard from again. Somehow that part of the scapegoat picture didn't make it into our vocabulary.