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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Torah Scapegoat

This post will introduce Azazel associated with Yom Kippur, also called the Day of Atonement. I discuss Yom Kippur in a follow up post see Yom Kippur). The Yom Kippur rituals  have parallels in SEVERAL other ANE (Ancient Near East) cultures suggesting cross pollination,  borrowing or a common originating conception or some combinations thereof. 

Azazel we have the following description: "In Lev. xvi. the single allusion to Azazel is as follows: On the tenth day of Tishri (see Atonement Day) the high priest, after first performing the prescribed sacrifices for himself and his family, presented the victims for the sins of the people. These were a ram for a burnt offering, and two young goats for a sin-offering. Having brought the goats before Yhwh at the door of the tabernacle, he cast lots for them, the one lot "for Yhwh" and the other "for Azazel." The goat that fell to Yhwh was slain as a sin-offering for the people. But the goat of Azazel (now usually known as the "scapegoat") was made the subject of a more striking ceremony. The high priest laid his hands upon its head and confessed over it the sins of the people. Then the victim was handed over to a man standing ready for the purpose, and, laden as it was with these imputed sins, it was "led forth to an isolated region," and then let go in the wilderness."

1) From The Rabbis, interpreting "Azazel" as "Azaz" (rugged), and "el" (strong), refer it to the rugged and rough mountain cliff from which the goat was cast down.  Ibn Ezra hints and expressly stated by Nachmanides that Azazel belongs to the class of "se'irim," goat-like demons, jinn haunting the desert, to which the Israelites were wont to offer sacrifice.
Talmudical interpretation: the term "Azazel" designated a rugged mountain or precipice in the wilderness from which the goat was thrown down, using for it as an alternative the word. An etymology is found to suit this interpretation. "Azazel" is regarded as a compound of "az"  strong or rough, and "el"  mighty, therefore a strong mountain. This derivation is presented by a Baraita, cited Yoma 67b, that Azazel was the strongest of mountains.
Another etymology connects the word with the mythological "Uza" and "Azael," the fallen angels, to whom a reference is believed to be found in Gen. vi. 2, 4. In accordance with this etymology, the sacrifice of the goat atones for the sin of fornication of which those angels were guilty. 

2) Zatelli suggests the spelling Azzael as found in the Qumran texts was changed to a more"neutral" spelling Azazel, which was initially was probably a Canaanite Demon. The Origin of the Biblical Scapegoat Ritual: the Evidence of Two Eblaite Texts by Ida Zatelli Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 48, Fasc. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 254-263 .

3) David Wright on page 21 in The Disposal of the Impurity:  Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature(Atlanta, 1987), "The evidence indicates, instead, Azazel is the name of a god or demon."  The evidence includes the Torah parallel phrasing of Yahweh and Azazel as referring to a being. In Enoch Azazel is a demon. The etymology best explained is from zz-l meaning like a fierce/angry god.  Page 73 - he then speculates as follows. Based on comparative religion and etymology Azazel was an angry god causing havoc. Evil was placed on the goat and sent as an appeasement offering. This would be similar to a Hittite plague ritual.  Alternately, the goat was  only a custodian/transporter of evil (not an appeasement offering, but perhaps accompanied by some offerings) like in the Ambazzi and Shurpu ritual rituals. The Torah codification probably altered the more ancient custom.

4) Robert Graves and Raphael Patai in Hebrew Myths The Book of Genesis 1964 Page 105 - Azael seems to represent Azazel (god strengthens). The goat transfers sins to their instigator fallen angel azazel who lays imprisoned at the cliffs foot. Since Azazel is not a Demon, there is no violation of Leviticus 17:7.  P 101 he cites Yalqut Gen 44,  Bereshit Rabbati 29-30 that "...Azazel as some call Azael" 

5) From the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible by Editors Toorn, Becking , Horst 1995 under Azazel: The thesis Azazel as a desert Demon has found acceptance and advanced till today.(Supported by textual evidence of Leviticus 16:8-10). Strobel adds it was the integration of a pre Israelite EL ritual into the Day of Atonement holiday. The entry goes on to say the ritual was a type of elimination of pollution rite or elimination of divine anger rite and HAS PARALLELS outside the Old Testament. Examples include a Canaanite Scapegoat Ritual and other such rituals as performed in Mesopotamia, Ugaritic, Hittite - Hurrian.

6) Y.M. Grintz in Do Not Eat On the Blood ASTI8 (1971) 103 Note 57 suggests that Azael or Uza is the goddess Al-Uzza.  [Also see Graves and Pattai citation that Azazel was Azael and also the Talmud's second  etymology]

It is this latter possibility that I will elaborate on below.

In The Book of Goddesses and Heroines (1981) by Paricia Monaghan there is the following information:

P.10 Al-Uzza a desert goddess of the Morning Star. The name means the mighty or strongest. [See Graves and Patai above that relates Azazel to strength as well]. She was one of the religious trinity of Ancient Arabians.

P. 200 Al-Lat, Menat) were the other 2 female goddeses making up the trinity all seen as one.

P.  30 "Astarte, Ashtoreth, Athtarath" this goddess merged with or was confused with Anat, Asherah, Atargatis.  Astarte was also probably Ishtar.

P22 Aphrodite - ancient mother goddess of Eastern Mediterranean.

P 15-16 Anakita is said to be Identical to Anat (west of Persia) and the Greeks said she was Identical to Aphrodite.

P. 16,17 Anat , Anath was fused with Asherah,

P153 Ishtar, Ashdar, Astar, Istar, Istaru  are basically the same goddess. According to scholar Mark S. Smith, Astarte may be the Iron Age (after 1200 BC) incarnation of the Bronze Age (to 1200 BC) Asherah.

 www. - Al-‘Uzzá was also worshiped by the Nabataeans, who equated her with the Greek goddess Aphrodite Ourania (Roman Venus Caelestis). - Her[Aphrodite] cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia.  - Astarte (Ishtar) was accepted by the Greeks under the name of Aphrodite or, alternatively, Artemis.

[Using the above information a plausible case be made that Al-Uzza could have been merged/confused /associated/ with or be Asherah.  Also it is known the Ugaritic El has Asherah as a consort and she is associated with Yahweh (perhaps even as a consort according to some scholars). At some point in Israelite history Yahweh merged with El according to some scholars.  In addition, since Al-Uzza was an ancient Semitic goddess, it is plausible she may have been worshiped in some form by members of the ancient Israelites This suggests the possibility we have his (Yahweh),  and her (Azazel/Azael)  goats in the ritual. ]

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