For today’s Winged Wednesday post , I get to combine two of my favorite topics: etymology and angels. If you’re at all like me, you know about scapegoats. You’ve probably even used the expression a few times to describe a person who’s blamed for things they didn’t do.
Wikipedia describes a scapegoat as:
An individual, group, or country singled out for unmerited negative treatment or blame. A whipping boy or “fall guy” is a form of scapegoat.
What I didn’t know is the origin of the term can be traced back to a fallen angel.
Apparently, the word scapegoat derives from the common English translation of the Hebrew term azazel (Hebrew: עזאזל) which occurs in Leviticus 16:8.
Azazel is listed many times in rabbinical texts and you can read about the rite of the scapegoat on Wikipedia here.
Now, Azazel isn’t usually depicted as a good guy by any means.
What piqued my interest was that Azazel was also the leader of the Grigori who was cast out of heaven and punished for teaching people to make… get this: weapons and cosmetics.
Enoch 8:1–3a reads:
And Azazel taught men to make swords and knives and shields and breastplates; and made known to them the metals [of the earth] and the art of working them; and bracelets and ornaments; and the use of antimony and the beautifying of the eyelids; and all kinds of costly stones and all colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways.
Not to mention the whole fornication thing…
Apparently, the corruption brought on by Azazel and the Grigori degraded the whole human race, and the four archangels (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Phanuel) saw things falling apart, or “much blood being shed upon the earth and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth […]” And that was somehow because the women were all painted and pretty now? And the men were armed? Ummm, really?
Seeing the sins brought about by Azazel, God instructs Raphael to “bind Azazel hand and foot” and then “cast him into the darkness” in some hole somewhere in the desert. If that wasn’t enough, he also had jagged rocks put on him. He was left to live in the darkness forever, with his face covered so “that he may not see light.”
Several scholars have previously discerned that some details of Azazel’s punishment are reminiscent of the scapegoat rituals, which they actually did to goats.
On the Jewish day of Atonement, it is Azazel, in the form of a goat (or scapegoat), who bears away the sins of the world. The Book of Enoch, Chapter X, declares:
And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azâzêl: to him ascribe all sin.’
And thus, Azazel the fallen angel who became the scapegoat. Yup. Blame him.
So, of course, it begs the question, if Azazel is to blame for all sin, does it mean we get to sin without consequence? Nah, didn’t think so! So why do we always look for someone else to blame?