بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
The Biblical “Satanic Verses”: Azazel and the “Day of Atonement”
“And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel.”
In previous articles, we have exposed the hidden influence of pagan mythology in the Bible. But as we will see in this article, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg, as there is an even more egregious example of the influence of paganism. We can find this purely demonic influence in Leviticus 16 regarding the “day of atonement” (Yom Kippur). As the evidence presented in this article will demonstrate, the “day of atonement” includes offering a goat as a “sin offering” to God but also another goat to a demon!
Azazel: A Wilderness Demon?
Leviticus 16:8–10 provides instructions to the Israelites on the protocol for the so-called “day of atonement”. Translations vary, since the Hebrew term of interest is only used in this chapter and has uncertain origins, but most modern translations render the passage similarly as the ESV:
“And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.”
Some translations prefer to translate the Hebrew term עֲזָאזֵל (ʿazaʾzel) as “scapegoat” (e.g., the NIV and the KJV), but as the New English Translation (NET) states in a footnote for verse 8:
“The most common view among scholars today is that it is the proper name of a particular demon (perhaps even the Devil himself) associated with the wilderness desert regions.”
Indeed, the scholarly literature indicates that “Azazel” is a proper name. In his book The Ancient Near East: An Essential Guide, John L. McLaughlin links the etymology of the Hebrew term ʿazaʾzel to the Hittites and suggests that the name literally means “angry god”:
“[i]nsight into Azazel’s nature may be gained from other Hittite purification rituals containing the word azuzhi and from a sacrificial text describing animals as azahum offerings to appease the gods. The first part of both words contains the root ‘zz, meaning ‘to be angry,’ in which case Azazel would mean ‘angry god.’ This suggests that the ritual has its origins in an attempt to appease a wilderness demon.”
In addition, he cites another Hittite text that describes “…how rams are driven into the countryside as an offering to the gods in order to eliminate a plague”, noting the obvious similarity to the “annual scapegoat ritual on the Day of Atonement…”
Other scholars have noted similarities to Babylonian rituals as well. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, while claiming that the “meaning” of “ʿazaʾzel” is “at best uncertain”, nevertheless draws parallels with Leviticus 16 to a Babylonian ritual involving a “scapegoat”. It states that:
“[t]here is also a parallel for this scapegoat in Babylonian ritual. In the New Year’s Day Festival a slain sheep was removed and cast into the river. The person who carried out this assignment was considered unclean as was the person who released the goat in the wilderness (Lev 16:26).”
Referring to the same Babylonian ritual, Jacob Milgrom provides more details and also refers to Azazel as a “satyr demon”:
“…the requirement of two ḥattaʾt goats on Yom Kippur reveals how Israel transformed an ancient exorcism. Demonic impurity was exorcised in three ways: curse, destruction, or banishment. The last was often used; rather than evil being annihilated by curse or fire, it was banished to its place of origin (e.g., netherworld, wilderness) or to some other place where its malefic powers could either work in the interests of the sender (e.g., enemy territory) or do no harm at all (e.g., mountains, wilderness). Thus the scapegoat was sent to the wilderness, which was considered uninhabited except by the satyr demon Azazel. The best-known example of this type of temple purgation is the Babylonian new year festival, when the urigallu (high priest) literally wipes the sanctuary walls with the carcass of a ram, which he then throws into the river. Thus the same animal that purges the temple impurities carries them off.”
So, “Azazel” is apparently some sort of god/demon, and it is clear from Leviticus 16 that he is not the same Yahweh. If it is a “wilderness demon”, which the evidence seems to strongly suggest, then it means that Leviticus 16 commands the Israelites to offer a goat as a sacrifice to a demon!
While other interpretations have been suggested by different scholars, as we have already seen, modern scholars tend to favor the interpretation that Azazel was a demon. Echoing McLaughlin, Baruch Levine refers to Azazel as a “goat-demon”. He states that:
“Azazel is most likely the name of a wilderness demon, a goat-demon, similar to the seʿirim, “goat-demons,” mentioned in 17:7 and once worshiped by Israelites.”
The irony is that sacrificing to “goat-demons” is explicitly prohibited in chapter 17! Leviticus 17:7 states that these sacrifices are banned, so it is strange that sending a goat to a “goat-demon” is not only allowed but commanded in Leviticus 16! Perhaps the author did not realize the real meaning of the term “ʿazaʾzel” and unknowingly used it. If so, it would call into question the alleged divine “inspiration” that moved the author’s hand. Whoever wrote Leviticus 16 (there is no evidence that it was the prophet Moses) may either have been ignorant or was under a different form of “inspiration” (i.e., demonic inspiration).
Similarly, Roy Gane explains in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary that “Azazel” is “Yahweh’s enemy” and is a “demon” that “dwells in an uninhabited region”. Both Gane and Levine also note that Azazel is the “owner” of the goat, which further characterizes the act of sending the goat away as essentially a type of animal sacrifice, not to God, but rather to a demonic entity. This realization should shock Jews and Christians and raise difficult and uncomfortable questions about the status of the Bible as the so-called “inspired” word of God.
In “The Biblical ‘Satanic Verses’ series of articles, we have seen disturbing evidence of the nefarious and hidden influence of pagan mythology on the Bible. From hidden pagan epithets to the goddesses Asherah and Anat, to explicitly identifying false deities such as Chemosh as actual “gods”, the satanic hand of paganism somehow left its impression in the Bible. But these examples pale in comparison to the demonic sacrifice allegedly commanded by Yahweh and given to “Azazel”, a malevolent entity that lives in the wilderness. These “satanic verses” call into question the Judeo-Christian claim that the Bible is a monotheistic book.
And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!
 Leviticus 16:8. All translations of the Bible are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.
 John L. McLaughlin, The Ancient Near East: An Essential Guide (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 2012), p. 56; cf. Jeffrey Stackert, “Leviticus”, in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha: An Ecumenical Study Bible, Fifth Edition, ed. Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2018), p. 169.
Stackert defines the term as “’angry’ or ‘fierce god’” and describes “Azazel” as “a demonic figure…in contrast to the Israelite deity”, though he also notes that “[r]abbinic interpreters understood Azazel as ‘the goat that goes away,’ i.e., ‘the scapegoat.’” However, Baruch Schwartz notes in his commentary in The Jewish Study Bible that Ibn Ezra, the medieval Jewish scholar, “intimated” that it “was the name of a demon or deity believed to inhabit the wilderness” (Baruch J. Schwartz, “Leviticus”, in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition, eds. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 232).
Also, it seems that Jewish scholars like Ibn Ezra and Nahmanides (Ramban) realized the potential controversy Leviticus 16 could raise vis a vis “Azazel”, so they attempted to explain this pagan sacrifice as “no disloyalty to God since He Himself commands it…” (Ibid.).
 McLaughlin, op. cit., p. 55.
 R. L. Harris, G.L. Archer, & B.K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, electronic edition (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 658.
 Jacob Milgrom, The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers, electronic version (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990), 446.
 Baruch A. Levine, The JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus, electronic version (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 251.
 Roy E. Gane, “Leviticus”, in Zondervan Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament) Volume 1: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, electronic version, ed. John H. Walton (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2009), 306.
 Gane states in his commentary on Leviticus 16:10 that:
“[t]he fact that Yahweh, owner of the goat slain as a purification offering (16:9, 15), is supernatural suggests that Azazel, owner of the live goat, is also some kind of supernatural being” (Ibid.).
Levine states in his commentary on Leviticus 16:8 that:
“One lot bore the inscription le-YHVH, ‘for the Lord,’ and the other the inscription la-ʿazaʾzel, ‘for Azazel,’ that is, belonging to the Lord and to Azazel, respectively. Archaeological excavations have unearthed many objects with names inscribed on them, with the prepositional lamed indicating the names of their owners” (Levine, op. cit., 102).