Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

24Mar/090

Bible Study Part 2: Understanding Leviticus

A few weeks ago I took time to study the book of Leviticus for my Old Testament survey class. I concluded that if I did not choose to study it when required to, I would more than likely never be compelled to study it thoroughly.

I won't tell you that the study of this book left me without questions, but I will tell you that being aware of this book has opened my eyes to the Old Testament concept of sin, and to the writings of scholars on the topics I had in question.

No question was more baffling to me than trying to understand the role of the "scapegoat" on the day of Atonement. Why drive a goat into wilderness? Well, I found the answer in the writings of the same scholar who created my Greek curriculum...and I must say that a proper understanding of it completely changes my perspective on the event. I hope this enhances your understanding of the book as well.  Enjoy the entire article from William Mounce by clicking here.

Rather than the traditional "scapegoat" translating la ‘aza,zel here, we should read instead "to Azazel" (NRSV; NJB).1 We know that aza,zel should be the proper name of a party capable of ownership because a lot ceremony designated one goat layhwh, "belonging to Yahweh," and the other goat as la ‘aza,zel , "belonging to Azazel" (16:8). However, we do not know what the name "Azazel" means.2

The 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. Because transporting a load of Israelite toxic waste, consisting of moral faults, to Azazel in the wilderness and abandoning it there by the command of Yahweh (16:10, 22; cf. Zech 5:5–11) is a singularly unfriendly gesture, it appears that Azazel is Yahweh’s enemy.7 Therefore, Azazel is most likely some kind of demon (so Jewish tradition recorded in 1 En. 10:4–5), who dwells in an uninhabited region (cf. Lev. 17:7; Isa. 13:21; 34:14; Luke 11:24; Rev. 18:2).8

Also, If you want to see the layout of the book of Leviticus, you can take a look at my book chart, in excel format, here.

Lessons to be gleaned from this experience:
1. If you find a book of the Bible boring, trying studying with more depth.
2. Seeing the structure of a book adds quite a bit of depth to your study. Trying creating a book chart (more on this later).

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