ChristianAnswers.Net WebBible Encyclopedia

Scapegoat

the name given to the goat which was taken away into the wilderness on the day of Atonement (Lev. 16:20-22), see Lev. 16:8-26; the Revised Version says “the goat for Azazel” (q.v.)

The priest made atonement over the scapegoat, laying Israel's guilt upon it, and then sent it away, the goat bearing “upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited.”

At a later period an evasion or modification of the law of Moses was introduced by the Jews. “The goat was conducted to a mountain named Tzuk, situated at a distance of ten Sabbath days' journey, or about six and a half English miles, from Jerusalem. At this place the Judean desert was supposed to commence; and the man in whose charge the goat was sent out, while setting him free, was instructed to push the unhappy beast down the slope of the mountain side, which was so steep as to insure the death of the goat, whose bones were broken by the fall. The reason of this barbarous custom was that on one occasion the scapegoat returned to Jerusalem after being set free, which was considered such an evil omen that its recurrence was prevented for the future by the death of the goat” (Twenty-one Years' Work in the Holy Land). This mountain is now called el-Muntar.