Today’s Reading: Leviticus 14:33-16:34
Scapegoat: 1. a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.
Do you know this term? Sure, it is a fairly common term in English. Just as the definition above says – we take an innocent person and put the blame on them, they are the scapegoat.
But where did that term come from? Well, funny you should ask, it comes from today’s reading.
Leviticus 16:8-10, 20-22 NIV
8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat.
20“When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. 22The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
This goal that Aaron is going to place all the sins of the Israelites on, is the scapegoat. All of this happened on the festival of the day of Atonement also called Yom Kippur. Granted, the word Festival is a bit misused here. It was not a party, it was a day for the entire people of Israel to atone for all the sins of the previous year.
What is very, and I mean very, cool for you and I is that the there is a great connection to Jesus in today’s reading. Because, Jesus was the ultimate scapegoat. He carried the sins of the whole world on his head. He took the blame for others and suffered in their place, even though he was innocent.
Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 goes into this in much greater detail. Here a few verses to give you a taste.
Hebrews 9:11 – 15 NIV
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
Have you thanked and praised your scapegoat today? He is worthy of our thanks and praise.
For a fuller discussion on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and its connection to Judaism and Jesus the Messiah check out this link.