Copyright © 1994 by Andrews University Press. Cited with permission.
AZAZEL IN EARLY JEWISH TRADITION
The term" Azazel," which appears four times in the prescriptions
for the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:8, 10, 26), has elicited much debate.
Although many scholars have identified Azazel with a demonic figure
to whom the sin-laden scapegoat was dispatched,1 the term remains
undefined in the biblical text. This article will attempt to demonstrate
that two noncanonical Jewish works, 1 Enoch and the Apocalypse of
Abraham, reveal a tradition in which Azazel was regarded as a demon,
and in which the scapegoat rite was utilized as a symbol of demonic
expulsion. Hence it will be argued that a segment of ancient Jewish
apocalypticists found a symbol of eschatological victory over demonic
forces in the rite involving Azazel and the scapegoat.
Azazel in 1 Enoch
Although 1 Enoch is attributed to the antediluvian prophet by that
name, its pseudonymous nature is readily apparent. In reality, it is a
composite work, produced by several authors who probably wrote
during the three centuries preceding the Christian era.2 In its current
form, 1 Enoch is a collection of five smaller documents: "The Book of
Watchers" (chaps. 1-36), "The Book of Parables" (chaps. 37-71), "The
Astronomical Book" (chaps. 72-82), "The Book of Dreams" (chaps.
83-90), and "The Epistle of Enoch" (chaps. 91-108).3 It is not known
1 The following works are examples of literature to this effect: Bernard J. Bamberger,
The Torah: Leviticus, A Modern Commentary (
Congregations, 1979), 160; M. M. Kalisch, A Historical and Critical Commentary on the
Old Testament (London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1872), 2:328; Nathaniel
Micklem, "The Book of Leviticus," IB (1953), 2:77-78; Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, AB
(1991), 1021; Martin Noth, Leviticus, trans. J. E. Anderson (Philadelphia: Westminster,
2 The Apocryphal Old Testament, ed. H. F. D. Sparks (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984),
173-177. However, some scholars assign "The Book of Parables" to the first century of
the Christian Era, or possibly even later.
218 ROBERT HELM
when these five "books" were combined, nor is it entirely clear in what
language or languages they were originally composed.4 The complete
text of 1 Enoch is known only in Ethiopic, although Greek, Latin, and
Aramaic fragments survive as well.5
In common with the general tenor of apocalyptic literature, the
view of reality presented in 1 Enoch consists of a sharp contrast between
the present evil age, which will end in judgment, and the new age of
bliss that is to follow.6 The book also stresses the relationship between
the locus of human activity and the cosmic or heavenly realm.7 Thus
it contains both temporal and spatial dimensions.8 The spatial dimension
becomes evident in the narrative of Semyaza (chaps. 6 and 7), in which
Semyaza leads his angel cohorts into rebellion by cohabiting with the
daughters of men, thus giving birth to giants and defiling the earth. The
background for this story is obviously Gen 6:1-4.
The figure of Azazel is abruptly introduced in 1 Enoch 8:
And Azazel taught men to make swords, and daggers, and shields
and breastplates. And he showed them the things after these, and the
art of making them: bracelets, and ornaments, and the art of making
up the eyes and of beautifying the eyelids, and the most precious
and choice stones, and all kinds of colored dyes. And the world was
changed. And there was great impiety and much fornication, and
they went astray, and all their ways became corrupt. (1 Enoch 8:1-3)9
This sudden interruption of the Semyaza narrative is usually attributed
to the editorial fusion of two independent traditions.10 However,
Hanson offers an alternative hypothesis. He takes it to be a case of
4 It is generally believed that 1 Enoch was composed in Aramaic. See D. S. Russell,
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Patriarchs and Prophets in Early Judaism (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1987), 26. However, Charles argues that "The Astronomical Book" was
originally written in Hebrew; see The Apocryphal Old Testament, 176.
5 Apocryphal Old Testament, 170-173. Also see John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic
Imagination (New York: Crossroad, 1984), 33.
6 George W. E. Nickelsburg, "The Apocalyptic Construction of Reality in 1 Enoch,"
Mysteries and Revelations, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement
Series 9, ed. John J. Collins and James H. Charlesworth (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic
Press, 1991), 58.
7 Ibid., 54.
8 Ibid., 53.
9 Apocryphal Old Testament, 190-191.
10 Leonhard Rost, Einleitung in die alttestamentlichen Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen
einschliesslich der grossen Qumran-Handschriften (Heidelberg: Quelle und Meyer, 1971), 103.
See also Paul D. Hanson, "Rebellion in Heaven, Azazel, and Euhemeristic Heroes in
1 Enoch 6-11," JBL 96 (1977): 220.
AZAZEL IN EARLY JEWISH TRADITION 219
paronomasia, in which the name of one of Semyaza's subordinates,
Asael, invited a comparison with the Azazel of Lev 16.11 Regardless of
which of these positions is favored, it is apparent that the appearance
of the name" Azazel" in the Enoch passage functions as a significant
link with the Day of Atonement ritual described in Lev 16.
It must be admitted that the demonic nature of Azazel is only
implicit in Lev 16. However, 1 Enoch 8:1-3 depicts him in terms that
are explicitly demonic. In fact, his characteristics approach the satanic
in this passage, although he is never identified as Satan.12 Nevertheless,
he is portrayed as a corrupter and tempter of humanity, and the main
source of antediluvian impiety.
First Enoch 10:4-6 describes the eschatological punishment of
And further the Lord said to Raphael, Bind Azazel by his hands and
his feet, and throw him into the darkness. And split open the desert
which is in Dudael, and throw him there. And throw on him jagged
and sharp stones, and cover him with darkness; and let him stay
there forever, and cover his face, that he may not see light, and that
on the great day of judgment he may be hurled into the fire.13
This quotation is worthy of careful consideration, as Hanson finds a
direct link between the binding of Azazel in 1 Enoch 10 and the rite of
purgation associated with the scapegoat in Lev 16.14 These two passages
do indeed exhibit a number of striking parallels.
First, it should be noticed that just as a man was appointed to lead
the scapegoat away to the desert (Lev ), so the angel Raphael was
directed to bind Azazel and banish him to the desert which is in Dudael
(1 Enoch 10:4). Second, both passages are concerned with purification
from sin. Hanson rightly recognizes the close relationship between Lev
and 1 Enoch 10:8.15 According to
Lev , the sins of
11 Hanson, 221.
12 The terms "demon" and "demonic" are to be distinguished from "Satan" and
"satanic." A "demon" is any malevolent spirit being. However, in Judeo-Christian
tradition, Satan is regarded as the demonic leader of the angels who fell from heaven,
God's primary adversary, and the chief tempter of humanity, including Adam and Eve.
First Enoch 8:1-3 contains a description of Azazel's masterful temptation of the entire
world; in this, his characteristics approach the satanic. Also 1 Enoch 69:1-2 lists him
among the fallen archangels. See Apocryphal Old Testament, 190-191, 251.
13 Ibid., 194-195.
14 Hanson, 221-222.
15 Ibid., 224.
220 ROBERT HELM
were transferred to the scapegoat through the laying on of hands.16
Thus the removal of the goat resulted in cleansing and renewal for the
entire camp. Likewise in 1 Enoch all sin was to be "written down"
against Azazel; his expulsion would usher in the restoration of the
earth, which had been ruined by the angel rebellion.
Notice God's command to Raphael:
And restore the earth which the angels have ruined, and announce
the restoration of the earth, for I shall restore the earth, so that not
all the sons of men shall be destroyed through the mystery of
everything which the Watchers made known and taught to their
sons. And the whole earth has been ruined by the teaching of the
works of Azazel, and against him write down all sin. (1 Enoch
Hanson argues for the existence of a further parallel between
1 Enoch 10 and the rendition of Lev 16 in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (also
known as Jonathan Ben Uzziel or Targum of Palestine).18 He believes
that the formulation, ". . . split open the desert which is in Dudael, and
throw him there" (1 Enoch 10:4), is related to Pseudo-Jonathan's use of
rFaPA (send or cleave) instead of HlawA (send), in reference to the
expulsion of the scapegoat from the camp of
Inasmuch as rFaPA can denote "to cleave" or "break open," as well as "to
send,"20 Hanson suggests that the author of the Enoch text employed
a subtle paronomasia by playing alternate word meanings over against
each other, thus attaining the notion of the desert being opened to
receive Azazel.21 It is of interest that in certain Akkadian texts, demons
are said to inhabit desolate wastelands after leaving the netherworld
through a crack or hole in the ground.22 Hence this Akkadian literature
16 M. C. Sansom, "Laying on of Hands in the Old Testament," ExpTim 94 (1982-
17 Aprocryphal Old Testament, 195.
18 According to Hanson, this particular Targum "bears close affinities with 1 Enoch"
(223). Although the date of Pseudo-Jonathan has been debated, its foundations apparently
go back to pre-Christian times. See Ernst Wurthwein, The Text of the Old Testament,
trans. Erroll F. Rhodes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987),78. Thus it is likely that both
1 Enoch and the original form of Pseudo-Jonathan were approximately contemporaneous
19 Hanson, 223.
20 Ibid. Also see "rFaPA" in BDB.
21 Hanson, 223.
22 Hayim Tawil, "Azazel the Prince of the Steppe: A Comparative Study," ZAW 92
AZAZEL IN EARLY JEWISH TRADITION 221
may represent an ancient source parallel to the thought expressed in
both Lev 16 and 1 Enoch 10.
These foregoing comparisons suggest that the imagery associated
with Azazel's punishment in 1 Enoch 10 is adapted from the description
of the scapegoat's expulsion in Lev 16. But why does the author of the
Enoch text link the goat designated "for Azazel" with Azazel himself?
That the scapegoat was regarded as the focus of evil, a visible representa-
tive of the demonic, is a probable solution to this problem. It should be
recognized that the Hebrew ryfiWA can denote either a male goat or a
demon.23 Perhaps this fact influenced the author of the Enoch text in
his perception of the scapegoat as a demonic figure. Also, the possibility
that lzexzAfEla can be understood as "in behalf of Azazel" is worthy of
consideration.24 If this rendition of the Hebrew noun and its inseparable
preposition is accepted, the scapegoat may be regarded as representing
Azazel himself. Thus the expulsion of the goat from the camp would
serve as a model for the banishment of sin and its demonic source.
Several additional references to Azazel also appear in 1 Enoch.25
However, they all describe him as fulfilling the role of a fallen
archangel, intent on deceiving the human race. Thus 1 Enoch confirms
the fact that "Azazel" was understood in demonic terms by a segment
of Jewish apocalypticists. Furthermore, it appears that they regarded
the scapegoat rite of Lev 16 as a representation of Azazel's eschatolog-
It is possible that the authors of 1 Enoch developed the Azazel
tradition directly from data contained in Lev 16. Alternatively, it may
be that a larger, unpreserved tradition served as a source for certain
elements appearing in both Lev 16 and 1 Enoch. That the figure of
Azazel is introduced without explanation in Lev 16 suggests the
existence of some type of background source.
Gen 6:1-4 is another source which may underlie the references to
Azazel in 1 Enoch. The "sons of God," described in the Genesis
pericope as cohabiting with the "daughters of men," are interpreted in
the Enoch material as fallen archangels, including Semyaza and Azazel
(cf. 1 Enoch 6; 69:1-2).26 Also, the fact that Azazel is portrayed in
23 See BDB.
24 Gerhard Hasel, "Studies in Biblical Atonement II: The Day of Atonement," in The
Sanctuary and the
(Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1981), 122-123.
25 See 1 Enoch 13:1-2; 54:1-6; 55:4; 69:2 in Apocryphal Old Testament, 199, 233-234,
26 Apocryphal Old Testament, 188-189, 251.
222 ROBERT HELM
1 Enoch 8:1-3 as corrupting humanity by teaching certain arts of
civilization probably reflects the influence of the culture-hero myth,
which was widespread in ancient society.27 The culture-hero myth
posits the appearance of supernatural beings in early history, who
taught the arts of civilization to humanity. In most versions of the
myth, the culture-heroes act as the beneficiaries of human beings.
However, negative versions also exist, which describe the teaching of
destructive arts, as in 1 Enoch.28 It seems likely that a combination of
elements derived from these diverse sources explains the enlarged role
played by Azazel in the Enoch material.
Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham
The origin of the Apocalypse of Abraham is even more obscure than
that of 1 Enoch. Currently, it is only represented in the Codex
Sylvester and in certain manuscripts of the Palaea interpretata, all of
which are in the Slavonic language.29 Some scholars believe that the
Apocalypse was first composed in Hebrew and later translated into
Slavonic, in the 11th or 12th century A.D. However, this has been
disputed.30 Charlesworth proposes A.D. 80-100 for the period of its
composition,31 but these dates are likewise uncertain. The fact that the
burning of the temple is mentioned in chapter 27 probably indicates
that at least a portion of the book is to be dated after A.D. 70.32 In any
case, it seems apparent that the book existed in its present form by the
fourth century A.D., as it is mentioned in the Clementine
Uncertainty also exists in regard to the authorship of the
Apocalypse of Abraham, although it is usually considered a composite
work. Most of the material in the Apocalypse derives from Jewish
27 For the relationship between the culture-hero myth and the development of the
Azazel tradition in 1 Enoch, see Hanson, 226-231.
28 Ibid., 229.
29 Apocryphal Old Testament, 364.
30 R. Rubinkiewicz, "The Apocalypse of Abraham," The Old Testament
Pseudepigrapha, ed. James Hamilton Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983),
31 James Hamilton Charlesworth, The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research with a
Supplement, SBL Septuagint and Cognate Series 7S, ed. George W. E. Nickelsburg and
Harry M. Orlinsky (Chico, CA: Scholars, 1981),68.
32 Apocryphal Old Testament, 366.
AZAZEL IN EARLY JEWISH TRADITION 223
sources.34 However, Charlesworth and others posit chapter 29 as a
A number of references to Azazel appear in the Apocalypse.36 The
first of these is introduced in chapters 13 and 14, where Azazel is
described as an unclean bird which flies down on the carcasses of the
animals that Abraham has sacrificed (cf. Gen 15:9-11).37 But he is no
ordinary bird, for he enters into a verbal dispute with Abraham. His
demonic character soon becomes evident, as an angel refers to him as
"wickedness" (Apocalypse of Abraham 13:7).38 The angel goes on to utter
an interesting rebuke against him:
Listen fellow, be ashamed of yourself and go. For you were not
appointed to tempt all the righteous. Leave this man alone: you
cannot beguile him for he is your enemy, and the enemy of those
who follow you and dote on what you want. The garment that of
old was set apart in the heavens for you, is now set apart for him;
and the corruption that was his has been transferred to you.
(Apocalypse of Abraham 13:12-15)39
These verses depict Azazel as an evil spirit who tempts the
righteous. Furthermore, they imply that he has fallen from heaven, and
that his celestial office is subsequently to be given to Abraham.
Particular attention should be devoted to the last part of v. 15, as the
transference of Abraham's corruption to Azazel may be a veiled
reference to the scapegoat rite (cf. Lev ).
Azazel also figures prominently in Abraham's vision of the
temptation of Adam and Eve:
And I looked into the picture, and my eyes ran to the side of the
garden of Eden. And I saw there a man, immensely tall, alarmingly
solid, such as I had never seen before, who was embracing a woman
that was the man's equal both in her appearance and her size. And
standing under one of the trees in
that tree looked like a bunch of dates. And behind the tree there
34 Ibid., 365-366. However, this does not prove indisputably that the author or
authors of the Apocalypse were Jewish. See p. 366. Nevertheless, it is convenient to
classify the work as a part of early Jewish tradition.
35 Charlesworth, 69. Some, however, would argue that this chapter suggests Christian
authorship for the entire Apocalypse.
36 Apocryphal Old Testament makes use of the variant spellings, "Azazil" and
"Azazail," in the Apocalypse of Abraham.
37 Apocryphal Old Testament, 378-379.
38 Ibid., 378.
224 ROBERT HELM
stood what looked like a snake, with hands and feet like a man's,
and wings on its shoulders, three on its right and three on its left.
And they held in their hands a bunch from the tree; and they were
eating--the two I had seen embracing. And I said, Who are these
who are embracing each other? Who is it who is between them?
And what is the fruit they are eating, Mighty Eternal One? And he
said, This is the human world: this is Adam, and this is their desire
upon the earth: this is Eve. And what is between them is the
wicked path they started on towards perdition, namely Azazil.
(Apocalypse of Abraham 23:3-9)40
Once again, Azazel assumes the role of tempter, appearing in the form
of a winged snake, and beguiling the couple into eating the forbidden
fruit. Thus his demonic nature is apparent in this passage as well.
Additional minor references to Azazel are found in chapters 20, 22, and
29;41 however they are quite incidental and have no real bearing on the
issues addressed in this article.
That Azazel is portrayed as a demon in the Apocalypse of Abraham
cannot be denied. In fact, the Apocalypse associates him with two
themes which Judeo-Christian tradition applies to Satan, namely, his
expulsion from heaven and his temptation of Adam and Eve under the
guise of a snake. These constitute further significant developments as
the figure of Azazel progressively merges with what might be termed
The Influence of the Mishnah and the Targums
Only three direct references to "Azazel" appear in the Mishnah,
none of which sheds any light on the meaning of the term.42 However,
Tractate Yoma is helpful in elucidating the practice of the scapegoat rite
in early Judaism, as it treats this topic fairly extensively.
Yoma 6:8 has special pertinence to the present discussion, as it
identifies UdUdHa tyBe (house of sharpness), the desert location outside
both link UdUdHa tyBe (house of sharpness) with "Dudael," mentioned
in 1 Enoch 10:4 as the place of Azazel's banishment.44 Although the
40 Ibid., 385.
41 Apocryphal Old Testament, 383, 384, 389.
42 These references merely refer to the casting of the lot which was designated "for
Azazel." Cf. Yoma
4:1; 6:1, The Mishnah,
trans. Herbert Danby (
1983), 166, 169.
43 Yoma 6:8; see the variant readings contained in footnote 6. (cf:n. 47)
44 See Hanson, 223-224. Also see Godfrey R. Driver, "Three Technical Terms in the
Pentateuch," JSS 1 (April 1956): 97.
AZAZEL IN EARLY JEWISH TRADITION 225
Mishnaic traditions did not exist in written form when 1 Enoch was
composed, they probably had an oral history reaching back to that
time. Hence it seems likely that a common element exists in both of
these passages, in which case yet another connection between the
expulsion of the scapegoat and the banishment of Azazel is established.
Targum Onkelos offers minimal relevant data to this study.
However, its rendition of Lev 16:8 deserves consideration: "Then Aaron
should place lots upon the two goats, one lot for the Name of the Lord,
the other for Azazel."45 The use of the Aramaic phrase, "for the Name
of the Lord" (or "Yahweh") (yAy;Da xmAw;li),46 is interesting and calls for
explanation. It is possible that "Name" was inserted into the text to act
as a kind of buffer between Yahweh and humanity, as is often done in
the targams to minimize anthropomorphism.47 This sentence structure
no longer contains a direct parallelism between Yahweh and Azazel.
This could indicate that the compilers of the Targum regarded the term
"Azazel" as denoting something other than a personal being. However,
the evidence for this deduction is so scanty that it can hardly be held
with any certainty.
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan's use of rFaPA (send or cleave) in connec-
tion with the scapegoat's expulsion has already been considered in the
section devoted to the Enoch material.
A quotation from this Targum's version of Lev 16 contains addi-
tional data pertinent to the discussion:
And Aharon shall put upon the goats equal lots; one lot for the
Name of the Lord, and one lot for Azazel: and he shall throw them
into the vase, and draw them out, and put them upon the goats.
And Aharon shall bring the goat upon which came up the lot for
the Name of the Lord, and make him a sin offering. And the goat
on which came up the lot for Azazel he shall make to stand alive
before the Lord, to expiate for the sins of the people of the house
rocky desert which is Beth-hadurey.48
It is clear that Pseudo-Jonathan's description of the choosing of the goats
is far more innovative than that of Targum Onkelos. The insertion of
45 "The Targum Onqelos to Leviticus," The Aramaic Bible, trans. Bernard Grossfeld,
ed. Kevin Cathcart,
Michael Maher, and Martin McNamara (
Glazier, 1988), .
46 Targum Onkelos, ed. A. Berliner (Berlin: Gorzelanczyck and Co., 1884), 128.
47 See footnote 4 in The Aramaic Bible, 33.
48 "The Targum of
Uzziel on the Book of Leviticus," in The Targum of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on
the Pentateuch, trans. J. W. Etheridge (London: Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1865), 196.
226 ROBERT HELM
the phrase, "for the Name of the Lord," appears here as well; however,
there are also more significant additions which resemble the Mishnaic
and Enoch texts. In particular, Pseudo-Jonathan parallels the Mishnah,
in that the scapegoat is destined to die.49
The reference to the scapegoat's death in "a place rough and hard
in the rocky desert which is Beth-hadurey" merits careful scrutiny, as
it closely parallels the description of Azazel's punishment in 1 Enoch
10:4-5. Hanson equates "Beth-hadurey" with the "Dudael" of the Enoch
passage.50 Moreover, Pseudo-Jonathan's "rocky desert" has its counter-
part in the "desert which is in Dudael" and "jagged and sharp stones"
of Enoch. Thus it is clear that the author of the Enoch passage, in his
account of Azazel's banishment, was dependent on certain traditions
involving the removal of the scapegoat, which were recorded in Targum
From the preceding analysis, it is evident that the authors of the
apocalyptic texts known as 1 Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham
regarded Azazel as a demon. In fact, a number of attributes commonly
associated with Satan appear in the depictions of Azazel contained in
these works. Furthermore, the author of 1 Enoch 10 apparently
conceived of the scapegoat rite (especially as it is formulated in the
Mishnah and in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan) as a paradigm of Azazel's
banishment. Thus ancient Jewish traditions appear to be in agreement
with the interpretation which finds in the expulsion of the scapegoat a
type or model of the eschatological defeat of demonic power.
49 Compare Yoma 6:6, The Mishnah, 170, with The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan
Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch, 196, 198. However, Yoma 6:6 describes how the scapegoat
was pushed over a cliff to its death, while Pseudo-Jonathan specifies that it would be
50 Hanson, 223-224.
51 Hanson also draws attention to Pseudo-Jonathan's "close affinities with 1 Enoch"
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