Is it a demon? Evil being?

And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel."1

Footnote [1] 16:8 The meaning of Azazel is uncertain. ESV

Who is this being that God wants to share some goats with the guy?

  • 2
    Definitely not a demon. God would not want his people to sacrifice for an enemy. Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 14:15
  • 7
    Why do you assume it's a person and not a destination? Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 14:44
  • 6
    can't we just start with rashi? "This is a strong and hard mountain, [with] a high cliff, as the Scripture says [in describing Azazel] (verse 22 below),“a precipitous land (אֶרֶץ גְּזֵרָה),” meaning a cut-off land [i.e., a sheer drop]. — [Torath Kohanim 16:28; Yoma 67b]"
    – rosends
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 14:47
  • 2
    @Danno You can start with Rashi as long as you follow through to Ramban
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 14:54
  • 1
    From a publication by Jehovah's witnesses: "The etymology of this word is disputed. If we hold to the spelling in the Hebrew Masoretic text, ʽazaʼ·zel′ seems to be a combination of two root words meaning “goat” and “disappear.” Thus the meaning “Goat That Disappears.” According to another derivation, based on the belief that there has been a transposition of two consonants, it means “Strength of God.”" Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 14:54

4 Answers 4


Rashi to Vayikra 16:8 says Azazel is not a person:

Azazel: This is a strong and hard mountain, [with] a high cliff, as the Scripture says [in describing Azazel] (verse 22 below),“a precipitous land (אֶרֶץ גְּזֵרָה),” meaning a cut-off land [i.e., a sheer drop]. — [Torath Kohanim 16:28; Yoma 67b]


Natan Slifkin, citing Ibn Ezra, writes as follows:

Other evidence regarding Ibn Ezra’s position relates to the goat that is sent to Azazel. In his commentary on this topic, Ibn Ezra writes as follows:

Now if you can understand the secret of the word after Azazel, you will know its secret and the secret of its name, since it has parallels in the Scriptures. And I will reveal to you part of the secret by hint: when you will be thirty-three, you will know it.

The hint tells us to count 33 verses from this verse, bringing us to Leviticus 17:7: “they may offer their sacrifices no more to the se’irim.” Ramban, who explains this to mean that Ibn Ezra considered Azazel to be a demon, notes that this is not an especially concealed secret, since Chazal state this in a number of places.

Source: http://www.zootorah.com/RationalistJudaism/Demons.pdf (page 11)


The best answer about AZAZEL is found at balashon.com!

On Yom Kippur we read about the service in the Temple that was performed on that holy day. Part of the service involved sending away a goat, marked "to Azazel" לעזאזל (Vayikra 16:8). The meaning and origin of the word Azazel עזאזל is subject to much debate. Levine, in the JPS commentary to Vayikra, writes the following (I've added Hebrew text to his transliteration):

The precise meaning of Hebrew 'aza'zel עזאזל, found nowhere else in the Bible, has been disputed since antiquity and remains uncertain even to the present time. Over the centuries, exegesis of this name has followed three lines of interpretation.

According to the first, Azazel is the name of the place in the wilderness to which the scapegoat was dispatched; the term is taken as synonymous with 'erets gezerah ארץ גזרה, "inaccessible region," in verse 22. Verse 10 may also suggest this interpretation. When translated literally it reads: "and send it [the he-goat] off to Azazel, to the wilderness." Yoma 67b understands 'aza'zel as "a fierce, difficult land," taking the first part of the word to mean 'azz עז, "strong, fierce".

According to the second line of interpretation, Azazel describes the goat. The word 'aza'zel is a contraction (notarikon) comprised of 'ez עז, "goat" and 'azal אזל, "to go away," hence "the goat that goes away." This interpretation occurs both in the Septuagint and the the Vulgate, and underlies the rabbinic characterization sa'ir ha-mishtalleah שעיר המשתלח, "the goat that is dispatched," in Mishna Yoma 6:2. This is, in fact, the interpretation that led to the English rendering "scapegoat" (from "escape-goat"), which first appeared in Tyndale's English translation of the Bible in 1530. See this Philologos column for more about the considerations in the creation of the phrase "scapegoat."

Both of the above interpretations are contrived. The third line of interpretation is preferable. Azazel in later myth was the name given to the demonic ruler of the wilderness. The derivation of the word is uncertain, but the thematic relationship of Azazel to the se'irim שעירים, "goat-demons," of 17:7 suggests that the word 'ez, "goat," is represented in it. The form 'aza'zel may have developed through reduplication of the letter zayin: 'ez'el, "mighty goat," was pronounced 'ezez'el and, finally, 'aza'zel.

Bula, in the Daat Mikra, quotes the "fierce, difficult land" interpretation mentioned in Yoma (and by Rashi on the verse). In a footnote, however, he offers some additional options. First of all, he points out that the letter lamed might be added to the root עזז, as we find in a number of other nouns like barzel ברזל and karmel כרמל, and the alef was also added in, like in the word tzavar צואר. This would make azazel related to the Arabic azaz, meaning "hard, unworkable land".

He then goes on to say that he doesn't think the theory that Azazel refers to a place of idol worship is likely, but even if it is true, it doesn't mean that the service was still associated with idol worship. He points out that there are many phrases in Hebrew that originally had idolatrous connotations, but received new meaning according to the monotheistic Hebrew approach. For example, he says that the phrase ריח ניחוח - "pleasing odor to God" (Vayikra 1:9) also was adopted by the Torah from the language of idolators, even though Judaism doesn't believe that God actually takes pleasure from smells.

His last theory, based on the BDB Lexicon, is that perhaps it is related to the Arabic root עזל 'azzala, meaning "he removed", so this would refer to the removal of the sins, by means of the goat.

In Modern Hebrew the phrase "lech l'azazel" לך לעזאזל means "go to hell". I don't think that this is due to an association with demons. The Even Shoshan dictionary quotes the responsa of the 17th century Chavat Yair as saying לך לעזאזל המדברה! - "go to Azazel in the desert!" So I think the idea here is just to send to an uninhabitable place, in a similar way that the Dead Sea is referred to in Talmudic Hebrew.


Here is the Agada "angelic\demonic" explanation:

בבלי יומא סז עמוד ב

תנו רבנן עזאזל... תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל עזאזל שמכפר על מעשה עוזא ועזאל

Yoma 67:b Our sages thought [What is] Azazel? ... It was thought at Rabbi Yishmael house: it atonement for the deed of Uza and Azel.

רש"י שם

עוזא ועזאל - מלאכי חבלה שירדו לארץ בימי נעמה אחות תובל קין


Uza and Azel - Fallen angels that descended to earth at the days of Naama, sister of Tuval Cain.

מדרש ילקוט שמעוני לבראשית, פרק ו, רמז מד.

שאלו תלמידיו את רב יוסף: מהו עזאל? א"ל: כיון שעמדו דור המבול ועבדו ע"ז, היה הקב"ה מתעצב, מיד עמדו שני מלאכים שמחזאי ועזאל ואמרו לפניו: ריבונו של עולם הלא אמרנו לפניך כשבראת את עולמך, מה אנוש כי תזכרנו? א"ל: ועולם מה יהא עליו? א"ל: ריבונו של עולם, היינו מסתפקין בו. א"ל: גלוי וידוע לפני, אם אתם שרויין בארץ היה שולט בכם יצר הרע, והייתם קשים מבני אדם. א"ל: תן לנו רשות ונדור עם הבריות, ותראה איך אנו מקדשין שמך. א"ל: רדו ותדורו עמהן, מיד קלקלו עם בנות האדם, שהיו יפות ולא יכלו לכבוש את יצרן,

Midrash Shimoni, Bereshit 6:44

The students of Rabbi Yossef asked him, who is Azel? he replied when the people of the Mabul era began to worship idols, God became sad. Two angels, Shemhazai and Azel stood and said, we told you, when you created the world, who is the human, to be considered?
God replied: what would be with the world?
They replied: we could handle the world.
God said: I know, that if you were on earth, you would be tempted and became worse then humans.
They replied: give us permission to live with them, and you will see that we will glory your name.
God said: go and live with them. The angels immediately tempted, because the women were beautiful, and they couldn't resist their lust.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .