The Scapegoat

clip_image002A View from the Nest

Random Ramblings from the Resident Raptor

Insight from the Journey across the Sky

By Allen Scott

He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 8 Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. 9 And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. Leviticus 16:7-10

1scape·goat Pronunciation: \’skap-?got\

Function: noun

1 : a goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur

2 a : one that bears the blame for others b : one that is the object of irrational hostility

Image by mindfulness via Flickr

The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Yom Kippur is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day.

The name “Yom Kippur” means “Day of Atonement,” and that pretty much explains what the holiday is. It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year.

In Leviticus God instructs Aaron on how to observe this most Holy of Holy days. He was to select two goats and present them at the door to the temple of the Lord and one will be sacrificed to the Lord and the other will be released as a symbolic carrier of the people’s sins. The scapegoat was to be released into the wilderness and left there to die.

20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. 21 Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Lev 16:20-22 NKJV

Since this goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is sent away to perish, the word “scapegoat” has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.

Scapegoating is an important tool of propaganda; the most famous example in modern history is the singling out in Nazi propaganda of the Jews as the source of Germany’s post-World War I economic woes and political collapse.

“Scapegoated” groups throughout history have included almost every imaginable group of people: adherents of different religions, people of different races or nations, people with different political beliefs, or people differing in behaviour from the majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various political groups.

Scapegoating seems to be the method of choice, utilized by those in today’s political class. It would appear that in order to press forth unpopular policies and bills the politicians in charge look for a scapegoat to demonize. They wish to misdirect anger and blame away from themselves and onto another group, political party, race or social class. This is nothing new, and the practice is as old as time itself.

Even Adam and Eve looked for a “scapegoat” when confronted with their own failings. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. (Gen 3:8-19). This is human nature. No one really wants to take responsibility for their own failings and usually attempt to find someone or something upon which to affix blame.

No matter how hard we try however, the guilt and blame can not be assuaged by a scapegoat. In fact this ritual, during the “Day of Atonement” mentioned in Leviticus, was only a temporary fix to a permanent problem. No amount of ceremony, ritual cleansing, or scapegoating could actual remove the stain of sin from a person’s life. The stain of quilt would still remain.

What started in the Garden of Eden (the missteps of Adam-sin) God finished in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus chose to be the ultimate scapegoat in order to carry away the stains of sin from the world. Jesus chose to be sent out to die as a scapegoat, to make the ultimate atonement for the people.

To a devote Jew, Yom Kippur is a necessary ritual that must be repeated each and every year in order to atone for sins they commit against God. To the Christian Yom Kippur is a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made in order to atone for our sins once and for all. It is therefore helpful to remind ourselves of this atonement day, but it need not be only on Yom Kippur.

Every time we feel the need to blame someone else or try to dismiss our own shortcomings by looking for a scapegoat, remember one has already been offered for you. So instead of pushing the blame onto unto another innocent party or group, why not simply acknowledge your need for the cleansing power of Jesus’ sacrificial offering and accept Him as your permanent scapegoat? Better yet why not accept Him as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world? (John 1:29)

But those who are waiting for the Lord will have new strength; they will get wings like eagles: running, they will not be tired, and walking, they will have no weariness. Isaiah 40:31 (BBE)

Along for the journey


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