The Scapegoat

In modern terms, a scapegoat is a person who gets all the blame for whatever goes wrong, even though it’s not all his fault. People are made scapegoats so that others can escape blame.

Did you know that the concept of the scapegoat comes from the Bible?

In Leviticus 16, God gave the Israelites instructions concerning the Day of Atonement. The sacrifices and rites described in that chapter were carried out year after year as the means of atoning for the sins of the people. Among other things done on the Day of Atonement, the high priest selected two male goats. One goat was sacrificed as a sin offering for the people and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat of the ark in the tabernacle. The other goat was presented alive before the Lord. The high priest laid his hands on its head and confessed the sins of the people, then the goat was led out into the wilderness and released. In this way the sins of the people were symbolically laid on the head of the goat and car­ried out of their midst. So this goat was called the “goat of removal” or the “scapegoat.” “And the goat shall bear on itself all their iniqui­ties to a solitary land” (Leviticus 16:22).

The commands of the Mosaic Law were only “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:17). As with so many other features of the Law, the role of the scapegoat is truly ful­filled under the New Testament in the person of Christ. In His sacrifi­cial death Jesus took our sins upon Himself and became our “scape­goat.” As Paul said, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ blood was “poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). It’s striking that the word “forgiveness” or “remission” in that verse comes from a word that means “to send away.” When an obedient believer comes to Christ, his sins are removed from his life’s record just as the scapegoat was removed from the camp of Israel.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).