Christ, the sin offering and Israel, the scapegoat

On the day of atonement, lots were cast for two goats. One was for the LORD, which will be sacrificed as a sin offering. The other is a scapegoat which will bear the sins and left in wilderness. The sin offering is our Lord Jesus Christ. But who is the scapegoat?

The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt, 1854

Scripture Reference

The below tabulation summarizes the Scripture reference for the scapegoat and the sin offering for the LORD.

Lot for the LORD Lot for the scapegoat
Lev 16:7-8 He (Aaron) shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat.
Lev 16:9 And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer it as a sin offering. Lev 16:10 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.
Lev 16:15-16 Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.

So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place,

  • because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and
  • because of their transgressions, for all their sins;

and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness

Lev 16:20-22 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.

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. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.

Lev 16:30 “For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.

Who is the sin offering?

While the sin offering is for the sins of the people, it is not an atonement for the people but rather an atonement for the tabernacle of meeting. Jesus is that tabernacle who made His dwelling among men according to the new covenant. But Jesus had to make an atonement for Himself because of the sins of the children of Israel. Think in another way: Jesus cured people by touching them.

Lev 15:19 ‘If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.

Matt 19:17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. …

According to the law, Jesus will become ritually unclean if He touches anyone who is unclean (whether he is a leper) or if anyone touches Him who was unclean (a woman with bleeding). Jesus even touched dead people to bring them alive. We know that Jesus never became “unclean” because all who touched Him (or) all whom He touched became clean and they were cleansed of their sickness and uncleanness.

John 20:17 Jesus said to her (Mary), “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”

Just as the tabernacle of meeting which remained among the children of Israel in the midst of their uncleanness, or Jesus to remain among His people in the midst of their uncleanness, He must atone for Himself. This is why, He forbid Mary not to touch Him after He rose from the dead.

Hence, Jesus is the atonement for Himself as a sin offering for the sins of the people, just as the sin offering of the goat for the tabernacle of the meeting for the sins of the people.

Who is the scapegoat?

Before we identify who the scapegoat is, we need to list the characteristics of the scapegoat.

  • The scapegoat will bear all the sins of the children of Israel
  • The scapegoat will be left into the wilderness
  • The atonement will be made by sending the scapegoat into the wilderness.

Jesus Himself reveals who the scapegoat is, and let’s identify.

Luke 11:50-51 “that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.

Matt 27:24-25 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His (Jesus) blood be on us and on our children.”

Jesus Himself revealed that He did not die for the murder of the blood of all the prophets – which will be required on the children of Israel of that generation. Further, the people themselves confessed that the murder of Jesus and His blood will be upon them and their children, just like the scapegoat.

Ezek 22:15 “I will scatter you among the nations, disperse you throughout the countries, and remove your filthiness completely from you.

Luke 21:24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

It was Israel that was exiled from their homeland and scattered to all nations in 70 AD becoming the scapegoat, after they crucified Jesus Christ who was their sin offering. Hence, the scapegoat is Israel.

Aftermath and Conclusion

Jesus Christ atoned for Himself as a sin offering for the transgressions of His people. Israel being the scapegoat bore its own sins and got scattered to all nations in 70 AD. Now, Jesus is not just the sin offering but also the High Priest who can cleanse us of all our sins. While sending the kingdom of Israel as a scapegoat, Jesus was preaching about the arrival of a new kingdom, the kingdom of Heaven.

Matt 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 9:47 “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire–

Only those who are sinless and pure, who does the will of the Father in heaven can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.