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Azazel: The Biblical Understanding

By Algae Salapan Densing


Algae Salapan Densing is a Bible and research teacher at Western Mindanao Adventist Academy and, at the same time, a digital missionary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

First Published: 2024/03/11


The Doctrine of Sanctuary in relation to the understanding of Azazel has been a subject of controversy among Seventh-Day Adventists. While the belief within the Adventist community is that Azazel represents Satan, there is an interesting theological implication in Ellen White's writings. In her book, "The Great Controversy," she makes a statement that alludes to Satan bearing our sins, but she also firmly states that Christ is our only sin bearer. This discrepancy raises questions about the basis for her statements and how they impact our understanding of Satan's role in bearing our sins. To gain a deeper understanding, it is essential to explore the reasons, justifications, and sources behind her assertions. By delving into these aspects, we can shed light on this intriguing topic and provide clarity to lay thinking within the Adventist community.

Statement of the Problem and Research Question

This study aims to address the following key issues regarding the Doctrine of Sanctuary and the understanding of Azazel, with specific reference to Ellen White's writings:

  • 1. The understanding of Azazel in biblical and extra-biblical analysis within the Seventh-Day Adventist (Adventist) community.
  • 2. The apparent contradiction between the Adventist belief that Christ is the only sin-bearer and Ellen White's statement that Satan bears our sins. Does this imply that Satan is also a sin-bearer, or is there disharmony in her writings?
  • 3. The theological implications arising from the aforementioned facts and their potential impact on Adventist beliefs and interpretations

By exploring these questions, this research aims to delve deeper into the Adventist understanding of Azazel and its correlation with the concept of sin-bearing, as presented in both biblical and Ellen White's writings. The study seeks to clarify any inconsistencies or discrepancies and analyze the theological significance that arises from these observations.

Interpreting Azazel: Is Satan Truly the Scapegoat?

The Adventist community has faced criticism regarding the perception of Satan as a vicarious substitute and savior. This criticism stems from the belief that Azazel, referred to as the scapegoat in the King James Version, represents Satan. To address these charges, it is crucial to examine the true nature and identity of Azazel.

The word "Azazel" carries an ambiguous meaning and is only found in the book of Leviticus, specifically in chapter 16, which describes the Day of Atonement ritual. During this ceremony, two goats were presented to the congregation. The priest cast lots to determine the role of each goat: one lot for YHWH (the LORD) and one lot for Azazel. The goat dedicated to YHWH was offered as a sin offering, while the goat for Azazel was sent into the wilderness.

Various interpretations of Azazel exist. Some scholars view Azazel as a specific location, possibly a desert setting. Others perceive Azazel as a person, either Satan or an evil spirit. There is also the interpretation of Azazel as an abstract noun meaning "dismissal," "complete removal," or "place of origin." Lastly, some consider Azazel to be the name of the goat itself.

Many scholars associate Azazel with being opposed to YHWH, given the preposition "le," translated as "for." Some view Azazel as a desert monster, a demon, or Satan, with extra-biblical texts like the Book of Enoch and the Apocalypse providing background information on Azazel.

Interestingly, early Christian church figures and theologians, such as Cyril of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian, held varying interpretations of Azazel. They associated Azazel with Christ's role in bearing sins, His second coming, and His humiliation on the cross. These interpretations were based on their understanding that both goats were for YHWH as sin offerings, implying different aspects of God's ministry. It is worth noting that these interpretations lacked thorough exegesis and were often speculative. However, Origen firmly believed that Azazel represented Satan.

Seventh-Day Adventist Understanding of Azazel

Adventist scholars argue that Azazel is Satan based on extra-biblical and scriptural analysis. The author assumes the position that Azazel is Satan and supports this claim through extra-biblical perspectives. In the scriptural analysis, several points are presented:

  • 1. The phrase "to bear sin" is followed by verse 22, which mentions the destination of the sin. The context suggests that the goat does not bear sin but rather carries it and brings it back to Azazel, implying no substitution.
  • 2. The goat for Azazel was not slain during the ritual, and Hebrews 9:22 states that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. Therefore, it does not offer a substitutionary act or serve as a sin offering.
  • 3. The goat of Azazel is presented after the cleansing of the sanctuary (Leviticus 16:20), indicating that atonement has already been made.
  • 4. YHWH is a personal being, and by contrast, it can be inferred that Azazel is also a personal being. The passage portrays Azazel as opposed to God, and the wilderness symbolizes chaos, death, and the dwelling place of unclean powers. The preposition "le," translated as "for" or "to," supports this notion.
  • 5. Lastly, there is no record in the Pentateuch, especially in Leviticus or any sanctuary services, that supports the idea of two animals for a single sin offering. It is reasonable to infer that the goat for or to Azazel does not provide atonement but rather carries the sins of the reconciled people back to Azazel.

By considering these arguments, Adventist scholars maintain that Azazel represents Satan and emphasize the distinction between the roles of Christ as the ultimate sin bearer and Satan's involvement in the bearing of sins.

Ellen White’s Understanding of Azazel

Ellen White's perspective on Azazel and the bearing of sins is a topic of interest and has caused confusion and criticism among laypersons and scholars within the Adventist community. White refers to Azazel as the scapegoat but presents it in a thought-provoking manner, which has led to questions and challenges to the church's position. She posits that Satan bears our sins, but it is important to understand how, why, and in what sense she puts forth this idea. According to White, the scapegoat (Azazel) typifies Satan, the author of sin, upon whom the sins of the truly penitent will eventually be placed. She suggests that Christ will place these sins upon Satan, and he will ultimately suffer the full penalty of sin. It is important to note that the rule of atonement states that only Jesus Christ himself can pay the price for our sins. The Bible clearly states that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree, emphasizing that no one else can substitute for our sins.

When examining White's statements, they may seem contradictory to the church's teachings. However, there is an exemption to the rule, as mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel. If a messenger of God fails to warn sinners of their sins, they are also held guilty for those sins. In this case, the prophet pays for those sins. This concept can be traced back to the Mosaic code, which states that if you fail to rebuke your neighbor, you also bear the penalty of their actions. This implies that paying the price for the crime does not absolve one from guilt, nor can they make expiation on behalf of the one who committed the crime.

It is crucial to understand that only a blameless, guiltless, and spotless substitute can secure full pardon. Therefore, when White states that Satan will bear our sins in the future, it implies that he remains the guiltiest of all because he sinned from the beginning, and he can never be a savior or substitute. Christ alone is the only sin-bearer. White emphasizes that Christ, as the only sin-bearer, requires no human virtue or intercession in His role as our advocate. She highlights that poor mortals often strive to be sin-bearers for themselves and others, but it is Jesus Christ alone who can be our substitute and sin-bearer. White's stance is clear: it is only through Christ, the only sin-bearer, that remission of sins is proclaimed. Repentance toward God and faith in Christ are the means through which sins are remitted, and this message is ratified by God.

In summary, Ellen White did not believe that Satan is our savior or part of the sin offering, nor can he provide expiation for our sins. While there are instances where individuals may pay the price for a sin, it is important to remember that they do not become a substitute on the sinner's behalf. They merely share in the guilt of the sinner.

Theological Implication

The theological implications of the understanding that the goat of Azazel (Satan) carries our sins rather than atones for it are significant. This perspective aligns with both Scripture and the writings of Ellen White. The term "bear" in this context emphasizes the idea of carrying or bearing the sins rather than substituting for or atoning for it. It is crucial to recognize that this teaching pertains to judgment rather than atonement. In the typology of the Day of Atonement, the live goat (Azazel) was presented after the atonement was completed.

Ellen White's statement further supports the understanding that Satan will bear our sins in the context of judgment, in accordance with the Mosaic Code. She describes how, in the typical service, the high priest confessed the sins of Israel upon the head of the scapegoat. Similarly, she suggests that Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, who is the originator and instigator of sin. The scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel, was sent away to a desolate land, symbolizing the removal and separation of sin. Likewise, Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins he has caused God's people to commit, will be confined to a desolate earth for a thousand years. During this time, he will suffer the full penalty of sin before its final eradication and the deliverance of those who have renounced evil.

Thus the carrying of sins by Azazel (Satan) symbolizes the ultimate judgment and punishment of sin, rather than serving as a substitutionary act of atonement. This interpretation resonates with the wider biblical teachings on judgment, the repercussions of sin, and the eventual elimination of evil. It's crucial to grasp this theological concept within the broader framework of biblical context, typology, and symbolism. This underscores the ultimate accountability and judgment awaiting Satan and those who continue in sin, while also affirming the redemptive role of Christ as the sole sin-bearer.


Seventh-day Adventist views on Azazel as Satan are based on extra-biblical and scriptural analysis, and White's writings as well support this claim. It is amplified by the fact that Satan bears our sin under the Mosaic Code but not in the rituals of the Atonement. Satan is bearing the sins because he is guilty in the past, present, and future. Yes, this statement aligns with the belief that Satan is the originator and instigator of sin and thus responsible for the sins of humanity.

It is important to distinguish between the role of Azazel (Satan) in the broader context of judgment and the specific rituals of the atonement. While the scapegoat in the Day of Atonement ritual did not atone for sins, the concept of Satan bearing our sins is related to the judgment and punishment of sin. Satan's responsibility and guilt as the originator and instigator of sin make him accountable for the sins he has caused God's people to commit.

This understanding aligns with the teachings of Scripture and highlights the need for personal accountability and the ultimate eradication of sin. It emphasizes that Satan's role in bearing our sins is rooted in his inherent guilt and does not detract from the unique and central role of Jesus Christ as the only sin-bearer and Savior. By exploring the theological implications of Azazel as Satan, Seventh-day Adventists seek to deepen their understanding of the consequences of sin, the role of judgment, and the final eradication of evil.


Almeida, Caiky Xavier. ""One Year in Mission" Project, South American Division." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 27, 2021. Accessed March 05, 2024.

Almeida, Caiky Xavier. ""One Year in Mission" Project, South American Division." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 27, 2021. Date of access March 05, 2024,

Almeida, Caiky Xavier (2021, November 27). "One Year in Mission" Project, South American Division. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved March 05, 2024,