scapegoat; sacrificial lamb

scapegoat

someone who is blamed for another’s wrongdoing
—The teacher refused to be made the scapegoat for the students poor grades.

sacrificial lamb

someone who is blamed for another’s wrongs in order to save the guilty person; a person or group headed for certain defeat or destruction, often in order to bring about a greater good
—I know our party needs to put a candidate up against the president. But he’s unbeatable, and I won’t be a sacrificial lamb.

God gave Moses instructions on how the people were to give their offerings and sacrifices. For instance, he told Moses how Aaron, as the high priest, was to perform the ceremonies for the Day of Atonement:

Aaron is to cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and one lot for Azazel [the scapegoat]. Aaron must then present the goat which has been designated by lot for the Lord, and he is to make it a sin offering, but the goat which has been designated by lot for Azazel is to be stood alive before the Lord to make atonement on it by sending it away to Azazel into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:8-10)

When he has finished purifying the holy place, the Meeting Tent, and the altar, he is to present the live goat. Aaron is to lay his two hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities of the Israelites and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins, and thus he is to put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man standing ready. The goat is to bear on itself all their iniquities into an inaccessible land, so he is to send the goat away in the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:20-22)

The second goat above was “for Azazel.” Azazel is a Hebrew word that is difficult to translate. Some translators believe that it is a combination of words meaning “goat” and “to go away.” This gives us “the goat that escapes,” or scapegoat. Some believe that azazel represents the idea of “complete removal.” Others believe that it was the name of an area in the wilderness. And still others believe that it was the name of a demon in the desert, or even the name of the devil. In all of these cases, the act of sending out the goat symbolized that the people’s sins were removed far from them and from God. The Jews also gave other kinds of offerings to God, such as grain and lambs at harvest time for the Feast of Firstfruits:

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘When you enter the land that I am about to give to you and you gather in its harvest, then you must bring the sheaf of the first portion [the firstfruits] of your harvest to the priest, and he must wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for your benefit—on the day after the Sabbath the priest is to wave it. On the day you wave the sheaf you must also offer a flawless yearling lamb for a burnt offering to the Lord. . . . (Leviticus 23:9-12)

Firstfruits were the earliest crops harvested each season. Now, first fruits can be the first results of any effort.

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