The Ancient Israelites had two kinds of goats: one was a sacrifice that was used to purify sacred space and the other was a sin goat that was to be sent to some demonic entity known as “Azazel.” The Azazel goat wasn’t a sacrifice to a demon, it was an animal that all of Israel’s sins were transferred into. They couldn’t give their sin to God because sin didn’t belong with a holy God, so they sent it into the lifeless desert where demons were thought to live so that sin could be with them. Legends say that over time, the Israelites got nervous that the goat might return to their camp, so they went the extra mile to kick the goat off a cliff somewhere to ensure that it couldn’t come back.
Transferring impurity to animals was an ancient practice among the Hebrews, Hittites, Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Egyptians, and you see a bit of it in Jesus’ ministry. When he comes across the Gerasene demoniac, Jesus takes the practical exorcist route and casts tons of demons out of the man and into pigs. The pigs then fell off a cliff into the sea which resembles the goat for Azazel being pushed off a cliff to its death. On top of that, the pigs were sent into the sea, which was viewed as an unorderly place of chaos, like the desert.
Sometimes when I’m doing deliverance I command demons to take all the sin they’ve thrust upon the person I’m working with and it often puts them in great pain. They can clearly feel the weight and emotion of their sin.
Jesus is the ultimate exorcist. Whatever we face spiritually, he can handle it.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Matthew 8:28-34 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. Below are the various AI-created pictures I typed into existence via Mid Journey to mock up artwork for today’s post.