Azazel-The Scapegoat

54”x48” oil on canvas/wood 1994

In Leviticus, the episode of the scapegoat, depicted in the lower rectangular part of this painting, is described in this way: two he-goats were chosen by random lot - one was to be a sin-offering for the nation and the other was destined to provide atonement, and was sent to “Azazel”. The ancient and obscure term “Azazel” is variously interpreted as the name of the wilderness place where the animal was taken to be killed, or as signifying the entire removal of the sin and guilt of the community.

Aaron the high priest would then confess the sins and iniquities of the community over the head of the animal chosen for Azazel, symbolically transferring the people’s sins to the animal. The he-goat was then hurled to his death from a steep wilderness mountain.

The lunette portion of this painting shows an electric chair. I have used this image to link the ancient narrative of the scapegoat with our parallel contemporary belief that evil can be removed from the community if we kill the sinners among us.

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