A unique Temple ceremony for Yom Kippur was the casting of lots by the high priest as he designated one goat to the Lord and the other goat to Azazel. “From the assembly of the Children of Israel, he shall take two “he-goats” for a sin offering. And he shall take the two he-goats and he shall stand them before HaShem at the entrance to the tent of meeting." Leviticus 16:5
Male goats are se’irim, which means hairy. An important connection emerges between sei’rim and the goat dedicated to Azazel. Se’irim can also mean satyrs or goat demons. Anciently, Azazel was the chief of the Se’irim in the wilderness. Mount Seir is the mountain range in Edom where Esav made his home. Seir is the root of se’irim. The Rabbis associated Esav, Edom, and Mount Seir with the Roman empire and the roots of the false messiah. For them, Yom Kippur was the day in which the enemy of Israel would finally be defeated.
During the Second Temple period, the ceremony requiring the casting of lots became more complex than what is described in Leviticus. The goat dedicated to Azazel was set aside, the High Priest laid his hands upon its head, and confessed over it the sins of the nation of Israel. Once he tied a crimson wool thread between its horns, a different priest led the goat through the East gate across a special bridge to the outskirts of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, another crimson wool thread was tied to the entrance of the sanctuary. The priest, along with the goat, passed through a number of stations or booths leading to a cliff in the desert to the east of Jerusalem. Priests were provided food and water at each station should they require sustenance for the journey. Once at the cliff, the priest divided the crimson wool thread in two, tying one piece to the horns of the goat, and the other to a rock. The priest then pushed the goat off the cliff, backward, where it fell to its death. The crimson wool, tied to the rock, miraculously turned white—indicating Israel’s sins were forgiven. At the same time, the crimson wool that hung in the Sanctuary also became white. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; even if they are red as crimson, they will be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Hints of this ceremony can be found in Genesis 27 where Isaac bestows the blessing of inheritance over Jacob and Esav. Esav is described as a hunter of game. The sages say Esav went into the world (the field) to snare his prey and lay an ambush for the people of God. Esav is also called hairy or seir—the sages connect Esav to Azazel, chief of the se'irim, the goat demons.
Jacob retrieved two goats from the flock to prepare food for his father. Rebecca took the skin from one goat, covered Jacob’s hands and neck, and dressed him in the garments of Esav. An interesting picture emerges of Yeshua taking on the "curse" of flesh, like Jacob, to make atonement for the family of Israel. The enemy’s clothes were likened to the skins of the goat,
Esav foreshadowed the false messiah—the Azazel, chief of the goat demons who was fit for destruction. The book of Enoch describes Azazel as “the leader of the watchers who educates humankind of heavenly secrets that lead humankind to sin," adding “Raphael was then assigned to punish Asa'el by binding him hand and foot and throwing him into the darkness among the sharp and jagged rocks, where he would remain until the Day of Judgment when he would be hurled into the fire." In response to Asa'el's teachings, God sent a flood to destroy the evil in the world.
This story of Jacob and Esav and the two goats; it was the story of the eternal destinies of two sons and by extension, two nations. When Esav entered the presence of Isaac to receive his blessing, scripture says Isaac “trembled a trembling that was very great.” The sages comment that Isaac perceived that Gehinnom had opened beneath Esav and that Esav was truly evil.
We generally think of Jacob as the supplanter of the birthright. The Rabbis suggest Jacob’s name really means "Jacob’s sovereignty will supplant Esav’s in the future age and that Jacob will rule after him." Esav represented the kings and rulers of this world, likened to the emperors of Rome in the first century. By contrast, Jacob pictured the true king, Messiah, ruler of the World to come. The destiny of the two sons would ultimately be fulfilled on a Yom Kippur—the Day that is One when heaven and earth are finally restored.