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©02 Levite

(Christian Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy Adventure)

     And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the Scapegoat.
-Leviticus 16 : 8

TransJordan, About 1500 BC

     People had started calling me Azazel. At first I got rather upset, I mean really, do YOU want to be called 'the removal goat'? But then last year for the fourth year in a row, when my goats were chosen again from all the herds of Israel for what really is an honor, I smiled at the name and nodded when they spoke the word.
     "OK, if it suits the Lord, I will be Azazel."
     I am a goatherd. My father's father was a shepherd, and so I grew up. But I have never liked sheep. To me they are the most dim-witted, hopeless, senseless animals there are. I have seen sheep stand still and bleat as a lion crept up on them, not moving until we got between them and the predator and drove it away. Sometimes, we'd loose an animal that way. The sheep being too stupid to run. My goats never had that problem. They'd lead the herds to safety running full speed, leaving me to help the shepherds deal with whatever the threat was.
     And trying to raise several young male goats a year that were free of blemishes was tough. They couldn't have a bent horn, or one leg that wasn't exactly the same length as the others. Their eyes had to be clear and spotless, and their wool had to be perfect and lay just so. I'd take all the good ones to the priests and they'd see if any were suitable. For five years running now, they always picked at least one of mine. This year, both were mine. Sometimes the yearlings chosen would be from the ugliest most scraggly looking she-goat in the herd, that was fine irony that I appreciated as my companions would be penning perfect specimens together to try to get a kid that looked like the parents. I had found that nature and God's Will worked better than any attempts I could make that way.
     Yeah I know, it cost me two perfectly good goats, but I was never bitter, if all I can provide to God is a goat or two, then that is my blessing to Israel.

     The priests would lead in the animals, a bull, a ram, and my goats into the meeting area.
     From back behind all the people I would watch the High Priest purify himself, then he'd take the goats in and draw the lots for them. It was a great ceremony, with lots of invocations to the Most High God and ritual and all. The incense would make our eyes water, and the smoke from the fire would be thick as he burned the burnt offering on it. Aaron always had the most serious look on his face as he took the blood into the Holy Place, as did the priests and Levites outside who were holding the animals and tools he needed. We would stand far back and watch silently. I still believe some of the people were there to see if God would strike Aaron dead for some misstep or forgotten gesture. But He never did. I was there to see if God found my goats acceptable.
     The bull Aaron had offered was burning and he turned his attention to my goats. We'd have to clear out of the meeting area for awhile, but then we could come back in. The one for the sin offering of the people would be prayed over then killed. And I knew from the directions from God that he would be sprinkling the blood of the goat like he did with the bull. He sprinkled it over the mercy seat and both sides seven times.
     Then came the long part of the whole thing. Aaron would put his hands on the head of the live goat and speak all the sins of the people. He would go on quite a while. But it wasn't as specific as Azazel thought about Jecoam's oldest daughter in an impure way, he would confess that some of the men of Israel, and some of the women too, didn't always think pure thoughts. Then when he was finally done one of the Levite's, whom a lot had fallen to, would take the goat far out of the camp and send it away throwing rocks and shouting at it until it ran off. Then he'd have to bathe and wash his clothes before coming back into the camp.
     The carcasses of the sin offerings would be burnt outside the camp and the smell would hang thick in the air all night.
     All of this was done once a year for the people. But we all had to bring offerings of all sorts of things for all sorts of offenses. My practice was to take an offering to the priests anytime I felt like maybe I had done something even if I wasn't sure.
     I love the LORD, don't mistake me here, but the Law He has given us, at least the way I've heard the priests explain it, is so complicated. It'd be much easier if there was a book of the Law and they could give all the heads of the households one and teach us to read it. Even in just the few years we have been doing all this, every few months I notice a change in something. Maybe it was just in the emphasis of a particular statement, but sometimes they'd add something to part of the law that I thought I had clear. I wondered to myself sometimes if some of the priests were getting a little out of line with their interpretation of the law, but they knew it, or were supposed to, and I'm just a goatherd.
     The priests were the center of attention among the more devout of our people. And I counted myself in the numbers of those that were devout, but not to the point of not being able to function in life like some of them I know that sit around piously and mumble prayers. I took care of my animals, and did the duties required by my family as we traveled, and had even bore arms to defend the camps against some of our enemies. That is my duty as part of the Nation, to serve my God and my Family and my People as best I can.
     But as we neared the Promised Land, some of the things a few of the priests said and did just didn't feel right and when Aaron got wind of it he was very upset with them.
     The man who had driven the scapegoat off is back in the camp after purifying himself in the prescribed manner. The others are still tending the fire, they will be back later.
     A small feast of celebration began. It wasn't an official feast, and we were told to keep it small and simple, but the joy we all felt that we had been atoned for in the eyes of God had to be shared among the people.
     But my thoughts returned to the goats. One had died, being a sacrifice for my sins even though it had never sinned. The other was condemned to the wilds, carrying our sins with it, and it too, was an innocent. I am told by those that know such things that they are a sign of our being brought back to God, our reconciliation to God through the Law, although the Great Reconciler, the Blessing the Lord promised Father Abraham and some of the wise men call the Redeemer, is yet to come.
     Until then, until the Lord brings all men to himself, I will raise my goats.

End goats


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