Deciphering Zechariah 14:5

An indepth analysis of Zechariah 14:5

Azal: A Longtime Mystery Rediscovered

with 18 comments

This is a condensed, updated version of the detailed study, The Truth Hidden Right in Front of Our Eyes.

Azal (אצל), or Azel (e.g., NIV bible), is the location mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 in bibles that use the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) as the source for this verse.

And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
Zechariah 14:5, King James Version

In bibles that follow the Greek Septuagint (LXX) rendering, depending upon the source manuscript used, Azal is transcribed Jasol (ιασολ, pronounced Yasol), Jasod (a corruption of Jasol), or Asael (ασαηλ):

The valley of my mountains shall be blocked up; and the valley of mountains shall be closed up even to Jasod [Jasol/Azal]. It shall be blocked up as it was in the days of the earthquake in the days of Ozias [Uzziah] king of Juda. …
Zechariah 14:5, LXX, first English translation by Charles Thomson, Secretary to the first United States Congresss, published 1808

The reason that there are two different versions of Zechariah 14:5 is because a Hebrew verb that occurs three times in this verse can be pronounced two different ways, which results in two very different meanings. The LXX, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures made nearly 1000 years before the MT was fully redacted, has one meaning (it shall be closed/blocked up), and the MT has the other (you shall flee). These very different translations obscure a clear understanding of Zechariah 14:5. Another obscurant factor is an almost universal ignorance, existent for many centuries until now, of what and where Azal is, or was. This is largely due to the fact that no known writing authored prior to the late 19th century clarifies this mystery.

Screenshot from sheet 17 of the Survey of Western Palestine (1871-78) showing Wadi Yasul (W. Yasul in center). Jerusalem lays top center/left, and the Mount of Olives is top right).

Screenshot from sheet 17 of the Survey of Western Palestine (Palestine Exploration Fund, 1871-78) showing Wadi Yasul (W. Yasul in center) just south of old Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. Geographic features going south from pink area at top left are Mount Zion, Hinnom Valley, Hill of Evil Counsel (Abu Tor), Wadi Yasul (Nahal Azal). The southern peak of the Mount of Olives is at top right.

Discovery of Azal

During the period 1873-74, Charles Clermont-Ganneau, a renowned linguist and archaeologist in Palestine, explored a number of ancient tombs in a valley immediately south of Jerusalem that the local Arab peasants called Wadi Yâsûl (wadi is the Arabic word for river or valley). Based on linguistic evidence and its proximity to Jerusalem, Clermont-Ganneau proposed that Wadi Yâsûl is Azal:

“But, as with so many other Arabic topographical words, we may very likely have here an ancient geographical name … most [bible] commentators agree in regarding [Azal] as a place situated not far from Jerusalem, but otherwise unknown. May we not find it at Yâsûl, whose name agrees with it letter for letter?”

In agreement with Clermont-Ganneau’s discovery, the Israel Government Names Committee (IGNC) in 1955 named Wadi Yasul, Nahal Azal (נחל אצל); nahal (נחל) means river or valley, and Azal (אצל) is the same spelling (English and Hebrew) as Azal (אצל) in Zechariah 14:5. This naming followed the IGNC’s policy of seeking the Hebrew origins of place names that survived in the Arabic, Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman languages, and naming bible locations according to their English biblical spellings (e.g., Azal) rather than phonetically (e.g., Atzal, the Hebrew pronunciation of Azal).

Consequently, it is now common knowledge in Jerusalem that Wadi Yasul/Nahal Azal is biblical Azal. Online examples of this include:

  • An American Girl in Jerusalem (3rd paragraph): “This is the Azel Valley mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 in reference to the earthquake that occurred during King Uzziah’s reign around 760 B.C. … I’m using the New International Version [(NIV) bible which has Azel instead of Azal]…”
  • City of David Foundation Segway Tours (2nd paragraph): “At the foot of the ridge is the deep channel of Atzal [sic] River (Zechariah 14:5), which advances toward the Kidron Valley. Its Biblical name was preserved by the Arabs as Wadi Yasul.”
  • Wikipedia: Jerusalem Peace Forest: “[The Jerusalem Peace Forest] was a location of the biblical Azal river mentioned in the book of Zechariah (Zechariah 14:5) (currently only a riverbed is left in place)”
  • Wikipedia (Hebrew version): נחל אצל: “Nahal Azal (Arabic: Wadi Yasul) is one of the tributaries of the Kidron Valley southeast of Jerusalem, between the Armon Ha’Natziv ridge and the neighborhood of Abu Tor, by the Peace Forest. … This name originates in the prophet Zechariah’s end-time prophecy, ‘[content of the LXX version of Zechariah 14:4-5]’. The biblical name of the river was preserved by the Arabs as Wadi Yasul.”

The decision to name Wadi Yasul, Nahal Azal, was based on contemporary archaeologists’ determination that Clermont-Ganneau was right (essentially, their rediscovery of Azal). So as might be expected this valley is called Azal in the field of archaeology, also. For instance:

Another example occurred during a Hebrew University field trip to Haas Promenade on Mount Azal (named so by the Israel Government Names Committee in 1990; also called Armon Hanatziv Ridge; Arabic name is Jabel Mukaber) in which the archaeology professor informed his class that Azal mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 was the valley their observation point overlooked (see An American Girl in Jerusalem above).

In effect, Azal has become so mainstream it’s viewable in Google Maps. The screenshot below shows Nahal Azal directly below the red marker (A). Click map image to view Nahal Azal in Google Maps itself.

Until April 2014, Google mistakenly labeled Nahal Azal in English, Nahal Etsel. This error was due to the erroneous association of אצל (Azal) with the similarly spelled אצ”ל (IZL; pronounced etsel), which is the acronym for the Irgun military organization (also called Etzel) that violently opposed the British Mandate government (1920-47) headquartered at Government House atop the southern ridge of Nahal Azal. This ridge was named Mount Azal (הר אצל) in 1990 by the Israel Government Names Committee; however, since a number of streets near Government House are named in honor of אצ”ל (Etzel) members, some locals call the ridge Mount Etsel (הר אצ”ל;, and (by association from its geographic proximity and similar Hebrew spelling) the watershed it overlooks to the north, Nahal Etsel. So whoever compiled Google's original map data for this area used, for Wadi Yasul, a local nickname derived from mistaken association (Nahal Etsel), rather than its official Hebrew name (Nahal Azal). This error has been corrected, and is mentioned here solely to clear up any confusion it may have caused.

©2014 Google – Map data ©2014 Mapa GISrael


Which Version of Zechariah 14:5 is Correct?

There is considerable evidence that both the LXX rendering of Zechariah 14:5 and Clermont-Ganneau’s theory are correct.

Linguistic/Geographic Evidence

The very similar pronunciations of Jasol (pronounced Yasŏl) and Yasul suggest that Jasol is a Greek transcription of the Arabic word for Azal (i.e., Yasul), which has been preserved since Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD by Arab culture local to the area. Clermont-Ganneau claimed the Arabic Yasul “corresponds exactly, satisfying all the rules of etymology, with the Hebrew” Azal. Etymological analysis of Arabic geographic names in Israel has proven to be an effective tool in the discovery of forgotten biblical locations, a method pioneered in 1838 by Edward Robinson, “Father of Biblical Geography” and “founder of modern Palestinology”.

While some of the main locales of Biblical history, such as Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa, Beth-shean, and Gaza, had never been forgotten, hundreds of additional places mentioned in the Bible were unknown. By using the geographical information contained in the Bible and carefully studying the modern Arabic place-names of the country, Robinson found it was possible to identify dozens of ancient mounds and ruins with previously forgotten biblical sites. … This process was particularly effective in regions that had been inhabited continuously throughout the centuries and where the site’s name had been preserved.
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, pg. 15, 2002

(©2011 Google – Map data ©2011 Mapa GISrael)

Ellipse marks landslide location. Immediately to the left of it at the base of the mountain is where the kings’ gardens used to be at the juncture of the Kidron and Hinnom valleys. The red ‘A’ marker designates the juncture of the Azal and Kidron valleys.
©2009 Google – Map data ©2009 Mapa GISrael

Geological/Historical/Archaeological/Cartographic Evidence

A scientific paper published in 1984 by Israeli geologists identifies the location of a large landslide on the southernmost summit of the Mount of Olives directly adjacent to both Azal Valley and the area of the ancient kings’ gardens (see relief map to right). Their discovery validates Jewish historian Flavius Josephus’ account of an earthquake-caused landslide on the western slope of the Mount of Olives during King Uzziah’s reign blocking up the kings’ gardens in the Kidron Valley. It also accords with George Adam Smith’s field research in the early part of the 20th century that revealed the Kidron Valley near the area of the ancient kings’ gardens is covered with up to fifty (50) feet of earthen debris. A topographic map of Jerusalem in one of Smith’s books also shows evidence of the effects of landsliding in this area. All of the above evidence is corroborated by photographic evidence.

Photographic Evidence

The photo below, taken in the mid-1800s from the wall of Jerusalem looking southeast, shows this landslide location on the Mount of Olives. Slumping landslide rubble is visible on the western slope directly adjacent to the location of the ancient kings’ gardens at the juncture of the Hinnom and Kidron Valleys. The terraced look of this area is due to a geologic process called slumping, that occurs when landslide colluvium slowly creeps down a slope due to erosion and gravity over a long period of time. Though not clearly visible in this photograph, landslide rubble lies at the base of the southwestern slope all the way to Azal Valley.

Azal Valley from Jerusalem

The photo below, taken sometime in the early part of the twentieth century by a member of the American Colony in Jerusalem, shows this same landslide location at the top of the Mount of Olives (right side of photo) from the opposite direction, and clearly does show landslide colluvium lying at the base of the entire southwestern slope (click picture for images with better detail). The view is towards Jerusalem to the north overlooking Azal Valley in the foreground. Slumping landslide colluvium can be seen covering the lower half of the southwestern slope extending from the kings’ gardens to the mouth of Azal Valley (almost 0.3 mile/0.5 km). The massive volume of colluvial material at the base of the Mount of Olives makes it obvious that at some prior time landslide rubble filled in and blocked this entire section of valley from the kings’ gardens to Azal River (red ‘A’ marker designates approximate intersection of Azal and Kidron rivers). This evidence validates the LXX rendering of Zechariah 14:5, which states a valley will be filled in and blocked as far as Azal, just as a valley was filled in and blocked by an earthquake in the days of King Uzziah (as evidenced by the first photo).

The valley between the hills will be filled in, yes, it will be blocked as far as Jasol [Azal], it will be filled in as it was by the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
Zechariah 14:5, New Jerusalem Bible

[Photo taken by a member of the American Colony in Jerusalem in the early part of the the twentieth century, showing Jerusalem, the southwestern part of the landslide on the Mount of Corruption, and landslide rubble touching the Azal Valley.]

The MT version of Zechariah 14:5 Contradicts Reality

The fact that Azal is directly south of both old Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives makes the MT version of Zechariah 14:5 physically impossible, i.e., that Azal is situated east of Jerusalem and a split Mount of Olives. Additionally, there is no evidence supporting that version.

The ‘Splitting’ of the Mount of Olives

The narrative of a split Mount of Olives is based on a particular translation of the Hebrew verb בקע (baqa, H1234; σχιζω, G4977, in LXX) in Zechariah 14:4 that conveys the idea of the Mount of Olives splitting in half. This word is translated similarly in Micah 1:4, which describes landsliding in metaphoric language:

The mountains will melt under him and the valleys will split apart [בקע (baqa, H1234)], like wax in the presence of fire and like water gushing down a steep incline.
Micah 1:4, New International Version

This translation of בקע (baqa, H1234) in Micah 1:4 is a bit awkward, though, because the idea of valleys splitting apart doesn’t make much sense (i.e., the valleys will split apart … like water gushing down a steep incline) and doesn’t fit the context of landsliding described in the verse. A better translation of this word in this case would be tear, rip, or break apart, which are meanings applied to בקע (baqa, H1234) elsewhere in scripture. For instance, “The mountains will melt under him and the valleys will tear apart, like wax in the presence of fire and like water gushing down a steep incline” better portrays the upper slopes of valleys tearing apart from their place and landsliding (like water gushing down a steep incline). Josephus used similar language to describe the earthquake-caused landslide in King Uzziah’s day:

But I think I have found the key to this passage [Zechariah 14:4-5], and will quote for this end the following passage from Josephus, Antiq., book 9., chap. 10., being a part of the history of Uzziah: “… This prodigy was followed by another: near a certain place before the city, named Eroge, the one half of a mountain that looked westward was torn from the other half, and rolled for the space of four furlongs, till it stopped to the eastward of it, by which means the road was blocked up, and the king’s gardens covered with rubbish.
Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine, Joseph Schwarz, pp. 263-264, (1850)

So considering the evidence, it is much more likely that Zechariah 14:4 describes the western half (part) of the Mount of Olives tearing apart from its eastern half (which is exactly what happened), rather than that mountain splitting apart into two halves. And the fact that this specific part of Zechariah 14:4 –
ונבקע הר הזיתים מחצין טזרחה – literally translates to “and mountain of the olives is torn from his eastward half” makes this likelihood all the more certain.

… ונבקע (and is torn) הר (mountain) הזיתים (the olives) מחצין (from his half) טזרחה (eastward) …
Zechariah 14:4, Hebrew interlinear version with reversed word order (right-to-left)

Bible Translations of Zechariah 14:5

The LXX version of Zechariah 14:5 is found in bibles used by the entire Eastern Orthodox Church (225-300 million members) and some of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. The two most popular English bibles of the Roman Catholic Church (1.2 billion members), the New American Bible and the New Jerusalem Bible, both contain the LXX reading; the French La Bible de Jérusalem contains this reading as well (Kudos to the translators of Zechariah 14:5 in La Bible de Jérusalem and (especially) the New Jerusalem Bible for such exceptional and faithful translations. They are, evidentially, the most accurate translations of this verse in existence. The New Jerusalem Bible translation was derived from La Bible de Jérusalem and is actually the more accurate of the two. Bravo!). The Jewish Publication Society, whose stated editorial policy is to favor the MT, has used the LXX version of this verse in a number of publications since about 1985 (e.g., Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures). Most Protestant bibles contain the MT rendering of Zechariah 14:5; yet at least two have the LXX reading (New English Bible, Concordant Literal Version), and three reference the LXX reading as a footnote (New International Version, Holcombe Christian Standard Bible, NET Bible).

No Stone Left Unturned

For a detailed analysis of this and other evidence with cited references see The Truth Hidden Right in Front of Our Eyes.

Azal Today

The lower half of the photo below shows what Azal Valley looks like today. The view is north towards old Jerusalem and was taken from Haas Promenade on Mount Azal. Jerusalem’s wall lies in the center; Mount of Olives is center right. The steeply sloped area just below the dense cluster of buildings at center left (Abu Tor) is the headwater of Azal River (currently just a dry river channel). Photo is from An American Girl in Jerusalem. Erin’s Adventures in Israel has numerous photos of Azal Valley taken from Haas Promenade.

Wadi Yasul/Nahal Azal

A panoramic view of Azal Valley from its headwater in the Jerusalem Peace Forest to its juncture with the Kidron Valley at the foot of the Mount of Olives is viewable from 0:21 – 0:30 in this video taken from Haas Promenade on Mount Azal.

Copyright © 2011, Zechariah Fourteen Five. All rights reserved. The author can be reached at zechariahfourteenfive at yahoo dot com

18 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. A great indepth study. I found your article after googling Z 14:5 while reading for my devotions. Thank you for your efforts to weigh the facts and implications of the translation of the passage. It is worthy of further discussion.

    Jess Slusher

    September 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

  2. Wow! Sure would like to contact you. Incredible work. I’ve been on a trail of study and stumbled on to this. Great stuff. Please email me!

    Gary A.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

  3. Thank you. This is enlightening.

    G. Postel

    April 8, 2014 at 6:17 am

    • You’ve done a wonderful job with this. Wish the Bible translators considered your info. We are half-heartedly working on a translation and will certainly consider your research. I see you added the material about the Jews and their tunneling to the Mount of Olives. There’s another whole story about the Moslems and the Kidron Valley that fits into this pattern of Christians, Jews and Moslems all wanting to get at the Mount of Olives. That would take some real research but would be fun. I’ve played around with it and found some interesting things but don’t really have time to devote to digging and then writing.

      I am very interested in the Jewish graveyard on the Mount of Olives. That whole slope sure looks to me as if it was a landslide in the past AND that it may slip again sliding the whole graveyard towards the Mount of corruption closing up a highway named after King David? I’m convinced there is something very interesting about that slope, maybe even more interesting than Azal. Hey, why don’t you mention your name in this article or research?


      April 9, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      • “Hey, why don’t you mention your name in this article or research?”

        Because the facts speak for themselves.


        April 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm

  4. Great information…wondering which dam above Azal would flood the valley?

    john miley

    March 10, 2015 at 7:40 pm

  5. Dear Author/WebMaster of Zechariah Fourteen Five,

    First of all I would like to commend you for the amount of work you have put into this project.
    Nothing else on the web comes close!

    I sincerely hope persons and institutions will see the sad grasp of Dispensationalism and Zionism on Christendom through the fabled use of Zechariah 14.

    In reading through both the condensed and original versions of your study may I please be permitted to make an observation that came to mind.

    It concerns a possible origin of the naming for the location for Azal. I couldn’t help but think its resemblance to Azazel and the scapegoat used on the annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

    I propose, granted without much study at this point, that Azal could be so named because it was observed in ancient times that’s where the annual scapegoat wandered too including nearby Mount of Corruption. Certainly curious that some areas outside the walls has by tradition (despite the Judeans spiritual state from Solomon to Christ leading to their desolation) have names meaning “evil” and “corruption” including the concept of “escaping” or removing. Granted high places were also set up around those parts in ancient times.

    This site explains the two lots – haShem for the Lord and haAzazel – not for the Lord i.e. for Azazel or to Azazel

    Lev 16:21 – “And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send [him] away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:”

    Could it be that “wilderness” be south of the Temple Mount as that area is not incumbent once outside the Temple Mount for the goat to have to be led through the city itself? Much easier after an annual Yom Kippur service to let it loose to the wilderness to the south.

    To me the whole thing is symbolic, poor goat, but required by obedience by God before Christ. I do not think the animal itself suffered (unlike the first one that was sacrificed) from post Yom Kippur traumatic disorders so to speak with all the sins and guilt of Israel upon it. He probably baa’d a few times and wondered what the hell was going on. Now as a goat shooed off where would I go? Well not too far I suppose. Somewhere near water, food and rocky outcroppings as goats do. And preferably just beyond the reach of any persons so as to be chained or penned again. Thus the goat’s mental compass probably wouldn’t go north back towards the city. As to whether locals eventually claimed said annual goat in the southern areas beyond the Temple Mount and whether they knew or not it or believed in the ritual goat is another matter.

    Some wordplay

    Some Jewish legends have it that the goat for Azazel wandered and eventually fell into a pit which could be a ravine in the area in question. e.g. “Over the other [goat] the High Priest confessed the sins of the nation and it was then taken away into the desert hills outside Jerusalem where it plunged to its death.” Source

    I somehow doubt this is akin to the NT account of the demon possessed pigs as found in Luke 8:33. Scripture appears to make no mention of what happened to the second ritual goat other than for it to be led into the wilderness and set free. Thus I think it a Jewish fable for a so called depressed goat to plunge itself into a pit or jump off a cliff and is only spoken about as such to support the Yom Kippur tradition.

    Aforementioned site also mentions three possibilities for the term “to Azazel” first being a geographical location. Second being the name of a demon and/or also implying transferred possession or that Azazel/devil type would receive the demons/sins being sent back. Third being ez – “goat” and azal “sent away”.

    So the ancient location so named Azal could very well be where annual scapegoats usually wandered to.
    I have just found this at

    “As for the conclusion of the ritual Volck informs us: “According to the Talmudic tractate, Yoma, the high
    priest, knew by a sort of telegraphic communication between Jerusalem and the wilderness,–the waving of
    cloths by set watchers, at regular distances, whether and when the goat arrived in the wilderness, as was
    necessary, for the other sacrifices were not to be offered until it arrived there (Lev. 16:23-24)” (W. Volck,
    “Azazel,” in Schaff-Herzog, Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, I, 183)”

    Author Volck appears to say that at a certain juncture during the Yom Kippur service that all other services were place on hold until the scapegoat was observed to have arrived at a specific point in the wilderness to which point the then active service and other services to be performed that day were resumed.

    Whether this point was so named Azal so as to be consistent at each annual service could possibly be so. Rituals demand repetition, consistency and continuation. Thus at some point in Israelite history during First and Second Temple periods a point just outside Jerusalem in the wilderness, possibly south and away from the people may have been designated as “Azal” to be the same point being watched. “Escape to” and “sent to” seem to fit the description.

    I seem to recall your site saying Azal couldn’t be seen from the Temple Mount – so a high priest officiating the services could not himself see the point in question thus the employment of watchers waving cloths at regular intervals along the ground to indicate when the scapegoat had arrived at that point.

    The term in Zechariah 14 “shall reach unto Azal” appears to describe certain geological upheavals taking place to a geological point which was well known in Zechariah’s day. By such reference and known location the term “Azal” as was known in ancient Israelite history could possibly be the same point where the scapegoat of Yom Kippur arrived.

    Alex Young

    Alex Young

    June 14, 2015 at 1:15 am

    • Thanks Alex for your thought-provoking (and lengthy) comments. It will take some time for me to go over everything in detail and give it the attention it deserves.


      June 14, 2015 at 7:35 am

      • Hi … again,

        Just reading Yoma 6 in the Talmud to see where this whole thing goes. May go nowhere.

        I have great reservations about the Talmud it being anti Christian and anti gentile and rabbinical ramblings but on occasions such as Yoma 39 proving the divinity of Christ as Messiah despite modern rabbinical writings to deny as such. Will send that later which is also in regards to the lots if you so desire.

        But for now our discussion re Azal Yoma 6 states

        “MISHNA: Some of the prominent men of Jerusalem used to accompany him [the goat] as far as the first booth [of the ten, supplied with provisions for the conductor]. There were ten booths between Jerusalem and Tsuk [the rock of its destination], a distance of 90 Ris [7½ Ris are equal to one mile]. At each booth they said to him [to the conductor]: “Here is food, and here is water.” And they [persons of the booth] accompanied him from booth to booth, excepting the last of them, for the rock was not reached by them; but they stood at some distance looking on what he [the conductor] did [to the scapegoat]. What did he do? He divided the tongue of crimson wool: the half of it he tied to the rock, and the second half between his [the scapegoat’s] horns; he pushed him down backward. He went rolling and falling down; he did not reach halfway of the mountain before he became separated limb from limb. He [the conductor] returned to sit down under the last booth, till dark. And since when became his clothes unclean? After he had issued from the walls of Jerusalem. R. Simeon says: After he had pushed it down from the rock.

        Assuming the later rabbi writings contain a true and accurate record of the events surrounding the scapegoat and Yom Kippur the word Tsuk appears to describe the destination of where the goat arrived and 90/7.5 being about 12 miles. That’s one booth every 1.2 miles. Gotta love the teasing of the goat every time with food and water!

        However there is some disagreement even between rabbis some say 10 miles and differ in the number of booths. Yoma 6 also mentions reformed thinking on some aspects of this event long after Zechariah’s day e.g. 560 BC compared to say Talmud 200 AD.

        Later in Yoma 6 mentions deliverance of the completed task via watchers as per Feinberg/Volck use. This all points towards a designated place.

        MISHNA: The high-priest was told: “The goat has reached the desert.” How was the fact known? Watches were stationed on high towers [meaning doubtful], who lifted up flags [to give signals]. Said R. Jehudah: They could have excellent evidence [by calculating the time]. From Jerusalem to Beth Hadudo was three miles. The prominent men had walked one mile, went back one mile, and had tarried as long as a mile is gone over. Thus they could calculate that the he-goat had reached the desert.

        Interestingly the distance is given as 3 miles if Jerusalem to Beth-Hadudo. How far from the altar to Azal was it? Or is it taken from Temple Mount to Beth-Hadudo/Azal? The text “had tarried as long as a mile is gone over” is interesting and somewhat confusing, perhaps indicating the 3 miles wasn’t 3 miles but 1 mile to the point that the total time taken to walk 1 mile, push the goat over and wait to confirm its death, and walk back another mile was equivalent to the time walking 3 miles as all services on the Mount were presumably on standby. But then what of the waving at the tent/booths/towers to get the message back faster?

        Then there is also the discussion of whether is relevant about the Temple today being in the right spot or not aka Martin etc. But for now who or what was Beth-Hadudo? Was it near or in the same area as you have identified as Azal? The last verse of Yoma 6 identifies Beth-Hadudo in the desert (or wilderness).

        Beth Hadudo is mentioned here –

        Interesting it seems other references can be found in Talmud which shows that eve by the time of its compliation in or by 200 AD some uncertainty abounded about a great deal many things of thei tradition:
        Yoma 41b
        12. Destined for Azazel, in the wilderness, whence it was hurled to its death from a rock. The word Azazel has been variously interpreted, but it seems to be the name of a place (a rough rock) rather than that of a demon.
        Yoma 66b
        29. Lit., ~ez_lsquo~the peak~ez_rsquo~, the mountain top from which the scapegoat was precipitated. Also used to denote the precipice itself.
        Yoma 67a
        On that site we also find information about Tsok (not Tsuk as spelt above) and Beth-Chadudo

        Tsok: and Beth Chadudo.
        When they sent forth the goat Azazel, on the day of expiation,–before that, they set up ten tents, a mile distant one from another: where some betook themselves before that day, that they might be ready to accompany him [fit man from Lev 16 – Alex], who brought forth the goat. Those of the better rank went out of Jerusalem with him, and accompanied him to the first tent. There others received him, and conducted him to the second; others to the third, and so to the tenth. From the tenth to the rock Tsok, whence the goat was cast down, were two miles. They, therefore, who received him there, went not farther than a mile with him, that they might not exceed a sabbath day’s journey: but, standing there, they observed what was done by him. “He snapped the scarlet thread into two parts, of which he bound one to the horns of the goat, and the other to the rock: and thrust the goat down; which, hardly coming to the middle of the precipice, was dashed and broke into pieces.” The rock Tsok therefore was twelve miles distant from Jerusalem, according to later computation. But there are some, who assign nine-tenths only, and ten miles.–See the Gemarists.
        Tsok, among the Talmudists, is any more craggy and lofty rock. Hence is that, “she went up to the top of the rocks and fell.” Where the Gloss writes, “Tsokin are high and craggy mountains.”
        The first entrance into the desert was three miles from Jerusalem, and that place was called ‘Beth Chadudo.’ The Misna of Babylon writes thus of it; “They say to the high priest, The goat is now come into the wilderness.” But whence knew they, that he was now come into the wilderness? They set up high stones; and, standing on them, they shook handkerchiefs; and hence they knew that the goat was now got into the wilderness. R. Judah saith, ‘Was not this a great sign to them?’ From Jerusalem to Beth Chadudo were three miles. They went forward the space of a mile, and went back the space of a mile, and they tarried the space of a mile: and so they knew that the goat was now come to the wilderness.
        The Jerusalem Misna thus: “R. Judah saith, Was not this a great sign to them? From Jerusalem to Beth-horon were three miles. They went forward the space of a mile,” &c.
        From these things compared, it is no improbable conjecture, that the goat was sent out towards Beth-horon, which both was twelve miles distant from Jerusalem, and had rough and very craggy rocks near it: and that the sense of the Gemarists was this,–In the way to Beth-horon, were three miles to the first verge of the wilderness,–and the name of the place was Beth Chadudo.

        Yoma 6 also said prominent men accompany the goat which probably did not include the priests administering the services (supposedly they were still back at the Temple waiting for word of arrival).

        I am uncertain about the claim of the goat being pushed down the mountain, would have to be rather steep for a shoved nimble goat not to have retain balance and be torn apart. Certainly not a requirement of Lev 16 and denotes hatred towards the goat as if they wanted their sins furthest away from them. There was no requirement for the second goat to be killed.

        Then there is the concept of the fit man or conductor being made unclean by the goat at the destination point of shoving or releasing it. Further in Yoma 6 we read Therefore it is written [Lev. xvi. 26]: “He that takes away the goat to Azazel shall wash his clothes.”

        I had to double check that Lev 16:26 reference for the term “to Azazel” which if true designates a name for the place of arrival for the removed. KJV saids “And he that let go the wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.” No Azazel there. Either one added or one took away.

        Lev 16:26 does use the Hebrew word l.ozazl לַעֲזָאזֵל (using which I think is a form of el-azal. Said site mentions goat of departure which is consistent with goat sent away. For some reason the KJV skips this word completely possibly because the translators did not know what to do with it.

        Checking this against the online Jewish Bible has “for Azazel” possibly a translation that the goat was meant for demon Azazel but could mean a place.

        However an alternate source sued the term “to Azazel”.

        As the goat cannot be delivered to a demon or spirit and the Talmud certainly does not indicate this – that the only meaning for “to Azazel” is that the goat was led, delivered, released to and at a specific geological place somewhere outside Jerusalem.

        Previously I mentioned in that perhaps the tent of Tabernacles was shifted or if was situated at same spot as latter Temples (have to double check that) that the identification of a place called Azazel or Azal both being related that there was indeed a place and same place in pre and post Temple periods. Surprisingly or not surprisingly I cannot find much information what later became known as Tsuk – a specific rock or perhaps a type of steele somewhere at Azazel/Azal.

        A short while later….Hmmm Google Maps places the distance from the Temple Mount to Nahal Azal as about 2.04 kms or 1.27 miles. Maybe I am on the wrong track all along as to Azal itself being the exact spot where the goat was released.,35.2433545,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x6d2bbd5ce62d60ab

        Or could there be another explanation? Could Nahal Azal be the first point where the first of ten tents/booths/conductor points were located? Was it the FIRST point where the prestige men of Jerusalem walked to the first tent that being that distance allowed to walk on the Sabbath that being Beth Chadudo and Azal are equivalent? That would make the spot where the goat was released a further 9/10th along somewhere else in the wilderness and one to where Tsok the rock of destination resides presumably at a place called Beth Horon.

        Re “They, therefore, who received him there, went not farther than a mile with him, that they might not exceed a sabbath day’s journey: but, standing there, they observed what was done by him. “He snapped the scarlet thread into two parts, of which he bound one to the horns of the goat, and the other to the rock: and thrust the goat down; which, hardly coming to the middle of the precipice, was dashed and broke into pieces.”

        Interesting it appears that no man/conductor could walk more than a Sabbaths days walk on that day meant that the tents were set up time say the day before and possibly packed up the day after so as to keep the Sabbath. Lev 16 saids a fit man but later tradition must have split the distance into allowed Sabbath segments so a different person or group took the goat each time all the way to its destination presumably Beth Horon. But the use of the word “him” meaning to bring the goat could be a single man walked the whole journey unless “him” referred to each successive person taking the goat. Hard to say.

        Interestingly first paragraph From reading your work I also get the impression of trying to make a case from seemingly obscure material! No offence intended.

        So for now I am left with the question – “Was Nahal Azal the correct distance so as to designate a Sabbaths days walk on Yom Kippur being the first watch point?”

        Even more so was my assumption that the goat was led south to the wilderness correct or is Beth-Chadudo, Beth-Horon and the Wilderness of Zok/Zuk/Zok to the north in another direction all together?

        Time for a break!

        After quick break – info starts to get more scant – so far it seems that Beth Chadudo/Chadure/Dudael did indeed lay east and south of Jerusalem which at least supports my hunch that the scapegoat went not through the city but east and southwards. You know the area better than me. What would be the logical points to place tents/booths to the final destination. Note Yoma 6 mention Beth-Horon but that is north and conflicts with earlier mention of Beth-Chaduda, To map out a path either 3 miles, 10 or 12 miles to the destination and ascertain with greater certainty that Azal may have been the first point along the way or with lesser certainty due to distance constraints Azal itself?

        Alex Young

        Alex Young

        June 14, 2015 at 8:18 am

        • If the typography is conducive or allows for – first point where the men of prestige and if quotation “The prominent men on the day of Yom Kippur had walked one mile, went back one mile, and had tarried as long as a mile is gone over” also allows for then perhaps Azal was first point and Beth-Chadudo the third point?

          Also Tsok seems to be related to term Zok and the wilderness was indeed the wilderness of Judea which is east and south of Jerusalem adjacent to the Dead Sea.

          Also of some interest is – “Indeed, the Scapegoat was to be taken down the Valley of Hinnom to a place about three miles east and south of Jerusalem called Beth Chaduda where the goat was allowed to go over a very deep cliff (like an abyss) so that he would never come in contact with civilization again (Yoma 67b; Targum Jerusalem Leviticus 14:10). This part of the wilderness was where the demons were supposed to be. It was near this region where Christ was tempted of the Devil (Matthew 4:1–11). The place was a part of the drainage system of the Wady en-Nar—the extension of Gehenna, the Streambed of Fire. From this area, the Streambed of Fire ran directly eastwards into the Dead Sea (the Lake of the Fire).”

          To check this “River Kidron Wadi Sitti Maryam. flows South in valley between Jerusalem and Mt. of Olives, its lower course (Wadi en-Nar) going via Wilderness of Judah to Dead Sea. 2 Sam. 15. 23; 1 Kgs. 2. 37; 2 Kgs. 23. 4ff.; Jer. 31. 40; John 18. 1” Source:

          Was this the route of all ten tents and/or plus two miles? Is the distance about 10 or 12 miles? If so then Azal being about 1-1.2 miles first south/east leaving the Temple area could be the first point that Azazel or “the goat of departure” was led through thus named not for the goat but for its reason – departure/removal – thus Azal?

          Alex Young

          June 14, 2015 at 8:55 am

          • Alex, your comments are very interesting. I have some questions about this. Would like to email you. Maybe Zechariahfourteenfive moderator will forward this to you with my email. Thanks


            June 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    • I would like to make a further addition to the above, When Lev 16 was instituted there was no Temple only a tent of Tabernacles which I understand was set up in various locations. Thus “wilderness” then before the First and Second Temple periods may also have varied. It is less certain in that time period when a certain geographical point to watch when “the removed” scapegoat had arrived to was chosen. The requirement for consistency of tradition and the geological point and naming of such a point may have and obviously did become known later either during the First or Second Temple periods and which may have been called “Azal”.

      Alex Young

      June 14, 2015 at 1:40 am

      • C. Feinberg author of Leviticus Sixteen who quoted Volck above goes on to say in an etymological discussion about the related term “Azazel” being goat that was sent away that Azazel itself could refer to a geological location but then quoted another author that at least by1958 at the time of publication – “No specific place or locality has been offered by any advocates of this view (Westminster Dictionary of the Bible p. 52; cf. W. Moeller, op. cit., p. 343).

        His etymological discussion also considered the term “Azazel” to be a thing, person, or an abstraction. On page 332 of that document he states “Azalzel is an active participle or participial noun, derived ultimately from azal (connected with the Arabic word azala, and meaning removed), but immediately from the reduplicate form of that verb, azazal.”

        Feinberg continues:

        “The reduplication of the consonants of the root in Hebrew and Arabic gives the force of repetition, so that while azal means removed, azalzal means removed by repetition of acts. Azalzel, or azazel, therefore, means one who removes by a series of acts.”. . .

        Thus there is the action of being removed and the repetition of the action. Anything that is “removed” is a translocation. The scapegoat was led out a specific point in the wilderness each year and by repetition over time a point was so named and entered into human consciousness as knowledge and in the case of Zechariah perhaps so naming said repetitious geological point into the historical record, And the repetition of the same act being Yom Kippur itself. Both terms and other similar derivatives for “azal” appear to be related surrounding the history of Yom Kippur including where the scapegoat was removed to..

        Thus at this point I feel somewhat more vindicated in my observation of the possible relationship between the scapegoat of Yom Kippur and the location as described at this site as Azal.

        Alex Young

        June 14, 2015 at 2:39 am

  6. It is pleasing to read someone who cares so much about the truth of scripture to dedicate such time and effort to its presentation. I found the record of your search and discovery in your linked updated version fascinating .


    September 6, 2015 at 10:38 am

    • Thanks for your kind remark, Steve. If you haven’t already, check out at the top right the other two articles I wrote, especially the one about Azal being a town that Solomon possibly built. I missed that in my initial work because I had never read Cyril’s quote about Azal. It wasn’t translated into English until 2012 (that I know of), and I didn’t find it until 2015; but once I did, a light bulb went off in my head.


      September 6, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: