Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest of Israel made atonement for the sins of the entire nation. This ceremony included the offering of two goats as sacrifices to atone for the Israelites’ sins.
One goat was selected by the casting of lots to serve as the blood sacrifice (Lev 16:8-9). The other goat, known as the scapegoat, was kept alive so it could be carried away into the wilderness. This action symbolized the forgiveness and removed of the sins of the nation.
The original meaning of the term scapegoat was “far removed” or “going far away.” Today it refers to a person who takes the blame for wrongdoing committed by others.
LEVITICUS 16:10 – The goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness [desert, NIV].