In earlier writings, BARABBAS’ name was Jesus Barabbas literally meaning Jesus, son of the father. However, the Gospel writers say he was the following:

  • Mt (27:16)   notable/notorious prisoner
  • Mk (15:7)    insurrectionist/rebel
  • Lk (23:19)   sedition/rebellion, murder
  • Jn (18:40)   brigand/robber

While Barabbas was a robber, his antithesis was Jesus Christ “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Philipians 2:6).  Barabbas played an important character during the trial of Jesus Christ, but we have to dig into Old Testament scriptures to understand his goatish nature.

Barabbas was a notorious robber, murder, and rebel. As has been speculated by some, I doubt he was some kind of heroic ‘freedom fighter’. If he had been one, would Pontius Pilate have considered the possibility of releasing him? All that the Governor Pilate would have needed on his hands would be a future Spartacus style uprising, for which Pilate would have been answerable to Caesar. Knowing that the Jewish leaders, out of spite, desired Jesus to be crucified, Pilate gave the people a choice to release either Jesus Christ or Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, who undoubtedly would not win the support of the people. As we know, Pilate’s plan backfired.

Before being brought to Pontius Pilate, Jesus had been interrogated by Caiaphas, the high priest. When angered by Jesus’ words, Caiaphas then rent his clothes. Because it was sin for the high priest to rend his clothes (Lev 21:10, 10:6), Caiaphas’ action would have disqualified him from his religious service during Passover.

Matthew 26:64-65 – Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

Had Pilate, in a sense, become the Jewish high priest, since Caiaphas had rent his clothes?  The Roman Emperor was the ‘pontifex maximus’, the high priest of the Roman religion. Representing the Emperor Tiberius, Pilate who was the prefect could decide judicial cases. By religious disqualification of the Jewish high priest, Pilate unknowingly filled the seat of the high priest when he decided the fate of the “goats” and by washing his hands of the affair. In essence, he was replacing the Roman appointed Jewish high priest, who could not officiate due to the rending of his garments.


Lev 16:7 The high priest presented two goats before the tent of meeting, where judgment decisions were made. (Ex 33:7-10)

  • The Governor Pontius Pilate presents Jesus and Barabbas in front of the praetorium, the residence of the Governor.

Lev 16:8 The high priest cast lots for the two goats: one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.

  • Pontius Pilate asks the crowd to make a decision of whom to release: Barabbas or Jesus. Having come under Roman rule, the Jews were allowed the privilege of asking for the release of one prisoner of their choosing during Passover.

Lev 16:9 The goat on which the Lord’s lot fell was to be sacrificed as a sin offering.

  • The people, at the urging of the priests and elders, choose Jesus to be crucified.

Lev 16:10 The goat on which the lot fell is to be the scapegoat presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement, and then to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.

  • They choose Barabbas, a symbol of the antichrist, a man of sin and a son of the devil. Then Pontius Pilate releases Barabbas unto them.

Lev 16:15-17 Then the high priest would kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat, making an atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle of Congregation, and for the Congregation of Israel.

  • After Pontius Pilate has Jesus scourged, Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified. Christ is making atonement for the sins of the world.

Lev 16:18-19 The priest would make atonement for the altar, and would sprinkle the blood upon it seven times, cleansing it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

  • At Gethsemane, his sweat becomes great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Lk 22:44)
  • Internal bleading (Is 53:5, Micah 5:1, Mt 26:63-64)
  • His beard is ripped out (Is 50:5-6)
  • Jesus is whipped (Ps 129:3, Is 50:6, Is 53:5, Mt 27:26, Mk 15:15, Jn 19:1, 1 Pet 2:24)
  • The crown of thorn causes bleeding from the head (Mt 27:29, Mk 15:17, Jn 19:2)
  • His hands and his feet are nailed to the cross (Mt 27:35)
  • His side is pierced (Jn 19:34)

Lev 16:20-22 When he had made an end of reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he would bring the live goat, making confession of iniquities and transgressions upon its head, and sending it away into the wilderness. The goat would bear all the inquities unto a land uninhabited, and he would let go the goat in the wilderness.

  • Barabbas is the scapegoat that will be set free to go wild, while Jesus becomes the sacrificial goat for the sin offering.

Lev 16:24, 26 The priest would wash his flesh and his clothes.

  • Pontius Pilate washes his hands.

Deuteronomy 21:6-8 The elders would wash their hands of an innocent murder.

  • Pilate is washing his hands, though prior to the death of Jesus, of murder.  It was a Jewish custom, not a Roman custom.

Imagine how this scene of the two goats was played out for centuries during their sacrifices to be as a foreshadow of Christ and the scapegoat.

Jn10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.


Comments on: "BARABBAS: The Scapegoat" (6)

  1. Theresa Hayes said:

    Wow Beth I never knew all of this!! very Excellent!! Theresa

  2. Chris said:

    Excellent, indeed!

  3. Kevin Humphrey said:

    I have been studying this and was wondering if Barabbas could be the scapegoat. I did a search on the internet and you site came up. What a great article. I completely agree. I did have a question though…does it say in the OT that the high priest is disqualified because of the renting of his clothes?

    • Beth Piepenburg said:

      Thanks, very much.
      I believe that Barabbas was either the personification of the scapegoat or he actually was. The scapegoat does not take on our sins, because the atoning goat does. (Every sacrifice mentioned in the Torah was performed at the time of Cavalry by Jesus: bull, lamb, goat, and grain and wine. Plus more than the sacrifices could atone, such as murder and adultery.) The scapegoat bears or carries the sins off to no-man’s land, which I think of Psa 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
      Concerning being disqualified, I would think that a high priest renting his clothes would be unfit for duty until evening rather than for life. He would have to be ceremonially cleansed. Thus, Caiaphas’ deed was no light matter. Maybe, Ananias took his place for that day, or Caiaphas just ignored Scripture.
      Lev 21:10 And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;
      Lev 10:6 And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled.
      What I find interesting was that Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) happened in the fall, and yet the drama of the Atoning Goat and the Scapegoat is played out at the Crucifixion during the time of Passover. There will not be a need for a second sacrifice, because it was done on Calvary. So, was Yom Kippur a foreshadow of what was to take place at Calvary or does it have another spiritual meaning as well?

  4. […] of God. Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement played the second note of the Autumn Moedim, pointing to the Supreme High Priest sacrificing himself for the people who would become the Temple of God. However, the details would […]

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