This summer, I addressed some claims made by Mr. Jeff Benner about the biblical use of "wilderness" (midbar). Mr. Benner (relying on Hebrew etymology) claims that the ancient Israelites viewed the desert as a place of order. However, my contention is that while midbar might have that meaning in some places, that is not generally true of the word. I now present more evidence from a paper on Azazel (Leviticus 16) written by Aron Pinker. I will quote snippets of Pinker's study:
"Tawil's position has been adopted by Zatelli. She says, 'Perhaps the spelling עזזאל in Qumran texts is acceptable for עזאזל; it has been changed into the more neutral עזאזל in the textus receptus. Probably it was originally a kind of Canaanite demon—which developed in the Hebrew tradition—connected with the chthonian power expressed by goats. The wilderness is a symbol of the underworld.'"
"Milgrom felt that 'in pre-Israelite practice he [עזאזל] surely was a true demon, perhaps a satyr (cf. Ibn Ezra on Lev 16:8), who ruled in the wilderness—in the Priestly ritual he is no longer a personality but just a name, designating the place to which impurities and sins are banished.'"
"the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness, which was considered to be one of the abodes of supernatural entities (Hab 3:3, Isa 13:21, 34:11–15)."
"Rudman shifts the focus from לעזאזל to מדבר, claiming that the ritual as described by P, cleanses Israel (understood as a microcosm of creation) of sin (understood as chaos), and removes it outside creation itself into the chaotic area of wilderness."
Published Version of Pinker's Research: http://www.jhsonline.org/Articles/article_69.pdf