The Bible is filled with a figure of speech called type and anti-type. The type comes first in time and is symbolic of the anti-type which comes later and represents a deeper, more significant spiritual event or truth.
Under the law of Moses, a day of atonement was established in which the high priest offered sacrifices for sin for himself and all the people (Leviticus 16). Part of the requirement for this atonement was the presentation of two male goats before the Lord. Lots were cast, and one goat was selected to be sacrificed as a sin offering. The other goat was selected as the scapegoat and presented before the Lord. The high priest put both of his hands on the head of the live goat and confessed “over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions.” This scapegoat was then released into the wilderness bearing all the sins of the people. This was done yearly.
The anti-type to this ritual of the scapegoat on the day of atonement is found in the gospels at the crucifixion of Jesus. It was Pilate’s custom during the feast of the Passover to release any prisoner to the Jews whom they desired. This was done to curry their favor and help keep the peace. Jesus had been arrested and after experiencing the sham trial before the council was brought before Pilate. Upon questioning Him, Pilate announces that he finds no fault in Jesus worthy of death and wishes to release Him. But the crowd, stirred up by the chief priests, becomes very vocal and insists that Jesus die. Some translations seem to indicate that the crowd’s collective voice became a chant: “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!...”
The voices in the crowd begin to ask that Pilate release a prisoner for them as was his custom. The chief priests again are at work suggesting they ask for Barabbas, a rebel and a murderer. Pilate ultimately gives in to their request. Jesus is led away to be crucified, the sacrificial sin offering. Barabbas is freed, the scapegoat released into the wilderness, a visible manifestation of the people’s sin.