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Isaac Asimov wrote a series of short stories about a rather dislikeable man named George Bitternut who claims to have a sort of pet demon, around two centimetres high, whom he can summon to perform minor miracles, often to "help" people he knows, although the effect often isn't what he expected. The name of this demon is Azazel, and he's first introduced as follows:

Oh, Azazel - that's his name - is a friendly demon. I suspect he is looked down upon in his native haunts, for he is extraordinarily anxious to impress me with his powers, except that he won't use them to make me rich, as he should out of decent friendship. He says his powers must be used only to do good to others. [...] He says that his country is kindly, decent, and highly civilized, and he speaks with enormous respect of his ruler whom he won't name but whom he calls merely the All-in-All.

And later:

Not his name, of course. Couldn't pronounce his real name, I suppose, but that's what I call him.

"Have you figured out his real name?" I asked, unperturbed by this dire warning.

"Can't! It's unpronounceable by any earthly pair of lips. The translation is, I am given to understand, something like: 'I am the King of Kings; look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.' It's a lie, of course,said George, staring moodily at his beer. He's small potatoes in his world. That's why he's so cooperative here. In our world, with our primitive technology, he can show off."

Why is the name Azazel considered fitting for this little demon? I'm not much up on Biblical lore, but I looked up Azazel and couldn't see any immediate reflection in the character of a minuscule demon summoned to do miraculous party tricks. Presumably there's some thematic similarity which explains, both in-universe and out of universe, why the name Azazel was given to this demon (by George or by Asimov, respectively).

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    There aren't actually all that many demons named in the Bible (and even fewer if you limit yourself to Judaism). Azazel was one of them though, so it's one possibility from a small pool. He is also said to corrupt humans by giving them divine knowledge not intended for mortals. This is slightly similar to the role of the demon in the Asimov stories. – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jan 31 at 17:04
  • @user14111 It's very very rare that someone catches me in a genuine spelling mistake, so for the record, and to my embarrassment, that wasn't a typo and I really did think the correct spelling was minuscule. Thank you! – Rand al'Thor Feb 1 at 4:39
  • @Randal'Thor To be honest, while minuscule is the traditional "correct" spelling, miniscule is so common that many dictionaries list it as a variant of minuscule, so I was being a pedantic smart-ass. However, you did typo your intended miniscule into minuscule in your comment to me! (And I just had to edit this comment because I typed miniscule when I meant minuscule!) – user14111 Feb 1 at 4:56
  • @user14111 Heh, does it count as a typo if I write the correct spelling by mistake? :-) I'd (ab)use my mod comment-edit powers to fix that typo, but then your reply wouldn't make sense. – Rand al'Thor Feb 1 at 4:58
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    Maybe a better use of your mod-powers would be to delete this whole OT comment thread. – user14111 Feb 1 at 5:02
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If you want the name of a demon from the Bible, there are not many candidates. Few demons are explicitly named, but Azazel is indeed one of them. So the choice may simply be a selection from a small pool of names, and presumably wanting to avoid the more well-known names like “Lucifer” or “Beelzebub”.

Most of what is known about the (Biblical) Azazel is literally apocryphal, from the book of Enoch. This treats the flood narrative from Genesis, in particular the demonic influences on man that corrupted him to the point that the flood was required to purify the world. Azazel is “a fallen angel and seducer of mankind”, noted as turning men to evil by giving them divine knowledge not intended for mortals. In a loose sense this parallels the actions of Asimov’s Azazel, who also gives George gifts - though not presumably with the explicit intention of corrupting him in this way The name Azazel later became synonymous with the concept of the scapegoat. Perhaps this could also be the reason why Asimov named the demon this way - being the scapegoat for the disasters that occur in the series.

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  • How few demons are explicitly named? I've heard of Asmodeus (again via fantasy, WoT's Asmodean), Lucifer and Beelzebub, and now Azazel. – Rand al'Thor Jan 31 at 23:28
  • In the OT there only seem to be 7 or so en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… (which includes Asmodeus) – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jan 31 at 23:39
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Azazel, in Jewish legends, is a demon or evil spirit to whom, in the ancient rite of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a scapegoat was sent bearing the sins of the Jewish people. Two male goats were chosen for the ritual, one designated by lots “for the Lord,” the other “for Azazel” (Leviticus 16:8) - not sure if this helps.

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