CONCERNING THE EATING OF CLEAN AND UNCLEAN CREATURES
continue to obey the law about clean and unclean meats that are found in
Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11? This study will show that God
expects us to observe these laws, because they are a part of his overall plan
for mankind. Additionally, this study will show that these laws of God are both
physical and spiritual laws, that were given to benefit people physically
In order to
begin to understand the importance of the law concerning the kinds of meat that
are fit for human consumption, we need to look at the kinds of animals that God
allowed to be offered to him as sacrificial food.
study of the Book of Leviticus reveals that part of the sacrificial system
required that people offer God certain sacrifices that were considered to be his
food, which he consumed with fire and shared with the priests and the offerer.
1:3, God speaks to Moses out of the tabernacle and instructs him to
tell the children of Israel the law of the offerings (Lev.
chps. 1-7). The very first offering mentioned here is the burnt offering:
offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without
defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it
will be acceptable to the Lord" (Lev.1:3 Para.).
says that all of this sacrifice was to be burnt: "He is to wash the inner
parts and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar.
It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the
Lord." None of this particular sacrifice was to be eaten by anyone else. It
was to be a sweet-smelling savor to the Creator God.
receiving the burnt offering from his people; the sweet smell of this food was
pleasing and satisfying to him.
polluted bread on my altar; and you say, How have we polluted you? In that you
say, The table of the Lord is contemptible" (Mal.1:7 Para.). The
Israelites were offering worthless contemptible food on God's
altar (his table): "But you have profaned it, in that you say, The
table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his
meat, is contemptible" (Mal.1:12 KJV).
scriptures show that the altar of the Lord was the Lord's table,
and the food placed on it had to be the type of food that God
was willing to consume. Whatever was put on the altar (the table of
the Lord) was the food of God, and the fire from heaven consumed
the offering and it ascended to God as a sweet smell.
kinds of animals were offered as burnt offerings (God's food) and
were consumed by God at his table:
- Bullocks (Lev.1:5)
- Sheep and goats
- Turtledoves (Lev.1:14)
- Oxen (Num.7:87)
that are considered to be clean in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14
were used in the burnt offering. No unclean animals were to be offered to God by
the priests as his food. Moreover, God instructs those who want to obey him to
eat only those foods that he himself would partake of (Lev.1:1-40).
must not eat of any of the small animals that move on the
ground, whether they crawl, or walk on all four legs, or have many legs. Do not
make yourselves unclean by eating any of these. I am the Lord your God,
and you must keep yourselves holy; because I am holy. I am the Lord
who brought you out of Egypt so that I could be your God. You must
be holy, because I am holy. This, then, is the law about animals and
birds, about everything that lives in the water, and
everything that moves on the ground. You must be careful to distinguish between
what is clean and unclean, between animals that may be eaten and those that may
not" (Lev.11:41-47 GNB).
shows that one way to be holy in God's eyes is to eat only clean animals;
he says you must "be holy, as I am holy."
Covenant of the Rainbow
proof that God only partakes of clean animals is found in
built an altar to the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every
clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the
Lord smelled a sweet smell; and the Lord said in his heart,
I will not again curse the ground any more for man's
sake; for the imagination of a man's heart is evil from his
youth; neither will I again kill all living things, as I have done"
sacrifice of clean beasts and fowl, God smelled the sweet smell and made
the covenant of the rainbow.
scriptures show that Noah had the knowledge of what was clean and what was not
clean as far as God's food was concerned. So, he must have known what he
was able to eat that would keep him holy in God's eyes.
UncleanCDoes it Matter?
elect of God are temples of God on earth. Because of this, the law of clean and
unclean meats still applies today.
Temple on Earth
know that your body is the temple of the holy spirit that is in you, which
God has given you, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a
price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit,
which belong to God's" (1 Cor.6:19-20 Para.).
children are the temple of the living God. His most holy place is now in
his elect children. Therefore, we should keep our bodies pure,
both spiritually and physically, just as he instructed the Israelites to
keep his temple and his holy place undefiled while he was dwelling in the Holy
of Holies. No unclean thing was to be placed on God's altars or tables.
know that you are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God
dwells in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, God shall destroy
him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1 Cor.3:16-17
could one defile the Temple of God? One historical example is
when Antiochus Epiphanes defiled the Temple by offering swine's flesh on
God's altar/table (167 B.C., 1 Macabees 1:61). If pork or any other
unclean meat could defile God's temple in Israel, it will also defile his temple
today. And we are God's temple today!
PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL LAW OF CLEAN AND UNCLEAN MEATS
The books of
the Bible that were written by Moses contain a set of laws pertaining to
which animals are fit for God's people to eat. But what was the
purpose of this law and why is it necessary to obey it today?
Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them,
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the
beasts which you shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.
Whatsoever parts the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and chews the cud, among the
beasts, that shall you eat. Nevertheless these shall you not eat of them that
chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he
chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you.
And the coney, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is
unclean to you. And the hare, because he chews the cud, but divides not
the hoof; he is unclean to you. And the swine, though
he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted,
yet he chews not the cud; he is
unclean to you " (Lev.11:1-7 KJV).
been argued by some that the Hebrew word 'tameh' (unclean) actually denotes the
state of being 'ceremonially unclean'; therefore, they believe that
dietary laws were for the ceremonial purposes of ancient
Israelite only, not for Christians today.
But is this
teaching true? Does 'tameh' mean 'ceremonially unclean'?
The answer can be found in the Bible. By using the
Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, all the places
in the Bible where this Hebrew word 'tameh' is used can be found.
Where this word is used, it is not always translated 'unclean'; it
is sometimes translated 'defiled'. There are at least two scriptures,
Leviticus 18:23 and Ezekiel 22:11, which prove that 'tameh'
does not always mean 'ceremonially unclean.'
"Neither shall you lie with any beast to 'defile' (tameh)
yourself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to
lie down thereto: it is confusion" (Lev.18:23 KJV).
has committed an abomination with his neighbor's wife; and another has lewdly
'defiled' (tameh) his daughter in law; and another of you has humbled his
sister, his father's daughter" (Ezk.22:11 Para.).
abominations only make the sinner 'ceremonially
unclean'? Obviously the word 'tameh' is not limited to the definition:
'ceremonially or ritually unclean'. It is also used to denote the state of being
'defiled' or 'unclean.'
Israel it was possible to become 'ritually unclean' by
touching something unclean. This uncleanness prohibited the Israelites
from involvement in various religious practices that were otherwise
required (Num.9:6-11). Keeping oneself undefiled was not an
arbitrary or an unreasonable demand of God. One major purpose was to continually
remind the Israelites of the purity of God and the need for humans to be pure.
"You shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am
holy" (Lev.19:2). Does this imply holiness
for ceremonial purposes only? The Theological Word Book
of the Old Testament states:
theories are adduced to explain the laws of
uncleanness, the scriptures themselves emphatically associate
them with the holiness of God. The so-called Law of Purity (Lev.11-16) was
placed side by side with the Law of Holiness (Lev.17-26). In
the passage which lists unclean foods, the holiness of Yahweh is
emphasized as the reason for avoiding unclean
foods. The regulations regarding uncleanness set Israel
apart from other nations. These were object lessons of God's
holiness which could not co-exist with the uncleanness of Sin" (Vol.
1, page 35, article 'tameh', number 809).
Jewish Religion, Friedlander states, "We must take care
that we do not consider these precepts exclusively as sanitary
regulations, however important such regulations may be.
We must not lose sight of the fact that Holiness is the
only object of the Dietary Laws mentioned in the Pentateuch" (page 456).
for giving the laws of clean and unclean meats was 'holiness.'
But what is holiness? God is holy and he commands his people to be
holy and undefiled (1 Pet. 1:19). In order for a person to become a pure and
undefiled son of God a person must be washed with the sacrificial blood of Jesus
Christ (Rev.1:5). But, his sacrifice does not give us license to
defile ourselves (Rom.3:31; 6:2,15). It is easy to understand that
when you are defiled, you are unholy. And
unholiness is the same as unrighteousness and all unrighteousness is
sin (1 Jn.5:17). Moreover, sin that is not repented of and covered
by the blood of Jesus Christ leads to eternal death in the Lake of
Promises to Israel
the only object of these laws? Israel was not a spiritual
nation. Israel was a physical nation with physical
laws to make it physically clean and
physically holy to fulfill physical promises. This was
not ceremony. There were no promises to ancient Israel
in ceremony; the promises were for obedience. These
promises were physical, and breaking physical laws reaps physical
punishments (Deut. Chps.11; 28).
It is not
necessary for God to explain in exact detail the reason for every law that he
has caused to come into existence. We are not told that lepers were
separated from other people so that the disease wouldn't spread to
others, yet when this law (Lev.13:46) was broken in the Middle
Ages, leprosy became rampant and was not brought under control
until the Catholic Church enforced this Biblical law and
separated those affected by the disease. We do not have to
understand every detail of a law before we obey, because knowledge and
understanding come with faith and obedience.
centuries of obedience through faith, it is now possible to scientifically show
that certain animals are not fit for human consumption. Research
by Dr. Carey Reams shows that consumption of unclean meat is harmful
to our health. Dr. Reams explains that eating unclean meat is like
putting hi-test airplane fuel in your automobile engine; it may run for a
while, but the fuel will ruin your engine. (Health Guide for
Survival, by Salem Kirban, pages 46-50).
Curses for Disobedience
these unclean animals carry diseases that adversely affect the human
body. Trichinosis is a commonly known parasitic disease of pigs which is passed
on to humans who consume the infested animals. This is just an example of a
negative physical result for disobeying God's law. Physical curses
were promised to ancient Israel for disobedience to the
laws that God gave to them:
Lord shall smite you with a consumption, and
a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning
. . ..The Lord shall smite you with the botch
[elephantiasis] of Egypt, and with the emerods [hemorrhoids],
and with the scab [psoriasis], and with the itch, whereof you
cannot be healed [prurigo]. The Lord shall smite you with madness,
and blindness, and astonishment of heart:. . . The Lord shall smite
you in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be
healed, from the sole of your foot to the top of your head"
(Deut.28:22, 27-28, 35 KJV).
commonly disobeys God's health laws, but is there a connection between
this disobedience and diseases that are becoming more
and more recognized as related to our diet? Some forms of mental
disorders such as hyperactivity in children and even
some criminal tendencies can be traced to nutritional
pronounced these curses upon man, it was because he had already built into man
what the results of this disobedience would be. He does not
need to intervene; human beings defile their own bodies with the meat of
unclean animals and reap the penalties.
the laws considered 'ritual' can be found in the same
book and chapters of the Bible as those laws that are not
'ritual'. One way to distinguish the difference between
ritual laws and other laws is that the ritual laws usually
mention a time period of uncleanness.
The laws that
concern ritual or ceremonial defilement always specify a time limit for
the purification of the defilement. This is an important distinction
between physical and spiritual defilement that must be recognized in order
to keep from being led astray by those who misapply scriptural
understanding or those who do not wish to obey the commandments of God.
reading of the law of clean and unclean meat in Leviticus chapter 11 will
not show a time element associated with this law. These animals are simply
unclean and they should never be eaten by humans.
DIETARY LAWS FOR JEWS ONLY?
Why should a
Christian care about the law of clean and unclean meats when this law was given
to the ancient Israelites?
The law that
shows which meats are fit or unfit for human consumption were given
as a guide for the health of all mankind. Moreover, even
Noah, the ancestor of all of mankind, was aware of the
distinction between clean and unclean animals (Gen.7:1-5). But
centuries later, after these laws had been violated by almost everyone,
they were reestablished by God with the nation that he was founding—the nation
of the children of Israel:
Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, Speak to the children
of Israel, saying, These are the beasts (animals) which you shall eat
among all the beasts that are on the earth" (Lev.11:1-2).
Who are the
children of Israel? The identity of Israel is greatly misunderstood today.
To most ministers and priests, the
words 'Israel' and 'Jew' are synonymous. However, these two terms
are not synonymous.
chapter 12 contains the ancestry of the tribes of Israel, which states that God
chose Abraham who had a son Isaac and a grandson
Jacob whose name was changed by God to Israel. Israel
had twelve sons whose descendants became the tribes of Israel. Only one of these
tribes was called Judah, which is where the word 'Jew' comes from.
Israel's other eleven sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Dan,
Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin.
Most of these other eleven brothers became large tribes and
eventually became nations.
B.C., the majority of these tribes were carried away into captivity by
Assyria and they never returned to the area called
Palestine; thus, they became known as the 'Lost Tribes of
Israel' because they lost their identifying traits.
wherever the descendants of Israel are today, whether they are
descendants of the Jews or the 'Lost Tribes of Israel', their ancestors were
the ones to whom the Dietary Laws of Leviticus 11 were given.
The Jews are
often called "God's Chosen People," and one reason for this is that
a large number of them have not forgotten God's weekly Sabbath
or his annual festivals. Moreover, many of them have continued to observe
God's dietary laws that were meant for all of Israel and all of mankind.
and the Law
practitioners of Judisim follow the laws of Leviticus chapter 11 and their
own historical dietary traditions, which are recorded in
the Talmud (writings that are more important to them than the
Old Testament). The Talmud and other Jewish publications
have many do's and don'ts about meat and other foods and
their preparation that are not a part of Leviticus chapter 11.
some Jews came to Jesus Christ and found fault with his disciples, because
they had eaten bread without first washing their hands in accordance with the
tradition of the spiritual leaders of the Jews (Mk.7:1-5).
answered them by calling them "hypocrites" and stating,
"In vain do they worship me,
teaching for doctrines the commandments of men"
Jews observed the dietary laws, they managed to pervert them
with their own teachings and traditions.
Leviticus chapter 11 is from God to all of Israel
(and by extension to all of mankind) and it has absolutely nothing
to do with the Talmud and Jewish man-made doctrines.
Moreover, all mankind should be careful to observe God's law without adding to
or diminishing from his wisdom.
CARE ABOUT FOOD?
obeying the law of clean and unclean meats have to do with salvation? Does the
Sovereign God of all that exists really care what we eat? Will you lose your
salvation if you eat unclean meats?
God is not
waiting around to strike you down with trichinosis or to deny you salvation if
you eat a ham sandwich. God has given you the right to make your own decisions.
However, he does look at the attitude of each of his children in everything that
they do. There is a difference between a person who eats unclean meat in
ignorance and a person who does it in willful disobedience toward God. A person
can repent and ask forgiveness for acts of ignorance and lack of
character. However, if a person persists in willful disobedience against God in
any way, that person is in jeopardy of losing their salvation (Heb. 10:26).
Isaiah clearly shows that the end result of violating the law of clean and
unclean meats is eternal death:
spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, which walks in a way
that is not good, after their own thoughts; A people that to my face continually
provoke me to anger, sacrificing in gardens, and burning incense upon alters of
brick; which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat
swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things in the their vessels. Which say,
stand by yourself, come not near me; for I am holier than you. These are smoke
in my nose, and a fire that burns all day" (Isa.65:2-5 Para.).
important to note that although many of the prophecies of Isaiah were a
condemnation of ancient Israel at that time, they also have contemporary
implications. Moreover, many will be fulfilled before, during, and after the
return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth. Isaiah clearly records the end result
of violating the system of worship and the laws of physical and spiritual purity
that God gave to his people:
fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the
Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the
gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination,
and the mouse, shall be consumed together, says the Lord" (Isa.66:16-17
says that he will destroy all who will not come into conformity with his
righteous law. And in the Book of Revelation, John reveals that nothing impure
and nothing that is considered an abomination by God will enter into his holy
shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defiles, neither whatsoever works
abomination, or makes a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of
life" (Rev.21:27 KJV).
God does care
if his people consume unclean meats. Furthermore, if any of his chosen people
rebelliously violate the law of clean and unclean meats, they will not be able
to enter his holy city or have eternal life.
God would not
keep us from doing something that is in our best interest to do. If we can draw
closer to God's perfection by not eating the things that he commanded us not to
eat, our faith relationship with him and his son will be increased and
strengthened. Moreover, anything that increases our relationship with God the
Father and Jesus Christ is a priority to them and should be a priority to anyone
who is seeking eternal life.
UNCLEAN CREATURES BASED ON LEVITICUS 11 AND DEUTERONOMY 14
predominant characteristics of clean mammals are the following: They give birth
to live offspring, suckle their young, breathe through
lungs, have hair on the skin, have constant body
temperature, and have a four-chambered heart. Mammals that chew the
cud and have a split in their hooves are fit for human consumption.
These animals are herbivores with a stomach that has four compartments and they
have hollow or solid horns.
examples of clean mammals are cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer,
gazelle, antelope, and oxen.
predominant characteristics of unclean mammals are as follows:
- There is a split in
their hooves, but they do not chew the cud and they possess canine and
- They chew the cud but do
not have a split in their hooves, they have small hooves like nails,
walk on cushion-like pads, have tusk-like canine teeth on
both jaws, and incisor teeth on
upper jaws, and their stomach has only three compartments.
- They are solid-hoofed,
herbivorous, have a single-stomach, and have incisor teeth on both upper
and lower jaws.
- They are carnivores,
have six incisors and two sharp canine teeth on both jaws, 4
or 5 toes with claws on each foot, and walk either on their toes
or their paws.
- They neither chew cud
nor have a part in their hooves.
examples of unclean mammals are the ape, bat, bear, camel, dog, donkey,
elephant, fox, hyena, hippo, horse, jackal, leopard, lion, llama, rabbit,
pig, mule, mouse, whale, and zebra.
there are many kinds of animals that live in water; the law of clean and unclean
meats dictates that the only animals that are fit for human consumption that
live exclusively in water are fish.
predominant characteristics of clean fish are as follows: vertebrates that
live in water and breath through gills, have both fins and scales, and
reproduce either by laying eggs or giving birth to live offspring.
The only fish
that are fit for human consumption must have both fins and scales
(Lev.11:9; Deut.14:9). In this category, only fish with bony
skeletons are included because they alone possess fins and scales.
The scales must overlap one another and be of bony origin and
not a growth of the skin and they must be visible to the eye.
examples of clean fish are carp, bass, sardine, herring, perch, salmon,
- Fish that do not have
scales or have teeth like projection on their skin,
which are not true scales, because as they do
- Fish with no visible
scales or fins
examples of unclean fish are catfish, eel, shark and sturgeon.
predominant characteristics of clean birds are as follows: bodies
covered with feathers, upper limbs are wing-shaped, no teeth, breathe
through lungs, constant body temperature, four-chambered
heart, lay eggs.
five predominant characteristics of clean birds:
- Not a bird of prey
- Elongated middle front
toe plus a hind toe
- Three toes on one side
of perch with hind toe on the other side
- Has a crop
- Has a gizzard with
double lining that can be easily separated
examples of clean birds are chickens, ducks, geese, house sparrows, most
song birds, partridges, peacocks, pheasants, pigeons, and quail.
are four predominant characteristics of unclean birds:
- Birds of prey that are
carnivores and have hooked beaks and sharp talons that are bent like hooks
- Scavenger birds that
feed on carrion and are usually bare necked, with thick solid bills and
blunt talons that are slightly inclined
- Night birds of prey.
Large head and eyes and 4 opposing toes
- Water and marsh fowls,
except ducks and geese
examples of unclean birds are buzzards, crows, eagles, hawk, kites,
swifts, ostriches, owls, and vultures.
predominant characteristics of amphibians are as follows: vertebrates born
in water, living in water, on land, or both.
During early stages (larva-tadpole), they
breathe with gills, and in the adult stage they breath with
lungs or gills. Body temperature changes in
accordance with medium in which they live.
is fit for human consumption.
predominant characteristics of reptiles are as follows: creeping and
crawling things that have short legs or none at all, live mostly on
dry land, have lungs, the majority of them lay eggs with a soft shell in
which the white and the yolk are mixed. They are cold blooded
(temperature adjusts to the environment), and their skin is
covered with scales.
No reptile is
fit for human consumption.
few of the millions of species of
insects are fit for human consumption:
you eat of every flying creeping thing that goes upon all
four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the
earth; Even those may you
eat, the locust after its kind. . ." (Lev.11:21-22).
examples of clean insects are locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets.
Charles E. Barrett