Leviticus 11:1-3, 8
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Delivered 2 April 2016
GOD'S DIET PLAN
spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them, 2 “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael,
saying: These are the living things which you may eat among all the animals
that are on the earth. 3 Whatever has a split, divided hoof and chews cud
among the animals—that you may eat. ...
8 You are not to eat
meat from them, nor are you to touch their carcasses. They are unclean to
passage we're considering today is taken from Parashah Shemini (meaning
eighth day), which concerns instructions given to Aaron following the seven
days of his ordination. In the passage before us God issued limitations
regarding animals that may be eaten. From the time of Adam to Noah people
apparently had a vegetarian diet, because after the global flood, God said
"Every moving thing that is alive shall be
food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall
not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." [Genesis 9:3-4].
God issued new diet rules to his people Israel. God divided animals into
categories of TAHOR, clean, and TAMAY, unclean, on the basis of physical
characteristics. The translation of CLEAN and UNCLEAN may be misleading to
modern ears, but the meaning of the Hebrew words for this context is given
in verse 47: ACCEPTABLE FOR EATING and UNACCEPTABLE FOR EATING. The
prohibition also extended to touching the carcass of a TAMAY animal. So, for
example, TAHOR land animals have both divided hoof and chew the cud and
TAHOR sea animals have both fins and scales. God prohibited Israelites to
eat of the TAMAY animals. The legislation raises the question: why did God
prohibit certain animals for eating when the animals hadn't changed since
creation, and previously there was no such restriction?
hints at his reason in verses 44 and 45 by saying "You shall be holy, for I
am holy." Some commentators have regarded God's rationale as purely
religious. TAMAY animals were used in pagan rituals and the Israelites were
not to repeat the practices of the Egyptians. Also, following these rules
was part of maintaining ritual purity.
other interpreters believe the laws are based on hygiene. TAMAY creatures
are unfit to eat because they can be infected with parasites or dangerous
bacteria. However, hygiene cannot account for all of the prohibitions and
the Torah gives no hint that it regarded the forbidden animals as a danger
to public health.
reason God gives for the strict diet is repeated and amplified in chapter
20, verses 25 and 26.
"Therefore you are to distinguish between clean and
unclean animals and between clean and unclean birds; do not make yourselves
detestable with an animal, bird or reptile that I have set apart for you to
regard as unclean. Rather, you people are to be holy for me; because I, ADONAI, am holy; and I have set you apart from the other
peoples, so that you can belong to me." (CJB)
wanted Israel to be a holy nation. To be holy in the positive sense is to
belong wholly to God and in the negative sense to be separated from sinful
behavior. God's rationale is first ethical. God's people must be able to
distinguish between what is acceptable to Him and what is unacceptable to
Him. To have that kind of knowledge requires feeding on God's Word. God's
reasoning is secondly covenantal. The division of animals corresponded to
the division between holy Israel and the other nations. In other words, God
required Israelites to refrain from eating animals that were permitted for
Gentiles. The Torah regulation emphasizes this separation by referring to
the banned animals eleven times in chapter 11 as "TAMAY to you," that
is "unacceptable to you, Israel" (e.g., Lev 11:4). Thus, the Israelites
would be reminded at every meal of their status as a chosen, covenant
time of Yeshua the rabbinic leaders understood there was a connection
between the food rules and relations with Gentiles, and in the past Israel
had gotten into trouble by sharing in meals with pagan nations. So, the
religious leaders made a law that Jews were not to eat with Gentiles and
certainly not to go into a Gentile's house.
this cultural divide in the life of Simon Peter. In Acts chapter ten God
gave Simon a vision in which clean and unclean animals were all mixed
together, and of which he was told to kill and eat. He was horrified at the
implication that he should eat of the unclean animals, and declared that he
always followed kosher food rules. Eventually God explained the point of the
vision, a most shocking plan. The unclean animals symbolized Gentiles and
they would be spiritually cleansed so that Jew and Gentile might serve the
God of Israel together.
should note that God did not tell Peter that the food laws of Leviticus were
canceled and contrary to many Bible versions Yeshua did not declare unclean
animals clean for Jews. [See my web article
Did Yeshua Cancel Torah Food Laws?] Yeshua did emphasize that what comes out of the
heart is more important than what goes into the stomach. However, the
emissaries of Yeshua issued some important guidelines related to food.
First, the food rules given to Noah are mandatory for Gentiles. Second,
Gentile disciples must not offend Jews by minimizing the kosher diet. Third,
whatever you eat must be received with thanksgiving expressed to God.
final analysis our attitude, whether Gentile or Jew, should be that of
Yeshua who said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me." May our
food always be a source of blessing to others.
Copyright © 2015 by
Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.