Clean and Unclean Food
14 You are the children of the Lord your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead,
In Lev. 1 and Num. 5:1–4 are the main references to the clean-and-unclean legislation outside of Lev. 11–15. The only ground given for the prohibitions is that Israel is to be holy to the Lord. Several reasons, ranging from religious to medical, have been suggested for these laws. In many cases the prohibitions require what would be good public health procedure, but the distinction of clean and unclean was not entirely a matter of health. Rather, it teaches an important moral and spiritual truth: separation from the specified foods and diseases portrayed the holiness of God and of His people. In Lev. 11–15, the same rules are given.
Because Israel was chosen by God as His special possession (v. 2; 26:18), Israel was to be different and was to reject all pagan religion and associated rituals. Pagan mourning rituals encouraged physical abuse. Details of these customs are unclear, but it involved practices associated with ancestor worship and pagan ritual mourning. Among the pagan cultures surrounding Israel, it was common to cut one’s self, or shave the front of one’s head (between the eyebrows), for the dead, as a part of pagan burial rituals. The cutting of the body and the shaving of the head were common mourning rites in the ancient Near East and are referred to in many places in the Old Testament – Isaiah 3:24; 15:2; 22:12; Jeremiah 16:6; 41:5; Ezekiel 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16.
Among Christians today, there is something wrong if our burial customs are just as the rituals of the ungodly. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” We may certainly mourn the passing of our loved ones, but as those who have eternal hope in Jesus, we should be different in our mourning.
2 for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.
The meaning here, behind holy is “separate” or “to be distinct”. The people of Israel were a people separate unto the LORD. Distinguished from r nations, and chosen to practice the will of God on earth. In Jesus, we also are a holy people,1 Peter 2:9; we are His inheritance. Each of these privileges carried with it a special responsibility. If God regarded Israel as something special among the nations, they had to conduct themselves accordingly.
3 Do not eat any detestable thing. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep.[a] 6 You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. 7 However, of those that chew the cud or that have a divided hoof you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the hyrax. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a divided hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. 8 The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.
9 Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. 10 But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean.
11 You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 13 the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, 14 any kind of raven, 15 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, 18 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.
19 All flying insects are unclean to you; do not eat them. 20 But any winged creature that is clean you may eat.
21 Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to the foreigner residing in any of your towns, and they may eat it, or you may sell it to any other foreigner. But you are a people holy to the Lord your God.
Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
This section and Num. 5:1–4 are the main references to the clean-and-unclean legislation outside of Lev. 11–15. The only ground given for the prohibitions is that Israel is to be holy to the Lord. Several reasons, ranging from religious to medical, have been suggested for these laws. In many cases the prohibitions require what would be good public health procedure, but the distinction of clean and unclean was not entirely a matter of health. Rather, it teaches an important moral and spiritual truth: separation from the specified foods and diseases portrayed the holiness of God and of His people. Lev. 11–15.
Only certain mammals were allowed to be eaten, and the rule was simple. If an animal had a divided hoof (not a single hoof as a horse has), and chewed its cud, it could be eaten. For example, the camel, the rock hyrax, and the hare all chew the cud, but do not have divided hooves, instead they have paws so they are considered unclean or unkosher. Additionally, the swine has a divided hoof but does not chew the cud so it is considered unclean/unkosher.
Only certain sea creatures could be eaten, and this rule was simple as well . Any water creature having both fins and scales was clean/kosher and could be eaten. Therefore, most fishes were considered clean except a fish like the catfish, which has no scales. Shellfish would be unclean, because clams, crabs, oysters, and lobster all do not have fins and scales.
Only certain birds could be eaten; though there is no rule given to determine if a bird is clean or unclean; no easy formula is given to identify clean birds. They are defined as either predators or scavengers; these were considered unclean probably because of their frequent contact with carrion (things dead and/or diseased). Such birds might pose a health risk as well. Some of the birds listed in Vv. 12–18 can no longer be precisely identified. Also, every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you (bats and the like); they shall not be eaten.
So we see that these unclean animals fall into one of three categories: predators (unclean because they ate both the flesh and the blood of animals), scavengers (unclean because they were carriers of disease, and they regularly fed on dead things), or potentially poisonous or dangerous foods such as shellfish and the like. Eliminating these from the diet of Israel no doubt had a healthy effect, and one of the reasons for the dietary laws of Israel was to keep Israel healthy as we learned in Leviticus. So we see again that God has provided His children, us, with clear guidelines for holy and healthy guidelines!
If any animal dies naturally, it has not been properly bled; therefore, it is unclean/unkosher. It was important to bleed animals before eating them, because the blood represented the life principle of the animal Lev. 17:11, and the life principle belonged to God and God alone. It is also known that if an animal is not properly bled it becomes unhealthy to eat.
You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk: This unusual law was a command to not imitate a common pagan fertility ritual. It illustrated the third principle behind the dietary laws of Israel: They were a statement of separation from the nations and prevented Israel from having easy fellowship, here meaning sitting down at a common meal with Gentiles. This prohibition is not fully explained. Appearing also in Ex. 23:19 and 34:26, it is the basis of the practice among orthodox Jews of not eating milk and meat products together.This law, because of strange rabbinical interpretations, became the reason why one cannot have a kosher cheeseburger. Observant Jews today will not eat milk and meat at the same meal, going so far as not even on the same plates with the same utensils cooked in the same pots, because the rabbis insist that the meat in the hamburger may have come from the calf of the cow that gave the milk for the cheese, and the cheese and the meat would “boil” together in one’s stomach and be a violation of this command. Some have also suggested that cooking a goat in milk may have been a Canaanite practice with pagan religious implications (fertility), but the evidence is not clear.
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.
Be sure to: The word sure (or truly, in the KJ translation) is important; since the tithe described giving ten percent, God commanded that it really be ten percent (first fruits). The law of the tithe was expressed as early as the time of the patriarchs in Gen. 14:20 and 28:22. Leviticus 27:32 specifies that the tithe of animals must not be selected, but must be “all that pass under the herdsman’s staff.” meaning ten percent of all, meaning all, the animals.
All the increase of your grain: Seemingly, this meant the grain leftover after the seed-grain was taken out. This meant that the tithe was assessed on the income.
You shall eat before the LORD meant that when the tithe was delivered to the tabernacle and later, to the temple, a portion of the tithe was enjoyed in a ceremonial meal “with” the LORD. The remainder was given to the priest. The purpose of tithing was to build an honor and reverence for God. The paraphrase in the LB translation puts it this way; The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives Deuteronomy 14:23b,.
24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the Lord your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the Lord will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the Lord your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
Since the tithe was to be brought to one place for the whole nation, some would be farther than others. And, if someone was far away, they would find it difficult to transport the grain and livestock the tithe required. Travel was not easy, and the transportation of agricultural products was harder still. A practical solution was allowed—they could convert their tithe for money (silver, uncoined silver), and then use the money to purchase what was appropriate to be tithed with when they came to the tabernacle and later, the temple. Laws like this show us that God is a common-sense God. That He knows the situations of our lives. He does not place unreasonable demands on His people. He made a way for them to more conveniently tithe. The tithe was to be taken to the sanctuary v.12:17, where the worshipers were to eat a portion in happy fellowship with the priests, Levites, and the poor. Far from being a burdensome requirement, the giving of the tithe was to be an occasion of joyous celebration and worship 12:7, 2 Cor. 9:7.
28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Some have said the three year tithe speaks of another tithe (sometimes called the “poor tithe”) to be brought every three years. Yet since it speaks of the tithe proper, and since it also went to the Levite and not only to the poor, it is best to understand that this was not an additional tithe, but a command that once every three years the tithe also be made available to the poor, not only to the Levite. The Jewish rabbis have usually held that there were three tithes: (1) for the priests and Levites, (2) for the communal meals, (3) every third year for the no landed or those without inheritance; the Levites, aliens, fatherless, and widows. However, all the designations of tithes speak of one basic tithe to be put to various uses.
When we operate according to Gods laws or will we are blessed! God will bless the giving heart. Ask anyone who gives as the Bible instructs them to give, they will tell you they are blessed!
The New Testament speaks with great clarity on the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; and that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful in 2 Corinthians 9.
It is important to understand giving and financial management is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one. Luke 16:11says “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”
- Deuteronomy 14:5 The precise identification of some of the birds and animals in this chapter is uncertain.