Chapter 11

Clean and Unclean Animals

    • The Lord told Moses to tell the Israelites that they could eat land animals that had split hooves and chewed cud. Of the animals that either had split hooves or chewed cut (but not both), they were prohibited from eating or touching the carcasses of the following:

        • the camel, hyrax (rabbit-like animal), hare, and pig.

Clean and Unclean Aquatic Animals

    • From animals in the water, the Israelites could eat anything that has both fins and scales. The Israelites were commanded not to eat or touch the carcasses of any marine animal that doesn’t have fins and scales- they were to be considered “detestable.”

Unclean Birds

    • The Israelites were not to eat the following birds because they are detestable:

      • the eagle, griffon vulture, bearded vulture, black vulture, kite , any type of falcon, any kind of raven, ostrich, short eared owl, seagull, any kind of hawk, little owl, cormorant, long eared owl, white owl, desert owl, osprey, stork, any kind of heron, hoopoe, and bat.

Clean and Unclean Flying Insects

    • Winged insects that walk on the ground are to be detestable to the Israelites, but they are permitted to eat winged insects that walk on the ground that have jointed legs for jumping. The Israelites could eat the following:

      • any kind of locust, katydid, cricket, and grasshopper.

Purification After Touching Dead Animals

    • Touching the carcasses of dead animals made the Israelites unclean and whoever touched one would be unclean until evening. If they picked up a carcass, they had to wash their clothes and would be unclean until evening.

      • Guzik notes, “Unclean animals, when dead, couldn’t just be left in the community to rot; they had to be disposed of. But the people who disposed of the unclean animals had to remedy their uncleanness by washing and a brief (until evening) quarantine…This means that if a dead rat was found in an Israelite village, it would be carefully and promptly disposed of, and the one disposing of it would wash afterward. This would help prevent disease in a significant way; after all, the Black Death – bubonic plague – killed one quarter of Europe’s population around 1350, but Jewish communities were largely spared because they followed these hygienic regulations. Sadly, because they were often largely preserved, they were often accused and punished for being ‘masterminds’ behind the plague.”

    • The following animals that scurry on the ground are unclean and if they touched their carcass they would become unclean:

      • the weasel, mouse, any kind of large lizard, gecko, monitor, common lizard, skink, and chameleon.

    • If any of these animals dies and falls on something, that object is unclean whether the object is made of wood, cloth, leather, or burlap. The object must be rinsed in water and it will remain unclean until evening. If any of these animals falls into a clay pot, everything in the pot is unclean and the pot must be broken. If the water from such a container spills on any food, the food is unclean. If the carcass of one of these animals falls on an oven or hearth, it must be smashed.

    • However, if the carcass of one of these animals falls into a spring or cistern, the water will remain clean. But if someone touches that carcass in the spring or cistern, they will become unclean. If a carcass falls on a seed that is to be planted, the seed is still clean unless water has been poured on the seed. If water has been poured on the seed and one of these carcasses falls on it, the seed is unclean.

    • If one of the clean animals dies (dies a natural death), any Israelites who touches it will be unclean until evening. If an Israelite eats some of its carcass has to wash his clothes and will be unclean until evening.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Israelites were not to consume blood (7:26). They could eat an animal only after the blood had been drained and properly disposed of (17:13). The undrained blood of an otherwise clean animal that died of natural causes rendered it unclean. An Israelite was permitted to give or sell such an animal to foreigners (Deuteronomy 14:21) but not to eat it.”

Unclean Swarming Creatures

    • All animals that scurry on the ground are detestable and they were not allowed to eat them. This includes anything that slither on their bellies, walk on all fours, or many feet. The Israelites were told not to defile themselves with any of these animals because the Lord is holy and the Israelites were to consecrate themselves and be holy. The Israelites were to be holy because God brought them out of Egypt.

      • Guzik writes, “One great purpose of the dietary laws of Israel was to sanctify – to set them apart – from other nations. It made fellowship with those who did not serve God far more difficult…We see this sanctifying effect in Daniel 1, where Daniel and his friends refuse to eat the unkosher food at the king of Babylon’s table – and God blesses them for being set apart for His righteousness.”

    • The Lord then says that these are His instructions concerning land animals, birds, marine creatures, and animals that scurry on the ground so that the Israelites could distinguish between clean and unclean- the animals the could and couldn’t be eaten.

      • HCSB commentary notes, “The separation of the animal kingdom into the pure and impure illustrates Israel’s separation from the nations. The latter had defiled themselves by their idolatry and immorality. Israel must refrain from partaking in these practices to live a holy life founded on the way and nature of God. In the New Testament these laws were set aside as barriers between Jew and non-Jew.”

      • Guzik comments, “Some Christians believe we are under obligation to observe a kosher diet today. Yet this issue was settled once and for all at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15; where it was determined that obedience to Mosaic rituals was not required of the followers of Jesus.” He continues, “Some are under subjugation to food, or to certain foods, and that is sin under the principle of 1 Corinthians 6:12: All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Certainly, many would benefit from the attitude of self-denial and bodily discipline Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. “