Scriptures

Leviticus 11

Introduction

This section begins with a general chapter on unclean foods, Genesis 7:2, both animals and water. It has been noted that many of these dietary requirements had value with regard to the kinds of diseases which could be caught.

However, the purpose given for these laws was that God’s people might be holy, Leviticus 11:44. Uncleanliness was not limited to that which could be eaten or drunk, there were other aspects of ceremonial uncleanliness which were maintained within a person’s body.

‘The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. ‘There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.’ Leviticus 11:1-8

Animals Which Have Divided Hoofs And Chew The Cud

Leviticus 11:1-23 deals with clean food that is food which may be eaten, and unclean food, that is food which cannot be eaten. We could summarise Leviticus 11:1-16 like this, God commanded Israel through Moses and Aaron to eat only those animals that were ruminants, that is have four stomachs and had a cloven foot.

These animals such as the camel, the hyrax which is a small herbivorous mammal, the rabbit and the pig weren’t allowed to be eaten and classed as unclean. To touch any dead carcass or any unclean animal dead or alive made a person unclean.

‘Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales. But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean. And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.’ Leviticus 11:9-12

Creatures Without Fins And Scales

These creatures which live in the water without fins and scales would include creatures such as any kind of shellfish, oysters, eels and crabs. They weren’t allowed to be eaten and classed as unclean, to touch any dead carcass or any unclean creature dead or alive made a person unclean.

‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat. ‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.’ Leviticus 11:13-23

Birds And Flying Insects

There are a whole host of birds listed here which were classed as unclean and cannot be eaten. The eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, which is usually thought to be a pelican, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe, which is like a grouse, and the bat.

It’s interesting to note that all insects have six legs, but here we have mention of insects with four legs, which walk on all fours. Some commentators see this phrase, ‘walk on all fours’ as a figure of speech which means these insects which walked with their body horizontally to the ground were classed as unclean.

There were however some insects which walked on all fours which were classed as clean and could be eaten, the locust, which we know John the baptiser ate, Matthew 3:4, katydid, which was similar to a cricket but larger, the cricket or grasshopper.

‘You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. ‘Every animal that does not have a divided hoof or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them will be unclean. Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. These animals are unclean for you.’ Leviticus 11:24-28

Touching Unclean Animals

In Leviticus 11:24-47 we find a list of things which make a person unclean by touching them. We must remember that in our culture today these ceremonial uncleanness laws may seem foreign to us in the UK, we love our ‘pawed’ animals, dogs and cats, but for the Israelites it meant the difference between being a part of the community or not.

If they had become unclean, they couldn’t take part in any social events, or worship, this is why they had to wash their clothes and wait until the evening at which point, they would become clean again.

‘Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening. When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean. If one of them falls into a clay pot, everything in it will be unclean, and you must break the pot. Any food you are allowed to eat that has come into contact with water from any such pot is unclean, and any liquid that is drunk from such a pot is unclean. Anything that one of their carcasses falls on becomes unclean; an oven or cooking pot must be broken up. They are unclean, and you are to regard them as unclean. A spring, however, or a cistern for collecting water remains clean, but anyone who touches one of these carcasses is unclean. If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean. But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.’ Leviticus 11:29-38

Animals Which Move Along The Ground And Clay Pots

The animals listed here are the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink, which is a small lizard and the chameleon. They are all classed as unclean and went to be touched, if so, the person would become unclean until evening.

Note the difference between these dead animals touching the pot and falling into the pot. If any of these animals dies or falls into a vessel, whatever it’s made out of, would make the vessel unclean, therefore it had to be washed and kept in water until evening, then it would be clean again and ready to be used. If any of these animals fall into a clay pot, this made everything in that pot unclean, therefore the pot had to be broken.

‘If an animal that you are allowed to eat dies, anyone who touches its carcass will be unclean till evening. Anyone who eats some of its carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up the carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening.’ Leviticus 11:39-40

Touching Dead Animals

Any clean animal which would include the ox, sheep, goat, deer, etc dies and someone touches it, then that person would become unclean until evening. If anyone eats part of the animal’s body will also be unclean, therefore, they must wash and become clean in the evening, the same applies to anyone who picks up one of these dead animals.

‘Every creature that moves along the ground is to be regarded as unclean; it is not to be eaten. You are not to eat any creature that moves along the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is unclean. Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them.’ Leviticus 11:41-43

Creatures Which Move Along The Ground

Most commentators believe these verses are addressing vermin, Leviticus 11:29-30, and notice the difference, not only does the text speak of things which ‘walk on all fours’ but things which ‘moves on its belly’. This would include animals like snakes, worms, maggots, moles, rats, mice, caterpillars, centipedes, these are all classed as unclean.

‘I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore, be holy, because I am holy.’ Leviticus 11:44-45

A Holy God Demands A Holy People

As God reminds them that He is the One who brought them out of Egypt, He also reminds them that He is a holy God and His people must be holy too. God didn’t give them these rules for the fun of it, it was all about obedience and healthy living.

‘These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.’ Leviticus 11:46-47

It’s clear that God wanted them to learn and distinguish between what is clean and unclean. They had to be obedient to God with these laws if they wanted to remain in fellowship with God and His people. These dietary restrictions separated Israel from every other nation on earth.

It would be later when Christ comes on the scene when these laws would be abolished, Mark 7:19 / Acts 10:11-16 / 1 Timothy 4:4-5.

Go To Leviticus 12

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

2 Timothy 1:7

MENU