In this chapter God spells out which animals are clean and which ones are unclean. God says, in so many words, “You shall eat this…you shall not eat that.” He lays out very explicit instructions about which animals were OK to eat, and which ones were not. And there are many who are under the impression that the reason for the inclusion or exclusion of certain animals was for health reasons. Eh, not necessarily. Still others speculate that the reason the unclean animals are considered unclean is because they were used in the religious services of the various pagan nations. Maybe, but I don’t believe that is the entire reason. Basically, God is training the people about separating good from evil, using the most basic elements of their lives—food. If you can't obey His rules about things as simple as food, then you're not likely to obey Him about the more important things.
Leviticus 11:1-3—1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: 3 Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat.’” Let me stop right there. This is a very narrow window that God is giving them. Basically, He’s saying “Whatever animal I have told you to sacrifice to Me—those are the ones you can eat.” This would include cattle, oxen, sheep, and goats—and any animal in any of their classes. They could eat any of those animals. Anything else—off limits. The first prohibited group: those who chew cud but do not have cloven hooves. Leviticus 11:4-6—“‘4 Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel…5 the rock hyrax…6 the hare…unclean to you.” And here we have the first of the favorite subjects for the skeptic—the cud-chewing rabbit. Let’s admit this upfront: rabbits are not ruminants as we understand them today, and as “scientists” understand them. They do not have four stomachs; they do not swallow their food, regurgitate it, and chew and swallow it again. So let’s look at what they do. What they do—and this gets kinda messy—what rabbits do is they chew their food, swallow it, digest it, let it go through their digestive system, pass through the other end, and chew it again. Yeah, big “yuck!” factor there. So although they are not “ruminants” in the purest form, and although they do not bring their food up from their stomach and eat that, they do still digest their food and bring it up again and eats its digested form. So there.
The next group: pigs. Leviticus 11:7-8—“‘7 and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.’” Out of all the animals in this chapter, if you asked 1000 people on the street “What is meant by a ‘kosher’ diet” nearly all 1000 would most likely whip out the same answer: “It means you don’t eat pork.” Everybody knows Jews don’t eat pork. And yet there are literally hundreds of animals that were off-limits. Notice I say “were off-limits.” Well talk about that later on.
So what is it about pigs that God tells the people, “Don’t eat them or handle their carcasses”? Well, what do pigs eat? They eat whatever they can. If you throw anything into a pig pen, they’ll eat it. Even a person, falling into a herd of swine, will have his flesh consumed by them. And what do they live in? Mud. And what else may very well be mixed in with that mud? I think you know. So the pig is a dirty animal. You just look at it, how it lives, where it lives, what it lives in and what it eats—and God says, “Don’t put that in your body.” And in fact, nearly every society (save a few) considers the swine to be a filthy creature. Arabs, Egyptians, Phoenicians—these consider pigs to be an animal so detestable that they will not eat their flesh. And so God uses the swine as a teaching tool, to teach them that there are things that are clean, and there are things that are not clean. And they must learn to distinguish.
Next, God moves on to the creatures in the seas and rivers. Leviticus 11:9-12—“‘9 These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers—that you may eat. 10 But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. 11 They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. 12 Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales—that shall be an abomination to you.’” Basically, the only thing you can eat of those things that swim is—fish. Anything else is prohibited. And notice what God says in verse 10. He includes “all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water.” Now, He’s not talking about seaweed or underwater vegetation. He’s talking about animals. This would include shellfish—clams, oysters, crabs, mussels, lobsters, octopus, squid (No calamari—NOOOOOOO!!!!!), scallops, and…shrimp. And just like those people who think a kosher diet just means you don’t eat pork, we have another item where the world just does not understand. That is the altogether most important matter of all—eating shrimp. Now, I know the question that’s on your mind. You're thinking—“Huh?” Allow me to explain.
Or, rather, allow Neil Simpson, from his blog titled “Eternity Matters” to show us. Neil writes—
Their argument goes like this:
- Yes, Leviticus 18:22 says Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
- But Leviticus 11:10 says, And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination unto you
- Therefore, the Bible cannot be the word of God and homosexual behavior must be moral because the Bible is an undependable, contradictory book that equates shrimp eating with sexual immorality. And people who teach that homosexual behavior is a sin are bigoted hypocrites who only follow the parts of the Bible they like.
“Their” refers to theological liberals and activist homosexuals who want to commit sexual perversion while claiming the name of Christ. Neil quotes one of their websites, titled “God Hates Shrimp”:
“…anti-gay fundamentalists selectively quote the Bible. They enthusiastically and openly embrace those parts of the Bible which affirm and justify their own personal, pre-existing prejudice against gay people, while declining to become as enthusiastic about verses like the ones listed above.
After all, how many times have you heard a fundamentalist say that eating shellfish was an abomination? But they sure don’t hesitate to say it about gay people, do they? What does that tell you?”
And this is what happens when people don’t actually study the Bible—especially when they don’t go back to the original Hebrew and Greek.
Because if they had gone and studied the Hebrew, they would find that from a linguistic standpoint, their argument falls flat on its face. Which is probably why they don’t study in the original languages. If they had looked at the Hebrew, they would see that the word translated “abomination” in Leviticus 18:22 (the prohibition against homosexuality) is תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah), meaning “a disgusting thing, abomination, abominable.” The word תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah) comes from תָּעַב (ta’ab), meaning “to loathe, abhor, regard as an abomination,” or “Things which are abominable to YHVH.” This is a different word than what is translated “abomination” in Leviticus 11:10 (and all the other verses in chapter 11 that describe eating or touching the carcasses of certain animals as “abomination”), the word there being is שֶׁקֶץ (sheqets), meaning “detestable thing or idol, an unclean thing, an abomination, detestation.” Now while the meaning of the word שֶׁקֶץ (sheqets) is similar to the meaning of תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah), they are used quite differently in Scripture. First, the word שֶׁקֶץ (sheqets) is used only eleven times, with nine of those times being in Leviticus, and always in the context of unclean animals—things that we are to see as detestable (The root word שָׁקַץ (shaqats) is found only seven times, in the same contexts). However, תּוֹעֵבָה (tow’ebah) is found one-hundred-seventeen times in the Old Testament, its root תָּעַב (ta’ab) is found 22 times. And when these are found, they almost always refer to acts that God sees as punishable by the severest means possible—acts like homosexuality, bestiality, incest, rape, etc. So the whole “If homosexuality is a sin then so is eating shrimp” argument falls flat on its face when a deeper study is undertaken.
And one final note: the punishment for eating shellfish was that the person would be unclean until evening. The punishment for committing acts of homosexuality was being “cut off from his people”—basically, the person was put to death. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? Jude 1:7—Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Of course, when we get to Leviticus 18:22 (and Leviticus 20:13) I will prepare you for the inevitable excuse from the theological liberal who will say, “No, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was they were inhospitable to their guests!” But we’ll cover that when we get there.
One possible reason for the prohibition is this: what do we know about these creatures? They usually live in the lower, darker parts of the water. Shellfish, especially, feed off of the things of the deeper, murkier waters. I will never forget the one and only time I ever ate an oyster. When my wife and I were dating, she took me to a fancy seafood restaurant for my birthday. The dinner I ordered included broiled oysters. As soon as I bit into it, I knew I should have spit it out, because it tasted like a mouthful of mud. And all night, I was running to the bathroom. Because they live in in the mud, and they feed on whatever passes by—and they live in darkness. And God is teaching them to avoid those things of the dark. Romans 13:12—Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Colossians 1:13—[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. 1st Thessalonians 5:5—You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Darkness—like leaven—is nearly always associated with evil. And we are constantly reminded to avoid evil. One of the simplest ways we can learn to distinguish between good and bad is in the foods we eat, knowing where they come from. And if we cannot learn these truths from the simplest lessons on things we can see, then how can we possibly understand anything God tries to teach us about spiritual things? When Jesus was teaching Nicodemus about being born from above, what challenge did our Lord lay down? John 3:12—“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Paul picked up on this principle, and taught us about hope in Romans 8:24—Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? And if we cannot learn to distinguish between those animals that God calls clean and unclean, then how will we ever learn to distinguish between clean and unclean spiritual things?
God does not stop with land and sea animals. He then moves on to birds Leviticus 11:13-19—“‘13 And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 14 the kite, and the falcon after its kind; 15 every raven after its kind, 16 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; 17 the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; 18 the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 19 the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.’” OK, let’s get one thing out of the way first. Yes, the word translated “bat” literally means “bat.” And of course the skeptic will come along and say “HAH! Contradiction! A bat is a mammal, not a bird!” And they will think themselves oh so clever because they have found the one thing that, after thousands of years, will undo all of Christianity and every belief in God—they have found the one thing that the most devoted hater of God has never, ever, ever found before—that a bat is not a bird. And that will make every Christian shake in their boots and renounce everything they believe. Or so they think. What? You mean your faith isn't shaken by such an astonishing discovery? Well good—it shouldn’t be.
First of all, let’s take the simplistic approach to answering this objection. Man may not classify a bat as a bird—but that is not to say that God doesn't. If God says that a creature with wings is a bird—it’s a bird, no matter what man says about it. The same way that when skeptics come up with the tired, old, “Why doesn't the Bible mention dinosaurs,” We simply take a deep breath, remind them that the word ‘dinosaur’ wasn’t invented until the 1800’s, and gently point them to God’s description of a brachiosaurus in Job 40:15-24 and His description of a plesiosaur in Job 41:1-34. (By the same token, they laugh and say “Well, what about ‘unicorns’”? We then point to Job 39:9-12, and educate them about the Monoceros, cousin to the triceratops. For a deeper study of this subject, let’s look at the Hebrew again, shall we? The word translated “birds” in Leviticus 11:13 is עוֹף (‘owph), which means, simply, “flying creatures, fowl, insects, birds.” It was not a word which was applied only to birds specifically. It meant anything that had wings and/or flew. This comes from the root word עוּף (‘uwph), meaning “to fly, fly about, fly away.” Again, don’t be afraid when skeptics point out these supposed contradictions. These assertions are made by people who have spent their lives convincing themselves that God does not exist, that His word cannot be trusted (or, “Hath God indeed said?”). These are the people, of whom Paul says …although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:21-25).
So, with that behind us, why the injunction against these flying creatures? Probably because they feasted on flesh. They were either predatory birds or scavengers. Thus, they would eat the raw flesh of animals that either they killed, or another animal had killed, or had died naturally. And, as we read in Exodus 22:31 and Leviticus 7:25 and Leviticus 17:15 and Leviticus 22:8, God commanded the people not to eat the flesh of animals which had been torn by beasts or had died naturally. There are also, among this list, those birds who detest the daylight, but do their roaming in the dark—much like the shellfish who live in the darkness of the deep.. From J. A. MacDonald’s contribution to The Pulpit Commentary—“Wicked men also, like owls, hate the light. When honest people of the day are sleeping, these prowlers are plotting mischief. Witness the burglaries, the murders, the prostitutions, the debaucheries, practised by them under the cover of darkness.” Or, as Jesus said, John 3:19-20—“19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Paul, of course, used this as a springboard from which to warn the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 5:11—And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. The warnings in the New Testament—and in fact all of Scripture—are so numerous that space would not permit commentary on them all at one time. Suffice it to say we should not seek to partake of those things which feed on blood, and which love darkness rather than light.
Leviticus 11:20-23—“‘20 All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you. 21 Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. 22 These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. 23 But all other flying insects which have four feet shall be an abomination to you.’” OK, here we go again. We must take a minute to answer the insufferable critics of Holy Writ. What is the objection here? How many legs do insects have? Six. But the skeptic takes the KJV, which mentions “fowls that creep, going upon all fours” or other translations where God describes these “creeping things” which “creep on all fours.” And they scream “Contradiction!!” And we must take them by the hand, stroke their delicate little egos, and explain to them on their level. First, let’s get this out of the way: the word “all” (as in “all fours”) is not in the Hebrew. No matter which translation you use, the word ‘all’ is in italics. That means the translators inserted it. Sometimes they get it right, but in this case, the word ‘all’ doesn't belong. It should simply say “creeping things that creep on four.”
Now, the obvious question to the skeptic: “Don’t you think these people, when they heard this, would immediately scream, ‘But Moses, insects have six legs!’?” I mean, seriously! If I read a newspaper article that said something about a man having “all three of his arms amputated” I would put that paper down and say, “But humans only have two legs! This newspaper is mistaken!” But this passage has been transcribed in this same manner for thousands of years! If the skeptics are correct about scribes making mistakes in their transcription, or deliberately altering the text to avoid some problem or another, don’t you think this would be one of the places where they would deliberately alter the text?!?! They had nearly 1500 years to bury this thing, and yet they let it stand! This makes it as obvious as it could possibly be, then, that the difficulty and apparent contradiction is not owing to God not reckoning that the very insects He created have six legs. Nor is it owing to the Israelites not having sense to know this. The difficulty lies in the mind of the skeptic who reads this and flashes off in the wrong direction, thinking to undermine the truth of God with his own depraved, fallen, God-hating human thinking—said thinking the skeptic refers to as “logic.”
But let’s put together what we know: We know that the typical Israelite would read this and, if it is indeed a contradiction, say “That can't be right! Insects have six legs, not four!” We also know that God is referring to the extremely broad classification of animals called “Anything that has wings, whether birds, or bugs, or bats.” We know this because the word translated “flying insects” at the beginning of verse 20 is the very same word translated “birds” in verse 13. No kidding! Leviticus 11:13—“‘And these you shall regard as an abomination among the (עוֹף (‘owph))’” Likewise, Leviticus 11:20—“‘All (עוֹף (‘owph)) that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you.’” We also know that in this particular section, God is now going to shift the focus from birds to some kind of bug in verse 21. The Hebrew that is rendered “every flying insect that creeps on all fours” in verses 20, verse 21, and verse 23 is (remembering, of course, that Hebrew is read from right-to-left):
The world (especially the internet) is teeming with arguments from skeptics saying things like (and I quote), “So, the bible gives some examples where insects have "4 legs" and "walk on all 4 legs". There are no 4-legged insects according to biology. This is a simple matter of counting to 6, but one source has it wrong.” And herein, they prove, for all the world to see, what one looks like when professing to be wise, they became fools. Allow me to explain more fully.
For one thing, if one were to observe a grasshopper, or a cricket, or locust, or any of their kind when they walk, they would notice something: none of them use their back (leaping) legs for walking. It’s true. Watch one of these things walk, and you will see that they move their body forward on their front four legs, while the back (leaping) legs drag behind them. It is only after they have travelled a certain distance that they move their back (leaping) legs to keep up with the body. But during the act of walking, the back (leaping) legs are completely passive. Notice in the following videos:
Notice how these guys don’t use their back (leaping) legs for locomotion—they are simply passive hangers-on until the little guy needs to jump. So that leaves us with the question, “But what about bugs other than the leapers? What about flies and beetles? What about caterpillars and butterflies? Cockroaches? All these have six legs, don’t they? Huh? Huh?” Calm down, Timmy. We’re about to finish it all up here. Let’s talk a little about what is meant by “feet” and “legs.” You see, when the skeptic cries, “Four-footed insects! That’s a Contradiction®!!” they are guilty of what I call “anachronistic interpretation.” That is, trying to use modern nomenclature and modern thought in trying to interpret something that was written over 3500 years ago. We need to understand what God means when He says of the grasshopper kind, that they have “legs above the feet.” This does not mean simply having legs above the 2 rear appendages. This means that the 2 rear appendages (the leaping legs) rise above the front 4 appendages—which appendages are used for ground transport. However, when you look at a cockroach, butterfly, housefly, beetle—their 2 rear appendages are at the same level as the front four appendages. That is, they do not rise above, geographically, those front four appendages. Notice in the two images below:
The misunderstanding, common among skeptics and atheists, concerning what they call “four-legged insects” is simply due to historical and cultural context. In the Jewish culture of the time, they considered the front 4 appendages of an insect to be “feet” while the rear 2 appendages were considered “legs.” Therefore, they considered an insect to have 4 “feet” and 2 “legs”—thus, 6 appendages. Long story short, when God talks about the “feet” of these “flying swarming things” He is talking about the 2 rear appendages. The term “feet” is applied to the front four appendages. While the beetle, ladybug, housefly, cockroach, grasshopper have 6 appendages, those appendages are divided between 4 (front) feet and 2 (rear) legs.
Consider this also: what year are we currently in? This is 2011. Does that mean that every single culture considers this to be the year 2011? No. In China, the year is 4708—and that depends on which calendar you use. Let’s use this principle in discussing the way that the Jewish people reckon years. Do they mark years according to the birth of Christ? Uh, not hardly. So to the Jew, he reckons it to be the year 5772. Next question: how much does a ton weigh? “Well, duh, 2000 lbs.” Not so fast, Timmy. Are you talking about a “long ton”, which is used in the UK, and contains 2,240 lbs.? Are you talking about the “short ton”, used here in the States, which weighs 2,000 lbs.? Or, perhaps, the “metric ton” weighing 2,204 lbs.?
Let’s talk about hands, shall we? When the police bind the upper extremities behind the back, what do they use? Wristcuffs? Or handcuffs? But do they put them around what most people consider to be the hand? Or do they encompass only the wrist? Where exactly does the hand begin? Scientists and anatomy professors may have their own opinion—but various cultures may disagree. For example, it was not uncommon (in fact it was quite common) in Roman culture to consider the wrist as part of the hand. Also, does the hand include the fingers? Or are they separate from the hand? What about the stomach? Where does it begin and where does the esophagus end? We could go on with other examples but I believe these will suffice.
So, now we've gotten that misunderstanding out of the way, why this injunction? Why is it OK to eat locusts and grasshoppers and crickets and cicadas and other bugs like them—but not beetles, houseflies, moths, or cockroaches? Why? Because God said so. This is one grouping of clean/unclean that I cannot determine why God would call some “clean” and others “unclean.” Other than, perhaps, that flies and cockroaches feed on dead, rotting things while the grasshopper kind feeds on vegetation. But then again, so do some of the other forbidden insects. Because there is no clear-cut reason for the injunction against eating insects other than those of the locust kind, we will simply chalk it up to “because God said so.”