We’re gonna skip ahead a few verses and see God complete the list in Leviticus 11:27, 29, 30, 41-42—“‘27 And whatever goes on its paws, among all kinds of animals that go on all fours, those are unclean to you. Whoever touches any such carcass shall be unclean until evening...29 These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and the large lizard after its kind; 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the sand reptile, the sand lizard, and the chameleon... 41 And every creeping thing that creeps on the earth shall be an abomination. It shall not be eaten. 42 Whatever crawls on its belly, whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet among all creeping things that creep on the earth—these you shall not eat, for they are an abomination.’” Of those things that go upon their paws, of course, would be a wide variety of animals, such as dogs, cats, weasels, mice, rats, lions, tigers, bears—oh my! We discussed the case of Samson several weeks ago. That he would have been unclean indeed after removing the honeycomb from the carcass of the dead lion. One rather interesting note I would like to point out. The word that is translated “paws” in verse 27 is the Hebrew כַּפָּיו (qappiv). Literally, this word means “hands.” So if the skeptic really wants to push the whole “four-legged insect” thing, and argue that we Christians are trying to “make excuses” for the terminology used in verses 20-23, we can simply point to this text and show them that these are indeed cultural uses of the various words, for I am sure they would argue that dogs, cats, bears, etc. have “feet” and not “hands.” But again, it’s that whole professing to be wise they became fools thing we keep seeing over and over again.
Then God prohibits reptiles—snakes, lizards, etc. These of course would be related to the serpent. Why would God want to prohibit His people from defiling themselves with things related to the serpent? Might it have something to do with a little episode that occurred right after the dawn of human history? Genesis 3:1—Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" The serpent, inhabited by the one whom Jesus described as being “A murderer from the beginning…a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44), was eventually cursed by God for his actions, Genesis 3:14-15—14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Do we want to be handling the thing that God has cursed more than any other creature on earth? Did God want His people to associate with that creature that symbolized the thing that brought sin and death into the world?
And finally, just to avoid any loopholes, He commands the people not to eat anything that goes upon its belly, or has four legs, or has many legs. This would be worms, any kinds of four-legged animal, or anything that had any number of legs (spiders, centipedes, scorpions, etc.). He says if you touch the dead body of any of these things, you are unclean.
Now, what were the injunctions? You could not eat them; you could not touch their carcass. Does this mean you could not handle them while they were alive? No; you could indeed come into contact with these animals while they were still alive. But once they were dead—hands off! So what was the punishment if you handled one of these carcasses? You were unclean until evening. Leviticus 11:24-26, 32-40, 43—“‘24 By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until evening; 25 whoever carries part of the carcass of any of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening…32 Anything on which any of them falls, when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is any item of wood or clothing or skin or sack, whatever item it is, in which any work is done, it must be put in water. And it shall be unclean until evening; then it shall be clean. 33 Any earthen vessel into which any of them falls you shall break; and whatever is in it shall be unclean: 34 in such a vessel, any edible food upon which water falls becomes unclean, and any drink that may be drunk from it becomes unclean. 35 And everything on which a part of any such carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it is an oven or cooking stove, it shall be broken down; for they are unclean, and shall be unclean to you. 36 Nevertheless a spring or a cistern, in which there is plenty of water, shall be clean, but whatever touches any such carcass becomes unclean. 37 And if a part of any such carcass falls on any planting seed which is to be sown, it remains clean. 38 But if water is put on the seed, and if a part of any such carcass falls on it, it becomes unclean to you. 39 And if any animal which you may eat dies, he who touches its carcass shall be unclean until evening. 40 He who eats of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. He also who carries its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening…43 You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them.’” Not going to go into the various details in this passage, because I think you get the idea. If you, or anything you may come into contact with, comes into contact with the dead body of any of these prohibited animals—or even the carcass of an animal that you are allowed to eat—then you and/or that thing are unclean until evening. And in verse 40, if you slaughter an edible animal, and come into contact with its carcass, you are unclean until evening. In all of these cases, you wash your clothes, you are unclean.
So what is the lesson here? Simply this: that there are things God considers to be evil, unclean. And God associates these unclean things with death. If you're climbing through a rocky crevice and a lizard jumps on your shoulder, are you unclean? No. If that lizard dies and falls on you, are you unclean? Yes. If a fly is buzzing around and lands in your sandwich, do you have to throw that sandwich out? No. If that fly dies and lands in your sandwich, do you have to throw it out? Yes. And we are not to have anything to do with these dead things. That’s what the word “sanctify” (or, “consecrate”) means—to separate one’s self from those things which God calls unholy, profane, vile, etc. God will command His people in that very thing later on in Leviticus 20:7-8—“‘7 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you.’” To consecrate or sanctify literally means to set apart for one’s own use.
Now, to bring this into the New Testament writings, what word does Paul use to describe those who do not know Christ? Dead. Ephesians 2:1—And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:5—Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ. Our Lord Christ, when He was praying the night before His crucifixion, begged in John 17:19—“And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” He kept himself separate from sin, so that all who believe in Him might be separate from sin. Another theme Paul picks up on, a verse I have already mentioned, Ephesians 5:11—Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. So that when we do sin, 1st John 1:9—If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That is, when we do come into contact with the works of the flesh—the flesh in which Paul says dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18)—we do not have to wash our clothing, and go around shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” until evening. Because we are already clean. John 13:10—“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.” From birth, we are all dead—all unclean. We can try to pretty ourselves up, make ourselves look more attractive to God, but what does He see? A dead man. No matter how many “good works” we try to do to bathe ourselves, we will always be dirty, dead, unclean. But when Christ saves us, according to His mercy…through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, we are clean. Completely clean (see again John 13:10). We will, however, come into contact with a world that is wholly unclean. And we must always seek His washing, that He may keep us clean. Not as though we need to be rebathed—but washed from the filth of the world. He has bathed us—we need only to wash. We wash by confessing our sins, that we may continue to be a vessel worthy of being used. Adam Clarke—
“Sin exists in the soul after two modes or forms: (1.) In guilt, which requires forgiveness or pardon. (2.) In pollution, which requires cleansing. Guilt, to be forgiven, must be confessed; and pollution, to be cleansed, must be also confessed…As the blood of Jesus Christ, the merit of his passion and death, applied by faith, purges the conscience from all dead works, so the same cleanses the heart from all unrighteousness. As all unrighteousness is sin, so he that is cleansed from all unrighteousness is cleansed from all sin.”
So, why all these injunctions against eating certain animals? Well, apart from their connection with filth, their symbolizing sin and darkness, there is what lies at the heart of said injunctions. Really, when you get right down to it, God gives us the reason for these discrepancies in the last few verses of the chapter, Leviticus 11:44-47—“‘44 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.46 This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, 47 to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.’” Quite simply, God tells the people that the reason for these rules is so that they may be separate from all the peoples they will come into contact with. He is giving them these most basic rules for separating themselves from things that God calls unclean. Stay away from those large beasts that simply eat anything they seize upon. Among the things that live in the water, avoid those things that feed off the silt and soil of the murky bottom and become hosts for all kinds of disease. From among the flying things—whether birds or bats or insects—only the locust and its kind, for the excluded birds are birds of prey, and feed on death. Do not eat dogs, or anything that goes on four paws, since they too dine on death. And as far as the lizard, the mouse and rat—these are vermin, and are to be distasteful to the people. And as far as the snake is concerned: is it any surprise that God would forbid the eating of the flesh of that which convinced our first parents to rebel against God?
Now, let’s bring up a couple of subjects that need to be addressed. First, let’s talk about Noah. When he was gathering animals into the ark, what did he gather? Genesis 7:1-2—1 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. 2 You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female.” How did Noah determine which animals were clean and unclean? Had God yet made the distinction between clean and unclean? Well, obviously He had made the distinction. But how did Noah know which animals he was to take by twos and which he was to take by sevens? That is a very good question, and one for which we do not have a clear answer in Scripture. So all I can say is that God must have communicated this distinction to him somehow, without commanding the writing down of the communication of these facts. But why seven of the clean animals? Why an odd, rather than an even number of the clean beasts? Easy. So that he may have three pairs to propagate said species, while having one specimen left to offer as a sacrifice to God (see Genesis 8:20).
Now, on the other side of things, are we still bound by these regulations concerning what we can and can't eat? Well, no…and yes. Allow me to explain. We are not forbidden from eating any animal. This is clear (no matter how hard the legalists want to say otherwise) from a simple reading of Peter’s vision while on a rooftop in Acts 10:9-15—9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." 14 But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." God has now cleansed those things which He once called “unclean.” This was not the first time Peter had heard God say something along those lines. For he heard our Lord Jesus say Matthew 15:11—“ Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
Guess what all that means? We can eat pork chops! And venison. And we can even eat rattlesnake! And shrimp—Boiled shrimp, broiled shrimp, shrimp kabobs, baked shrimp, sautéed shrimp. Shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried—and any other way that Bubba came up with. And calamari, too!! Because you see, the injunctions that separated the Israelites from eating certain animals was meant to point us to the One who would separate us as sheep from goats. That even as the distinction between clean and unclean animal had been removed, the middle wall of separation between Jew and Gentile had been dismantled (Ephesians 2:11-14). And now that Christ has come, He has fulfilled the Law, and having the substance of which the Law was only a shadow (Colossians 2:16-17). Romans 14:14—I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself. And we can now eat even something that was sacrificed to an idol—just so long as we do not cause a weaker brother to stumble.
The Jerusalem council, called to answer the question of circumcision, came to declare that there are still some prohibitions on what we can eat. Acts 15:28-29—28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell. The implications of this letter are so far-reaching, concerning the Jehovah's Witnesses’ forbidding of blood transfusions, as well as the abomination of the Catholic Mass, that to devote time to either of them would be to take away from the subject at hand. What things are we still commanded to not eat? Things strangled, things offered to idols, and the eating of blood. So while we can eat pretty much any animal without fear, there are still some limits on our diet.
That said, let me simply conclude with this. Colossians 2:20-22—20 If you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," 22 which all concern things which perish with the using? Life in Christ has nothing to do with eating pork, or any other animal for that matter. Are we to be different from the world around us? Yes. But that difference is not summed up in our diet. Food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse (1st Corinthians 8:8). That was the Law. We are no longer under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). We do not fulfill the law by avoiding the flesh of certain animals, rather If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well (James 2:8). He who loves another has fulfilled the law…Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8, 10). For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:14). So grab a hot dog and enjoy it!