Clean Meat vs Unclean Flesh
You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Leviticus 20:25
The Flood - Clean Animals by Sevens
The Bible suggests a different order existed prior to the flood. Our planet still displayed the majesty of its original design. The hills and valleys had yet to be defaced by the ravaging forces of the deluge and the blasting winds to come. The land was watered by a dew drawn up from the ground instead of by rain in those days, while the firmament provided shielding and cover. Men were much larger in stature than now, and life expectancy was measured in centuries instead of decades.
The gulf that existed between man and God, however, gradually widened. Here as before, the separation was partially associated with a lack of appetite control. Christ's prophetic words to his disciples 2400 years later link the conditions of Noah's time with our time and the end of our age.
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Matthew 24:38-39
There is no limit to Divine patience, but there does come a day for scoffers when gentle pleading fails to evoke a response, and God's Holy Spirit is reluctantly withdrawn. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Genesis 6:13
You shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. "As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them." Genesis 6:19-21
Noah had found favor in God's eyes and was selected to be instrumental in the preservation of life. He was given a very detailed plan regarding the construction of the ark. God uses available resources, as much as possible, to accomplish his plans. He also uses those who are fit and willing to do His good service.
In order to survive many months aboard the ark, Noah was instructed to make provisions and store up an herbal food supply sufficient to last until the flood waters receded. After that, the animals would instinctively find their proper place in a food chain. However, born of necessity, special considerations were made for Noah and his descendants.
You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth. Genesis 7:2-3
The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Genesis 9:2-4 (emphasis provided)
God restates that Noah has dominion over animals and fish because man has the power of discernment. He also states, "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you." We often overlook, however, the rather powerful modifier attached to this statement. God allowed meat to be eaten in the same manner he added green herbs to our diet. Can we eat any green plant that grows? Or, must we make a distinction between the edible and poisonous? Likewise, we must discern which animals may be eaten and those which we may not. Noah was already aware of the distinction between clean and unclean animals.
Clean / Unclean Meat and Animals
Bible Clean Animal Defined
Noah was directed to bring two of every kind of unclean animal and seven of every clean animal into the ark for the purpose of procreation. Noah offered up the seventh of each clean animal to God in sacrifice. From Adam until Christ, only clean animals without spot were acceptable for sacrifice. Metaphorically, by the ascension of the smoke of this offering, God smelled a sweet savor and set his brilliant bow in the sky. This was signet of a profound covenant.
The book of Genesis does not provide details as to what defines a clean animal. The first five books of the Bible, including Genesis, were written by Moses around 1450 BCE. After the exodus from Egyptian slavery, Moses led God's people to freedom by way of the Sinai Peninsula. Much of the knowledge of God's statutes had been lost during the long captivity. However, these precepts and statutes were reiterated by God with great authority at Sinai and faithfully recorded by Moses in scripture. Clean and unclean foods and eating meat is discussed in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus and the fourteenth chapter of Deuteronomy. Here is a relative passage:
"You shall not eat any abomination.
These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.
"Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
"You may eat all clean birds. But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind; every raven of any kind; the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. All clean winged things you may eat.
The Bible meat guidelines are easy to understand. For land animals to be considered clean, they must both chew the cud and have a divided or cloven hoof. Some animals chew the cud but do not have a cloven hoof. Others have a cloven hoof but do not chew the cud. These are considered unclean. Sea life must have both scales and fins. In the Bible, fish often represent individual men and the sea represents entire populations Rev 17:15. Scales are analogous to protective armor or defensive devices. Generally, birds that forage are clean whereas birds of prey and scavengers like vultures are not. Birds are often used to represent the spiritual realm and unclean birds, sometimes, represent unclean spirits.
Chew the Cud and Cloven Hoof
An animal that "chews the cud" simply re-chews plant foods that it has already partially digested in some way. This method of nutrient absorption extracts the ultimate benefit from nutrient-poor vegetation like grass and leaves.
The principle method of chewing the cud is a process called rumination. Some animals have multiple stomachs and digest their food in stages. In the primary stages, the easily digested food and liquids are separated from the more fibrous portion and passed along the digestive tract. The courser portion, called the cud, is regurgitated and further masticated. This mixes the cud with saliva and continues to break it down into more readily absorbed nutrients.
If you have ever seen a cow or other animal casually chewing and slobbering profusely, then you have likely seen an animal chewing the cud. Animals that chew the cud in this way are called ruminants.
Not all ruminants are clean, but all clean mammals are ruminants. To be considered clean, a ruminant must also divide the hoof into two segments or toes. Each segment must terminate with a tough hoof substance. This is called a cloven hoof. Cloven hoofed mammals are quite agile on rugged or uneven terrains. This is extremely helpful to mountain goats and rams for example.
Bible Meat - Clean Animal Varieties
Most of the clean meat we consume is from the bovadae family of mammals. Cattle, goats and antelope are all bovids and are distinguished in that the males (and sometimes females) have horns that are not branched. Some examples of bovids are cows, sheep, buffalo, mountain goats, antelope, bison and the like. Cervidae, the deer family, is distinguished by branched horns or antlers. Some examples are deer, caribou, elk, moose, mule deer, reindeer and the like. A pronghorn is also considered to be a clean animal.
In Bible symbolism and prophecy, horns represent authority and are tokens of power. Anyone who has witnessed two rams battling for supremacy can understand the metaphor.
Scavengers and Predators
Resisting to eat bats and vultures may not require much willpower, but resisting to eat pork, lobster, shellfish, catfish and other unclean meat may seem difficult to some. It is easy to reason that so many others eat these foods seemingly with no adverse effect, so what is the problem? We do not always see the rationale behind God's restrictions immediately. Similarly, we do not always justify the restrictions we place on our children. They simply trust our knowledge and experience because they understand we are interested in their welfare, and they will understand with maturity.
God does not restrict these unclean animals arbitrarily. The matter is related directly to our sanctification. As our creator, God is infinitely acquainted with every detriment to the most minute cell in our body.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."
Matthew 10:29-31. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and
the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
Many unclean animals are predators, whereas a clean mammal is an herbivore. The Bible has established that every green herb was the diet originally intended for animals. When the Bible says green herb, it does not mean grain. Green herbs provide the nutrients to form muscle and flesh in these species. If we choose to eat meat, it makes sense that we eat meat formed directly from plant life and not many times removed.
Other unclean animals are scavengers. Their function is to remove putrefying carcases and filth from our lands and waters. These animals are often parasite ridden. In the case of pork and swine, the parasites can be killed by thoroughly cooking the meat, but that is not a consolation. The problem is more than parasites. The problem lies within the very constitution of the meat. If we are what we eat, then so are scavengers. Not only should we not eat them, we should not even touch the dead carcase. They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. Leviticus 11:11
De facto Unclean Meat
Many beef producers add growth hormones to cattle feed. Those hormones are passed along directly to the consumer's body. Some have even mingled manure and unusable carcase portions of cattle back into the feed to reduce costs and increase profits. These acts against nature make unclean animals from clean. Imagine a cow thoroughly ruminating on itself or its kind. Such detestable practices are generally considered to be the cause of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE (mad cow's disease). Here are some references on the subject:
There is strong evidence and general agreement that the outbreak was amplified
by feeding rendered bovine meat-and-bone meal to young calves.
Addendum: This resource was removed, but the conclusion may be found here in the first paragraph: Mad Cow
- Epidemiological studies conducted in the UK suggest that the source of BSE was cattle feed prepared from bovine tissues, such as brain and spinal cord, that was contaminated by the BSE agent. WHO
The point is that only eating meat deemed to be clean in Leviticus is not enough. God gave us the power of discernment. We are to make a distinction between the clean and unclean. This cannot be overstated. We see a rising trend in unsafe meat production these days. As a society, we are secreting away our elderly who are unceremoniously diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's disease at alarming rates. Bible health and common sense dictates, to the best of our abilities, we should know the source and quality of the meat we eat. This includes fish and poultry. If chickens are raised in over-populated coups or fish drawn from mercury-polluted waters, they should not be eaten.
When we have done all we can to adhere to the principles of Bible health and ask God's blessing, we can be fully confident that the food we eat is beneficial to our lives.
Do Bible Laws Apply Today?
Four Types of Bible Law and Levitical Dietary Health Laws
Some argue that Old Testament laws were done away with in the "new covenant" and do not apply to us today. Suffice here to say that four types of law are given in the Bible. Let wisdom infer which types of law still apply.
1. The Moral Law - (The Ten Commandments)
Piercing bolts of lightning and deafening peals of thunder trumpeted the revelation of the ten commandments. Indeed, the sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear." Hebrews 12:21 While these laws were "etched in granite" by the finger of God, the entire mountain of Sinai burned like a furnace and "quaked greatly". Of these laws, Christ said, "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:18-19
When will all be fulfilled? The moral law was written in stone, but the Lord has a more permanent way. This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts and will write them on their minds. Hebrews 10:16. All is fulfilled when God finishes the work He has started in us and we live this way as the natural impulse of our being.
2. Bible Health Laws
Have human physical requirements regarding natural health laws changed since Noah's time or any other time? At creation, our names are written into The Book of Life. Let us keep our name there. Although we are wonderfully made, we are dust and shall return to dust. What is our statement during the interval?
3. Civil Laws
Civil laws are a necessary part of life. At best, these laws are established based on the needs and agreement of a society.
4. Ceremonial Laws
These laws were foreshadows portending the arrival of Christ and beyond culminating in the restoration of planet Earth. Observance of these laws offered edifying insight to the plan of salvation. They were the lesser light to rule the night until they were replaced by the greater light to rule the day. These ordinances were in complete harmony with New Testament teachings. Although we do not observe these laws today, we study them to learn prophetic truths.
Twelve tribes left Egypt with Moses in the exodus. Each tribe descended from one of the twelve sons of Jacob. During this time, God's people followed laws of primogeniture which means the first-born son of a family was blessed with additional rights and obligations. One of the birth rights of the first-born was to act as priest to his family. However, this was changed and the duties of the priesthood were given to the tribe of Levi. Besides instructions for the priesthood, the directions given in Leviticus and Deuteronomy (the Levitical law) pertain to health and the general good order of a society.
During the wilderness sojourn, a Midean seer named Baalam was dispatched by a local
king to curse God's people. You may remember him as the man who, in his zeal to please the king, severely abused the seemingly uncooperative animal he was riding. While overlooking the encampment of God's people, Baalam could not withstand but to bless them instead. He was deeply impressed with the social order he witnessed. His impressions were marked in his oracles and in scripture as follows:
How beautiful are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy dwelling place, O Israel Numbers 24:5
Interestingly, it was Baalam's reference to a star rising out of Jacob that caught the attention of the wise men who followed the nativity star 1400 years later.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11
The phrase "cleanliness is next to godliness" is not a bible verse, but it accurately captures the essence of the Levitical laws regarding health and meat consumption. Again, when we have done all we can to adhere to the principles of bible health and ask God's blessing, we can be fully confident that the food we eat is beneficial to our lives.
So obey the commands, laws, and rules I'm giving you today. If you listen to these rules and faithfully obey them, the LORD your God will keep his promise to you and be merciful to you, as he swore to your ancestors. Deuteronomy 7:12
The LORD will keep you from having any kind of illness. He will not strike you with any of the terrible diseases you experienced in Egypt, but will lay them upon all them that hate you. Deuteronomy 7:15