God draws distinctions between His people and the rest of the world. One of those distinctions is their diet.
I’m curious what Israel’s diet was like when they lived in Egypt. Did they eat some of these things God called unclean? Were they giving up anything with His restrictions? We know that in the wilderness they had sheep, goats, cows and mana available to them. During at least one point they also had quail.
Thinking back over these last two statements I’m wondering if they ate of their herds. They were crying out for meet is why they received the quail in the first place. Were they using their herds sparingly or only for sacrifices? Just a thought that popped into my head.
God started with the bigger animals. He concentrated on “whatever chews the cud AND parts the hoof.” He eliminated several animals because they didn’t do both. The camel, the pig, the rock badger, and the rabbit were out. I know some rabbits from my youth who would have been happy to NOT wind up as dinner. I’m wondering why the rabbit was even brought in here. He has paws, not hooves. He should have been with the group regarding paws. Maybe he is here because he is a herbivore where the animals mentioned with paws are carnivores. Where do deer and elk fall in this list? How about horses?
I’m curious why the people were allowed these animals. Was it because they could access them easier and their meat cooked better? Another question that popped into my head is how they would store the meat of one of the larger animals once it was killed. Also, who cared for the animal once it was dead? In the case of the sin sacrifice that had to be carried outside the camp and burned, was the priest who carried it unclean for the rest of the day? Did he have to do anything special to become clean again? Did they give this task to someone else? I doubt it.
So many of the excluded animals have been integrated into our diets. Pork is the biggest one that reappeared on the menu. Many sea animals have made this trip too. Oysters, lobsters, crabs, octopi just to name a few. With creeping things, I would be more than happy to abstain but our society seems bent on finding the most bizarre foods. Some of those include chocolate covered grasshoppers (which would be allowed) chocolate covered ants. I don’t care what you say they taste like, I WON’T try them! Another animal to make it into our diets today are snakes. These were the epitome of evil from the garden so I’m CERTAIN they were on the NO list in capital letters. Many animals with paws, beyond the rabbit, are also included in today’s diets in many countries. Dogs, bear, cougar and mountain lion are some that come to mind for me.
Why all the rules regarding food? What was God’s reasoning? Was it “Because I’m God and I said so.”? Did He know there were diseases that these animals carried that the ones He declared clean didn’t? Did it have to do with cooking techniques that rendered some toxic while others were safe?
All of these “clean” and “unclean” animals were fine to interact with when they were alive. It appears that their classification started at death. When the animal died and its body had to be dealt with, that was when it caused a problem. It was probably easy enough to abstain from eating from the “forbidden list” but someone had to deal with the bodies that showed up in camp. When the animal was alive shooing it away didn’t defile a person. But once dead no one wanted to touch it. Doing so had consequences. I’ve had to deal with dead mice a couple of times in the past few weeks. That made me feel dirty and I didn’t even touch them. I used a broom and dustpan. So were the Israelites able to use my method or did any contact “defile” them? At least it was a short term defilement for themselves. But there could be significant property loss depending on where the body dropped. Whatever was touched, if it couldn’t survive being immersed in water for a lengthy period, it had to be destroyed.
Even though we are no longer under the law, which involves these restrictions, some foods are not good for us to eat. Some people actually dare death to take them with their diet. Eating blow fish is an extreme example of this. Our traditional American diet skirts on the edge of this too. Sorry to say it but the way we eat in America is far from healthy and, yes, I’m an example of that diet. I’m working on changes but find it hard to give up some of my favorites. I wonder if Israel had to give up any “favorites” with God’s new laws.
The bottom line is that God knows end from beginning and everything in between. His laws were not arbitrary to Him. He had good reasons for everything He said and says, did and does. It may be that the only reason behind these “clean” and “unclean” distinctions was to separate His people out from the rest of the world. Or it could have been something else. Only He knows for certain. We will have to ask Him when we see Him face to face.
There also may be things that YOU feel He is calling you to abstain from that He doesn’t call others to. For you, abstain or indulge in what He is directing you to do. Doing otherwise is sin and THAT is what the whole point of abstaining or indulging is meant to steer us around.
Father God, thank You that these dietary restrictions are no longer required of Your children. The distinction between Jew and Gentile is no longer relevant or required. ALL who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior through His substitution work on the cross are part of YOUR family. But there is still such a thing as sin and I am to stay away from indulging in it; especially making a lifestyle of it. And just because I’m not bound by the law doesn’t mean that the principles You set down aren’t still better for me than my way of doing things. Lead me in establishing an eating pattern that is beneficial for my body for the long term. Can You please not put ice cream in the “unclean” list? I have a feeling my list is going to focus on portion size too. Please help me get this area of my life under permanent HEALTHY control.