In our study of Leviticus chapter eleven, we look at purity and the purpose of us living a holy life which is to be a community of witnesses for God.
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ADONAI said to Moshe and Aharon, "Tell the people of Isra'el, 'These are the living creatures which you may eat among all the land animals: any that has a separate hoof which is completely divided and chews the cud - these animals you may eat.
We see a change here as the Lord speaks both to Moshe and to Aharon where before it was just Moshe and this speaks of the fact that Aharon now held the office of high priest. We see that we are given two simple rules for judging what animals are permitted to eat and they must have a completely split hoof and they must chew the cud.
But you are not to eat those that only chew the cud or only have a separate hoof. For example, the camel, the coney and the hare are unclean for you, because they chew the cud but don't have a separate hoof; while the pig is unclean for you, because, although it has a separate and completely divided hoof, it doesn't chew the cud. You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
Now, we are given examples of animals that are not to be eaten and the reasons for their exclusion. The carcass of these animals was not to be even touched and we see the reason for this is that the animals bring about uncleanness and we are reminded that uncleanness excluded a person from worship and it was through worship that we receive the blessings of God.
"'Of all the things that live in the water, you may eat these: anything in the water that has fins and scales, whether in seas or in rivers - these you may eat. But everything in the seas and rivers without both fins and scales, of all the small water-creatures and of all the living creatures in the water, is a detestable thing for you. Yes, these will be detestable for you - you are not to eat their meat, and you are to detest their carcasses. Whatever lacks fins and scales in the water is a detestable thing for you.
Now we see two simple rules for determining whether we should eat something that lives in the water. We see that three times we are told that anything that lives in the water but does not have both fins and scales are detestable to us and the number three refers to the display of God's will for man.
"'The following creatures of the air are to be detestable for you - they are not to be eaten, they are a detestable thing: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, the kite, the various kinds of buzzards, the various kinds of ravens, the ostrich, the screech-owl, the seagull, the various kinds of hawks, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the horned owl, the pelican, the barn owl, the stork, the various kinds of herons, the hoopoe and the bat.
In this passage we are given a list of birds that are considered detestable and we do not know what kind of bird many of the words in the Hebrew text are talking about but we see a pattern. The pattern is that the birds that we are sure of are all scavengers meaning they eat blood from other animals. As we have previously seen, all blood represents life and belongs to God and anyone that eats blood was to be cut off from the congregation of witnesses.
"'All winged swarming creatures that go on all fours are a detestable thing for you; except that of all winged swarming creatures that go on all fours, you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, enabling them to jump off the ground. Specifically, of these you may eat the various kinds of locusts, grasshoppers, katydids and crickets. But other than that, all winged swarming creatures having four feet are a detestable thing for you.
Now, we look at insects for food and most are forbidden but we are given exceptions that can be eaten but again we do not know what insects some of the Hebrew words are talking about.
"'The following will make you unclean; whoever touches the carcass of them will be unclean until evening, and whoever picks up any part of their carcass is to wash his clothes and be unclean until evening: every animal that has a separate but incompletely divided hoof or that doesn't chew the cud is unclean for you; anyone who touches them will become unclean. Whatever goes on its paws, among all animals that go on all fours, is unclean for you; whoever touches its carcass will be unclean until evening; and whoever picks up its carcass is to wash his clothes and be unclean until evening - these are unclean for you.
We have some clarification about the animals and we see that even touching the carcass of the animals that do not have a completely split hoof or that do not chew the cud would make the people unclean until evening and they had to wash their clothes. We also see that any other dead body of a four legged land creature should not be touched.
"'The following are unclean for you among the small creatures that swarm on the ground: the weasel, the mouse, the various kinds of lizards, the gecko, the land crocodile, the skink, the sand-lizard and the chameleon. They are unclean crawling creatures; whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean until evening.
Here, we have a list of small land animals but most of them we do not know what they are based on the Hebrew words and we are not to touch their carcasses.
Anything on which one of them falls when dead will become unclean - wooden utensil, article of clothing, leather, sacking - any utensil used for work; it must be put in water, and it will be unclean until evening; then it will be clean. If one of them falls into a clay pot, whatever is in it will become unclean, and you are to break the pot. Any food permitted to be eaten that water from such a vessel gets on will become unclean, and any permitted liquid in such a vessel will become unclean. Everything on which any carcass-part of theirs falls will become unclean, whether oven or stove; it is to be broken in pieces - they are unclean and will be unclean for you; although a spring or cistern for collecting water remains clean. But anyone who touches one of their carcasses will become unclean.
In this passage we see that the carcass from these small land animals makes the things that it touches unclean and some things can be cleaned while others must be destroyed.
If any carcass-part of theirs falls on any kind of seed to be sown, it is clean; but if water is put on the seed and a carcass-part of theirs falls on it, it is unclean for you.
If the carcass of these small land animals comes into contact with a dry seed, the seed remains clean because it has a covering on the outside but if the seed is in water it becomes unclean because the water can penetrate the covering.
"'If an animal of a kind that you are permitted to eat dies, whoever touches its carcass will be unclean until evening. A person who eats meat from its carcass or carries its carcass is to wash his clothes; he will be unclean until evening.
Here, we see that we are not to touch the carcass of even a clean animal that has died or it makes the person unclean until evening. This is speaking of the fact that these animals have died but were not properly slaughtered for food.
"'Any creature that swarms on the ground is a detestable thing; it is not to be eaten - whatever moves on its stomach, goes on all fours, or has many legs - all creatures that swarm on the ground; you are not to eat them, because they are a detestable thing. You are not to make yourselves detestable with any of these swarming, crawling creatures; do not make yourselves unclean with them, do not defile yourselves with them. For I am ADONAI your God; therefore, consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy; and do not defile yourselves with any kind of swarming creature that moves along the ground.
We see that the reason that we are not to eat these animals is that we are called to be holy which speaks of our obedience in embracing the purposes of God.
For I am ADONAI, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy. "'Such, then, is the law concerning animals, flying creatures, all living creatures that move about in the water, and all creatures that swarm on the ground. Its purpose is to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.'"
Finally, we are reminded of our redemption and we see that, because we have been redeemed, we do not want to be like the world. Our goal is to live a holy life because God is holy and we are His community of witnesses.