Introduction: The Three Purposes Behind the Dietary Laws. In the Old Testament, God prohibited the Jews from eating certain kinds of foods. These laws had three purposes. First, they taught the Jews to be set apart from the pagan nations. By limiting the Jews to a special diet, they ate together and stayed separated from those who sacrificed animals to pagan gods. Second, the laws taught the Jews to be obedient. If the Jews learned to master control over what they ate, they would be more likely to develop self-control on more difficult matters. Third, the laws were meant to protect the Jews from diseases that they could neither see nor understand. God’s list of unclean animals predated even the Flood (Gen. 7:1-5). The growth of microorganisms was not fully understood until Louis Pasteur’s discovery of the fermentation process in 1859. By telling the people to avoid handling dead animals, ocean muscles (which feed off raw sewage), or birds that feed off of dead carcasses, God was protecting the Jews from microorganisms that the Jews did not know existed. During the great plagues (circa 1347-1352 A.D.), the Jews fared better than anyone else in avoiding death. The laws regarding kosher slaughter are so sanitary that kosher butchers and slaughterhouses have been exempted from many USDA regulations. Many of the unclean animals also frequently contain diseases that can kill people or make them sick. Examples include “Trichinosis” for pork and a host of diseases related to shellfish poisoning. Yet, not every prohibited food was bad for a believer’s health. For example, rabbits are ceremonially unclean (Lev. 11:6). Yet, rabbit meat is not unhealthy. Thus, even where there was no known health benefit, the Jews were expected to follow these laws out of obedience. Separation and obedience were the primary purposes behind these laws.
Jesus’ Blood Also Cleansed the Unclean Animals. In Jesus’ day, He lamented that some people were “straining at gnats, but swallowing a camel.” (Matt. 23:34). They went to great efforts to avoid accidentally ingesting an unclean bug while swallowing an even bigger unclean animal (Dt. 14:19-20; Lev. 11:20-25, 28-31, 41-44). In doing so, they lost sight of the forest through the trees and ignored the weightier matters of the Law, like justice, compassion, and mercy (Matt. 23:23). God wanted the Jews to be separated from the unclean. But separation was not good if it caused the people to be uncaring toward others. Thus, the Jews had frustrated the purposes behind God’s Law. The Jews further expanded two chapters of dietary restrictions in the Torah into an entire body of Jewish law called the “Kashrut” for what foods and food ingredients can be eaten and how those foods must be prepared. Food that may be consumed according to Jewish law “halakha” is called “Kosher.” Kosher is the English word for the Hebrew word kashér, which means “fit.” Food that is not fit for consumption is called “treif.”
Jesus said that “nothing outside of a man by going into him can defile him.” (Mark 7:14b-15a). Instead, it is “what comes out of a man is what defies him.” (Mk. 7:20). After Jesus’ death, God told Peter that He had made the animals clean (Acts 10:10-15). Paul later wrote that no one should judge you about what you eat or drink (Col. 2:16). Thus, “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17). Therefore, “whatever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience.” (1 Cor. 10:25-28; Rom. 14:14, 20). The only exception is if your food causes another to stumble. (Ro. 14:15).
Jesus’ death washed clean all but three things: (1) “food polluted by idols;” or “strangled” in idolatrous rituals, (2) “blood”, and (3) “sexual immorality” (Acts 15:20). Based upon these verses, many believers see little reason to study the God’s dietary laws. Yet, the New Testament says that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Tim. 3:16). If the dietary laws no longer serve any purpose, how are they “profitable for teaching?” How are they “profitable . . . for training up in righteousness?” Moreover, if these laws were moot, why would Jesus warn us against teaching that they are annulled? “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19).
Three Reasons Why God’s Original Dietary Laws Remain Relevant to Christians. Today, there are at least three reasons why God’s dietary laws remain relevant to believers. First, Jesus came to fulfill and not destroy the Law (Matt. 5:17). Everything that the Jews sacrificed or gave up in Old Testament foreshadowed something about Jesus (Heb. 8:4-5; Col. 2:16-17). Thus, by studying the details regarding the clean and unclean animals, you can learn things about how to further your walk with God. Second, Jesus only fulfilled the need for physical sacrifices (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; Heb. 10:12-14). You can still look to the sacrifices of the Old Testament to learn how to make “spiritual sacrifices” to honor God (2 Pet. 2:5). If you study the characteristics of the clean and unclean animals, you can learn about spiritual things in your life that you should either embrace or avoid. Third, because Jesus identified Himself as the Word that you consume when you read the Bible (Matt. 4:4; John 1:1, 14), you can look to the dietary laws to learn more about how you can consume the Word of God and the kinds of human writings you should avoid.
Seven Hidden Meanings in the Dietary Laws. The dietary laws are found in both Leviticus Chapter 11 and Deuteronomy Chapter 14. They are repeated to confirm them as true (2 Cor. 13:1). Comparing the two texts together reveals seven hidden truths for consuming the Word of God and avoiding the unclean things of the World. First, the animals are a symbol of God’s provision. Give thanks when you eat because God has provided for all your earthly needs. Yet, to fulfill your spiritual needs, you must also consume the Word of God. Second, the kinds of land animals that were permitted (animals that chew the cud with split hooves) reveal that you must chew or meditate and pray on God’s Word to stay on the straight and narrow path. Third, the kinds of sea creatures that were permitted (fishes with fins and scales) reveal that you must constantly persevere in your walk with Him and you must swim with the schools of other believers to enjoy His full protection. Fourth, the kinds of birds that were permitted (birds that do not prey on others or scavengers of the dead) reveal that you must lead a life of peace where you love instead of preying upon others. Fifth, the limited kinds of permitted insects (winged insects that could hop) reveal that you are to search out with discipline the narrow path of the Spirit to hop with joy in your walk. Sixth the final commandments in Leviticus and the first four verses of Deuteronomy reveal that you must be pure and set apart from all that is unholy. Finally, the tithing requirements in Deuteronomy reveal that you must act upon the Word give back to others with both compassion and charity.
The provision of animals for humans. God gave Adam and Eve “dominion” as stewards over the animals (Gen 1:28). Humans were initially herbivores (Gen. 1:29-30). Yet, after the Flood, God permitted humans to eat: “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.” (Gen. 9:3-4). In the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, God then drew a further distinction between the animals that were clean and unclean (Lev. 11; Dt. 14). God gave the animals to show that He would provide for our needs. While in the wilderness, God provided both manna and quail after they grumbled about their food (Ex. 16:1-8; Nu. 11:4-6, 32-33). He also transformed the waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:22-27). Near the end of their journey, He also caused the waters to gush out of a rock at Meribah (Nu. 20:10-11; Ps. 81:16; 106:41; Isa. 48:21). Jesus tells us not to worry about our provision (Matt. 6:34). To have your physical needs met, Jesus advises that you must first “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). If you are lacking in anything, are you seeking first after God’s will?
Be thankful for your provision. Because God gave the animals to provide for you, you must always be grateful for your provision: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;” (1 Tim. 4:4). Have you given thanks for what God has provided for you? Or, are you complaining about what you don’t have?
Mankind cannot live on bread alone, but on every Word of God. God provided animals, plants, and water to meet your physical needs. Yet, Jesus reveals that physical food is not enough to meet your spiritual needs: “Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4). When the Jews wandered in the wilderness, He fed them with “manna” from heaven (Ex. 16:35). Jesus was further the manna that sustained them (Jo. 6:31-35). He was also the Word that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14). The Word of God is your “hidden manna” (Rev. 2:17). You are what you eat. When you read the Word, you are eating His body to stay in communion with Him (Matt. 26:26). How do you consume the Word of God to find spiritual fulfillment? Each animal contains traits that symbolize things that you must embrace or avoid.
God’s prohibition on eating animals which did not chew the cud and were without split hooves. To keep themselves holy and set apart, the Jews could not eat certain kinds of animals. Amongst land animals, they could only eat animals that were ruminants, animals that chewed the cud, with split hooves: “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth. 3 Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. 4 Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you. 5 Likewise, the shaphan, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; 6 the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; 7 and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you.” (Lev. 11:2-8). “26 Concerning all the animals which divide the hoof but do not make a split hoof, or which do not chew cud, they are unclean to you: whoever touches them becomes unclean. 27 Also whatever walks on its paws, among all the creatures that walk on all fours, are unclean to you; whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening,” (Lev. 11:26-27). These rules are repeated in the book of Deuteronomy to confirm them as true (Dt. 14:3-8). Today, the land animals considered kosher include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and bison.
Prayer. To find the hidden meaning for believers today, you must look for the symbolism behind the clean animals that “chew the cud.” (Lev. 11:4). These animals spend a long time chewing their food and then store it in their stomach(es). Believers are also supposed to meditate upon on the Word (Ps. 119:148). This includes time in prayer: “pray without ceasing;” (1 Thes. 5:17). Do you spend time “chewing” or meditating on the Word? Are you memorizing verses? Are you in constant prayer?
Guidance. God’s people were to only eat animals with “split hooves.” (Lev. 11:4). A solid hoof is the same on all sides, implying that the animal’s choice of direction is the same everywhere. A split hoof, however, is pointed forward, symbolizing that there is only one path. An unclean animal that does have a split hoof, like the pig or the rabbit, does not pursue the straight and narrow path. The road and the gate that lead to salvation are narrow (Matt. 7:13-13). Believers need a split hoof to ensure that they stay on the narrow path. Believers have the Word to give them a lighted path for their feet (Ps. 119:105). The Holy Spirit will help you to understand it and apply it to your life (Jo. 14:26). Are you reading the Word to stay on the right path? Are you also praying for wisdom? (Jam. 1:5).
God’s prohibition on eating fish without fins and scales. God’s people were to only eat fish with “fins” and “scales” “9 These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. 10 But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, 11 and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest. 12 Whatever in the water does not have fins and scales is abhorrent to you. (Lev. 11:9-12). “These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, 10 but anything that does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.” (Dt. 14:9). Thus, shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams, and crabs are all forbidden. Fish like tuna, carp, salmon, and herring are all permitted.
Persevere in your walk. Aside from times of rest, a fish with fins is almost always in motion. If you are not constantly moving through the Scriptures you become stagnant in your walk like a fish without fins. Your faith and the Word should cause you to run the race and preserver in all challenges: “Therefore, . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith . . .” (Heb. 12:1-2). “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14). “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Tim. 4:7). The kind of perseverance is spiritual and not physical: “for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8). How do you stay in constant spiritual motion like the fish that God considered clean? You need to be like the Berean Jews who “examined the Scriptures every day.” (Acts 17:11). You are also encouraged to be in constant motion sharing the Word: “How Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things.” (Rom. 10:15). Are you persevering for Christ? Are you searching the Scriptures daily? Or, are you a bottom feeder waiting for the Word to fall into your lap?
Don’t swim outside the protection of the school of other fish. Many fish with scales swim in schools to stay protected from predators. You are also encouraged to find protection with other believers: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25). Jesus calls His believers “sheep.” (Jo. 10:4, 27). Like most fish with scales, sheep have no natural protection on their own. They must stay together to find protection from predators. Satan is a predator looking to pray upon those sheep that stray from the herd (1 Pet. 5:8). Jesus is the “Good Shepherd’ who protects us with His rod (Jo. 10:14). Are you in small group of believers where you are accountable for your actions? Or, do you drift in and out of church on your own when you feel like it like a fish without fins drifting in the ocean?
Let God be your “scales” and let His light reflect off you. In addition to needing fins, edible fish also needed “scales” (Lev. 11:9; Dt. 14:9). Many do not have their own sources of protection. Like the fish with “scales”, you also need God’s protection in a sea of evil around you. In the Bible, the sea symbolizes “the wicked people.” (Is. 57:20-21). Possibly for this reason, there is no sea in heaven (Rev. 21:1). Scales also appeared on armor and are a symbol of protection. If you take refuge in God, He also promises to protect you from your enemies (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17; Ps. 9:3; 56:9; 118:6; Ro. 8:31). As part of your spiritual armor (Eph. 6:11), He promises to be your shield if you take refuge in Him (Prov. 2:7; 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). Like the light that reflects off a fish’s scales, God’s light should also reflect off you (Matt. 5:14-16). Are you taking refuge in God for protection? (Ps. 94:22). Or, are you trying to handle all your problems on your own through your own strength? Does God’s light shine like scales in your life?
God’s prohibition on eating birds of prey and scavengers. The list of excluded birds included both birds of prey and birds that feed upon dead animals: “13 ‘These, moreover, you shall detest among the birds; they are abhorrent, not to be eaten: the ]eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 14 and the kite and the falcon in its kind, 15 every raven in its kind, 16 and the ostrich and the owl and the sea gull and the hawk in its kind, 17 and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, 18 and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture, 19 and the stork, the heron in its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat.” (Lev. 11:13-19). “You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these are the ones which you shall not eat: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 13 and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds, 14 and every raven in its kind, 15 and the ostrich, the owl, the sea gull, and the hawk in their kinds, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the pelican, the carrion vulture, the cormorant, 18 the stork, and the heron in their kinds, and the hoopoe and the bat.” (Dt. 14:11-18). 20 You may eat any clean bird.” (Dt. 14:20). The permitted birds include doves, quail, chicken, geese, ducks, and turkeys.
Peace. The birds which could be eaten did not feed on other birds or animals. Nor did they feast off the dead. They were not in conflict with other birds. Unlike a falcon or a flying eagle, a flying dove or quail did not cause fear within other birds. The “clean” birds symbolized life and peace. The dove provided the olive branch to Noah as a sign of life and peace (Gen. 8:11). The Holy Spirit also descended upon Jesus in the symbol of a dove, another sign of life and peace (Lk. 3:22). Jesus warns that we will experience tribulation in the world, which is filled with demons of prey (Jo. 16:33). But if you consume Jesus’ Word, He promises the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 1:3; 5:22). Jesus’ “perfect love casts out fear. . . ” (1 Jo. 4:18). Like the clean birds, you in turn are commanded to be at peace with one another (Rom. 12:18; 1 Thess. 5:13; 2 Cor. 13:11). Are you causing fear and conflict amongst your brothers and sisters, like an eagle hovering above a nest? Or, are you one who brings peace to others like a dove?
Consume the “Word” or the Satan, the bird of prey, will try to snatch the truth from you. The scavenger birds also feed off dead carcasses. By contrast, a believer feeds off the living Word of God: “For the word of God is living and active.” (Heb. 4:12). Those who fail to feed off the living Word are more likely to be snatched away by Satan. In Jesus’ parable of the sower, a “bird” symbolized Satan. Satan was the bird that snatched away the Word from the person who heard God’s Word but failed to understand it (Lk. 8:5, 12). If you don’t read the Word, you are more likely to fail to understand it. And if don’t read the Word, you won’t know when a false prophet misinterprets it (Eph. 4:14; Mk. 13-5-6). There are far more types of prohibited than permitted birds. Are you selectively eating only the Word that will give you peace? Or, are you only reading and watching the dead things of the world?
God’s prohibition on eating rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and all but four insects. God prohibited eating all things that crawled on their bellies. Amongst the entire animal kingdoms of reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and insects, God listed only four insects that could be eaten: “20 ‘All the winged insects that walk on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth. 22 These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds. 23 But all other winged insects which are four-footed are detestable to you.” (Lev. 11:20-23). “29 ‘Now these are to you the unclean among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds, 30 and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon. 31 These are to you the unclean among all the swarming things; whoever touches them when they are dead becomes unclean until evening.” (Lev. 11:29-31). “41 ‘Now every swarming thing that swarms on the earth is detestable, not to be eaten. 42 Whatever crawls on its belly, and whatever walks on all fours, whatever has many feet, in respect to every swarming thing that swarms on the earth, you shall not eat them, for they are detestable. 43 Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean.” (Lev. 11:41-44). “19 And all the teeming life with wings are unclean to you; they shall not be eaten.” (Dt. 14:19). Rodents, reptiles, and amphibians were all forbidden (Lev. 11:29-30, 42-43). Most insects were also prohibited. Many of these prohibitions protected the person’s health. Many colorful amphibians and insects were poisonous. Likewise, many kinds of rodents and some kinds of insects carried diseases. There were only four kinds of things insects that could be eaten. These included (1) locusts, (2) katydids, (4) crickets, and (5) grasshoppers (Lev. 11:22). Because locusts were Kosher, John the Baptist ate them while living in the wilderness (Matt. 3:4). Why these four insects? God does everything for a reason. To find that reason, we must look for a hidden meanings in the characteristics of these four insects.
Be diligent to search out the things of the Spirit to be filled with joy. Satan also represents the things which slither on the ground. They are everywhere. He was also punished for his sin by being turned into a snake that slithered on the ground (Gen. 3:14). If we focus on (i.e., eat) the things that slither on the earth, we are focused on the things of the flesh (Gal. 6:8; Rom. 7:5; 8:6). The four permitted insects all had wings with jointed legs. That means that they could all hop and fly. The grasshopper also cannot walk backwards. They are also voracious eaters. Although humans cannot fly, they can “leap” forward like a grasshopper (Jer. 7:24). If you are voraciously reading the Word to be focused on things of the Spirit, you “leap” with joy in your walk. Paul once commanded a person who had never walked to stand up. Yet, filled with the joy of the Spirit, he did more than that. He “he leaped up and began to walk (Acts 14:10). Likewise, “[w]hen Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. . . . For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” (Lk. 1:41, 44). David also writes, “in Your presence is fullness of joy;” (Ps. 16:11; 21:6). Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 14:17; 15:13). Not all believers obtain joy. Just as the permitted insect list was limited and narrow, the path of obedience and faith to find the joy of the Spirit is narrow. Do you leap for joy out of gratitude toward God? Are you voraciously reading the Word to find the things of the Spirit that will bring joy? (Gal. 6:8; 2 Cor. 3:6).
Be holy and set apart for God. Moses told the Jews to be holy and to draw a distinction between the clean and the unclean because God is holy: “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. 45 For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 46 This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.” (Lev. 11:44-7; 20:26). The requirement that believers by set apart and holy for God’s use is repeated in the New Testament (1 Pet. 1:16). Part of “pure and undefiled religion” is being “undefiled before God.” (Jam. 1:27). Being freed from most of the dietary laws does relieve you of the obligation to be set apart and holy. Are you set apart from the world? Can you name things that make your life different from a non-believer?
The prohibition on observing pagan rituals. In Old Testament times, there were many pagan rituals and dietary habits that they were to avoid to keep themselves set apart for God. This included a Canaanite practice that existed at the time where people cut themselves and shaved their heads to mourn for the dead: “You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Dt. 14:1-2). The prohibited practices included cutting either themselves or the “corners” of their heads or their beards in mourning “for the dead.” (Lev. 19:27-28; 21:4-5). Orthodox Jews interpret these verses for the proposition that a man was not to trim his beard in any location. But do these verses prohibit someone from shaving? No. Shaving of beards was permitted when it was not to honor the dead (Nu. 6:5; 2 Sam. 14:26; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16; Jer. 41:5). During Old Testament times, some gentiles tried to honor their gods and the dead by cutting themselves and the “corners” of their beard near the chin, below the ears and on top of their heads. Captured gentile woman also shaved their heads in mourning their dead (Dt. 20:13-14; 21:12-14). The followers of Baal also cut themselves as an act of worship (1 Kgs. 18:28). Today, none of these practices still exist. But there are still gods of our world that people cut themselves for. Today, the most prevalent god of today is – ourselves (Is. 47:8-10). To glorify themselves, people pierce their bodies and cut their hair in bizarre ways to draw attention to themselves. Are you doing things to glorify yourself?
The prohibition on boiling an animal in its mother’s milk. Three times, the Torah also advised “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (Dt. 14:21; Ex. 23:19; Ex. 34:26). Some Jews now interpret this to prohibit serving animals or birds with cheese. They could not even be served on the same plate. This is why a cheese burger is not considered Kosher by Jews today. Yet, this prohibition was arguably aimed at preventing the Jews from observing now forgotten Canaanite practices. Abraham, for example, once served a meal with meat and cheese (milk and curds) (Gen. 18:7-8). In addition to addressing a Canaanite idolatry, this rule showed that God was against animal cruelty. Other verses suggest that God also sought to prevent animal cruelty: “If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young;” (Dt. 22:6). Animal slaughter must always be humane. Neither cow meat nor cheese is unclean. Nor does placing a piece of cheese on top of a beef patty involve “boiling” a young animal in its mother’s milk. Thus, many Jews have misinterpreted these verses.
God’s prohibition on touching dead animals and rules for slaughtering animals. God’s laws also required that mammals and birds be slaughtered in accordance with His law: “You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the Lord your God.” (Dt. 14:21; Lev 11:24-25, 27, 31, 35, 39-40). These restrictions do not apply to fish; only to the flocks and herds (Nu. 11:22). In Hebrew, the proper ritual slaughter is called “shechitah.” The person who performs the slaughter is called a “shochet.” If you spend your time watching the things of the word, your mind will be focused on the flesh, which leads to death. By contrast, the mind focused on the Spirit leads to life (Matt. 6:22-23). Are you filling your eyes and mind with the dead and unholy things of the flesh?
A believer must also be broken for God. If a dead animal fell in a clay pot, the pot had to be broken because the pores were impossible to fully clean (Lev. 11:32). We are said to be made of clay (Job 33:6; Isa. 45:9). If you are filled with the dead things of the flesh, you must first be broken of those things to be filled with the Word of God (Matt. 10:39). Are you broken and humble before God? Is your clay hard and unable to be molded?
Wash in the Word to stay clean. If someone touches an unclean carcass, both the person and clothes must be washed (Lev. 11:32). What can you consume to “wash” you from your uncleanness when you consume the dead ideas of the world around you? (Eph. 5:26). A person who touches an unclean carcass (i.e., the flesh) was also unclean until evening. This was the end of the Jewish day (Lev. 11:24-25, 27, 31, 32, 39-40). If the unclean word leaves you at the end of the day, that suggests that God’s word also can leave you at the end of the day. Jesus asked for His “daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11). Are you reading the Word daily? Are you renewing your mind daily with God? (Ro. 12:2).
Be careful of the counterfeit word. If the carcass (the words or ideas of men) falls upon the word of God (the seed) it is not good for you to consume. This is true even if it was washed in water or the Word (Lev. 11:38). You must avoid being deceived by false doctrines. They can never be cleaned and incorporated into God’s Word.
God’s Word will never spoil. If the carcass touches a seed meant for sowing (i.e., planting in a seeker’s heart) (Lk. 8:11) it can still be planted (Lev. 11:37). The word of God is “sharper” or more convincing than the false ideas of men (Heb. 2:12). Thus, the Word planted in someone’s heart can sprout even after lying dormant for a long time. Have you given up hope on friends and family? Are you still sprinkling the Word?
The rule on Giving back a portion of God’s blessings. In Deuteronomy, the dietary laws conclude with rules requiring the tithing of produce or animals. God specified that there were many ways that a person could give back, even if their animals were too far to take to the Temple for sacrifice: “You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. 23 You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the Lord your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (Dt. 14:22-26). It might seem that these rules belong in a different chapter. Indeed, the chapter breaks were added by mankind and not God. Yet, the Jews understood this text to be related to the dietary laws. For this reason, produce that comes from Israel that has not been tithed was considered unclean. God says that you were created for “good works.” (Eph. 2:10). This includes compassion and charity for those who are less fortunate: “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17; Dt. 15:11; Matt. 5:42). God warns that when you fail to tithe you are profaning His name (Mal. 1:11-14). You are also “robbing” from Him (Mal. 3:8-10). Are tithing to help others?
Tithe to support the ministries of God’s Church The Jews also tithed to support the Levities who were in full time ministry (Dt. 14:27-29). You can tithe out of thanksgiving to support the ministries of the Church (Mal. 3:8). This includes giving the “first fruits” of your own life (Lev. 23:17). Are you supporting those who labor full time for the Church?