Everybody should be healthy. God intended that His own people should not only know the truth but live radiant healthy lives.
The Eternal chose the Israelites to know the truth and to be an example of a healthy nation. Only then could they perform the great work of helping carry out the Creator’s wonderful plan. But they rebelled and have ever since refused to perform what God called them to do.
God long ago revealed His laws to them laws which all the nations had long before forgotten. These laws included rules having to do especially with good health. They had been told that they should be a clean people, and this meant that their food should be clean. So now we come to a surprising part of the Bible which very few really understand.
Food that is clean doesn’t always mean food that had been washed well and is free from every kind of dirt. Food can be clean in that respect, but at the same time be quite unfit to eat. God made animals, birds and fish to be divided into two classes those good for human food, and those unfit for human food. These foods are distinguished as “clean” and “unclean.”
The clean and unclean had been known even before the flood in the distant past. Noah knew about them. He knew what to do when he was told to take seven pairs of clean animals and birds into the ark along with a pair of each unclean animal and bird (Gen. 7:2-3). The complete knowledge of such things had been lost in the centuries during which the Israelites had mingled with the heathen Egyptians who had no interest in obeying God.
The same thing was true of the Ten Commandments. Adam knew what they were. So did Noah, Abraham and many others. Finally, at Mt. Sinai, they were brought to the Israelites so that they could again know what God’s will was. To them went the responsibility of preserving the laws and keeping them free and clean of pagan beliefs, rules and traditions that have always been used to distort or replace God’s laws. They can be forgotten in men’s minds, but they can never actually be done away.
Starting with animals, God gave a simple rule by which the clean could be known from the unclean.
“You may eat any animal,” the Creator told Moses and Aaron, “that has a parted hoof and chews the cud” (Lev. 11:3-4; Deut. 14:6-8).
Probably you have often seen cows lying in a pasture and making slow chewing motions with their jaws. You know they’re not chewing gum. Yet they keep chewing on and on without taking a bite of anything. Cattle, as well as several other kinds of animals, eat their food without taking time to chew it enough. Later they can bring up bits of this hastily swallowed food from their stomachs and chew it long after they have eaten. These bits of food brought up for chewing are called cuds.
The Bible also gives examples of unclean animals animals not fit for food. The first mentioned is the camel. It chews the cud, but its hoofs aren’t divided. Therefore God says it is not fit to eat. The hoof of the camel is indented slightly in the front and has a groove on its top, but it is not divided. Its bottom is entirely covered by a round, soft pad. You see, God created animals fit for human food with characteristics different from those which are unfit for food.
Another example of an unclean animal is the rabbit. It has paws with toes instead of a split hoof. Neither are horses fit to eat nor are cats and dogs, although some poor savages who don’t’ know any better sometimes eat them. Also raccoons, squirrels and opossums are not fit for food.
Still another example of an animal unfit for food is the swine, which we usually refer to as the hog or pig. “A pig has divided hoofs, but doesn’t chew a cud.
“You shall not eat swine or any other animal that does not part the hoof and chew the cud, God warned (Lev. 11:7-8; Deut. 14:8).
Our Creator never does anything without a good reason. God has a mind far, far superior to that of the most intelligent human being. Man’s puny mind is unable to understand all the reasons for God’s actions and decisions. Nevertheless, man has always sought to figure out why God tells us to do certain things. Unless man can uncover reasons which seem fair to him, he can’t always see too much cause for obeying.
God expects us to obey regardless of how much or how little we understand. Only then do we receive His full blessings. However, there have been millions of people who have reasoned that horse or pork or rabbit is just as good for human food as is beef or mutton or deer, regardless of what God has to say about these things.
An easily discovered reason why some animals shouldn’t be eaten is that their digestive systems don’t carry off enough poisons. A hog digests its food in about three and a half hours. It requires 24 hours for a cow to do the same thing, during which time its food goes through two digestive processes. Thus impurities are screened out that would otherwise go into its flesh and its milk.
But the main reason why any animal is unclean it that it was not made to be eaten in the first place. Its meat was not made in such a way that it is good for human beings. God made some animals for food, some for beauty, some for work, and some for eating up waste products that would otherwise contaminate the earth. One thing to remember is that, if man could naturally prove that these animals were not fit for food, God would not have needed to tell us about them in the Bible. God had to put these laws in the Bible so that we could know certain creatures are harmful.
God also gave a simple way of knowing what water creatures were to be used as food. To be clean, they must have two features fins and overlapping scales (Lev. 11:9-12; Deut. 14:9-10).
All live things inhabiting the waters are unclean and unfit for human food if they don’t have fins and overlapping scales which can easily be scraped off. That includes a wide variety of creatures ordinarily considered as great delicacies. Crab meat, for example, is acclaimed around the world as a succulent delight. However, it is nothing more than the unclean flesh of huge sea spiders that feed mainly on decaying carcasses and other sea life.
Other unclean denizens of the water include the frog, turtle, abalone, scallop, shrimp, shark, whale, eel, squid, and various varieties of catfish, sturgeon, lobster, octopus, clam and oyster. Most of these are thought of as wholesome and nutritious food by millions of people, including most of those of our own Israelite nations. Whale oil is also used in foods by many who do not know it is unfit for food. All other common fish on the market are clean.
Since Adam, the human body has greatly degenerated has become weak and sickly. Probably we would be greatly surprised if we could become aware of just how much of that degeneration has been due especially to our eating unclean creatures of the sea.
The Bible doesn’t directly give a rule by which clean birds can be recognized. It simply lists all different kinds of those that are unclean. Outside of mentioning the quail, the dove and the pigeon, God doesn’t specially name the clean ones (Lev. 11:13-19; Deut. 14:11-18).
It is easy to learn which fowl are clean simply by noticing the characteristics of birds which are named as clean or unclean.
Studies of fowl have revealed some striking differences between the two kinds. Clean fowl have six unusual characteristics. One or more of these characteristics are lacking in unclean birds. For one thing, a clean bird has a craw or crop and, second, a gizzard with a double lining which can easily be separated. Two such digestive organs are doubly helpful in changing its food into meat that is good for humans. They also insure against poisonous waste matter going into its flesh.
Third, a clean bird does not prey upon nor eat other birds. Fourth, it does not devour food while flying. Fifth, its hind toe and middle front toe are both long. Sixth, when it stands on a perch, it spreads its toes so that three front ones are on one side of the perch and the hind toes on the opposite side. All unclean birds lack at least one of these characteristics. Clean birds have all these characteristics
Clean fowl include the chicken, pheasant, peafowl, ptarmigan, guinea fowl, prairie chicken, pigeon, dove, partridge, grouse, quail, turkey, duck, goose, all song birds and the teal and swan. (The swan is named in the King James Version as being unclean, but this is a mistranslation. The water hen should be mentioned instead.)
Unclean birds include the eagle, vulture, kite, buzzard, osprey, raven, crow, magpie, ostrich, owl, hawk, cormorant, sea gull, water hen, sandpiper, plover, pelican, stork, coot, heron, bittern, crane, grebe, rail, roadrunner, woodpecker, penguin, parrot, albatross and bat.
God also named other creatures that are to be regarded as unclean and detestable (Lev. 11:20-23). They are the weasel, mouse, lizard, snail, mole, snake and worm. Such were to be considered so detestable that anything their dead bodies touched, such as food or dishes , was to be regarded as unfit for use until thoroughly washed (Lev. 11:24-43).
“Do not defile yourself with these unclean creatures,” God warned. “Keep yourselves clean and sacred, so that you will be more acceptable to your holy God” (Lev. 11:44-47).
Regardless of what God said, millions of people, who claim to be faithful, obedient Christians, feel that if the vitamin content is high in anything, then it must be good to eat and a boon to their health. They often argue that the laws of clean and unclean creatures, which were definitely made for all time and all people, were merely “old Jewish laws,” that were “nailed to the cross” by Christ at His death. These people want to live like the heathen used to live even though the Bible condemns such practices.
To justify their eating unclean foods, many of these people turn to the fourth chapter of I Timothy, and point with triumph to the fourth and fifth verses, wherein Paul said:
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
This statement, taken out of its context, would ordinarily lead to one of two startling conclusions: Either Paul didn’t know what he was talking about, or God has changed His laws and is pleased to allow us, after all, to eat anything we please. If this second conclusion is true, one should never hesitate to devour a meal of filthiest creatures one can imagine just so one asks God’s blessing on it!
Of course this is absurd. Paul did know what he was talking about, and God is till displeased any time we consume unclean creatures. God never changes (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8). Neither do His laws that are for our own good (Matt. 5:17-18).
To understand I Timothy 4:4-5, one must read from the beginning of chapter four of I Timothy. Paul was referring to religious extremists, including vegetarians who fall away from the truth (or never quite get to it) and foster wrong ideas such as not marrying and not eating certain foods God specifically created for them to eat. Thus the word everything in the fourth verse is referring to every creature which is “consecrated by the word of God” and only the clean creatures were ever consecrated or approved as fit for human food!
One of the oldest tricks used to deceive people is that of picking certain words, phrases and sentences out of the Bible and adding them together to “prove” something that isn’t true, just as some read the two verses above that seemed by themselves to say that anything is good for human food. The truth can most always be readily found, however, by comparing scripture with scripture and carefully reading whole chapters to find the exact meanings of those certain words, phrases and sentences.
Another example of misunderstanding is in the tenth chapter of Acts, verses 9-16. If you will read that part of the chapter, and nothing else, one might receive the impression that Peter was told that unclean creatures had been cleansed by God, and that he, Peter, should eat them. These verses, plucked out of context, are constantly used by church leaders who refuse to give up lusting after unclean foods. Yet verse 17 shows that Peter knew God did not mean for him to eat unclean meat. Peter noticed that no animal’s nature had been changed, they were still unclean! So he began to wonder what the vision did mean! He did not jump to a hasty conclusion.
If you read the entire tenth chapter of Acts to get the whole story, you will discover the true meaning of the verses mentioned above. Verses 28-29 get to the heart of the matter, and you will find that Peter’s vision was simply to show him how he should regard no man as common or unclean who seeks to live rightly regardless of nationality.
No matter what man thinks, says or does about clean and unclean creatures, the fact still remains that the difference is still there. The nature of unclean animals has not changed. They are the same today as they were before the flood, in Moses’ day and in Peter’s time. Those who obey the Creator in these things receive very definite blessings.
Be watching for the next installment of the Story of the Bible.