The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 11-12

* The Scripture reading prior to today’s devotional was Leviticus 10-11. I limited the focus of the previous devotional to Leviticus 10. This devotional commentary will cover Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 12.

Distinction Between Clean and Unclean Meats (Leviticus 11)

Leviticus 11 delineates for us the distinction between the meats the LORD deemed clean and unclean for His people to consume. God instructed Moses and Aaron regarding the beasts the children of Israel could eat, and those they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11).

Israel was to be distinct from the other nations. While the heathen would eat all manner of flesh, the children of Israel were to limit their diet to what the LORD deemed clean: Large beasts that were “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3) included ox (i.e. beef), sheep, goat, and deer (Deuteronomy 14:4,5).

There were beasts the LORD classified as unclean, that did not “chew the cud,” and others did not “divide the hoof (11:4-8). Examples of beasts that were forbidden, included the camel (11:4), “the coney” (believed to be a rock badger, 11:5), “the hare” (similar to the rabbit, 11:6) and “the swine (pig or boar), though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were permitted (11:9); however, any creature of the water that lacked fish and scales were considered “an abomination” and not allowed (11:11-12).

The Hebrew word, “fowl” (11:13, 20) describes anything that is winged and flies. We notice there were numerous predatory fowl, and scavengers of carrion (vultures), that were labeled unclean, and forbidden for consumption (11:13-19). Leviticus 11:20 describes “fowls that creep, going upon all four,” believe to be a reference to winged insects (flies, wasps, and bees).

Some swarming winged insects were permitted in the Hebrew diet, and they are described as “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (11:21). These insects have jointed legs, and their larger hind legs allow them to leap. Among those that may be eaten were locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (11:22-24).

All beasts, clean or unclean, that died as the course of nature, or by violence, were not to be eaten (11:24-25). Horses, asses, dogs, and all other beasts with paws (lions, tigers) were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. In fact, touching them would make one ceremonially unclean (11:26-28).

Other animals labeled as “creeping things that creep upon the earth,” and were forbidden for human consumption: “the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole” (11:29-30).

Kitchen vessels (pots, and pans) that came in contact with unclean animals were declared unclean (11:32-36). Vessels of wood, raiment, or skin that came in contact with unclean animals were to be cleaned in water, and not used until even (11:32). Vessels of clay that came in contact with unclean beasts, were to be broken and discarded (11:35). Snakes that slithered on their belly were unclean (11:41-43).

Why such attention to dietary restrictions?

There are several reasons that could be cited for the LORD’S declaration, and distinction between clean and unclean beasts. Long before man could peer through microscopes, and see the prevalence of dangerous bacterium in meats, the Creator knew those meats that are harmful to man. To prevent the consumption of meats that would cause illness, disease, and death, the LORD declared them unclean.

The LORD, who is Himself holy, commanded His people: “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45).

Leviticus 12 – The Purification of Women

Leviticus 12 moves the focus from unclean beasts, to unclean persons, and instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

A woman who had given birth was considered ceremonially unclean, and was to be separated from the sanctuary until her days of purification had past (12:1-2). A woman who had given birth to a son, was deemed ceremonially “unclean” for seven days, during which time she and her son would be separated from the family (12:2c). On the eight day, she would take her son to the priest to be circumcised (12:3). Her days of purification were numbered thirty-three days, during which time she would remain at home (12:4).

A woman who gave birth to a daughter (12:5), was separated from her family, and considered unclean for two weeks. She would remain at home for sixty-six days for her purification.

When a mother’s days of purification, and isolation were fulfilled, she would come to the sanctuary, and depending upon her means, bring either “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (12:6).

The sin offering was a confession of her unworthiness, the burnt offering her sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s mercies in bringing her through the pangs of childbirth (12:7-8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith