Clean, Unclean, and Kosher Meats (Leviticus 17)

Clean, Unclean, and Kosher Meats (Leviticus 17)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17 continued the LORD’s instructions concerning sacrifices, as the Tabernacle became the central place of worship. The importance of blood offerings for sin was mentioned thirteen times in this chapter, and the LORD gave Moses explicit guidelines he was to teach “Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel” to follow (17:1-2).

Remembering the children of Israel had been slaves for four centuries, we understand how the cultural and religious practices of Egypt would have been adopted by the people. The institution of the Commandments, Laws, and guidelines for worship and sacrifices was not only the will of God, but was necessary for the nation to be distinct in person and practice from the other nations.

The Centrality of Sacrifices Before the Tabernacle (Leviticus 17:1-9)

Israel was to worship only YHWH in His Tabernacle, with its holy place and mercy seat being the only place for sacrifice going forward.  (Although when Israel entered the Promised Land, and the land was divided by tribes, the requirement did change, Deuteronomy 12:20-28).

To prevent sacrifices to other gods, and to acknowledge the supply of their meat was from the LORD, all animals, including those that were for food, were to be slaughtered at the Tabernacle (17:2-7). In this way, the LORD insured He would receive the portion due Him (3:1-17), and the priest would receive his portion for himself and his household (7:11-18).

The Prohibition Concerning Ingesting Blood (Leviticus 17:10-14)

The blood of animals was not to be ingested in any manner (17:10). The explanation for the prohibition of blood was stated clearly: “the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (17:11).

What a powerful lesson in the matter of the blood! Millenniums before modern science, and medicine established the importance of the blood to life, God revealed in His Word, “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11). As of the late 19th century, “bloodletting” (draining blood from someone ill) was practiced by doctors as a supposed cure. If those doctors had read, and believed the Scriptures, they would have spared lives knowing “the life [and the health] of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11).

We considered in an earlier devotion the distinction between “clean” meats, those that were allowed in the Hebrew diet (11:3, Deuteronomy 14:4,5), and “unclean” meats, those animals whose meat was prohibited (11:4-8, 11:11-12, 11:13-19). Leviticus 17:13-14 addresses beast taken in the hunt, and their blood. The blood of beast or fowl taken in the hunt were to be bled out on the ground, and their blood covered with dust, before the meat was consumed (17:13-14).

Beasts that had died of natural causes, or been torn by other beasts, were not to be eaten (17:15). Considering the danger of bacteria in meats, the LORD spared His people from ingesting meats that presented unseen dangers to their health and wellbeing. Should a man come in contact with such beasts, he was to “wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean” (17:15).

The Kosher Diet

I conclude inviting you to consider the dietary label known as “Kosher.” Kosher (the Hebrew word is Kasher), describes a diet that conforms to the dietary laws we have been studying in the Scriptures. When a meat, dairy, or food is labeled Kosher, it describes not only what is eaten, but also how it was prepared.

Kosher meat must not only be a beast with cloven hooves, and chews the cud (examples – cattle, lamb, goat, deer), but also one free of disease or cancers (non-kosher meats mass processed for human consumption are sometimes weak, sickly, and diseased animals).

Kosher also describes the method in which an animal is slaughtered. Far from the method of mass butchering prevalent in today’s meat processing plants, kosher animals are slaughtered humanely.

God is a loving Creator, and His concern is not only for the health of mankind, but also the well-being, and humane treatment of the animals we consume for food.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith