Speak to the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which you shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.…
It is a well-known fact, that all fish that have both scales and fins are both wholesome and nutritious. This provision, therefore, secured to the people the free use of what was certainly profitable, and kept them back from the uncertainty of choosing among the others what might have injured them. Again, therefore, they were taught that it is better far to lean to the side of abstinence, in doubtful cases, than to run the risk of doing evil. They were trained to the principle, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth" (1 Corinthians 8:13). Those "without fins or scales" are partly creatures of the mud and marsh; whereas the others swim through the clear, limpid waters of "seas and rivers." Others of them that are "without scales," are such as the voracious shark. Thus they were naturally fitted to exhibit purity. In ver. 9 we are to read, "in the waters, i.e., whether seas or river." In ver. 10, "All that move in the waters," is rather, "All that crawl in the waters"; and even any living thing there that has not the specified qualities. In the same verse, and at ver. 11, "They shall be an abomination," is more emphatic if read thus — "They are an abomination to you, and they shall be an abomination." And it is thus strongly stated, because the people might be ready to neglect the rule in the case of some of the smaller creatures in the water. Many of the forbidden creatures are exceedingly small in size; yet, nevertheless, even that atom is to be abhorred, if the Lord has given the command. It is not the importance of the thing, but the majesty of the lawgiver, that is to be the standard of our obedience. "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). There were tribes that were to dwell by the waters. Thus Simeon and Dan had a sea-coast from the river of Egypt up to Joppa. Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh had a sea-coast as far as Carmel — the glorious plain of Sharon descending to the waterside. Zebulun and Asher, too, had their creeks and bays; while Napthali, as well as Zebulun and the other half tribe of Manasseh, encircled the lake of Galilee, so plentiful in its supply of fish; and the waters of Merom, no doubt, swarmed with their kinds. Others of the tribes lay near Jordan, or had some lesser streams and lakes at hand. Hence there was not probably one tribe but had some need of these laws and opportunity for exercising faith by attending to them. The Lord also thus evidenced His care over the spiritual health of the seamen and fishers of Israel. It tried their faith when they needed to cast away whatever unclean fish they had enclosed in their net. Some, indeed, might reckon such minute and arbitrary rules as these to be trifling. But the principle involved in obedience or disobedience was none other than the same principle which was tried in Eden at the foot of the forbidden tree. It was really this — Is the Lord to be obeyed in all things whatsoever He commands? Is He a holy Lawgiver? Are His creatures bound to give implicit assent to His will? But this discrimination between holy and unholy penetrated farther. It reached Israel's hours of recreation, and kept them, even then, in mind of their Holy One. A wealthy Israelite, who has his villa by the lake of Gennesaret, goes forth on the bosom of the lake. In its clear waters he finds fish, darting on before the slow sailing bark in the strength of their ties, and reflecting back to the surface, from their scales, the light that fell on the waters. All here speaks of purity — conformity to what the law pronounced clean. But at another time he strolls along by some shallow, or is compassing the waters of Merom, and there he finds the crawling reptiles of the mud and marsh — teaching him to draw back in haste from the touch of uncleanness. In like manner, far within their land, at the little brook flowing through the valley of Elah, fringed by its green terebinths, the youth of Judah, in their sports, were taught to keep before them the difference between good and evil, while they scrupulously rejected the unclean minnows, and chose the clean, amid their easy angling at the stream. "Holiness to the Lord" — obedience to His revealed will — thus pervaded Israel's land and Israel's families, in public and in secret, in business and in recreation; their youth and their aged men, in their fields and by their riversides, must remember "The Holy One of Israel!"
(A. A. Bonar.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.