James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,Leviticus 11:1-47
WHAT TO EAT AND WHAT NOT TO EAT
We begin at this chapter the consideration of that section of the book previously designated as The Law of the Clean and Unclean.
Let us gather the facts by a series of questions, and then seek to learn what they mean. Read the verses and answer the questions, for that is the only way to approach a mastery of the lesson.
How is “beasts” translated in the RV? What creatures might Israel eat (Leviticus 11:3)? What exceptions were made (Leviticus 11:4-7)? How far did the prohibition extend (Leviticus 11:8)?
Of sea creatures what might be eaten (Leviticus 11:9)? How should others of them be regarded (v. 12)? What were abominations among the fowls (Leviticus 11:13-20)? What might they eat of the fowls (Leviticus 11:21-22)?
And of the creeping creatures what were unclean (Leviticus 11:29-31)? How far did the uncleanness extend (Leviticus 11:32-35)? What exception in the case (Leviticus 11:36-37)? What reason is given for these prohibitions (Leviticus 11:44-45)?
EXPLANATION AND APPLICATION
The laws are to be explained:
On hygienic grounds, and as making for the physical well-being of the people. Factually, the Hebrews have always been marked by an immunity from sickness and especially infectious diseases as compared with other races.
This does not mean, however, that all nations are still subject to these laws. They were given to a people few in number, living in a small country, and under certain climatic conditions. But what is unwholesome as food in one part of the world may be the opposite in another, and hence when the Jewish religion is merged in the Christian and become world-wide these laws are abrogated (Acts 10:9-15; Galatians 4:1-3; Colossians 2:20-22). The individual Christian is now left at liberty to exercise an enlightened judgment, under the law of love to Christ.
On spiritual grounds, and as engraving on the mind an idea of holiness. From this point of view they are to be looked upon as the earlier laws touching the offerings and the priests. Each particular is so ordered as to reflect purity on all the rest, converging ray upon ray to bring out the great conception of what holiness is. Without these laws the world does not know the nature of holiness. It is an abstract quality which has no place in the thought of man except as derived from the outward separations, washings and consecrations of the Mosaic ritual. Holiness is not “wholeness” nor “entireness” merely, but an idea which signifies separation, higher qualities than common, devotion to sacred purposes, and then ultimately, wholeness in the sense of the moral purity.
This holiness has to do with the body, and through it with the soul. There is, therefore, no religion in neglecting the body and ignoring the requirements for its health. To do this is to sin and to come short of the law of holiness (1 Corinthians 6:20, RV; 1 Corinthians 10:31).
On dispensational grounds, and as preparing the nation for its share in the redemptive work of the earth. To execute its mission Israel must be kept distinct from other nations, fenced in and barricaded against inroads of idolatry, which was accomplished by this system of religious dietetics. The difference between them was thus ever-present to their minds, touching at almost every point of everyday life. Other peoples, like the
Mohammedans have had such distinctions more or less, and it is stated that wherever they have been rigidly enforced as a part of a religious system the people in question have never changed their religion. We all know how it has been a wall of exclusion to the orthodox Jews which has withstood all the changes of these more than three millenniums.
On symbolic grounds the flesh of certain animals being forbidden because typifying by their character certain sins and vices, while others, permitted as food, typified certain moral virtues. Hence the law was a perpetual acted allegory reminding Israel to abstain from these sins in the one case, and to practice those virtues in the other.
“The beastliness of sin” is a common expression, and God has suggested it in these laws. The sinner and we are all sinners by nature is unclean, filthy, disagreeable, noxious, brutish. Thank God, that although our uncleanness is intense, mercy holds out to us, and indicates typically in this chapter, a means of complete and eternal deliverance!
1. Name four grounds on which the laws in this chapter may be explained.
2. Are these laws binding on us all in the same sense?
3. How have they worked out practically in the history of the Hebrews?
4. What is Scriptural holiness?
5. Quote 1 Corinthians 6:20 in the Revised Version.