Leviticus 11
Leviticus 11 Kingcomments Bible Studies


This chapter gives the food prescriptions for all Israelites, not only for the priests. Priests have to deal with a service in the sanctuary. The Israelite is the ordinary member of God’s people in daily life. In Lev 11:44-45 the reason for these food prescriptions are given: the holiness of the LORD. In Deuteronomy 14, where we find the same food regulation, Moses addresses the Israelites as “sons of the LORD” (Deu 14:1). Our position as sons for God sets the standards for our food.

Eating is taking something to us, making something our own, something we process inwardly, making it a part of ourselves. We are told not to eat from animals that represent spiritual evil in actions and thinking. We at the same time are encouraged to use food that represents holiness and spiritual life. Food gives us energy. In the pictures of Scripture, what we spiritually take in determines our way of life. What the food represents becomes visible in our behavior. If we feed ourselves with Christ, He will become visible in us.

In Christendom the literal distinction between clean and unclean animals has been removed. God says to Peter to kill and eat of a mixture of clean and unclean animals (Acts 10:9-16), by which according to the law all animals were unclean. God has cleansed all those animals. For the believer, its application is that he “died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world” (Col 2:20). Therefore, he should not submit to decrees, such as the food laws, which say “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2:21). He can say with the apostle Paul: “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself” (Rom 14:14a).

Whatever Divides a Hoof and Chews the Cud

The land animals are not said to be an abomination, as is later said of the swarming things. The latter are, as it were, stuck with the earth. This is not the case with the normal land animals. God does, however, make a distinction between animals that His people may eat and may not eat. He gives the positive characteristics of the clean animals: they must divide the hoof and chew the cud.

The characteristics of the clean animals belong together. They must both be present. The spiritual application of chewing the cud is that we think about what we take in spiritually, for example when we read something, that we give it time to let it sink in. If we read the Bible or anything about the Bible, we should not do superficially, not quickly and much, but calmly and thoughtfully and then read it again and think about it, consider it.

In-depth Bible study is good, but not enough. What we have made our own by eating and chewing the cud, God wants to see in a walk that is to His honor. We see that in the divided hoof. The divided hoof gives stability to the walk. Being steadfast and unwavering are features that the Lord expects of the Christian serving Him until He comes (1Cor 15:58). It is about “the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness” (Tit 1:1b). That is the truth that becomes visible in a Godly walk.

Someone can be like a pig. He can gobble the food, but he wants to live as a Christian. Someone can also be like a camel. He can take a lot inwardly and chew the cud, but have a practice that is in conflict with that. There is no such thing as practical Christendom alone. How can there be practice, if there is no education, if one does not know the principles of God’s Word? And if knowledge does not lead to a corresponding practice, it is not good either. Both are needed.

Fins and Scales

It concerns all water animals in all waters. In Scripture, the seas usually speak of difficult situations, trials, through which believers must find their way. In the fish species that can be eaten, we see the characteristics that help a believer to go through them. Fins give power to swim against the current and keep the right course; scales protect against wrong influences from their surroundings.

Winged Animals

Of the birds and winged animals, not a single clean animal is mentioned, although they do exist (Gen 8:20). Thus a dove may serve as an offering to God (Lev 1:14). Birds speak in general of the inhabitants of the airspace. There is talk about “the birds of the air”. Usually this happens in a negative sense (Mt 13:4; 32; Rev 18:2). They then represent demonic influences that move in the heavenly spheres.

In a spiritual sense, these are persons or spirits of a non-earthly nature who feel at home in the Christian area, but are unclean. Many demonic influences in the form of false teachings have entered professing Christianity. They are like birds of prey, as the eagle and the vulture, which live at the expense of the death of others. It is to be applied to robbing away the honor of God and claiming it for oneself. Eating such birds means allowing oneself to be used in this evil work.

The only exceptions in this long line of unclean winged animals are some species of locusts (Lev 11:21-22). Above their four feet they have two jointed legs or jumping legs with which they jump on the earth. This allow them to move above the earth over a long distance. They may be eaten. They formed the food of John the baptist (Mk 1:6).

For us, to detest what God has forbidden to eat means in practice: “Abhor what is evil” (Rom 12:9b).

Touching Which Makes Unclean

Not only is it forbidden to eat unclean animals, but also to touch the carcass causes uncleanness. Touching does not go as far as eating, but it already has a wrong effect. The uncleanness lasts until the evening. Cleansing of clothes must take place. We become unclean by what we see or hear, even without opening ourselves completely to it, without eating of it in a spiritual sense. Yet, even unconsciously, our behavior can be influenced by it. That is corrected by washing ourselves with the water of God’s Word (Eph 5:26), that is by reading God’s Word.

Swarming Thing That Are Unclean

The swarming things are animals that do not rise from the earth, but are identified with it. They are also forms of life that resemble the serpent, which is a picture of Satan (Gen 3:14). It represents feeling at home on earth. The book of Revelation speaks several times of “those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10; Rev 6:10; Rev 8:13; Rev 11:10; Rev 13:8; 14; Rev 14:6; Rev 17:8), meaning people who see the earth as their home, as their final abode. They feel at home there and do everything they can to keep it that way.

For us, eating such animals means being involved in earthly matters in a way that we pursue them, that we seek them. Paul warns: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:2). Of those about whom he grieves that they walk as “enemies of the cross of Christ”, he must say: “Who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil 3:18-19). We can become so immersed in our earthly activities that they become our life. Then we become equal to the people of the world. That striving makes us earth-dwellers, while we belong in heaven and confess to be citizens of heaven.

Lessons can be learned from each of these animals. Not that it is easy to know of every animal the lesson it teaches us, but they are not mentioned for nothing. The lesson of the mole (Lev 11:29) is clear. This animal lives underground, closed off from daylight. It teaches us that we should not do secret things that cannot bear the light of the day. That the mole is not on our spiritual menu, Paul says as follows: “But we have renounced the things hidden because of shame” (2Cor 4:2) and elsewhere: “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, … for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Eph 5:11-12).

An obvious lesson we also see in the chameleon (Lev 11:30). In our everyday language the animal is sometimes called in a saying and then we all know what kind of person it is to whom this saying applies: to behave like a chameleon. It is someone who can adapt to any situation and talk along with anyone, like the chameleon can change color to adapt to its environment. It is easy to recognize ourselves in it if we behave among believers as we should, while we, when we are in the world, adjust our behavior accordingly because we want to keep it as friend.

Touching a Dead Animal Makes Unclean

A “wooden article” – wood grows out of the earth – and an “earthen vessel” represent a person (Acts 9:15; 1Thes 4:4); “clothing” represents our behavior; “a skin, or a sack” is a means of storing something; “any article of which use is made” is all that is helpful to live life as a member of God’s people. If anything of it has become unclean by putting it in the service of earthly life and not in the service of God, it must be put in the water, that is, it must undergo the water bath of the Word. Then it becomes clean again and usable for the master. An earthen vessel must be broken. An earthen vessel is what we are by nature (2Cor 4:7).

Water in which something unclean has come is unclean, and makes unclean what comes into contact with it (Lev 11:34-35). If God’s Word is deprived of its true meaning by our thoughts, if we give it our own explanation and pass it on, then also those who hear it become unclean.

Living water cannot become unclean (Lev 11:36). The Word of God, made alive by the power of the Spirit, transcends all uncleanness. If we are living sources, uncleanness will have no hold on us. “Rivers of living water” will flow from our “innermost being” (Jn 7:38) if we live in close fellowship with the Lord Jesus and feed ourselves with His flesh and drink of His blood (Jn 6:54-56).

In seed for sowing is also the power of life (Lev 11:37). This life reveals itself by dying. This is a picture of the Lord Jesus who died and thereby “brought life and immortality to light” (2Tim 1:10; cf. Jn 12:24). Life in Him overcomes death.

Swarming Things Are Detestable

All crawling animals shall not be eaten. In these verses not only does the prohibition sound, but also the LORD lets us hear His disgust about it several times. These animals are “detestable” (Lev 11:41-42). He then says strongly that one who takes one of these animals, renders himself “detestable” (Lev 11:43). This shows how much we get the characteristics of the food we eat. In the swarming animals we see not only a picture of earthly things, but also of the motives behind them. It represents the low instincts of man fallen into sin under the influence of the devil.

Reason for Ban on Eating Swarming Animals

The reason for these laws is given here. The spiritual lessons that it contains for us must be linked to the fact that we are children of God. Because He is holy, we must be holy too (1Pet 1:15-16). It is a heavenly holiness, which can be perfectly seen in the Lord Jesus on earth. This should make us realize that we have a responsibility to see what we eat as spiritual food, because what we eat determines how we express ourselves. We will have to ask ourselves what we ‘eat’: Will this make us look more like the Lord Jesus or will we look more like the world?

Purpose of the Eating Commandments

The laws indicate the law of nature that our behavior, our actions and our speaking, is formed by what we eat. God determines what is the food that enables us to distinguish between clean and unclean. We have to keep in mind that what we take to us and thus give the opportunity to sink in, influences our behavior in the world and toward our fellow believers.

Unclean food comes within our reach in the form of certain reading material that enters our homes or all kinds of programs that we can listen to or watch. Taking it in forms or deforms our behavior as believers. If we are not fussy with what we allow to influence our mind, then in our practice the separation between clean and unclean will not be clearly present. We then shift in our behavior unnoticed – at least for ourselves unnoticed, but others do perceive it – increasingly toward the world.

© 2022 Author G. de Koning

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