Leviticus 11:2
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.
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(2) These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all . . . —Better, These are the animals which ye may eat of all . . . . The dietary laws, which stand first in the general precepts about clean and unclean things, begin with the quadrupeds, or land animals, both domesticated and wild. This is in accordance with the Hebrew division of the animal kingdom into four principal classes :—(1) the land animals, (2) the water animals, (3) the birds of the air, and (4) the swarming animals. – Though not specified here by name, yet the parallel regulations in Deuteronomy 14:4-5 enumerate the following ten animals :—the ox, the sheep, the goat, the hart, the roebuck, the fallow deer, the wild goat, the pygang, the wild ox, and the chamois, with their various kindred species, which are not mentioned. From the expression, “These are the animals,” the opinion obtained during the second Temple that God actually caused specimens of every animal to pass before Moses and Aaron, in order to show them the veritable creatures which are clean and unclean, just as the Lord caused every species to come to Noah into the ark.

Leviticus 11:2. Speak unto the children of Israel — From the laws concerning the priests, he now comes to those which belonged to all the people; and in this chapter treats of clean and unclean meats; in the 12th, 13th, 14th, and

15th, of unclean persons, garments, and dwellings; in the 17th, of the principal sacrifices, whereby all manner of uncleanness was to be expiated; in the 18th, of unclean marriages; and after a repetition of sundry laws in the 19th, the 20th speaks of some greater uncleannesses. These are the beasts which ye shall eat — Although every creature of God be good and pure in itself, yet it pleased God to make a difference between the clean and unclean. This indeed he did, in part, before the flood, (as appears from Genesis 7:2,) and it is probable that the distinction was observed, more or less, at least among the descendants of Shem, from the time that Noah and his sons were permitted to eat animal food. God, however, was now pleased to give his peculiar people more particular directions on this subject. 1st, To assert his sovereignty over them and over all the creatures, which they might not use but with his leave. 2d, To accustom them to bridle their appetites in things in themselves lawful, and some of them very desirable, that they might be better prepared and enabled to deny themselves in things simply and grossly sinful. 3d, For the preservation of their health. Maimonides, the celebrated Jewish rabbi, was of opinion that the creatures here called unclean were all forbidden to be eaten by the Jews, because they were (for them at least) unwholesome food. “As the body is the seat of the soul,” says another of the rabbis, “God would have it a fit instrument for its companion, and therefore forbids all such meats as breed ill blood; among which, if there be some whose hurtfulness is neither manifest to us nor to physicians, wonder not at it, for the faithful Physician who forbids them is wiser than any of us.” Agreeably to this opinion, the learned author of the Medicinal Dictionary, Dr. James, in the article Alkali, after some curious observations about the nature of alkalescent aliments, and their effects upon the body, in altering the juices, so as to be productive of distempers, observes: “From what has been said, one reason, at least, will appear why it pleased God to forbid the Jews the use of many sorts of animals as food; and why they were enjoined to take away the blood from those they were allowed to eat. If we, even in our cold climate, would conform to these rules, longevity would be more frequent among us, as we should be much less subject to epidemical disorders, and acute diseases of all sorts, which carry off at least two-thirds of mankind.” Some of the animals here prohibited are apt to breed the leprosy, a disease to which the Jews were very liable. But a 4th, and still more important reason of these prohibitions was, to keep up, till the coming of the Messiah, the wall of partition between the Jews and other nations, which was very necessary, as for divers other great and wise purposes, so especially to prevent their imitating the superstitions, and being infected with the idolatry of the Gentiles, which God foresaw would be occasioned by a too great intercourse and familiarity with them. This reason of the institution is particularly mentioned, Leviticus 20:24. And it probably contributed more than any other thing to keep them thus distinct and separate; for when men cannot eat together, they have little inclination to enter into any close intercourse with one another. 5th, One reason more, however, may be given for this distinction of meats, which is also suggested in the passage referred to in chapter 20. It was intended to inculcate moral purity, and to teach them to abhor that filthiness, and all those ill qualities, for which some of those creatures, here termed unclean, are noted.

11:1-47 What animals were clean and unclean. - These laws seem to have been intended, 1. As a test of the people's obedience, as Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge; and to teach them self-denial, and the government of their appetites. 2. To keep the Israelites distinct from other nations. Many also of these forbidden animals were objects of superstition and idolatry to the heathen. 3. The people were taught to make distinctions between the holy and unholy in their companions and intimate connexions. 4. The law forbad, not only the eating of the unclean beasts, but the touching of them. Those who would be kept from any sin, must be careful to avoid all temptations to it, or coming near it. The exceptions are very minute, and all were designed to call forth constant care and exactness in their obedience; and to teach us to obey. Whilst we enjoy our Christian liberty, and are free from such burdensome observances, we must be careful not to abuse our liberty. For the Lord hath redeemed and called his people, that they may be holy, even as he is holy. We must come out, and be separate from the world; we must leave the company of the ungodly, and all needless connexions with those who are dead in sin; we must be zealous of good works devoted followers of God, and companions of his people.
]Rather, "These are the animals which ye may eat out of all the beasts;" that is, out of the larger creatures, the quadrupeds, as distinguished from birds and reptiles. See Genesis 1:24. Of quadrupeds, those only might be eaten which completely divided the hoof and chew the cud Leviticus 11:3-8. CHAPTER 11

Le 11:1-47. Beasts That May and May Not Be Eaten.

1, 2. the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron—These laws, being addressed to both the civil and ecclesiastical rulers in Israel, may serve to indicate the twofold view that is to be taken of them. Undoubtedly the first and strongest reason for instituting a distinction among meats was to discourage the Israelites from spreading into other countries, and from general intercourse with the world—to prevent them acquiring familiarity with the inhabitants of the countries bordering on Canaan, so as to fall into their idolatries or be contaminated with their vices: in short, to keep them a distinct and peculiar people. To this purpose, no difference of creed, no system of polity, no diversity of language or manner, was so subservient as a distinction of meats founded on religion; and hence the Jews, who were taught by education to abhor many articles of food freely partaken of by other people, never, even during periods of great degeneracy, could amalgamate with the nations among which they were dispersed. But although this was the principal foundation of these laws, dietetic reasons also had weight; for there is no doubt that the flesh of many of the animals here ranked as unclean, is everywhere, but especially in warm climates, less wholesome and adapted for food than those which were allowed to be eaten. These laws, therefore, being subservient to sanitary as well as religious ends, were addressed both to Moses and Aaron.

Though every creature of God be good and pure in itself, as appears from Genesis 1:31 Matthew 15:11 Romans 14:14; yet it pleased God to make a difference between clean and unclean, and to restrain the use of them, which he did in general and in part before the flood, Genesis 7:2; but more fully and particularly here for many reasons, as,

1. To assert his own sovereignty over man, and over all the creatures, which men may not use but with God’s leave, and to inure that stiff-necked people to obedience.

2. To keep up the wall of partition between the Jews and other nations, which was very useful and necessary for many great and wise purposes.

3. That by bridling their appetite in things in themselves lawful, and some of them very desirable and delightful for food, they might be better prepared and enabled to deny themselves in things simply and grossly sinful.

4. For the preservation of their health, some of the creatures forbidden being, though used by the neigbbouring nations, of unwholesome nourishment, especially to the Jews, who were very obnoxious to leprosies, which some of these meats are apt to produce and foment.

5. For moral signification, to teach them to abhor that filthiness and all those ill qualities for which some of these creatures are noted.

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying,.... For to them only belong the following laws, and not unto the Gentiles, as Jarchi rightly observes; these were parts of the ceremonial law, which was peculiarly given to them, and lay, among other things, in meats and drinks, and now abolished; for it is not what goes into a man that defiles him; nor is anything common or unclean of itself, but every creature of God is good if received with thanksgiving. The sons of Noah had free liberty, without any restraint or limitation, of using for food any living creature that moved upon the face of the earth; in the choice of which they were left to exercise their reason and judgment, and is the case with us now; but as men have not so nice a smell as some animals have, and cannot distinguish by their senses so well as they what food is most wholesome, which makes the exercise of their reason and judgment necessary, and the people of the Jews being a special people, and for whom the Lord had a peculiar regard; for the sake of their health, and to preserve them from diseases they were subject to, such as the leprosy and others, and to direct them to what was most salubrious and healthful, gave them the following laws; and which, though they are not obligatory upon us, yet may be a direction to us, in the use of what may be most suitable and proper food for us, the difference of climates, and of the constitutions of men's bodies, being considered: not that we are to suppose, that the case of health was the only reason of delivering out these laws to the children of Israel, for other ends, besides that, may be thought to be had in view; as to assert his sovereign right to the creatures, and his disposal of them to them according to his will and pleasure; to lay a restraint on their appetites, to prevent luxury, and to teach them self denial, and compliance with his will; as also to keep them the more from the company and conversation of the Gentiles, by whom they otherwise might be led into idolatry; and to give them an aversion to their idols, to whom the creatures forbidden them to eat, many of them were either now or would be sacred to them; and chiefly to excite to a care for purity, both inward and outward, and create in the man abhorrence of those vices which may be signified by the ill qualities of several of the creatures; and to instruct them in the difference between holy and unholy persons, with whom they should or should not have communion; see Acts 10:11.

these are the beasts that ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth; they are not particularly mentioned here, but they are in Deuteronomy 14:4 and they are these ten; the ox, the sheep, and the goat, the hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois; of all which; see Gill on Deuteronomy 14:4, Deuteronomy 14:5, here only some general things are observed to describe them by, as follow.

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye {a} shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.

(a) Or, of which ye may eat.

Verse 2. - These are the beasts that ye shall eat. In order that the Israelites might know how to avoid the uncleanness arising from the consumption of unclean flesh, plain rules are given them by which they may distinguish what flesh is clean and what is unclean. The first rule is that anything that dies of itself is unclean, whether it be beast, bird, or fish. The reasons of this are plain: for

(1) the flesh still retains the blood, which no Israelite might eat; and

(2) there is something loathsome in the idea of eating such flesh. Next, as to beasts, a class is marked off as edible by two plainly discernible characteristics, and instances are given to show that where there is any doubt owing to the animals possessing one of the characteristic marks only, the rule is to be construed strictly. As to fish and insects, equally plain rules, one in each case, are laid down; but as birds are not readily distinguished into large classes, the names of those that are unclean are given one by one, the remainder being all of them permissible. Thus the simple Israelite would run no risk of incurring uncleanness by inadvertently eating unclean food, whether of beast, bird, fish, or insect. The object of the regulations being to exclude all meats naturally offensive to the human taste, all carnivorous quadrupeds are shut out by the rule of chewing the cud (verse 3), with the same purpose, birds of prey and birds that eat offal are prohibited (verses 13-19), and scaleless fish on account of their repulsive appearance (verses 9-12), as well as beetles, maggots, and vermin of all sorts. In the case of beasts and fish, the rules laid down to mark off those things that are offensive, being general in their application, are such as to include in the forbidden class some few which do not appear naturally loathsome. This is owing partly to the difficulty of classification, partly to a change of feeling which experience has wrought in the sentiments of mankind with regard to such edibles as swine's flesh and shell-fish. Leviticus 11:2(cf. Deuteronomy 14:4-8). Of the larger quadrupeds, which are divided in Genesis 1:24-25 into beasts of the earth (living wild) and tame cattle, only the cattle (behemah) are mentioned here, as denoting the larger land animals, some of which were reared by man as domesticated animals, and others used as food. Of these the Israelites might eat "whatsoever parteth the hoof and is cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud among the cattle." פּרסת שׁסע שׁסעת, literally "tearing (having) a rent in the hoofs," according to Deuteronomy 14:5 into "two claws," i.e., with a hoof completely severed in two. גּרה, rumination, μηρυκισμός (lxx), from גּרר (cf. יגּר Leviticus 11:7), to draw (Habakkuk 1:15), to draw to and fro; hence to bring up the food again, to ruminate. גּרה מעלת is connected with the preceding words with vav cop. to indicate the close connection of the two regulations, viz., that there was to be the perfectly cloven foot as well as the rumination (cf. Leviticus 11:4.). These marks are combined in the oxen, sheep, and goats, and also in the stag and gazelle. The latter are expressly mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:4-5, where - in addition to the common stag (איּל) and gazelle (צבי, δορκάς, lxx), or dorcas-antelope, which is most frequently met with in Palestine, Syria, and Arabia, of the size of a roebuck, with a reddish brown back and white body, horns sixteen inches long, and fine dark eyes, and the flesh of which, according to Avicenna, is the best of all the wild game-the following five are also selected, viz.: (1) יחמוּר, not βούβαλος, the buffalo (lxx, and Luther), but Damhirsch, a stag which is still much more common in Asia than in Europe and Palestine (see v. Schubert, R. iii. p. 118); (2) אקּו, probably, according to the Chaldee, Syriac, etc., the capricorn (Steinbock), which is very common in Palestine, not τραγέλαφος (lxx, Vulg.), the buck-stag (Bockhirsch), an animal lately discovered in Nubia (cf. Leyrer in Herzog's Cycl. vi. p. 143); (3) דּישׁן, according to the lxx and Vulg. πύραργος, a kind of antelope resembling the stag, which is met with in Africa (Herod. 4, 192), - according to the Chaldee and Syriac, the buffalo-antelope, - according to the Samar. and Arabic, the mountain-stag; (4) תּאו, according to the Chaldee the wild ox, which is also met with in Egypt and Arabia, probably the oryx (lxx, Vulg.), a species of antelope as large as a stag; and (5) זמר, according to the lxx and most of the ancient versions, the giraffe, but this is only found in the deserts of Africa, and would hardly be met with even in Egypt-it is more probably capreae sylvestris species, according to the Chaldee.
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