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Clean versus Unclean food – why?

 I have always found the wisdom behind why the Israelites were not to eat pigs, catfish and vultures to be inspiring, but I wonder if you have ever read the medical reasons behind the “unclean and clean” laws of the Old Testament.  Of course, back then, they wouldn’t have known all of the nitty gritty details as we do now, but it DOES make sense that God would have known….

Instead of writing all this myself, I knew my thoughts already existed out there on the web.  I found a pretty good explanation that seems to read similar to how I would write.  According to the site, it’s source is the Fundamentals Book on Christian Behaviour.


“Only after the Flood did God introduce flesh as food. With all vegetation destroyed, God gave Noah and his family permission to eat flesh foods, stipulating that they were not to eat the blood in the meat (Gen. 9:3-5) or the fat.Another stipulation Scripture implies, is that God told Noah that he and his family were to eat only what God identified as clean animals. It was because Noah and his family needed the clean animals for food as well as for sacrifices (Gen. 8:20) that God instructed Noah to take seven pairs of each kind of clean animal, in contrast to only one pair of each kind of unclean, with him into the ark (Gen. 7:2, 3). Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 provide extensive expositions on clean and unclean foods.

By nature, unclean animals do not constitute the best food. Many are either scavengers or predators — from the lion and swine to the vulture and the bottom-dwelling, sucker-type fish. Because of their habits they are more apt to be carriers of disease. God made the rules pretty specific. You can eat meat of an animal that has cloved hooves (in other words a split down the middle like cows, goats, sheep, etc)  AND chews it’s cud. It has to satisfy BOTH conditions, not one or the other. Horses and camels do not have split hooves and are not considered clean. Pigs have cloved hooves but do NOT chew their cud (cud chewers regurgitate their food, rechew it, and reswallow it – normally to a different stomach). Pork contains a worm called the Trichina worm which gets into your muscle tissue and causes great pain. Even if you cook pork well, you are eating dead worms instead of live ones. Why was the hare or rabbit included as unclean food; as it does not have cloved hooves but has paws? God said NOT to eat any meat from animals that walk on all fours that have paws instead of hooves. Why is the rabbit or hare on the list of unclean foods? The rabbit re eats part of it’s stool as it doesn’t have separate stomachs to get the nutrients out of the food as does a cow; so it recycles part of it’s feces in this manner for the purpose of extracting more nutrients from the food. Their digestive system is very inefficient, apparently, and it helps to send it through a few times and get out remaining food value. But along the way they are also concentrating their own body’s waste products.

Leviticus 11:13 is very specific on what types of fowl you cannot eat; if it is not mentioned there, you can consider it edible.  Most of us would not eat the species of birds mentioned there anyway. God tells us not to eat flying insects that walk on all fours; with some exceptions such as the  locust, grasshopper, and cricket which are okay to eat. He tells us creatures that move around on the ground or on it’s belly are not to be eaten; such as the rat, snake, weasel, or lizard.

The fish God said you can eat must have BOTH fins and scales; not one or the other, but BOTH. This eliminates most of the bottom feeders that eat garbage off the sea or lake floor. How interesting that he made the bottom fish to have skin but no scales, even though many have fins, to go along with his word. What is the probability of that??? Species such as halibut, flounder, kelp greeling, octopus, cabazon, ling cod, and catfish all have skin but no scales and are on the no-no list along with shrimp, lobster, scallops, crabs, oysters, clams, snails, sea cucumbers, – all feeding off the junk on the bottom of the sea.

 Studies have revealed that “in addition to the moderate amounts of cholesterol found in both pork and shellfish, both foods contain a number of toxins and contaminants which are associated with human poisoning.” In Washington where I lived; the red tide warnings every summer were broadcast to those picking and eating shellfish. The red tide was a form of toxic plankton which the clams and oysters took in that provided a paralyzing effect on the central nervous system with a possible result of body system failure and death.

By abstaining from unclean foods, God’s people demonstrated their gratefulness for their redemption from the corrupt, unclean world around them (Lev. 20:24-26; Deut. 14:2). To introduce anything unclean into the body temple where God’s Spirit dwells is less than God’s ideal.


I always find this information to be interesting, I hope you did too.

 If you have abundant time, here is a link that includes some GREAT detail into why unclean animals are bad for you.  Click HERE

Another educational post: A Christian Truth




12 Responses

  1. Actually, under a microscope all finfish have scales so there goes that argument.

    • We could go even smaller and see that everything is made of cells, maybe you would consider these to be scales too? They do chafe off etc. :) Seriously, if we use a bit of common sense, the fish that are considered to not have scales are smooth or sandpaper like, versus scaled fish which are obviously scaled. The biblical description fits the scenario. Thanks for the comment and biology note!

  2. I agree. I figured surely there’s already found info on the web along the lines of what I’d research & write myself. This is the closest I’ve found yet, while on my search, and you’ve given me some good leads. I thank you!! Best to you!

    In CHrist, Katie

  3. If this is not about spiritual matter, then it is about health. Thanks for teaching me a health lesson. I have found an article to support you:
    Not All Meats Are Food

  4. Wow! I came across this article while searching and am very encouraged that you have opened your heart to the Spirit of Truth with regards to food from our Creator’s menu. Several years ago my wife and I anguished as our children suffered from eczema, allergies, and asthma, but after many studies of the Word, we made the decision to eat only what is regarded as clean as defined in the Scriptures. Our testimony on the matter can be found at http://www.lifelinetonac.com/testimony/decidingtoeatclean.html. Our children no longer suffer from these conditions, and our family is much healthier as the result, we believe, of our decision to consumer only clean foods.

    • Timothy,
      Thanks for the comment! I agree that eating “clean” foods is healthier, however, I want to be clear that I do eat “unclean” foods. It is no coincidence that your family is benefiting. I do prescribed to trying to eat as much “live” foods as is realistic for me and it shows in the variety that my 6 year old is willing to eat. Processed food simply kills the God given drive and desire for the taste of natural sugar found in Romaine lettuce, carrots and the like. Most people would never believe that Romaine lettuce hearts are sweet because they can no longer taste correctly. Also, I can’t pass up the yummy taste of bacon or shrimp, and I definitely load up on raw veggies, fruit and salmon! God is good.

    • I think you are treading on dangerous ground by your claims. Too many times I read of kids and parents dying bc they refused medical treatment or vaccines. God did not make us stupid- it is his glory for us to search out understanding and knowledge. Luke was also a doctor and Jesus did not rebuke or call him a sorcerer for that. If your opinion was truly correct than no Jewish person (adhering to the diet law) would suffer eczema or asthma – but that is not the case. I find it a great disservice to G-d when people dismiss the knowledge and understanding that G-d has given/revealed to humans in favor of the old- I’ll just remain ignorant of everything and believe G-d will step in on my behave of my chosen ignorance. Also many pills DO cure the disease- as I’ve taken many antibiotics that have cured my infection, and I somehow doubt following the diet laws would have prevented my ingrown toe from being infected. To in courage others to avoid vaccines, and medicine is reckless at best- tell me are you prepared to look a parent in the eye whose kids just died bc they took your advice not to give their kids any medicine? You may have your own testimony about it, but I read almost daily the opposite as a parent sat there and watched their child die bc of they believed medicine was evil.

    • Sumday,
      I will let Timothy respond to you since I believe you are responding to his website link. I personally believe medicines are fine since wine was knowing used in that day (without causing drunkenness) and prescribed by Paul to help Timothy deal with an apparent ulcer in I Timothy 5:23. On the other hand, if one can find that medicines and diet have caused ailments, then by all means, quit using the foods/medicines that have not worked! Everyone’s bodies work differently.

  5. For more detailed info on this topic, google – ” Is clean and unclean animals in Leviticus 11 still relevant today?” Gerhard F Hasel.

  6. The reading on this was intriguing. I thank you for writing this because I did have several questions on why God forbade certain foods in the Old Testament. No one ever took the time to answer my questions in an intellectual way, until I found your website.

  7. Dude. Thanks for this. Had learned of these things a long time ago but needed an update, and this was very clear. Am writing some children’s drama for VBS, and needed some clarification on why Daniel said eating the king’s food would defile him. This explanation helps.

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