Leviticus
Introduction 1-8 Divide the Hoof and Chew the Cud 9-12 Fins and Scales 13-23 Winged Animals 24-28 Touching Which Makes Unclean 29-31 Swarming Animals That Are Unclean 32-40 Touching a Dead Animal Makes Unclean 41-43 Swarming Animals Are Detestable 44-45 Reason for Ban on Eating Swarming Animals 46-47 Purpose of the Eat Commandments
Introduction

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 verses 44-4544For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.45For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 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 14:11“You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead.). Our position as sons for God sets the standards for our food.

Eating is taking something to us, making something our own, something we deal with 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 upon ourselves 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 10:9-169On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.10But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance;11and he *saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground,12and there were in it all [kinds of] four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.13A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!”14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”15Again a voice [came] to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no [longer] consider unholy.”16This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.), 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 2:2020If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,). Therefore, he should not submit to decrees, such as the food laws, which say “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2:2121“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”). He can say with the apostle Paul: “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself” (Rom 14:14a14I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.).


Divide the Hoof and Chew the Cud

1The LORD spoke again to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth. 3Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, [and] chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. 4Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you. 5Likewise, the shaphan, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; 6the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; 7and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. 8You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

The land animals are not said to be an abomination, as is later said of the swarming animals. 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 ourselves 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 split hoof. The split 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 15:5858Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord.). It is about “the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness” (Tit 1:11Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,). 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

9‘These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. 10But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, 11and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest. 12Whatever in the water does not have fins and scales is abhorrent to you.

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

13‘These, moreover, you shall detest among the birds; they are abhorrent, not to be eaten: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 14and the kite and the falcon in its kind, 15every raven in its kind, 16and the ostrich and the owl and the sea gull and the hawk in its kind, 17and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, 18and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture, 19and the stork, the heron in its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat. 20‘All the winged insects that walk on [all] fours are detestable to you. 21Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on [all] fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth. 22These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds. 23But all other winged insects which are four-footed are detestable to you.

Of the birds and winged animals, not a single clean animal is mentioned, although they do exist (Gen 8:2020Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.). Thus a dove may serve as an offering to God (Lev 1:1414‘But if his offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons.). Birds speak in general of the inhabitants of the airspace. There is talk about the birds of heaven. Usually this happens in a negative sense (Mt 13:4,324and as he sowed, some [seeds] fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.32and this is smaller than all [other] seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.”; Rev 18:22And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.). 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 have entered Christianity in the form of false teachings. 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 themselves to be used in this evil work.

The only exceptions in this long line of unclean winged animals are some species of locusts (verses 21-2221Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on [all] fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth.22These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds.). Besides their four feet they have two jointed legs with. With these they jump on the earth. They may be eaten. They formed the food of John the baptist (Mk 1:66John was clothed with camel’s hair and [wore] a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.).

For us, to detest what God has forbidden to eat means in practice: “Abhor what is evil” (Rom 12:9b9[Let] love [be] without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.).


Touching Which Makes Unclean

24‘By these, moreover, you will be made unclean: whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 25and whoever picks up any of their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. 26Concerning all the animals which divide the hoof but do not make a split [hoof], or which do not chew cud, they are unclean to you: whoever touches them becomes unclean. 27Also whatever walks on its paws, among all the creatures that walk on [all] fours, are unclean to you; whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 28and the one who picks up their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; they are unclean to you.

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 5:2626so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,), that is by reading God’s Word.


Swarming Animals That Are Unclean

29‘Now these are to you the unclean among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds, 30and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon. 31These are to you the unclean among all the swarming things; whoever touches them when they are dead becomes unclean until evening.

The swarming things are animals that do not rise from the earth, but form a whole with it. They are also forms of life that resemble the serpent, which is a picture of Satan (Gen 3:1414The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
). It represents feeling at home on earth. The book of Revelation speaks several times of “those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:1010Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.; 6:1010and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”; 8:1313Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”; 11:1010And those who dwell on the earth [will] rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.; 13:8,148All who dwell on the earth will worship him, [everyone] whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.14And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life.; 14:66And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;; 17:88“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.), 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 3:22Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.). 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 3:18-1918For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] enemies of the cross of Christ,19whose end is destruction, whose god is [their] appetite, and [whose] glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.). We can become so immersed in our earthly activities that they become our lives. 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 (verse 2929‘Now these are to you the unclean among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds,) 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 4:22but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.) 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 5:11-1211Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;12for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.).

An obvious lesson we also see in the chameleon (verse 3030and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon.). 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 to our friend.


Touching a Dead Animal Makes Unclean

32Also anything on which one of them may fall when they are dead becomes unclean, including any wooden article, or clothing, or a skin, or a sack—any article of which use is made—it shall be put in the water and be unclean until evening, then it becomes clean. 33As for any earthenware vessel into which one of them may fall, whatever is in it becomes unclean and you shall break the vessel. 34Any of the food which may be eaten, on which water comes, shall become unclean, and any liquid which may be drunk in every vessel shall become unclean. 35Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you. 36Nevertheless a spring or a cistern collecting water shall be clean, though the one who touches their carcass shall be unclean. 37If a part of their carcass falls on any seed for sowing which is to be sown, it is clean. 38Though if water is put on the seed and a part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you. 39‘Also if one of the animals dies which you have for food, the one who touches its carcass becomes unclean until evening. 40He too, who eats some of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening, and the one who picks up its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.

A “wooden article” - wood grows out of the earth – and an “earthen vessel” represent a person (Acts 9:1515But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;; 1Thess 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 4:77But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;).

Water in which something unclean has come is unclean, and makes unclean what comes into contact with it (verses 34-3534Any of the food which may be eaten, on which water comes, shall become unclean, and any liquid which may be drunk in every vessel shall become unclean.35Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you.). 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 (verse 3636Nevertheless a spring or a cistern collecting water shall be clean, though the one who touches their carcass shall be unclean.). 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 7:3838He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”) if we live in close fellowship with the Lord Jesus and feed ourselves with His flesh and drink of His blood (Jn 6:54-5654He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.55For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.).

In seed for sowing is also the power of life (verse 3737If a part of their carcass falls on any seed for sowing which is to be sown, it is clean.). 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 1:1010but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,). Life in Him overcomes death.


Swarming Animals Are Detestable

41‘Now every swarming thing that swarms on the earth is detestable, not to be eaten. 42Whatever crawls on its belly, and whatever walks on [all] fours, whatever has many feet, in respect to every swarming thing that swarms on the earth, you shall not eat them, for they are detestable. 43Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean.

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” (verses 41-4241‘Now every swarming thing that swarms on the earth is detestable, not to be eaten.42Whatever crawls on its belly, and whatever walks on [all] fours, whatever has many feet, in respect to every swarming thing that swarms on the earth, you shall not eat them, for they are detestable.). He then says strongly that one who takes one of these animals, renders himself “detestable” (verse 4343Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean.). 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

44For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. 45For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’”

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 1:15-1615but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior;16because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”). 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 Eat Commandments

46This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, 47to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.

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 towards 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 distorts 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 towards the world.


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