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Discovery Magazine 3/1/1998

Foods—Clean Versus Unclean

The opening chapter of the Bible shows that one of God’s loving provisions for the human family was that of food. The Creator has given us so many wonderful things to eat.

However, there is a situation in the Old Testament that puzzles many people. It is the fact that some foods were classified as "clean" (they could be used as food), while others were said to be "unclean" (they were not to be eaten; see Leviticus 11). For example, the Hebrew people could eat animals with parted hooves that chewed the "cud." These were animals like sheep or cattle. The Jews were allowed to eat fish with fins and scales, but they could not eat, for instance, catfish. They were forbidden to eat birds like the buzzard or owl, because these creatures ate the flesh of other animals.

Why were the Israelite people bound by these laws that we today find a bit strange? Remember this: God always has a good reason for what He does. Probably there were two reasons for these food restrictions.

First, the Bible says that these laws were designed to separate the people of Israel from the pagan nations around them (see Deuteronomy 14:21). This separation was necessary because Christ, the Savior, was to come from the Hebrew nation. The Lord was attempting to keep these people holy.

Second, there probably were health reasons as well. For example, some of the forbidden foods were more dangerous in ancient times when, in that rather warm climate, foods were more likely to spoil.

When the law of Moses passed away at the time of Jesus’ death (Romans 7:4), these food classifications, clean/unclean, no longer were binding (see Colossians 2:14-16; 1 Timothy 4:4).

So, if you care to, you can have a buzzard-burger today. As for me, I think I’ll pass on that one.

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