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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Leviticus 11

Verses 1-47

  1. Intro:
    1. The 3rd part of the book starts here (Offerings – Priests – now, Cleanliness)
      1. It isn’t always easy to see the reasons for the prohibitions.
      2. 3 theories advanced to explain these dietary regulations:
        1. [1] To help Israel avoid pagan sacrificial rites.
        2. [2] To guide Israel to healthy sources of food & to avoid animals that are more likely to transmit disease.
        3. [3] To help Israel maintain its separation from other nations.
    2. Adding to the picture of the distance between a holy God & sinful humanity, chapters 11-17 emphasizes “cleanness vs. uncleanness” in diet, hygiene, & disease”.
      1. (11) Food; (12) Birth; (13,14) Disease; (15) Normal Bodily functions
      2. These laws certainly served a practical hygienic purpose, yet there was also a spiritual principle involved.
    3. We don’t know when God’s people 1st received the law about clean & unclean foods.
      1. It was known in Noah’s day – Gen.7:2 “You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female”
    4. God seems to take every possible way of emphasizing the supreme necessity of holiness.
      1. Here is the gospel for our body:
        1. “Glorify God in your body” (1 Cor.6:20)
        2. “Present your bodies…”(Rom.12:1)
        3. “Whatever you eat or drink…to the glory of God.” (1 Cor.10:31)
      2. The N.T. lays great stress on the body as a part of our redeeming being.
        1. 1 Thes.5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
        2. 1 Cor.6:13 “Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
    5. So, is Cleanliness next to Godliness?
      1. Saying was credited to John Wesley(context was actually dress).
        1. Probably it was current before his time.
      2. It was back under OT Law!
      3. Jews from birth till death submitted to every aspect of their daily lives to the authority of God’s law.
        1. Whether selecting food, preparing it, the care for a mother or her newborn, diagnosing a disease, disposing of waste, nothing was left to chance in the camp, lest someone be defiled.
  2. DON’T EAT! (1-23)
    1. ​​​​​​​EDIBLE ANIMALS! (1-8)
      1. Quadrupeds – The diet of the Israelite was largely restricted to animals used in sacrifice.
        1. Only those, which divide the hoof & chew the cud were allowed.
      2. Hare – not our rabbit(some other animal)our rabbit doesn’t chew its cud.
      3. Well meaning people try to “spiritualize” these laws to find some “deeper” truth in them!
        1. They make “chewing the cud” to mean mediating on scripture.
        2. They make “the cloven hoof” to picture a separated walk in Christ.
        3. Can be points of application but not points of interpretation.
    2. FISH FRY! (9-12)
      1. Permission given to those only w/fins & scales.
      2. Bottom/scavenger fish & crustaceans/shell fish were considered unclean. They can pick up parasites easier off the bottom.
      3. Some fish turn poisonous for a couple months during the year (like clams do).
    3. BIRDS OF PREY! (13-19)
      1. Covers carnivorous birds & those w/unclean habits.
        1. Vultures have no hair on their heads/necks, because their feathers would constantly be covered with blood from their victims.
      2. Story - Spotted owl story. Man was caught killing one. Judge heard his story(to feed his family). Judge let off this time. When leaving Judge asked what it tasted like? Cross between a Bald Eagle & a Ca. Condor!
    4. LOCUST LUNCH! (20-23)
      1. If they leap they are permitted, if they run they’re forbidden.
      2. “Couldn’t you just hear the camp of Israel let out a big “Yippy-Yi-Yo!” on that one?”
  3. DON’T TOUCH! (24-43)
    1. ​​​​​​​Moses didn’t only warn the Jews to beware of what they ate, but they must also beware of what they touched!
      1. Coming upon a dead animal, 2 things, [1] The blood wasn’t drained properly [2] It wasn’t protected from contamination.
    2. CONTACTING CARCASSES! (24-40)
      1. Defiled by Dead Animals! (24-28)
        1. When defilement spreads, 1 person’s carelessness could effect many people. {Haiti - Rat in cistern. Julio wasn’t keeping the door locked. Good thing we checked it. Lost about 20,000 gallons of water}
        2. Samson, in Judges 14:1-9, tell of him killing a lion w/his bare hands, & later returning bees had made a hive in it & he ate of its honey.
          1. Q: Why does the writer tell us of this story…because this defiledhim & broke his Nazarite Vow.
          2. (Judges 14:9) “He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.”
          3. No matter how “sweet” your sin may seem at the time, it is putridin Gods sight.
      2. Defiled by Things!(29-40)
        1. We know now the importance of washing our dishes, clothes, food, etc.
        2. (34) We have to be very careful of this in Haiti (water splashing).
    3. CREEPING THINGS! (41-43)
      1. (42) Crawls on its belly – an old proverb says, “When you see a snake, never mind where he came from!”
    4. Q: What do you need to “beware of what you touch”?
      1. Q: What do you need to keep your hands off of?
      2. “Be careful little hands what you touch…”
  4. DISCERNING! (44-47)
    1. ​​​​​​​PURPOSE OF DIETARY LAWS! (44-47)
      1. As God’s people, Israel had to be separated from everything that God called unclean.
        1. Leviticus mentions “Be Holy for I am Holy”…9 times!!!
        2. It is quoted by Peter (1 Pet.1:15,16) as applying to NT Christians today!
      2. Remember the Gnostics went to 2 extremes when it came to the body. Since God only cares about the spirit of man, the physical man doesn’t matter…thus:
        1. [1] Feed the flesh – Feed it whatever it craves, whenever it craves it, because the flesh(i.e. all material things) is evil any ways.
        2. [2] Starve the flesh – Because it is evil, buffet it as best & as much as you possibly can.
      3. Dietary Laws were temporary…but the principle is permanent!
        1. Mark 7:15,18,19 "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man…“Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, "because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?"
        2. Acts 10:9-18 – Peter/Cornelius. Sheet Vision
          1. (13-15) "…Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."
          2. God had cleansed the Gentile, Cornelius.
        3. 1 Tim.4:1-5 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
        4. ​​​​​​​GaL.2:11-16 – Paul rebuking Peter’s hypocrisy of getting up from eating w/Gentiles when the Jews showed up.
          1. Peter was trying to maintain a “Kosher” house.
          2. Kosher = “right, fit”. People in a Kosher home only ate those things that God said were right & fit.
        5. Col.2:13-17 (Abolished w/Christ) “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross…So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
      4. Believers must have discernment & avoid what is unclean!
        1. 2 Cor.7:1 “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
        2. Our separation is to be “internal” & cannot be defined by what we eat or by any other “morally neutral practices”.
        3. Our diet is not a means to salvation or holiness!
        4. Christians are free to eat what they please, but they must keep 1 Cor.10:31 in mind “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
      5. Other nations were able to do those things, but the Jews could not.
        1. Q: Should there be a difference in Christians & non-Christians today that set us apart?
          1. Name some: What we say, or don’t say; where we go or don’t go.“They’ll know we are Christians by our love!”
        2. Q: Do we welcome these differences, or resist them?
        3. Q: Do we wear our “differences” as a badge of honor, or as an embarrassing spot? {Like a “His Club” pin/badge; or like a coffee stain on your shirt}
    2. (47) “to distinguish” – As they distinguish between clean & unclean, that causes them to be distinguished amongst other nations.
      1. That’s why David called Goliath an “uncircumcised Philistine”, it was to distinguish as “other”.
        1. Circumcised – The sacramental sign that a man(w/wife & kids) belonged in covenant w/God. (thus Goliath wsn’t)
      2. Distinguish between right & wrong:
        1. ​​​​​​​As a Pathologist looks through his/her microscope, he/she can see a difference between a healthy cell & a cancerous one.
        2. The expert Musician can hear the difference between the right note & the almost-right note.
        3. The expert Writer knows difference between “any word” & “the right word”.
        4. So, the mature believer can exercise discernment, identify what is unclean & avoid it.
    3. We are to be “set apart” to God. God is intimately concerned w/everything that happens in our daily lives!
      1. So Paul says, “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” (2 Cor.6:17)
      2. G. Cambell Morgan was right when he said that the church did the most for the world when the church was the least like the world.
    4. Q: In seeking to follow the Lord, would you rather have the list of do’s & don’ts? Or, be led by scripture & the H.S.?
      1. Pro’s – You know what the Lord expects.
      2. Con’s – Any list can be interpreted differently(Pharisees, Saducees, & Scribes proved that).
        1. Heart issue, why am I doing this? Because I want to or have to? – Duty or Devotion?
        2. Obeying these OT lists gave them ceremonial purity, but didn’t make them necessarily holy in character.
      3. Problem with lists? “Man loves darkness rather than light”(Jn.3:19)
        1. Evangelist Billy Sunday used to say that a sinner can’t find God for the same reason a criminal can’t find a police officer…the criminal isn’t looking very hard!”
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/leviticus-11.html. 2017.