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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 11

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-47

Shall we turn in our Bibles to Leviticus eleven?

Before we begin in the eleventh chapter of Leviticus, let's take a look at the first few verses of chapter twenty-eight of Deuteronomy, because sometimes we're prone to get bogged down in the law, and we think, "Oh my, I wish we could just pass over this." Is this really necessary? Aren't we under the grace of God and living in the age of grace? But in reality it is important that God is, that we realize that God is laying down for us certain spiritual laws.

And God has declared concerning His word, concerning His law, here in chapter twenty-eight,

"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the Earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shalt be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of your cows and of your flocks of your sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: They shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee"( Deuteronomy 28:1-8 ). And so God has given to us certain spiritual laws. If we obey them, then we are to be blessed.

But if you go on and finish the book, the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, you'll find the things that will transpire if you forsake the Law of God. If you seek to ignore it, and of course in verse fifteen He begins, "if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, then cursed shalt thou be in the city, cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shalt thou be thy basket in thy store. Cursed shalt be the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy land, and the increase of your cows, ( Deuteronomy 28:15-18 ) and so forth and all the curses that would come.

Now in Joshua, chapter one, Moses gave sort of a final charge to Joshua. And in verse eight he declared, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." So if you'll keep it, if you'll follow it, if you'll meditate in it, God will make your way prosperous then you will have good success.

In Psalm one, David declares, "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But whose delight is in the law of the Lord; and in this law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, bringing forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" ( Psalms 1:1-3 ).

Now, I know that you find it tedious sometimes going through these laws. But know this, that if you will meditate in them and then the emphasis is doing them, God's blessing is going to be upon your life. Now the children of Israel made a great mistake in that they thought that just because they had the law, they were justified by it. But Paul said it isn't just having the law, it's doing the law that brings the blessing.

So as we go back now to Leviticus chapter eleven. We find that in the eleventh chapter, the Lord is dealing with the foods that they could eat and the foods that they should not eat. Now to me it shows that God is interested in your health. If the Lord should speak to us today, I'm sure that He'd speak to us a lot about junk foods. And He would be interested in your diet because you can't really be eating a lot of junk food and ask God to give you a strong body.

Like I've shared with you when we used to go home from Bible school at night and buy ice cream and chocolate syrup and whipped cream and the whole thing. And then some guy would say, "Who's going to ask the blessing?" I said, "You can't ask God to bless this. It's no good for you, you know, it's not good for you." Eat it and take the consequences, but don't ask God to bless it. And so God is interested in good nutrition, and the foods that God allowed were foods that would be good, healthy, strengthening foods. Those foods that God disallowed for food there was a health reason behind the disallowing of each food.

Now in the New Testament, we realize that the Bible says that you know "All things are lawful for me", but yet Paul says, "all things edify not" ( 1 Corinthians 10:23 ). All things are not necessary. Peter saw a sheet let down from heaven with all kinds of clean and unclean things upon it, and the Lord said, "Arise, Peter, kill and eat." He said, "Oh not so, Lord, I have never eaten anything that was unclean"( Acts 11:7-8 ).

And so many people take that as a green light from God to eat anything. I can eat the bacon, ham, and pork chops, and so forth because God said, "Don't call that unclean that which I have cleansed." God wasn't really talking about pork in that scripture. He was actually talking about the Gentiles, and He was dealing with Peter because God was going to call him to go to the Gentiles. And yet, I believe that Paul was a liberated enough Jew that I'm sure that he probably ate pork chops and all whenever they were set before him. Because he said, "All things are to be received with thanksgiving and eat what is set before you asking no questions".

However, that wasn't in regards to pork. It was just don't say, "Was this sacrificed to a pagan idol?" If they say, "Yes, it was." Then if you eat it you're going to offend your conscience and theirs and so-yet Jesus said, "It isn't what goes into a man's mouth that defiles the man, but that which comes out of his mouth" ( Matthew 15:11 ). And so, I do believe that in the New Testament the Lord did give us, as Gentiles, the privilege of eating meats that were forbidden to the Jews. When they sought to deal with the issue of the relationship of the Gentile church to the law, Peter said, "Don't put on them a yoke of bondage that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear." And so they did mention just one thing, don't eat things that are strangled actually, or refrain from the blood, and don't eat things that are sacrificed to idols. But they didn't go into the whole dietary list that God gave to them here in Leviticus.

Now as we look at the eleventh chapter of Leviticus, we find the beasts that God said that they could eat, and so He gave a basic rule.

Whatsoever parts the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and chews the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat ( Leviticus 11:3 ).

And then it gave examples of animals that could not be eaten because they didn't follow all three. They needed to have all three of these things. They needed to have the parted hoof, the cloven foot, and they needed to chew the cud.

Now the camel chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; and so the camel was not to be eaten. The coney chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; it's unclean. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divides not the hoof; he's unclean to you ( Leviticus 11:4-6 ).

Now, I had someone tell me at one time they had a friend who didn't believe in God or the Bible anymore because of this particular scripture where the Bible talks about the rabbit chewing the cud. And he said the rabbit doesn't chew the cud, and therefore, if the Bible was truly the word of God, it wouldn't say that a rabbit chews the cud when a rabbit doesn't chew the cud. Well, this animal in the Hebrew actually is the arnebeth, and what kind of animal that is, I don't know. But the King James translators thought that it was perhaps a rabbit, but just what kind of an animal it truly was, we don't know. However, interestingly enough they have found out just lately that a rabbit does chew a cud. And there is now articles and scientific evidence to prove that a rabbit actually does chew a cud. And so this guy gave up his faith for nothing. How tragic, in deed.

Now, the swine or the pig was forbidden. Now we surely understand the health reasons for this. With wild rabbit, of course, there's always the danger of yellow fever. They are carriers of this disease. And if you eat wild rabbit, you have to be careful because there is a prevalent danger from wild rabbit of yellow fever. From the pig we know that if we eat pork, it is important that we cook it well done. You never order your pork chops raw or rare, because there is that danger of really getting trichinosis from rare pork. So you've got to cook it so all of the worms are totally killed. So that you are eating good dead worms instead of the possibility that some of them may not have been cooked until they were dead. And so, it's important that you really cook it well or else you are endangering your own health. Now, we know that now. We know that it is important and that a lot of people have become extremely sick from not cooking the pork well enough. And so we see that God was just protecting them rather than telling them how to cook it or make sure you cook it well. He just put it on one of the forbidden lists.

And then God then spoke about those things that are in the water. And He gave certain basic overall rules and then gave some things that they should not do. But the basically overall, verse nine,

These shall ye eat of that which are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, and in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. But if they have not fins or scales in the seas, and in the rivers, and all that move in the waters, of any living thing..., they'd be an abomination to you ( Leviticus 11:9-10 ):

And so that would mean that there would be certain types of fish that should not be eaten. Of course, crab would be forbidden; clams would be forbidden; we do know that the shellfish during certain months of the year are deadly poisonous. And so God, again, is just protecting the people with these laws in regards to these things that are in the water. Now, as we learn more about these things, we can eat them. I mean you can have clam chowder, and you get your clams just so you know which months to gather them in and which months to not gather them.


Whatsoever, hath no fins nor scales in the waters, shall be an abomination to you ( Leviticus 11:12 ).

And then of the birds certain ones were not to be eaten. You weren't to eat the eagle, the ossifrage, the vulture, the kite, the raven, the owl, the night hawk, or the hawks-various types, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the swan, the pelican, the gier eagle, the stork, the heron, the lapwing, the bat. I have never had any problem with any of these things. I've never been tempted to eat them and so this part of the law doesn't really cause me any concern whatsoever.

But then, verse twenty-one,

Yet these may ye eat of every flying or creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap with all upon the eaRuth ( Leviticus 11:21 );

That means you can eat locusts and John the Baptist was eating locusts and wild honey. You can eat beetles if you are so inclined and grasshoppers, if that turns you on.

But the other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you. And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever touches the carcase of those ( Leviticus 11:23-24 )

And so forth. So God lays out and gives the rules then of the uncleanness, touching dead carcasses and unclean until evening and so forth, and the way you are to wash and so forth. And really a lot of it is just the care and the washing and the taking care of yourself after touching dead carcasses. And it's just good hygiene that God is teaching.

Now this is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moves in the waters ( Leviticus 11:46 ),

And it's interesting how at the end of each chapter sort of summarizes what the chapter was about. And so in verse forty-six, you have sort of a summary of the things that God has dealt with.

The law of the beasts, the fowls, and every living creature that moves in the waters and every creature that creeps upon the earth to make a difference between the unclean and the clean, between the beasts that may be eaten and the beasts which shall not be eaten ( Leviticus 11:46-47 ).

I have noticed here that also mouse and lizards, and snails, and moles, are on the forbidden list. So, you gourmets who love your snails, just know that you probably would be healthier without them.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/leviticus-11.html. 2014.
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