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Bible Commentaries

Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Leviticus 11

Verses 1-40

III. HOLINESS DEMANDED

1. The Clean and the Unclean

CHAPTER 11

1. Concerning the beasts on the earth (Leviticus 11:1-3.11.8 )

2. Concerning things in the water (Leviticus 11:9-3.11.12 )

3. Concerning flying and creeping things (Leviticus 11:13-3.11.23 )

4. Concerning defilement with dead bodies (Leviticus 11:24-3.11.40 )

The chapters which form the third section of Leviticus are by some taken to give evidence that not Moses, but another person arranged the material of the book. Even men who do not deny the inspiration of the book claim that the hand of a redactor is here discovered. In their opinion chapter 16 should follow immediately after the tenth chapter, because the first verse of the sixteenth chapter connects with the death of Nadab and Abihu. We do not agree with this view, but believe that the arrangement as we have it, is as Moses made it. Immediately after the solemn judgment Jehovah spoke again unto Moses and Aaron. Each chapter begins with the statement “And Jehovah spake.” The holy One now demands that His people whom He has redeemed and made nigh, must be a holy people. The fact of man’s sin and defilement is fully demonstrated in this section.

The eleventh chapter consists in commandments concerning clean and unclean animals. In chapter 20:24-26, the reason for this distinction is given. “But I have said unto you: Ye shall inherit the land and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey; I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. Ye shall therefore put a difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean; and you shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.”

All those beasts were unclean which do not both chew the cud and divide the hoof (see also Deuteronomy 14:0 )--those fishes were unclean which have not both fins and scales--and those birds were unclean which are known as birds of prey, as well as insects (with the exception of certain locusts) and flying mammalia. The subject before us deserves a far deeper and more extended study than we can give it here. We are obliged to confine ourselves to but a few hints. We need not to devote much space to the wisdom revealed in these laws. As God is the author of them they must necessarily reveal His wisdom. It is interesting that all civilized races abstain from the use of the greater part of the animals, which this code prohibits. With the exception of a number of forbidden animals, civilized nations partake of only such which these laws permit. And those which are commonly eaten, such as the oysters, the hog and others, prohibited in this code, science has shown to be more or less responsible for certain diseases and therefore dangerous as a food. The discoveries made by science fully demonstrate the wisdom of these distinctions between the different animals. These laws in their literal meaning are, of course, no longer binding; the religious observance of them was not a permanent thing, and is done away with in the New Testament. The church has no such laws distinguishing between the clean and unclean animals. The clean typify the Jew and the unclean the Gentile. Peter’s vision on the housetop of Joppa warrants this interpretation (Acts 10:0 ). The clean, the Jews, and the unclean, Gentiles, are, in believing, gathered into the one body. Read Colossians 2:16-51.2.17 , where the fact is stated that Leviticus 11:0 is no longer in force. (While these laws have no longer a religious significance, it is wise to follow them as much as possible. Orthodox Jews who hold strictly to these dietary laws and keep them are far more free from certain diseases than Gentile races, which ignore these laws. It has also been shown by statistics that the mean duration of Jewish life averages much higher than that of others.)

But there is also a deeper meaning to all this. Yet in looking for deeper and spiritual lessons, one must be guarded against a fanciful and far-fetched application. This has often been done. It is obvious that these laws concerning the clean and unclean, teach the path of separation, which Jehovah has marked out for His redeemed people. Only that which is clean according to the divine estimate was to be their food. And we, as His redeemed people, must feed spiritually upon the food God has provided for us, that is Christ. The clean and the unclean, all show certain characteristics, which may well be studied. In the New Testament unclean animals are used to represent unbelievers and unsaved persons. The dog and the swine are thus used (2 Peter 2:22 ). The sheep, as everybody knows, typifies a believer. The characteristics of the clean animals may therefore give some typical lessons on the characteristics of those who believe, and the unclean, characteristics of those who believe not. However, we repeat, these things must not be pressed too far. It is interesting to see the prominence given to the chewing of the cud and the dividing of the hoof. These two things found together in an animal constituted them clean. Those which only chewed the cud, but did not divide the hoof, and others dividing the hoof and not chewing the cud, were unclean. The feeding and the walking are thus made prominent. A Christian, born again, and therefore clean, must feed upon the Word, meditate upon it constantly, like “chewing the cud.” The feet stand for the walk, and that must correspond with the feeding upon the Word. The clean fish had to have fins and scales. The fins are for swift movement through the waters and the scales for defense. This too is not without meaning.

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/leviticus-11.html. 1913-1922.