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Bible Commentaries

Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Leviticus 11

Verses 1-47

ANIMALS ALLOWED OR DISALLOWED FOR FOOD (vv. 1-8)

Never since the flood has man been commanded to be a vegetarian. After the flood Noah was told, “every moving thing that lives shall be food for you” (Genesis 9:3). Nothing at that time was forbidden, except the eating of blood, a matter that has not changed through the ages. However, under law, and under law only, God put strict limits on what animals, birds or water creatures were permitted to Israel to eat. These laws were never put upon Gentiles, but only on Israel. The reason for some being forbidden was simply because of a spiritual significance, not that there was evil in the creature itself. This is clearly seen in Acts 10:9-44.10.15 and Acts 10:28. In a vision the Lord told Peter to eat all kinds of animals. Peter objected, but the Lord insisted. Then he realized that the unclean animals were symbolical of people, that is, Gentiles, as Peter says inActs 10:28; Acts 10:28, that God had shown him he should not call any man unclean. Before the cross, Israel was strictly separate from Gentiles because Gentiles were considered unclean to them, but the sacrifice of Christ cleanses all who trust Him as Savior, whether Jews or Gentiles, therefore God has removed the barrier between clean and unclean animals, so that “every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4).

This chapter therefore deals typically with the question of our association with others in the world. The earlier chapters of Leviticus involve the beauty and holiness of our association with the living God.

Among the animals there were two marks that would make one suitable for eating, (1) if it has a divided hoof, and (2) if it chewed the cud (v. 3). The divided hoof enables the animal to walk through miry land without being bogged down in it. Thus our fellowship is not to be with those who are entangled in their walk by the affairs of this life, but with those who are dependent on divine grace to bear them through the world, for the number 2 (the divided hoof) speaks of dependence rather than self-sufficiency, as number 1 might infer.

Chewing the cud (rumination) is typical of the character of meditation, inferring taking time to digest the truth of the Word of God. As the hoofs indicate the walk through the world, so the chewing of the cud speaks of concern for God's honor.

Verses 4 to 8 insist that both of these things must be present or the animal was unclean. The camel chewed the cud but did not divide the hoof. So there are those who make a show of honoring God while their walk is fouled in the mire of the world. So-called “transcendental meditation” may give the appearance of being very spiritual, but it is total vanity, for there is no Christian walk to go with it. Again, falsely so-called “Christian Science” puts on an air of highest spirituality, but its victims live in a dream world, their feet unable to walk in the path of Christian faith. Many false religions are the same in essence, and the believer is to have no part with such things.

The swine however (v. 7) divides the hoof, but does not chew the cud. There are some people who seem to have ability to walk rightly, concentrating on moral uprightness and yet having no heart for learning the Word of God, no meditation therefore on the person of Christ who sits on the right hand of God. They may have feet that could take them through the mire of the world, but instead, though they may even be washed (not saved, but outwardly cleaned up), they prefer to return to wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:22). Thus Mormonism makes a show of emphasizing morality, boasting in such things as not drinking tea or coffee, yet the Lord Jesus is not the Object of their thoughts and the mire of material gain has entangled them. The believer is warned not to have any fellowship with such.

WATER CREATURES ALLOWED OR DISALLOWED (vv. 9-12)

Verses 9 to 12 deal with creatures of the waters. Fish with fins and scales, whether from the rivers or the seas, were allowed in Israel's diet. They are in an element where progress is impeded, the water being much heavier than air. This would speak of the conflict of believers, having to expend energy in order to progress at all. For this conflict we need fins, the means of movement, which is virtually our offensive weapon, while the scales are for protection or defense. All true Christians are enlisted in God's army (2 Timothy 2:3-55.2.4), therefore one who has no spiritual defense and no spiritual energy is not a fit companion for a believer. How can we have spiritual fellowship with one who has no spiritual qualities? These are in fact called an “abomination,” therefore to be repulsive to a believer.

BIRDS FORBIDDEN AS FOOD (vv. 13-19)

Birds are now considered, but only specific birds mentioned that were forbidden, with no rule given as to distinguishing clean from unclean. Yet all of these considered unclean are evidently those that feed on flesh or other animate life. These unclean birds of the air are typical of what is Satanic (Matthew 13:4; Matthew 13:19), for Satan is “the prince of the power of the air.” How many there are everywhere who follow Satan's example of consuming others rather than being of blessing to them. Such an unbeliever is referred to in1 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:17: “If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” In that chapter the believer is a builder, not a destroyer. Sometimes one can be so deceptive as to appear to be a believer in order to get in among God's people to destroy them. This is satanic deceit. We must therefore be on our guard not to have fellowship with what is unclean or questionable.

Clean birds were however not forbidden, for they speak of what is genuinely heavenly in character, such as is seen in Colossians 3:2-51.3.3: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Those who have this attitude are fit companions for believers. There are certain birds that in fact are typical of the Lord Jesus, being used in the offerings, as in Leviticus 1:14-3.1.17, turtledoves or pigeons. Again, at the baptism of the Lord Jesus, we are told that “He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him” (Matthew 3:16). This is a precious contrast toGenesis 15:11; Genesis 15:11, where the vultures came down on the carcasses of Abram's sacrifice with the object of devouring it, just as Satan tries to destroy the value of the sacrifice of Christ. Abram, the man of faith, drove the vultures away.

INSECTS TO BE PERMITTED OR REFUSED (vv. 20-23)

Flying creeping things symbolize those who profess what is heavenly, but compromise this with earthly-mindedness: their lives are therefore contradictory. Philippians 3:18-50.3.19; Philippians 3:18-50.3.19 tells us of these, the many who “walk,” that is, make a profession of heavenly character, but they really set their minds on earthly things. The believer is not to have fellowship with these. Yet if the flying insect had jointed legs with which to jump on the earth, this was permitted as food. For, though it had contact with the earth, it was enabled to leap above the earth's level, typifying the faith that rises above circumstances. Thus, locusts, crickets and grasshoppers might be eaten.

CONTACT WITH THE UNCLEAN DEFILING (vv. 24-28)

All those things that were unclean to Israel were not only forbidden to be eaten, but any person who had contact with the dead carcass of any of them was thereby himself rendered unclean. He must wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening. Again, it must be insisted that there was no moral uncleanness in the dead body itself, but it symbolized the uncleanness that believers today may contact by associating with what is morally or spiritually unclean. It is with very real reason that Timothy was instructed, “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins: keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). In disobeying this we might be virtually handling a dead carcass. The person may be guilty of serious sins we do not suspect, and by associating with him we should identify ourselves with his sins. In other words, we must take time to know a person before identifying ourselves with him.

If we have had such contact with uncleanness, whether or not unwillingly, there is to be true self-judgment of the matter, a washing of our clothes (our habits), and then restoration.

CREEPING THINGS (vv. 29-47)

Only some creeping things that are forbidden are mentioned here, yet in verses 41-43 this is widened to include all creeping things of whatever kind. These are typical of people who are of a repulsive earthbound character, and no doubt each one of them is intended to picture some special unfavorable characteristic of such unbelievers, though we may be unable to interpret the details of these things.

None of these were to be eaten, and if any had died, a person who even touched the dead body would be unclean until evening (v. 31). Or if such a dead body fell on any article of wood or clothing or skin or sack, or whatever was used to work with, the article was to be put in water and be unclean until evening, when it would again be clean (v. 32)

However, if the body fell into an earthen vessel, the vessel was to be broken and anything inside the vessel was unclean. In such a vessel any food that had been made wet with water or any liquid in the vessel would be unclean (v. 34). Even an oven or a cooking stove (likely made of earth) would be unclean through a dead carcass or part of it falling on it, and it was to be broken.

On the other hand, a spring that produced plenty of water would not be defiled by the dead carcass (v. 36). Typically this tells us that the word and Spirit of God are superior to death and cannot be defiled by it. For water speaks of the word of God and its flowing speaks of the energy of the Spirit of God in giving power to the word.

While generally otherwise anything that touched part of a dead carcass would be unclean, yet seed that was to be sown was an exception, so long as the seed was not moistened with water (vv. 37-38). The spiritual significance of this is perhaps hard to discern

Though not dealing with the same subject, verses 39 and 40 are inserted here concerning clean animals. If one of these were to die (not therefore slaughtered for meat), then a person who touched its carcass would be unclean until evening, or if one ate of its carcass, he must wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. Even what is clean may fall into the corruption of death.

But in verses 41-43 it is insisted that all creeping things were forbidden to Israel. Even these are no longer forbidden now that grace has been declared in Christ Jesus our Lord (1 Timothy 4:4), at least if they are received with thanksgiving. This reminds us that even the most loathsome of human beings may still be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus.

These instructions were given to Israel on the basis of the holiness of their God (vv. 44-45). God's name is to be sanctified from all that is inconsistent with His character. Because He is holy, Israel was commanded to be holy. For God had brought them out from the unclean bondage of Egypt that they should belong to Him. They (and we) should therefore love what is good and abhor that which is evil.

Verses 46-47 conclude the treatment of this subject by declaring this to be the law given to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/leviticus-11.html. 1897-1910.