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Food: Permitted and Prohibited
Leviticus 11:2.—These are the beasts which ye shall eat. [For scientific and sanitary information respecting the animals, reptiles, birds, and fishes specified, valuable information will be found in Whitlaw’s Code of Health; also in Calmet; and a useful summary in the Critical and Explanatory Commentary on this chapter]
How noteworthy the fact that the glorious Jehovah should extend his oversight of Israel to such minute dietic and sanitary regulations. But the minute is not less within God’s thought than the majestic; the “hairs of your head” are guarded (Matthew 10:30) with a providence which equally controls dynasties and kings (Matthew 10:18). There is nothing unimportant with Him “whose we are” He careth for you with a care which gathers all into consideration—each single step, “lest we dash our foot against a stone”; each moment of life, lest “sudden destruction” come upon us; each item which makes for health, for happiness, for holiness; for God thinks of us in every particular.
The special purposes effected by these dietic regulations for the Hebrew people were:—
1. Sanitary: to effect health and cleanliness in the individual and the family. And beyond question the classification of meats is founded upon the wholesomeness of the creatures as man’s food, while the stringent laws respecting the “dead” were of emphatic importance in an Oriental country and climate. It is Bacon’s testimony that “cleanliness of body was ever esteemed to proceed from a due reverence of God”; and Thomson affirms that “health is the vital principle of bliss.”
2. Political: to enforce a distinction between the Hebrew and surrounding nations, restricting them, by minute prohibitions in diet, from mingling with other people in the usages and indulgences of social life; enforcing on them a constant necessity of avoiding all close familiarity with “strangers.” This distinction, in habits at the table, and in all festivities, rendered them “a peculiar people,” and restrained them from a perilous intermingling with idolatrous neighbours; thus conserving the Theocracy, and marking out Israel as a nation selected and governed by Jehovah.
3. Religious: The distinction of meats rested on a moral, a religious, a theological basis. The creatures here classified were images of virtues and vices, suggestive to the Oriental mind of moral and sacred truths; were a pictorial delineation, therefore, of theological instructions. Certainly those creatures pronounced “clean” have been acknowledged most wholesome as man’s meat in all after times; and this enforced limitation on Israel that only “clean” food should pass their lips carried the important lesson to every man, woman, and child, that “God had called them not to uncleanness but unto holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
Every enactment of the old dispensation aimed at cultivating virtue, purity, sanctity in God’s people; and equally, even more solemnly, every requirement of the gospel and all the provisions of our Lord’s atonement summon us to be “clean every whit.” “Be ye holy,” saith God, “for I am holy.”
Topic: DISTINGUISHING THE PRECIOUS FROM THE VILE (Leviticus 11:4-3.11.7)
“He is unclean unto you.”
God’s charge, through Ezekiel, against the faithless priests was that “they put no difference between the holy and profane, neither showed difference between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 22:26). It was also His requirement from Jeremiah in order to his being dignified as God’s acknowledged messenger: “If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth” (Jeremiah 15:19).
The emphasis with which Jehovah insists upon this habitual and minute distinguishing the unclean from the clean proclaims therefore a foremost law in godly conduct. Consider—
I. That God’s people, the spiritual Israel, move in a SCENE OF MINGLED GOOD AND EVIL.
Man coveted in Eden to “know good and evil.” From that hour the “clean and unclean” have been around him in every path of life.
1. In the sphere of daily life we have contact with both. The world around us—earth, air, and sea—all elements, all scenes, are occupied with these physical and moral opposites, “clean and unclean.” A character, a quality, is upon all that lives. And this fact in the lower orders of creatures forcibly indicates the like realities of moral and spiritual contrasts in the human lives which throng our sphere.
2. Our contact with them entails the danger of contamination. Taste the unclean and we thereby become defiled. God has marked specifically and minutely the things which are to be accounted “an abomination” (Leviticus 11:12; Leviticus 11:20, etc.). So in the human sphere, there are interdicted pleasures, companionships, alliances. The ban of heaven is upon much which the world sanctions. We cannot “have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” without being made “unclean” (Leviticus 11:26). “Every one that toucheth them shall be unclean.”
3. In such a defiling sphere our duty is to separate the precious from the vile. God has separated them for us by His prohibitions and permissions; by His “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” We are to act out His commands, work along the line of His directions. Ignorance is inexcusable when God hath “shown us what is good, and what the Lord requires of us” (Micah 6:8).
II. That in life’s mingled scene the godly MUST EXERCISE CONTINUOUS VIGILANCE.
People who knew not the Lord put no difference between things clean and unclean. But the “Israel of God” would need to hourly walk as amid treachery and hazard; they could not eat of the dish of an alien without possibility of tasting the condemned food. This enforced a divided life upon the Israelite, as Christianity still does, leading us to “abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good,” and maintain a “separation from sinners.”
1. We enter, by relationship with Christ, into a separated life. As Israel was by these dietic ordinances severed from intimacy and festivity with the heathen, so are Christians called aside, led out from near intercourse with unsanctified society, to “put a difference between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 11:43-3.11.47). We are separated unto God in Christ: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16).
2. Such a separated life must assert itself in habitual avoidance of prohibited things. The “unclean” is to be marked, repudiated, shunned, as “an abomination.” It entails an hourly watchfulness, a quick habit of penetrating into the moral differences which underlie society, men, and manners, pastimes and pursuits. Things must be looked at, not from their popularity, their advantages, their attractions, but faced with a challenge as to their moral quality and tendency. Will this defile? Is it “clean or unclean”? We must “take the precious from the vile.”
3. Minute distinctions are forced upon us by this principle of conduct. The “unclean” things are not glaringly so; the “clean” are not manifestly different from the “abominable.” These creatures—beasts, reptiles, fishes, etc.—are so similar that the lines seem almost to converge and intersect. We may easily avoid sinful men, shun their society, hide from their power; and yet men throw out their influence where they themselves are invisible and unsuspected. We might loathe the company of a vile man, and yet think it no risk to read his thoughts as they appear on the printed page. “Thereby many are defiled.” Thoughts read enter our minds, are within us to soil and fret us. The sentiments, maxims, and ideas of worldly-wise men gain currency as motives to common conduct, as rules of life. They may act as decoys. Let us challenge their “cleanness” in God’s sight, and estimate them by His truth. Our age is charmed with the specious plea of “expediency,” “tolerance,” “utilitarianism.” Let us separate the “precious from the vile.”
III. That by strictest adherence to divine directions SANCTITY OF LIFE SHOULD BE MAINTAINED. “Ye shall not make yourselves abominable, etc.; ye shall sanctify yourselves” (Leviticus 11:43-3.11.44).
1. Every godly soul is, to a degree, put in trust with the imparted sanctity. All Israel’s peculiar and distinguishing holiness was the bestowment of Jehovah’s grace; as all our Christian purity and piety are derived from Christ. Yet sanctity is not a passive condition of the soul, but a cultivated quality of temperament and behaviour. “Ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing” (Leviticus 11:44). Godliness is to be wrought out into life, shunning the “corruptions which are in the world,” and cultivating the holiness which assimilates us to God.
2. Derived sanctity is no assurance against defilement if we forsake God’s commands. The Israelite only maintained his spiritual status as he held by his sacred separateness from the heathen; repudiating their festivities, broadening rather than obliterating the line of demarcation which distinguished him from the godless world. The admonitory word to us is this: “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in your ignorance; but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:14-60.1.15). It is our covenant privilege to be as God’s sanctified household amid alienated peoples; with His sanctuary amongst us, admitted through a High Priesthood into the holiest of all; accepted by sacrifice, sanctified by the Spirit It therefore behoves us to shun the vile, touch not and eat not “the unclean,” but live in delightful observance of His commands, and thus “perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 7:1). [See Addenda to chap. xi., Separate from Sinners.]
Topic: FORBIDDEN FOODS
“Neither shall ye defile yourselves” (Leviticus 11:44).
The details of these ceremonial restrictions are unimportant to us. They had their meaning and purpose for the Jew. But the suggestiveness of these prohibitions comes powerfully upon us who are not under Jewish ceremonialism.
“Govern well thy appetite, lest Sin
Surprise thee, and her black-attendant Death.”
Paradise Lost, Bk. vii line 546.
I. Man’s duty is—That his PHYSICAL HEALTH AND PURITY BE SEDULOUSLY MAINTAINED.
The lust of the eye, the caprices of appetite, are not to rule him. He may give no license to cravings whose indulgence would violate the health and sanctity of his physical frame. Every fitful fancy, every low desire, can find gratification in the varieties of meats and drinks which are within man’s reach. Yet that is no justification for his indiscriminate and unrestricted indulgence. His self-respect, his intelligence, his sense of propriety, his regard for purity, his recoil from vicious and vitiating habits, and his recognition of responsibility to God, should restrain him from any gratification which is low and degrading, which will inflame the blood, intoxicate the brain, disease the body, defile the conscience.
“Keep thyself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). Such is man’s duty. If he trifle with his health, and defile his flesh, he mars the work of God’s hands. [Addenda to chapter xi., Feasting.]
“All philosophy,” says Epictetus, “lies in two words—‘Sustain’ and Abstain’ ”
II. Man’s dignity is—THAT HIS ENTIRE NATURE BE HALLOWED AND SANCTIFIED.
“For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy, for I am holy; neither shall ye defile yourselves” (Leviticus 11:44).
All God’s solicitous care for Israel’s physical health and purity was but the index to His supreme desire for their moral rectitude and spiritual holiness He does not interdict delights, but He requires that no defilement be admitted into the temple of the human life, sensuous, intellectual, or spiritual.
“Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumbered pleasures, harmlessly pursued” (COWPER’S Retirement),
but it lays prohibition on all that would demoralise us and offend God. “Unless the vessel be pure,” says Horace, “whatever is put in will turn sour.” [Sincerum est nisi vas, quodcunque infundis acescit.] The first requirement, therefore, to a hallowed life is a purified body; its passions subdued, its vile affections extinguished, its immoral tendencies arrested. Conversion proves itself by the renunciation of all sins of the flesh. From the mental nature must then be excluded all “evil thoughts”; the intellectual citadel of man must be purged of impure imaginations, decoying fallacies, fitful reasonings, and “every thought be brought into the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The spiritual life can only be perfected in holiness, dignified with sanctity, as the tabernacle in which it dwells is preserved inviolate. Hence the appeal, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-47.6.18).
Note: The word “holy” has its root in the ancient Saxon word halig, hale, sound, whole; and health is therefore the primal idea of holiness—an unblemished, unimpaired, perfect physique. It glides into the higher application—perfect in a moral sense; pure in heart, pious in thought and life.
Inferentially: All Jehovah’s regulations for Israel’s physical cleanness and health carried with them the higher demand—“a clean heart and a right spirit.” For only he that is “clean every whit” has attained to the divine ideal of man’s true dignity—“Holiness unto the Lord.”
Topic: A RESTRAINT UPON FESTIVITIES
The design of God’s directions concerning food was not guidance to nutritious diet. The palate suffices man to discern between the luscious and the harmful. And the classification is not into salubrious and insalubrious, tasteful and tasteless, but clean and unclean. The results of these distinctions and directions are:
I. REMOVAL FROM ALL SOCIAL CONTACT AND FELLOWSHIP WITH THE HEATHEN.
God’s chosen tribes could hold no intimacy, share no festivity with idol worshippers. The tables of the nations were unclean. The Jew could have no seat at impure boards.
The principle is divine. The need of separateness remains, for the world is still the world. Its baits, its indulgences, its corruptions are unchanged. It extends its nets for unwary souls. Hence Scripture’s voice still cries, Beware. Beacons still show a coast bestrewed with wrecks, and wisdom calls the holy pilgrim from the treacherous path.
A clear precept interdicts the world. Believers must not cross the line. They must dwell apart, avoid intimacies, share no vile festivities.
1. Mark the divine goodness in this separating law. The climate of the world checks growth in grace. A coiling serpent sucks the life blood. Rough contact blunts the edge. Solomon’s lustre becomes clouded with shame because his heart declined to pleasure’s charms. All indulgent intimacies with the world cause holiness to sicken and wane. Therefore Mercy warns, “Be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). [See Addenda to chap. xi. Separate from Sinners.]
2. Consider that the world wars incessantly against Christ and His honour. It declares itself Christ’s open foe: it proclaims hostility against sacred truth. Is it not, then, a traitor’s part to feast with the enemy? The true believer shows himself on the Lord’s side, in company, act and step. We are the “salt of the earth”: but, mixed with corruption, the salt loses its savour.
3. Usefulness is neutralised where godliness is accommodating. Suspicion fastens on the faltering steps, on the compromising profession. Society will heed no warning words from one who courts to share its vanities. Therefore Jesus says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). Tread down the barrier line, stray out beyond the limits of Israel’s fellowship, and you wrong your own soul, shadow the glory of Christianity, and enfeeble the witness of gospel truth. The second result is—
II. UNCEASING VIGILANCE WAS ENFORCED UPON GOD’S PEOPLE.
God’s dividing line was drawn everywhere, on all scenes, on every hour, between clean and unclean. Its lesson is to us—
1. That at every step we inquire Is this a lawful path? The quality of cleanness or uncleanness stamps every movement of every mind, every act throughout each day. Each minutest thing is the seed of some result. We may contract defilement from veriest trifles. This law enforces us to apply a constant test.
2. No act is neutral—void of quality, good or ill. We always stand in a path which is right or wrong. Ask continuously, Am I in a “clean” path? and it will be found often impossible to tarry. Examine thoughts by this test: dispel those found to be “unclean.” Put words before this criterion, and “set a watch upon the door of thy lips.” Place books at this bar of judgment; and how many trifling offsprings of a worldly pen will be consigned to oblivion! Bring employ to this light; and flee from what stands rebuked in the light of gospel truth.
Is your soul clean or unclean? By nature it is vile. But there is a Saviour’s blood and a purifying Spirit. Jesus can cleanse, the Spirit can sanctify.—Compare Dean Law’s “Christ is All.”
Topic: LEGAL PROHIBITIONS ABROGATED BY CHRISTIANITY (Leviticus 11:44-3.11.47)
The ceremonial dispensation made righteousness and sanctity dependant on external observances and habits. Judaism “stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed until the time of reformation.”
The spiritual dispensation institutes an inward life of holiness, the Christian being “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Hence for us the Levitical restrictions and regulations are set aside. “Every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4).
Peter received a special revelation upon this matter (Acts 10:0), which at once and for ever swept away the distinctions between clean and unclean creatures; and with it abrogated that righteousness of moral life and religious feeling, which consisted in attendance to mere details of ceremonialism. The vision to Peter was especially intended to abolish the distinction between the Jewish and Gentile nations: since the gospel offered cleansing to all people, and Christ, by His atonement as the Lamb of God, took away the sin of the whole world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).
Paul likewise received instruction direct from Christ on this same truth: “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself.” So that we are under an economy based upon grand principles rather than punctilious rites.
I. CHRISTIANITY REGARDS NOTHING AS IRREMEDIABLY UNCLEAN.
Its message is that the unclean may be made clean: that what was before forbidden and “cast away” may now find acceptance, and be placed among the sanctified. Nothing is so impure but it may be purified: the human heart, the godless will, the evil imaginations, the defiled habits, the guilty conscience, the degraded soul. “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Christianity declares that none, nothing, is unchangeably impure: defilement may be removed; God’s prohibition is withdrawn: the “handwriting against us” is abolished; the sinner may be “washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:2).
II. CHRISTIANITY DENOUNCES NOTHING BECAUSE OF ITS BEING UNCLEAN.
The law had denounced much. Not foods only, but people. The Gentiles were excluded from spiritual fellowship with Israel. But the doom has been revoked: the “middle wall of partition” has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14); all may enter the sacred enclosure and become accepted in Christ.
Every sin-defiled soul is in its sinfulness a separated and forbidden thing; in its uncleanness it is put aside, it has no place among the pure, no part in the heritage of them who are sanctified through faith in Jesus. But not denounced! Guilt renders it necessary that the sinner should be thus excluded so long as guilt remains; “without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” for “the unclean can not stand in His sight.” Yet Christianity offers, opens “salvation even to the uttermost;” declares that “where sin abounded grace doth much more abound.”
Men who missed the large and loving truth denounced the “publican and the harlot”; Jesus Christ set the door open wide to them and because their Friend. “Behold a friend of publicans and sinners.”
III. CHRISTIANITY ABANDONS NOTHING HOWEVER UNCLEAN.
No! it goes down to the depths. The leper was abandoned—socially and ceremonially—left to perish; his plaintive cry “Unclean! unclean!” winning no help till Christ “touched the leper” and healed his leprosy and restored him to society again. Until the possibility and potency of Christ’s redemption and sanctity came to our souls, we were thus outcasts. The kingdom of God on earth was closed upon the unclean; and heaven too: “Nothing entereth that defileth.”
No more now; a “new and living way” affords us entrance even “into the holiest of all.” The grace of the Lord Jesus avails for each; and “him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Not a soul need remain unclean. Christ can cleanse. There is hope for the vilest.
“The Cross! it takes our guilt away
It holds the fainting spirit up.”
Topic: SYMBOLS OF CLEANNESS IN THE LOWER FORMS OF LIFE
“To make a difference between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 11:41).
i. With regard to “BEASTS,” two distinctive marks point out those which are clean and may be eaten; they should chew the cud and divide the hoof. Either of itself would be insufficient to constitute ceremonial cleanness. What spiritual truth may we learn from such marks being given? The chewing of the cud expresses the natural process of “inwardly digesting” that which one eats; while the divided hoof sets forth the character of one’s outward walk. He who feeds upon the green pastures of the Word of God, and inwardly digests what he takes in, combines calm meditation with prayerful study, will manifest the character of outward walk which should distinguish him who obeys the Word.
The one without the other was insufficient (Leviticus 11:4-3.11.8). A man may profess to love and feed upon the Word of God as the pasture of his soul; but, if his footprints along the pathway of life are not such as the Word requires, he is not clean. And also, though a man walk blamelessly, if his walk be not the result of the hidden life it is worthless. The impression of the foot is of no avail without the divine principle within which feeds upon and digests the rich pasture of God’s Word.
ii. With respect to “all that are IN THE WATERS,” the double mark of cleanness again is given. Two distinctions were necessary, “fins and scales” (Leviticus 11:9-3.11.10). A fish needs the “fin” to enable it to move through the water, and “scales” to resist their penetrating action. And so does the believer require that spiritual capacity which enables him to move onward through the elements surrounding him, and at the same time to resist their penetrating influence. Both are essential. Encased against the action upon us of the evil world, yet endowed with the energy to pass onward through it.
iii. The law with respect to BIRDS was that the carnivorous, the omnivorous, the grovelling, were unclean (Leviticus 11:13-3.11.24). A striking exhibition is therein given of what must be strenuously shunned by every Christian. He must refuse everything of a “carnal” nature. Nor may he feed promiscuously upon everything which comes before him; he must “make a difference between unclean and clean”; must exercise a discerning mind, a spiritual judgment, a heavenly taste. Finally, he must use his wings: rise on the pinions of faith, and find his place in the celestial sphere to which he belongs. Nothing grovelling, nothing promiscuous, nothing unclean for the Christian.
iv. As to “CREEPING THINGS” there was entire prohibition (Leviticus 11:41-3.11.43). Jehovah would have his people free from the defilement consequent upon contact with, touching or tasting anything unclean. They were not their own; they belonged to Jehovah: His name was called upon them. Other nations might eat what they pleased: but Israel enjoyed the high distinction of being regulated by the Lord in every detail of life.
(a) Their entire separation from all manner of uncleanness flows out of their relationship to Him. It is not the principle of “stand by thyself, I am holier than thou”; but simply this, “God is holy,” and therefore all who are brought into association with Him must be holy likewise. If a Christian be now asked why he walks apart from the ten thousand things in which men of the world participate, his answer is simply “My Father is holy.” This is the true foundation of personal holiness.
(b) They are bound to aim at the maintenance of the character which He prescribes. If God, in His exceeding grace, stoops down to our low estate, and lifts us in association with Christ, has He not a right to prescribe what our character should be? And a true Israelite will maintain that “difference between the unclean and the clean.”
(c) How strange to one who had scrupulously observed these ceremonial distinctions all his days, must have been that vision of the vessel containing “all manner of four-footed beasts, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (Acts 10:11-44.10.16) let down from heaven, and to have heard the voice say, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” No examination of hoofs and habits; no need now of this. The soul was now to rise above all ceremonial barriers into the magnificence of heaven’s grace. True cleanness, the cleanness God required, was no longer outward and ceremonial, but should consist in being washed in the blood of the Lamb, which cleanseth from all sin, and renders the believer clean enough to tread the sapphire pavement of the heavenly courts.
The door of the kingdom is thrown open by the hand of Sovereign grace; but not to admit aught that is unclean. Nothing unclean could enter heaven. But a “cloven hoof” was no longer to be the criterion: but this—“what God hath cleansed.”
The standard by which true cleanses must be regulated is no longer carnal, ceremonial, earthly; but spiritual, moral, and heavenly. We are no longer hemmed round about by “touch not, taste not, handle not”; but the divine Word assures us that “every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-54.4.5).—C. H. M.
Topic: JEHOVAH’S CONCERN FOR ISRAEL’S WELL-BEING (Leviticus 11:1-3.11.43)
Doubtless the laws concerning clean and unclean animals were symbolic, conveying lessons specially adapted to Israel at the time; they were also typical of moral truths to be observed by worshippers of Jehovah through all time. So far as regards the animals themselves they were all on the same moral level in the sight of God; each followed the instincts implanted by the great Creator, acquired the habits, and exercised the passions peculiar to its nature. Some were more repulsive to man than others, of less service when alive, less utility when dead.
Animals had been classified by the patriarchs and among heathen nations; some animals had been considered more sacred than others. But these laws definitely fixed the line of demarcation to be drawn, the main distinction being twofold: All animals were unclean except those which divided the hoof and chewed the cud. The directions for determining the difference were numerous and minute, entailing careful and constant discrimination. Origen and other allegorical writers have found symbol and type in every permitted or prohibited thing; but the course is dangerous, and likely to lead to most erroneous conclusions. General truths are suggested, such as—
I. DIVINE CONCERN FOR THE TEMPORAL WELFARE OF ISRAEL.
Laws of purity enjoined would obviously conduce to their physical comfort. Cleanliness is a safeguard against many bodily ills. Nothing was interdicted in these restrictions that would tend to health and longevity. Caring for Israel as a father for his children, Jehovah would have them partake only of food that was nutritious. Nothing is beneath His notice that affects the welfare of the children of men.
II. DIVINE CONCERN FOR THE NATIONAL UNITY OF ISRAEL.
Elected to special privileges and responsibilities, the Hebrew nation was to be clearly distinguished from all other nations on the earth. The laws would keep the people from joining with the heathen in their ordinary meals and sacred feasts; would be a barrier against every intruder; for the Canaanites ate some of the animals these laws prohibited, and offered others in sacrifice to heathen gods. Nothing tends to obliterate national differences and to throw social distinctions into oblivion more than sitting together at the same table and partaking of common food. Israel’s observance of the directions given in this chapter would set a hedge around the family life, and indicate a peculiar people.
III. DIVINE CONCERN FOR THE EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP OF ISRAEL.
Rites and ceremonies had already been instituted that would exclude other nations from mingling with the Hebrew in the worship of the tabernacle; now a guard is put around the social as well as sacred table. Tent, as well as tabernacle, to be consecrated to the Lord. Here we see Jehovah’s sovereignty exercised, His jealousy for the exclusive worship of His people. Whether the people ate or drank, they were to do all to the glory of God. They were to come out from the ungodly and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and thus become the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. Nothing less than cheerful obedience to divine regulations for private and public life would satisfy the claims Jehovah made upon the loyalty and worship of His people.
IV. DIVINE CONCERN FOR THE COMPLETE PURITY OF ISRAEL.
While purity of heart and mind were of the first importance, the body also was to be kept pure. Nothing to be eaten that would make it gross, or vitiate the blood. Even the dwellings of the people, their garments, and every article for use or ornament, to be ceremonially clean. These minute and exact requirements would impress Israel with the holiness of the Lord with whom they had to do. In avoiding the proscribed animals—the habits and appearance of which in many cases would beget natural disgust—the people would be reminded (a) of the vileness and loathsomeness of sin; (b) of the need of constant circumspection to avoid contamination with evil; (c) of the necessity of complete purity in the sight of Jehovah. Attention thus called to the body and physical things would show that the human frame is not the vile product (as the Gnostics contended) of a malevolent deity, but created and cared for by Him who breathed into it at first the breath of life, and made man a living soul.
V. DIVINE CONCERN FOR THE EXALTED PIETY OF ISRAEL.
Selfishness is the root of all sin, pride of all impiety. These laws would tend to humble the people, teach them self-denial. Having to abstain from eating animals savage and voracious in their nature, unattractive in their form, repulsive in their habits, would remind Israel that the most scrupulous sanctity of heart was required by Him who demanded such purity in meaner things. These unclean animals may be regarded as types of persons it is always well to avoid. Thus the brute creation is a book full of useful lessons upon what we may with advantage adopt, and what we ought to shun. In all these things we see the wisdom and goodness of the Lord, conducing to well-being here, and furnishing stepping-stones to blessedness hereafter.—F. W. B.
Topic: JEHOVAH’S CONCERN FOR HIS OWN GLORY (Leviticus 11:44-3.11.47)
The regulations taught Israel that Jehovah was their—
I. SUPREME RULER. “For I am the Lord your God.” All authority resided in Him. He had sovereign right to command and restrain. The people were not to study their own preferences, or conveniences, but obey the mandates that issued from the King of kings.
II. SPOTLESS KING. “For I am holy.” The constant reiteration of this truth must have engraved it deeply in the consciences of the congregation, and impressed them most solemnly with the purity of the divine nature. Israel could never have conceived of so holy a Being, surrounded as they had been, and were still, by hideous and degrading idolatry.
III. GREAT DELIVERER. “For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt.” The people were under vast obligation to the Almighty. He had wrought signal deliverances for them They were His by redemption. He had a right to expect obedience from them. He had brought them out of Egypt for the specific purpose of making them a people for Himself. These laws would test their faith, gratitude, and obedience; teach them self-denial, and restraint. Their spiritual nature was to be in ascendancy over everything carnal and temporal.
In the New Testament a new interpretation is given to these Levitical laws; we are shown that, not what we eat or drink defiles the soul, but what comes out of it. The root and seat of evil are within; yet, care needs to be exercised against temptation and contamination. Touching the unclean thing, such as pernicious literature, places of ill-fame, sinful companionship, may lead to moral defilement, to spiritual degeneracy. In the gospel—
(1) Special emphasis is laid upon spiritual purity;
(2) With spiritual purity is associated our highest joy.
Our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost; they ought, therefore, to be kept pure. The Church is the Body of Christ: from it, therefore, everything should be excluded that is unclean. Into the celestial city “there shall in no wise enter anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination”; all there shall be for ever, “Holiness unto the Lord.”—F. W. B.
Topic: THE CLEAN AND THE UNCLEAN
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is cloven footed, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat” (Leviticus 11:2-3.11.3).
As the Mosaic was peculiarly a typical dispensation, we shall not exaggerate the uses of the text if we show that there was something instructive to us and something typical of the better covenant in the command given that the people were to eat no creatures but those which divided the hoof and those which chewed the cud.
I. These distinctions of meat were laid down TO KEEP THE JEWS AS A DISTINCT PEOPLE, and that herein they might be a type of the people of God, who are also, throughout all ages, to be a distinct and separate people—not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.
With this Levitical rule it was quite impossible for the Hebrews to mix with any other nation without violating the statutes they were commanded to keep. Their food was so restricted that they could not possibly enter into social intercourse with any of the neighbouring peoples. The Canaanites, for instance, ate everything, even the flesh that had been torn by dogs, and the dogs themselves. Now, a Jew could never sit at a Canaanite’s table, because he could never be sure that there would not be the flesh of some unclean and accursed thing upon it. The Jews could not even eat with the Arabs, who were near akin to them, for they frequently partook of the flesh forbidden to the Jew. This command made them a distinct and isolated republic so long as they were obedient to the law. Just so the Mohammedan regulations, less strict than those of the Jew, prevent their becoming socially intermingled either with the idolators or with Christians. Now, what is the use of this to us? It is the earthly type of a heavenly mystery. Thus all who name the name of Christ are solemnly bound to be for ever separated from the world. Our Saviour “was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” He was with them, but He was never of them; among them, but always distinct and separate from them. He hath set us an example. Be among men as a light in the midst of darkness, as salt scattered over putridity, as heavenly angels in the midst of fallen men; a distinct people, a chosen generation.
But in what respects are we to be distinguished?
1. In a pure consistency always, in vain eccentricity never. Not in our garments; not by any peculiar jargon in speech; such artificial separations we leave to the people whose vanity feeds on its own conceit. Not trying to make ourselves look like Christians. Heavenly realities within do not always need to be labelled outside, so that everybody may say, “There goes a saint.” There are other modes of being distinguished from the world than any of these.
2. We ought ever to be distinguished from the world in the great object of our life Our main and principal motive as Christians should always be to live for Christ. You can make the commonest calling become really sacred. You may take the highest orders by dedicating your daily life wholly to the service of Jesus. There is such a thing—and let those that deny the possibility stand self-convicted that they obey not the precept—“Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
3. By our spirit as well as our aim we should likewise be distinguished; a spirit which watcheth humbly before God, and seeketh to know His will and to do it through the grace of God given.
4. Our maxims and rules which regulate us should be very different from those of others. A Christian never considers what is usual, but what is right. The believer reads things, not in man’s light, in the obscurity of which so many blind bats are willing to fly, but he reads things in the sunlight of heaven. If a thing be right, though he lose by it, it is done; if it be wrong, though he should become as rich as Crœsus by allowing it, he scorns the sin for his Master’s sake.
3. Our actions should be distinctive. Let your conduct talk out your soul. Let the main sermon of your life be illustrated by all your conduct, and it shall not fail to be illustrious. This will furnish the best proof that you have been with Jesus.
4. A Christian is distinguished by his conversation. If he would have a jest, he picks the mirth but leaves the sin; his conversation is not used to levity; it is not mere froth, but it ministereth grace unto the hearers. Oh! commend me to the man who talks like Jesus; who will not for the world suffer corrupt communications to come out of his mouth. You know the value of the gold of heaven too well to pawn it away for the counterfeits of earth. “Come ye out from among them; be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” By a holiness which merely moral men cannot equal, stand as on a pedestal aloft above the world. Thus men may know you to be of the seed of Jesus, even as they knew the Jew to be the seed of Israel.
II. The distinction drawn between clean and unclean animals was intended by God TO KEEP HIS PEOPLE ALWAYS CONSCIOUS THAT THEY WERE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF SIN.
An oriental Jew, sensible and intelligent, walks out in the fields. He walks along close by the side of the high-road, and what should he see but a string of camels going along? “Ah!” he says to himself “those are unclean animals.” Sin, you see, is brought at once before his mind’s eye. He turns away from the road and walks down one of his own fields, and as he goes along a hare starts across his path. “Ah!” says he, “an unclean animal again; there is sin in my path.” He gets into a more retired place; he walks on the mountains; surely he shall be alone there. But he sees a coney burrowing among the rocks; “Ah!” says he, “unclean; there is sin there!” He lifts his eye up to heaven; he sees the osprey, the bald eagle, flying along through the air, and he says, “Ah! there is an emblem of sin there!” A dragon-fly has just flitted by him—there is sin there. There are insects among the flowers; now every creeping thing, and every insect, except the locust, was unclean to the Jew. Everywhere he would be reminded that this world, however beautiful, still has sin in it. Even the fish, in sea, or river, or inland lake, had their divisions; those that had no scales or fins were unclean to the Jew, so the little Hebrew boys could not even fish for minnows in the brook but they would know that the minnow was unclean, and so their young hearts were made to dread little wrongs and little sins, for there were little sins in the little pools, even as there were leviathan sins floating in the deep and nude sea. We want to have this more before our minds. Not a spot is there in the universe where the curse of sin has never inflicted a blight, or where the hope of redemption should not inspire a prayer. See that you put on the whole panoply of God, and watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation. Every morning we ought to ask the Lord to keep us from unknown sins, to preserve us from temptation that we cannot foresee, to check us in every path of life if we are about to go wrong, and hold us up every hour that we sin not. May the Lord set sin straight before your eyes, and then set the cross of Christ there too, and so you will be saved.
III. This injunction was also intended to be A RULE OF DISCRIMINATION BY WHICH WE MAY JUDGE WHO ARE CLEAN AND WHO ARE UNCLEAN, that is, WHO ARE SAINTS AND WHO ARE NOT.
There are two tests, but they must both be united. The beast that was clean was to chew the cud, here is the inner life; every true-hearted man must know how to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the sacred Word. The man who does not feed upon gospel truth, and so feed upon it, too, that he knows the sweetness and relish of it, and seeks out its marrow and fatness, that man is no heir of heaven. You must know a Christian by that which supports his life and sustains his frame. But then the clean creatures were also known by their walk. The Jew at once discovered the unclean animal by its having an undivided hoof; but if the hoof was thoroughly divided, then it was clean, provided that it also chewed the cud. So there must be in the true Christian a peculiar walk such as God requires. You cannot tell a man by either of these tests alone, you must have them both. But while you use them upon others apply them to yourselves. You may profess the faith within, but if you do not walk aright without, you belong to the unclean. On the other hand, you may walk aright without, but unless there is a real feeding upon precious truth in the heart, all the right walking in the world will not prove you to be a Christian. That holiness which is only outward is moral not spiritual; it does not save the soul. That religion which is only inward is but fancy; it cannot save the soul either. But the two together, the inwards parts made capable of knowing the lusciousness, the sweetness, the fatness of Christ’s truth; and the outward parts conformed to Christ’s image and character; these conjoined point out the true and clean Christian with whom it is blessed to associate here, and for whom a better portion is prepared hereafter.—C. H. Spurgeon, in “Metro. Tab. Pulpit.”
ILLUSTRATIVE ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 11
SEPARATE FROM SINNERS:—
This was Christ’s distinction: it should distinguish all who are Christ’s.
“The friendships of the world are oft
Confederacies in vice, or leagues of pleasure.
Ours has severest virtue for its basis,
And such a friendship ends not but with life.”—ADDISON: Cato iii. 1.
“There are three friendships which are advantageous, and three which are injurious. Friendship with the upright, friendship with the sincere, and friendship with the man of observation; these are advantageous. Friendship with the men of specious airs, friendship with the insinuatingly soft, and friendship with the glib-tongued; these are injurious.”—CONFUCIUS: Analects iii.
“Nature and religion are the bands of friendship; excellency and usefulness are its great endearments. But as all cannot actually be of our society, so neither can all be admitted to a special, actual friendship.”
“Not with the light and vain,
The man of idle feet and wanton eyes;
Not with the world’s gay, ever smiling train;
My lot be with the grave and wise.
“Not with the trifler gay,
To whom life seems but sunshine on the wave;
Not with the empty idler of the day;
My lot be with the wise and grave.
“Not with the jesting fool,
Who knows not what to sober truth is due;
Whose words fly out without an aim rule;
My lot be with the wise and true.
“With them I’d walk each day,
From them time’s solemn lessons would learn,
That false from true and true from false I may
Each hour more patiently discern.”
“Simple diet is best; for many dishes bring many diseases.”—PLINY.
“They eat, they drink, and in communion secret.
Quaff immortality and joy.”—MILTON.
“Health and liberty
Attend on those bare meals: if all were blest
With such a temperance
There would be no slaves, no syncophants
At great men’s tables.—MAY.
“Fatal effects of luxury and ease!
We drink our poison, and we eat disease,
Indulge our senses at our reason’s cost,
Till sense is pain, and reason hurt or lost.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Leviticus 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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