11.  Clean and Unclean Foods

Doctrinal Statement: Not everything that can be eaten is fit for human consumption. God has provided rules for determining what is fit to eat (clean) and unfit to eat (unclean).

 

Definitions

*   Clean: Morally pure; virtuous: led a clean life. Free from foreign matter or pollution; unadulterated: clean air; clean drinking water. Devoid of restrictions or encumbrances: a clean bill of health.

*   Food: Material, usually of plant or animal origin, that contains or consists of essential body nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, and is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth, and maintain life.

 

Bible Verses Pertaining to Clean and Unclean Foods

*   (Lev 11 NIV)  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, {2} "Say to the Israelites: 'Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: {3} You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud. {4} "'There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. {5} The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. {6} The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. {7} And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. {8} You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. {9} "'Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams, you may eat any that have fins and scales. {10} But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales--whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water--you are to detest. {11} And since you are to detest them, you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses. {12} Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you. {13} "'These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, {14} the red kite, any kind of black kite, {15} any kind of raven, {16} the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, {17} the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, {18} the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, {19} the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat. {20} "'All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. {21} There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. {22} Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. {23} But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest. {24} "'You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. {25} Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening. {26} "'Every animal that has a split hoof not completely divided or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them will be unclean. {27} Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. {28} Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening. They are unclean for you. {29} "'Of the animals that move about on the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, {30} the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. {31} Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening. {32} When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean. {33} If one of them falls into a clay pot, everything in it will be unclean, and you must break the pot. {34} Any food that could be eaten but has water on it from such a pot is unclean, and any liquid that could be drunk from it is unclean. {35} Anything that one of their carcasses falls on becomes unclean; an oven or cooking pot must be broken up. They are unclean, and you are to regard them as unclean. {36} A spring, however, or a cistern for collecting water remains clean, but anyone who touches one of these carcasses is unclean. {37} If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean. {38} But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you. {39} "'If an animal that you are allowed to eat dies, anyone who touches the carcass will be unclean till evening. {40} Anyone who eats some of the carcass must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up the carcass must wash his clothes, and he will be unclean till evening. {41} "'Every creature that moves about on the ground is detestable; it is not to be eaten. {42} You are not to eat any creature that moves about on the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is detestable. {43} Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. {44} I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. {45} I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. {46} "'These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water and every creature that moves about on the ground. {47} You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.'"

*   (Gen 7:1-3 NIV)  The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. {2} Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, {3} and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.

*   (Deuteronomy 14:3:20) Pretty much a repeat of the Leviticus text above.

*   (Deu 14:21 NIV)  Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk.

*   (Acts 10:9-17 NIV)  About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. {10} He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. {11} He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. {12} It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. {13} Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." {14} "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." {15} The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." {16} This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. {17} While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate.

*   (Acts 10:9-35 NIV)  About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. {10} He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. {11} He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. {12} It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. {13} Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." {14} "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." {15} The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." {16} This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. {17} While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. {18} They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. {19} While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. {20} So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them." {21} Peter went down and said to the men, "I'm the one you're looking for. Why have you come?" {22} The men replied, "We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say." {23} Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. {24} The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. {25} As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. {26} But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself." {27} Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. {28} He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. {29} So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?" {30} Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me {31} and said, 'Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. {32} Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.' {33} So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us." {34} Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism {35} but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

*   (Num 23:19 NIV)  God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

*   (Gen 26:4-5 NIV)  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, {5} because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws."

 

But what about…

*   (Mark 7:1-19 NIV)  The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and {2} saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. {3} (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. {4} When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) {5} So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?" {6} He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. {7} They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' {8} You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." {9} And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! {10} For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' {11} But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), {12} then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. {13} Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." {14} Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. {15} Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'" {16}  {17} After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. {18} "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? {19} For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") Parentheses are words inserted by translators. See KJV below.

*   (Mark 7:18-19 KJV)  And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; {19} Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

*   (Rom 14:14 NIV)  As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food (nothing) is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

*   (Rev 18:2 NIV)  With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.

*   (Isa 66:15-17 NIV)  See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. {16} For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD. {17} "Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things--they will meet their end together," declares the LORD.

 

Some Conclusions

*   God has declared some things fit for human consumption and some things not fit for human consumption.

*   These things are declared clean and unclean respectively.

*   Clean and unclean are also applied to other things besides food. Some examples are diseases, menstruation, and evil thoughts.

*   Observation of the clean and unclean is a matter of holiness not simply a matter of health.

*   However, observation of the clean and unclean has health implications too.

*   The clean and unclean observances predate the Israelites in as much as Noah was instructed by God to bring clean and unclean animals on to the ark.

*   The clean and unclean observances postdate the death of Jesus as Peter declared in his vision about the Gentiles.

*   As late as the final events in the book of Revelation there remains an observance of the clean and unclean.

*   From the beginning to the end of the Bible clean and unclean is observed and relates to good and bad people as well as to good and bad food.

*   The clean and unclean declarations of God are not conditional as are some utterances of God. That is, God did not say, “If.”

*   The few verses that are offered as doing away with the concepts of clean and unclean in fact simply reinforce the concepts when taken in context with an understanding of what was being discussed.

*   It is unwise ignore a preponderance of evidence because of a few doubtful verses.

 

Homework

*   Determine in your own mind by scripture and prayer what God is doing by declaring certains things clean and certain things unclean.

*   Show by scripture which kinds of clean and unclean are the most important.

 

A Few Closing Thoughts

Whether you understand why God declared certain things clean or unclean is not as important as the knowledge that He in fact did declare certain things as clean or unclean. It has been said that, “A word from the wise is better than a word to the wise.” Listen to the Word from God!