New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary


Lev 11:1 Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them,

Lev 11:2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the living things which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.
Lev 11:3 Whatever parts the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and chews the cud among the animals, that you may eat

- The Hebrew means to bring the food up again, to ruminate. Perhaps this was to represent ruminating upon God’s word; and being cloven-footed perhaps speaks of being sure footed and walking stably in life. To chew the cud (ruminate on God’s word) but not walk the talk (not having a cloven foot) still makes us unclean (:4). However, it may be that there is little significance in the chewing of the cud of itself, because doing so didn’t make the animal unclean of itself- it was just an exercise for Israel to teach them the concept of discernment, self control and obedience to God even when this meant practical inconvenience for them (see on :6).

Lev 11:4 Nevertheless these you shall not eat of those that chew the cud, or of those who part the hoof: the camel, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you;
Lev 11:5 the rock badger, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you;
Lev 11:6 the hare, because she chews the cud but doesn’t part the hoof, she is unclean to you-

Paul observes that there is nothing unclean of itself (Rom. 14:14). These animals were to be unclean “to you” because it was part of God’s method of teaching His people to make a moral choice in life, to recognize there is sin and righteousness, clean and unclean. There were hygienic reasons behind the prohibition of some animals, but the essential intention was to teach the concept of making a difference, of looking at something we could partake of and saying ‘No, that is not for me’. The fact God later withdrew the distinction between clean and unclean animals just confirms that they were not clean nor unclean of themselves; all had been created by God and declared “very good” in Genesis. The distinctions between them were there to simply educate Israel in practicing the concept of separation and discernment between acceptable and unacceptable things in life.

Lev 11:7 the pig, because he has a split hoof, and is cloven-footed, but doesn’t chew the cud, he is unclean to you.
Lev 11:8 Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you-

- The basis of the command to us in our age to “touch not the unclean thing” by being separate from sinful things (2 Cor. 6:17).

Lev 11:9 These you may eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, that you may eat.
Lev 11:10 All that don’t have fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are to be an abomination to you-

The parable of the drag net pictures fishermen sitting down with their catch, throwing away the “bad” fish. These would’ve been the unclean sea creatures, e.g. crabs, which had got caught up in the net. This represented the ‘sitting’ of the final judgment at the last day (Mt. 13:48,49). We are to make that same division between good and bad in the choices we make today.

Lev 11:11 and you are to detest them. You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses.
Lev 11:12 Whatever has no fins nor scales in the waters, that is to be an abomination to you.
Lev 11:13 These you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the vulture, and the black vulture-

These birds all hunt and eat other unclean animals, and many of them were totems of the idols believed in by the nations. Again the idea was to teach God’s people the need to keep away from association with things which resembled sin, which would put ideas in the mind which tended towards sin rather than righteousness. This principle is so relevant today in connection with what we watch or read, for by presenting ourselves continually with sinful associations we are the more likely to ourselves fall into sin.

Lev 11:14 and the red kite, any kind of black kite,
Lev 11:15 any kind of raven,
Lev 11:16 the horned owl, the screech owl, and the gull, any kind of hawk,
Lev 11:17 the barn owl, the cormorant, the great owl,
Lev 11:18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey,
Lev 11:19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat.
Lev 11:20 All flying insects that walk on all fours are an abomination to you.
Lev 11:21 Yet you may eat these: of all winged creeping things that go on all fours, which have legs above their feet, with which to hop on the earth.
Lev 11:22 Even of these you may eat: any kind of locust, any kind of bald locust, any kind of cricket, and any kind of grasshopper.
Lev 11:23 But all winged creeping things which have four feet, are an abomination to you.
Lev 11:24 By these you will become unclean: whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening.
Lev 11:25 Whoever carries any part of their carcass shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening-

The more conscious was the association with uncleanness, the greater was the effort which made to be made to achieve cleansing. Thus if someone knowingly carried a carcass, they had to was their clothes in addition to being unclean.

Lev 11:26 Every animal which parts the hoof, and is not cloven-footed, nor chews the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches them shall be unclean.
Lev 11:27 Whatever goes on its paws, among all animals that go on all fours, they are unclean to you. Whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening.
Lev 11:28 He who carries their carcass shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening. They are unclean to you.
Lev 11:29 These are they which are unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard,
Lev 11:30 the gecko, and the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the sand lizard and the chameleon-

The animals listed were known in the land promised to Abraham. This is another proof that the Law of Moses was not intended for world-wide Gentile use but was the covenant between God and Israel during a specific time and in a specific location on the earth.

Lev 11:31 These are they which are unclean to you among all that creep. Whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until the evening.
Lev 11:32 On whatever any of them falls when they are dead, it shall be unclean; whether it is any vessel of wood, or clothing, or skin, or sack, whatever vessel it is with which any work is done, it must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the evening; then it will be clean.
Lev 11:33 Every earthen vessel, into which any of them falls, all that is in it shall be unclean, and you shall break it.
Lev 11:34 All food which may be eaten, that on which water comes, shall be unclean; and all drink that may be drunk in every such vessel shall be unclean.
Lev 11:35 Everything whereupon part of their carcass falls shall be unclean; whether it be an oven, or a range for pots, it shall be broken in pieces: they are unclean, and shall be unclean to you.
Lev 11:36 Nevertheless a spring or a cistern in which water is gathered shall be clean; but that which touches their carcass shall be unclean.
Lev 11:37 If part of their carcass falls on any sowing seed which is to be sown, it is clean.
Lev 11:38 But if water is put on the seed, and part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you.
Lev 11:39 If any animal of which you may eat, dies; he who touches its carcass shall be unclean until the evening.
Lev 11:40 He who eats of its carcass shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening. He also who carries its carcass shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening.
Lev 11:41 Every creeping thing that creeps on the earth is an abomination. It shall not be eaten.
Lev 11:42 Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, even all creeping things that creep on the earth, them you shall not eat; for they are an abomination-

They were not to associate themselves with animals which hugged the earth; just as we should not keep close to earthly things (Phil. 3:19) but seek the things which are above (Col. 3:1).

Lev 11:43 You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be defiled thereby.
Lev 11:44 For I am Yahweh your God. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy; neither shall you defile yourselves with any kind of creeping thing that moves on the earth-

The Hebrew words for sanctification and holiness include the ideas of both being negatively separated from and positively being separated unto. The whole legislation about clean and unclean animals was to try to teach Israel this principle. As such there was limited significance in the actual division of animals into clean and unclean- it was merely a teaching device.

Lev 11:45 For I am Yahweh who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy-

The great works of Yahweh which He showed at the time of their exodus from Egypt (cp. the world) and baptism at the Red Sea were in essence repeated throughout their wilderness journey (Dt. 7:19). Therefore whenever they faced discouragement and an apparent blockage to their way, they were to remember how God had redeemed them at their baptism, and to realize that in fact His work was still ongoing with them (Dt. 20:1). He told them in the desert that He was "Yahweh that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt" (Lev. 11:45). Therefore the overcoming of Edom, Moab and the Canaanite tribes is described in language lifted from the Red Sea record (e.g. Ex. 15:15-17). Throughout their history, Israel were reminded that what God had done for them in their Red Sea deliverance He was continuing to do, and therefore all their enemies would likewise perish if they remained God's people (e.g. Is. 43:16).

This didn’t just happen at the Red Sea, just as it wasn’t completed at our baptisms (1 Cor. 10:1,2). Our being brought out of Egypt and toward God is an ongoing process.


Lev 11:46 This is the law of the animal, and of the bird, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth,
Lev 11:47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the living thing that may be eaten and the living thing that may not be eaten’.