Leviticus 11:1-47

June 6, 2011

Within the pages of Leviticus the nation of Israel is provided with specific regulations and instructions which would become the foundation for establishing proper worship of God.  The book is neatly divided into four areas including offerings/sacrifices (Leviticus 1:1-7:38), priestly duties (Leviticus 8:1-10:20), uncleanness in worship (Leviticus 11:1-16:34), and the guidelines for individual holiness (Leviticus 17:1-27:34).  Each of these areas would help Israel understand worship of the one, true God and distinguish them from pagan worship which surrounded them.  The five sacrifices (Leviticus 1:1-7:38) were forms of worship before God and enabled the worshiper to approach the Lord with a repentant or thankful heart.  The priests were the ones who assisted the worshiper in offering their sacrifices and God commanded that they be consecrated to Him prior to performing their duties in the tabernacle.  The instructions for dedicating the priests are found in Leviticus 8:1-10:20.  The next area of Leviticus centers on helping Israel define those things considered unclean (Leviticus 11-16).  While clean means acceptable to God, unclean refers to those things which are considered unacceptable in the sight of God.  Defining clean and unclean would provide tangible ways for Israel to distinguish between the two.  The Lord speaks to Moses and tells him to inform Israel concerning clean/unclean foods (Leviticus 11), uncleanness in childbirth (Leviticus 12), uncleanness in disease (Leviticus 13-14), uncleanness in human discharges (Leviticus 15), and cleansing of the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

Leviticus 11 outlined foods which were clean/unclean and these distinctions were given regarding animals on the land (11:1-8),  animals in the water (11:9-12), birds (11:13-19), and insects (11:20-23).  Although this passage of scripture mostly lists those things which could not be eaten by the Israelites, Deuteronomy 14:3-20 serves as a parallel passage and lists animals which were edible: animals on the land (Deuteronomy 14:3-8), animals in the water (Deuteronomy 14:9-12), birds (Deuteronomy 14:13-19), and insects (Deuteronomy 14:20-23).  When both of these passages are closely examined, the following land animals were acceptable to eat: ox, sheep, goat, deer, gazelle, roe deer, wild goat, mountain goat, antelope, and mountain sheep.  All other land animals were not to be eaten by Israel.  Animals living in the water could be eaten only if they had both fins and scales (11:9-12), but all other seafood was considered unclean.  A list of birds which the Israelites were forbidden to eat is detailed in Leviticus 11:12-19.  Flying insects were not edible with the exception of the locust (11:20-23).

Not only did eating a forbidden animal make a person ceremonially unclean, but also coming in contact with a dead carcass of an unclean animal (11:24-28).  Anyone who touched an unclean animal’s carcass would need to wash and then they would remain unclean until evening (11:24-25).  Being unclean prohibited an Israelite from worshiping or conducting normal interaction with the community.  The uncleanness could even extend from the carcass of small animals to another object if it was touched by the carcass (11:29-38).  In many cases an object would need to be destroyed if it was touched by the carcass (11:33-35); however, certain compromises would be made in this situation such as when a dead carcass fell into a well or onto dry seed (11:36-38).  Although clean animals were allowed to be eaten, a clean animal which died on its own was not permitted to be eaten or touched (11:39-40).  Touching a clean, dead animal would render the worshiper unclean until they had washed and the evening came.  All of the requirements concerning clean and unclean animals reminded the nation of Israel that they were God’s people, whose worship should be distinguishable from pagan nations.  God had delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage and He now desired them to be holy as He was holy.

Dear God, help me to obey You even when it seems mundane.  I desire to be holy as You are holy.

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  1. Leviticus 12:1-14:57 | Tom Hogsed - June 8, 2011

    [...] remain distinct from pagan nations surrounding them and be holy before Him (11:44-45).  After establishing the difference between clean and unclean foods (Leviticus 11), the Lord spoke to Moses regarding the uncleanness of a mother following childbirth [...]

  2. Leviticus 15:1-33 | Tom Hogsed - June 15, 2011

    [...] discussed and Moses refers to several areas that the children of Israel need to consider such as clean/unclean foods (Leviticus 11), uncleanness in childbirth (Leviticus 12), uncleanness in disease (Leviticus 13-14), [...]

  3. Leviticus 16:1-34 | Tom Hogsed - June 16, 2011

    [...]  In the section regarding uncleanness in worship there are instructions given concerningclean/unclean foods (Leviticus 11), uncleanness in childbirth (Leviticus 12), uncleanness in disease (Leviticus [...]

  4. Deuteronomy 14:1-16:17 | Tom Hogsed - September 26, 2011

    [...] with pagan people.  The animals mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:3-21 were edible, while the list of animals in Leviticus 11:2-23 were not edible.  Moses also discussed the principle of tithes (14:22-29) with Israel.  One-tenth [...]