The phrase "unclean to you" is repeated throughout Leviticus 11. What does that say about the inherent cleanliness or uncleanliness of some creatures?


Leviticus 11:4

NASB - 4 Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you.

Clarify Share Report Asked May 06 2013 Mycontactpic Michael Sisson

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Stringio Vincent Mercado Supporter Skeptic turned believer, Catholic, father of 3
Clean animals = animals that can be offered as sacrifice.
Unclean animals = animals which cannot be offered as sacrifice.

The clean-unclean distinction is applied to an object's worthiness of being part of the sacrifice ritual.

Clean bowl = bowl that can be used in sacrifice.
Unclean bowl = bowl that cannot be used in sacrifice.

Clean person = person who is allowed present sacrifice in temple.
Unclean person = person who is not allowed to present sacrifice in temple.

June 20 2013 4 responses Vote Up Share Report

Ari Ariel HaNaviy Messianic Jew and Torah Teacher with Messianic Congregation 'The Harvest'
This answer may come across as highly technical. Please bear with my scientific approach as I attempt to explain the inherent cleanliness and uncleanliness of some of the creatures in Leviticus using my knowledge of Hebrew and the Law.

In Leviticus 11, the entire chapter is given over to explaining what types of animals are acceptable for consumption, and which ones were forbidden for consumption. In this chapter, the language used, as is typical of most of the subjects dealt with in Leviticus, is "clean" and "unclean.” These concepts don’t really translate into the English vernacular too well without compromising some of the rich meaning conveyed in the original Hebrew. For instance, in Lev. 11:4-8, speaking of some earth-dwelling animals, we read these words: 

“But you are not to eat those that only chew the cud or only have a separate hoof. For example, the camel, the coney and the hare are unclean for you, because they chew the cud but don't have a separate hoof; while the pig is unclean for you, because, although it has a separate and completely divided hoof, it doesn't chew the cud. You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.” 

In every single instance, the original Hebrew word translated as "unclean" above is "tamei." As already expressed, this word is rather difficult to render precisely into a receptor language. The concept implied here can mean a wide variety of ideas, ranging from ritually "unclean" to physically "unclean" to spiritually "unclean" to ethically “unclean.” Related to tamei is the synonym “shekets,” a word normally associated with birds, water-dwellers, and swarming creatures (fish, insects, etc.), usually rendered “disgusting, detestable, or abominable,” defined by lexicons as “detestable thing or idol, an unclean thing, an abomination, detestation.” Which meaning is in view here? Ritually unclean/detestable? Physically unclean/detestable? In keeping to the rules of biblical interpretation, we shall make a safe assumption that the physical is likely and firstly in question here, since the text explains that merely coming in "contact" with the carcass renders a person "tamei.” 

I would suggest that declarative and ritual uncleanness is additionally and clearly being taught in Leviticus. What is more, to describe an object and label it in terms of tamei/shekets is to compare such an object to the Holy Sanctum or to the community at large: the object is unclean unto (or in relation to) the Holy Sanctum and/or unclean (or in relation to) your fellow Isra'elite. Such items are not generally thought of as tamei/shekets in a vacuum.

The immediate context suggests that these instructions were given to Moses and his priestly brother this Aaron, to be expressly conveyed to the People of Isra'el as they interacted with a Holy God at the designated meeting places that God commanded, viz, the Tabernacle (later the Temple). This is our immediate context, and therefore serves to establish the basis of our definition of applicability. Surely these laws and rulings are meant for the people to whom they are addressed, as they would find themselves wishing to approach God.

Conclusions: Here in the pages of our text, we find in no uncertain terms, the definition of what is "food" and what is "not food.” Using the hermeneutic principle of context, we fine that these concepts of "tamei" and "tahor," as outlined in Leviticus chapter 11, fall right in the middle of a series of chapters dealing with such subjects as the consecration of Aaron and his sons as high priests (chapter 8), the details concerning sin offerings and sacrifices (chapter 9), the consequences of failing to establish a difference between the holy and the unholy (chapter 10), and the beginnings of the rulings concerning "unclean flesh," known as leprosy (chapter 12). It is within this context that God explains "what is kosher" and what is "not kosher,” and consequently, what is "food" and what is "not food.”

September 03 2015 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Aurel Gheorghe
There are lots of opinions regarding this issue and most people tend to gravitate towards diets they like and are familiar with. Ethnic background and traditions shaped our lives and for some is really difficult to accept new ideas, especially when it comes to something as personal as food. 

However, let's see what the Bible has to say about clean/unclean foods: Meat entered the human diet immediately after the Flood. Gen 7:2 makes the first reference to clean/unclean animals entering the ark. Thus, the concept of clean and unclean is not Jewish and has no ceremonial connotations, but came from the time before the Flood.

In Ex 15:26 God promise to spear His people of the Egyptian's diseases if they are obedient - this is clearly another reference to proper diet. 

In Leviticus 11 God gave Moses and Aaron clear instructions of what they should eat and not eat - what is clean and unclean. God did not intend that all creatures should end up on our plates. There are creatures, on land and in waters, that were created with a specific purpose and not to be food for humans. 

Many believe that all these OT dietary laws do not apply to us anymore or are only for Jews, but that is not what the Bible tells us. 

1. These dietary restrictions predate the laws of Moses, therefore applying to all humanity, not just one particular group.

2. In Acts 10 we read how Peter, several years after Christ's death, has a vision in which a sheet filled with unclean animals descends from heaven (Acts 10:11-12). When Peter is told to “kill, and eat” he says, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). Peter, in all the time spent with Jesus, never learned to eat anything unclean. He is baffled and can’t believe the Lord would tell him to do this. But Peter soon realizes that the vision has nothing to do with God changing the dietary laws and is about not calling the Gentile unclean (Acts 10:28). Peter learned that the Gospel message was meant for all the world, not just the Jews. 

Furthermore, Paul tells believers not to touch unclean things (2 Cor 6:17) and John speaks of Spiritual Babylon as a “cage of every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev 18:2). In Isaiah’s prophesy of the new earth after the return of Christ, those who eat “swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together” (Isaiah 66:17). From one end of the Bible to the other, the concept of “clean and unclean” is upheld. It is a matter of health and well-being.

There are consequences to everything we eat - good and bad. Eating poorly will of course harm our bodies, just as eating well will help our bodies maintain good health. God, our heavenly father, like any good parent, wants what is best for us - He wants us to live long and healthy lives.

June 19 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining