Dr. R. Laird Harris, Leviticus, Lecture 12
© R. Laird Harris and Ted Hildebrandt
what you might call a rule of thumb that tells them that what has a split hoof
and chews the cud is clean and everything else is not clean (Leviticus. 11).
Now there are some questions about translations on what the split the hoof is. I
think I have got to say there are two expressions. The “split the hoof” in the
NIV is called “split the hoof completely.” Maybe that is it; the Hebrew word is
a little bit difficult to be indefinitely sure, since it refers to cows and
sheep versus camels and pigs. It seems clear what that means is what we call a
split hoof. And chewing the cud, what it says is regurgitating, it brings up ’alah,
it brings up the cud. And now whether that means physiologically it brings it
up or whether it is just a statement. I would take it as a general statement;
these things are not biological as much as they are practical and observable.
I think what it means is that you see cows in the pasture and you go and sheep the same way and goats the same way and rabbits the same way and the little conies, the same way. Now the rabbit and the conies do not regurgitate with a fourth stomach. You understand that the fourth stomachs in the ruminant animals have an arrangement to digest cellulose. See we do not digest cellulose, if we eat paper we don’t digest it, it is just ruffage. If a horse eats chaff, the bran from the outside of the wheat, it doesn’t digest or get any benefit from it. When a horse eats grass he doesn’t benefit from the cellulose. He benefits from the juice or seeds or something in the grass, but he doesn’t benefit from the cellulose. But the cow, the sheep, and the goat, when they eat, the cellulose is mixed with microbes in that stomach that does digest the cellulose. A cow could theoretically live on paper and, I guess goats do. Goats eat most anything rough. The provolitic goats eat twigs and nothing grows when eating, they get everything. They are kind of a bad animal from that angle. They have done a lot of damage. You get deforestation, it eats the new shoots, the goat eats anything. But, the ruminant animal is very valuable because it can live where a horse can’t. If you have a bunch of brown grass around, for a horse you got to give him corn, wheat or oats. But a cow, a sheep, and a goat will live on the brown grass, on hay or pure hay or straw. So there is a difference between the animals, that practical difference is there.
So God says that the ruminant animals, this, as I said, is not some much biological as an obvious classification of animals it describes the animals rather than analyzes the animals. These are a rule of thumb. But the ones that are common animals that you must not eat therefore, are the pigs and the camels. Now a gazelle, a deer, or an antelope, you can eat them. They did eat them, they were animals of the chase or hunted animals. You should not eat cats, tigers, leopards, or lions. Those are not to be eaten, those are unclean.
The common animals that you could not eat were rabbits. Now what is wrong with rabbits? What is wrong with eating pigs? What is wrong with eating camels? My claim would be that it is bad for you. It is a hygienic rule. With pigs it is pretty obvious. Pigs are bad animals to have around. Why? Because they have parasites. Now these parasites you can get if you eat the pork without it being cook right. Why did God just say all pigs have to be cooked right? Well, that’s a matter of judgment. It is easier to say “don’t eat them.” But it is not only a matter of eating them, it’s also matter of worms in the ground. Now, down South there was a lot of problems years ago when folks went around bare foot. The parasites would come from the pigs to the ground and from the ground to the feet, from the feet to the person. Trichinosis was a common disease when pigs were let loose. People were barefoot in ancient times too, often times. So you can easily understand why pigs were not good. You can understand why rabbits were not good. When I was a kid we ate rabbits and we didn’t get sick, but sometimes you do and the disease is called tularemia. I don’t know what it is like, it is a fever and I guess it can be pretty serious. Well, they didn’t know the name of the disease. God didn’t tell them. He just told them not to eat it.
I don’t know about the parasites of a conie. You know what a conie is? It is a rock badger in the Bible. I saw one, one time in a St. Louis zoo. Strangely enough, it was in the monkey house. What was it doing in the monkey house, I don’t know? It was a little mammal, about so big, that’s scurries around the rocks. But, it was a very peculiar animal. If I have it straight, it has four toes on the front feet and three toes on the back feet. It’s typical biological name is “hyrax.” They say that it is related, not to the rabbit, but it is related to hippopotamus and elephants, in that class of creatures. The funny thing this is that like the hyrax, there was a long time ago a bone of ancient animals found, they were called hyrachalothorea, with hyrax feet. It was a creature like a hyrax; it had four toes in the front feet and three toes on the back feet.
Then that name was changed to eohippus. It was called eohippus, and the idea was that this was a creature that evolved into the horse. It evolved into a horse, originally it had three toes, four toes and now it went through several stages until you get one toe, on the horse, you see. And this was now called eohippus, but actually, as I understand it, the skeleton of this eohippus is very much like the modern hyrax. As my impression of it, they are all the same as we had today, other than it was called that because it was in ancient times. So the hyrax is a curious beast and interesting in more reasons than one. But it was forbidden.
But, now the only problem there is does it chew the cud? And the answer is, and like the rabbit, it does not regurgitate but that it chews in that manner, is what is apparently the case, based on the observation and not, as I said, from analysis. Now whether it has parasites, I can’t tell you. I’ve never heard that it does. Why it should not be eaten, I don’t know. But, I think that is due to my ignorance. I think there is probably a reason for it, I just don’t know.
Why is the camel not used? What’s wrong with camel meat? What’s wrong with camel soup? I asked my son the other day if he’d like llama soup, he didn’t like it. He never heard of llama soup, actually. I asked him if he’d like antelope soup, said he never heard of antelope soup. So I gave him some camel soup. What is wrong with eating a camel? Arabs do eat camels, Harrison has interesting statements on that, he does not understand it because the meat is tough and stringy. So it might not be good meat, but it is nourishing. There is nothing really wrong with it. As far as I know there are not parasites connected with it. Now I have said that these are hygienic laws, I think I have to modify that a little bit. They are beneficial laws and in the case of the camel, I’d make an exception. I would say they were not supposed to eat camel meat, because they could not afford it. The camel is a whole lot more valuable alive than dead. It was a valuable animal. In short, the reason here is quite possibly economic rather than hygienic. Hygienic covers it most but these were laws not just for hygiene but for goodness and for the benefit of the people.
It is interesting, I or maybe it was Harrison who said it, that there are only three references to camels outside Genesis. In Genesis during the patriarchal times and you had camels but outside of that there are only three, if I can remember. So the camel was forbidden and exactly why, I don’t know. The parasite rule does not seem to apply to a camel. But the economic rule might be the case in this instance. A camel does not have a cloven hoof, it does chew the cud but it does not have a cloven hoof, it has a pad that they use on the desert sand. So that much for food for land animals.
Well then, the next point is the food of the deep, and the next point is the creatures living in the water. The creatures that have fins and scales, you may eat the others you may not eat. Now here, it was Albright that called this to our attention, but I guess it is common knowledge. Fish that swim in the water have scales. Free swimming fish are good to eat, no problems, no parasites to speak of. I don’t say you can’t get parasites from lots of places. But, on the whole, you’re safe if you eat ordinary fish. You can even eat it raw. Some people do. I think the Japanese do. My wife was a missionary to Japan for fourteen years and I can see her in her chair. Oh, there you are (signaling to his wife). There is nothing wrong with fish. You can eat it at most anytime and in most anyway. And you can cook it, or not cook it if it’s fresh, of course.
She had a friend who was visiting at a Japanese house for an event. In the Japanese house, he was given the privilege of cutting the fish. Just as he was about to cut the fish, one eye opened up. Its gills went up and down. It was fresh. Or you may prefer it cooked.
On the other hand, in ancient Egypt and in modern Egypt, if you even swim in a place, in a lake you may well have get snail fever. Snail fever in the East is a great curse, it can be fatal. You can get by from contact and even by swimming and certainly by eating. Bilharzia, is I think it is called. Though I am not sure I can spell it. But, snail fever, it’s a serious thing. And you know of course that clams and so along the coast here were said to be polluted. They didn’t worry about pollution or garbage pollution so much in ancient times as we do now. But, mud borrowing fish, the crabs and so on, are subject to parasites. Much more, I don’t say you couldn’t get away with eating fresh oysters; you can from time to time. But, on the whole, the free swimming fish are good under all circumstances. The others may be good sometimes and may not hurt you. At other times some of them might be good, and some might not be good. But the rule of thumb, what is allowed is what is usually healthy. So as far as the water is concerned, I think the matter of parasites is a good explanation of what it is.
The birds are a little bit difficult. First of all you have to know what birds these are. The birds you have in the King James Version are not the same as you have in the NIV. And of course, we tried our best, but I don’t know what the difference in English between a vulture, a black vulture and the red kite. But, in general, the animals that are carrion or that are dead fish eating birds--ostrich, eagles, and so on. The hawks are birds of carrion. And the ones that have lice in their feathers and on, on the whole are bad. The other birds, it doesn’t say what are the good ones but it does say the ones you can’t eat. The ones you can’t eat are not the birds that you normally think of as: doves, pigeons, quail, chickens. These things are perfectly alright along with doves and geese and what not. But the other birds were, I think it is fair to say that there it is also a matter of hygiene. Although, I don’t know too much why we should not eat crow. I guess you have to when you’re getting hungry.
The flying insects- I was teaching Sunday school class one time and I said, it says in the King James “flying insects with four legs are unclean.” Then someone asked me, he says, “What does that mean? Flying creatures with four legs.” I said it was very plain “They are four legged insects.” He didn’t quite seem satisfied. Apparently, the insects have four legs for walking and two big hind legs for springing, like the grasshoppers. These animals, these insects are clean. Flying insects, we said insects not birds, flying things. The Hebrew just says, “flying things that walk on all fours are detestable.” There are however, no winged creatures that walk on all fours, that you may eat, those who have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Locus are a candidate, crickets, grasshoppers and “all other winged creatures have four legs are to be detested.” What does that mean? Well it means flies, bugs of all kinds, cockroaches, all those kinds of things. Well, you say, of course, you’re not going to eat those.
But now think, these laws not only refer to eating these creatures, they also refer to touching the dead carcasses of these creatures. That comes in later. This is Leviticus chapter 11 verse 26 and following a different section “every animal and so and so, whoever touched the carcass of any of them will be unclean.” So you see you touch the carcass of an unclean animal you are unclean. If you touch the carcass of a dead animal, you are unclean So there is a dead rat, there is a dead rat out on the street. What do you do? Well, if you’re an Egyptian, you leave it there and the flies come. The first thing you know, everyone dies of the bubonic plague and nobody knew why. But, if you were a Hebrew, and you have a dead rat in the street, it’s unclean. You don’t touch it. You don’t want anybody else to touch it. So you go dig a hole to bury it. You get rid of it. If you have bugs in the house. Bugs in the house, what’s wrong with bugs in the house? Put them away. It is the soup, dig them out, squeeze them, take them out.
There was a story about a missionary. In a missionary’s first year, there’s a fly in the tea, and you throw out the tea. Missionary’s second year he takes out the fly. The third year, he takes the fly and squeezes it then throws it out.
What does the Hebrew housewife do if she has got cockroaches in the beans? Well if there is any water connected with it, the whole pile of beans is defiled and goes out. Now what does she do? She tries to keep cockroaches away, she tries to keep a clean house and bugs are bad. And, of course, she is not going to eat them she is not going to want them around and that means a clean house and that means a healthy house. Cockroaches spread disease, rats spread disease. If you have dead rats, that’s a bad sign. So the Hebrew housewife would have a clean house as much as possible. Now she could not have the trash and everything we have today, she would not be as clean with screens up and all that. But, it would be as good as what she could have under the circumstances. This is good for health. [Student comment] No, that is from the book of Hezekiah I believe. Or is that from the ninth chapter of Malachi [which only has 4 chapters]? Oh, the principle--it’s a good principle. The principle is a good that has worked out, that is true. I don’t know where it comes from. I don’t think that comes from Hebrew. So, I say again that the question is not only parasites, and the question is also the carcasses, particularly in the matter of the insects. That is a very important principle.
I don’t know, I don’t know. They all seem to be, there is an increase in theonomy, and they seem to be most of them, triumphalists that means the world gets better and better and finally the kingdom of God will triumph. And Premillenialism has something to do with that, I believe. They say, Oh the world will probably end any time and Christ will establish his kingdom right now, or soon. They are pessimists, the Bible is optimistic. Bible says that they gospel will cover the earth, which of course it will. But everyone who says it doesn’t say that what it comes to think of is what I think of as Premillenialism, it fits better there than here, and does not really fit this situation. I don’t know.
Well now we will move on to groundlings, the weasel, rats, lizard, the gecko, the monter lizard, wall lizard, and the stinking chameleon. I think you’ll understand those Hebrew words, we have a general idea what they mean. But, we don’t know particularly yet. But they do mean vermin--vermin around the house. Vermin around the house are bad. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean. It dies and falls on something, that article will be unclean. In wood, cloth, or sack cloth. Put it in water it will be unclean. So what did they do? First of all, they tried to keep a clean house. The next thing is they would throw out bad stuff. The next thing is they would wash and wash and wash. What better principle could you have, for hygiene in ancient times? How did they do all the washing out in the desert? I hardly know. But that was the principle and it was a good principle.
So this chapter (Leviticus 11) here, things that are clean or unclean. The result is verse 44, “I am the Lord, your God, consecrate yourselves, and be holy because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean. I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt therefore be holy because I am holy.” These are regulations. The clean and the unclean and as I say, in God’s sight they must be holy and in this particular. He wanted them to be holy because he wanted to be in the midst of a camp of people that were healthy and his people and good. So there was a religious sanction to this. These were laws for public health. But they were the laws for public health in view of God’s special care for these people. If you violate his principles, you are not accepting his special care for his people.
God chose for everybody in a sense. You see and it goes back to the theocracy principle, as I say, God wanted his people to be good, moral, and happy was part of that as well. Now he loves all people, but he does not love all people in the same way. If they would be healthy without being moral, he would not be any better pleased. But if he wants his own people to have his benefits and he promises Christians his providential care. His providential care does not mean they were going to live for years longer, it does not mean we are going to have a gospel of prosperity, but he wants us to be happy with what we have and he is concerned with us all. With the whole home, he’s concerned with the home. The homes should be a happy place and a happy, healthy place. I don’t say that it would not be a good idea for us to keep these laws. We want to keep out bugs too. And we want to have healthy food too. Now, of course, it is true that if these laws are particularly for parasites, parasites can be taken care of in another way. I said when I was a kid we had quarantine. We don’t have quarantine anymore. We have other ways to do the same thing in public health. But just as any nation is interested in public health, so God was particularly interested in public health for his people, for their own benefit. And he was not going to give these laws for the general public because he has already given them spiritual laws and they had scorned them. He wasn’t going to give public health laws to the Assyrians, when they would not accept his faith. That comes first, but with the faith, he will also give you the benefit.
But now wait a minute, I think we want to be pretty careful. There are some places where it says everything is permissible and all things are clean and nothing is wrong if you do not eat it with no offense. And so on, or I think in the context, you have to realize, what he’s talking about. Sometimes he is talking about food offered to idols and that is a different question. Whether he is talking about kosher food or whether he is talking about food offered idols, those are two different questions. Be careful not to mix them too much. The question in 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10 is speaking about food sacrifice to idols. Yeah, okay, that is why I am asking where is he, what passage you are referring to because they are different. In 1 Timothy 4, “they forbid people to marry and to abstain from certain foods, for everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received in thanksgiving and if it is consecrated by the word of God in prayer.” Now, see, you can generalize that too much. Everything isn’t good, drugs are not good, some things that you eat or something that you do. What he is is talking about is everything of this nature. Remember even in Timothy, the background certainly included the judaizing question. There were judaizers all over, we had mentioned in Timothy and Titus and the epistles. So everything is permissible and everything is good if you have faith, do not generalize that too far on these things. Even when everything permissible, that is in 1 Corinthians 10 or is it Romans 14? 1 Corinthians 10, everything is permissible, notice the NIV put that in quotes. “You say everything is permissible, Paul says that not everything is beneficial. You say everything is permissible, Paul says not everything is constructive.” So you have to be awfully careful about the context of some of those statements.
The question there is who is he talking about, they forbid people to marry or for them to abstain from certain foods. Now you see that would be particular people. And these people who have abandoned the faith and were teaching about the demons, is this Gnosticism? And we do not know too much about Gnosticism this early. We have a lot of Gnostic teachings a little bit later. Whether this is Judaism or whether it is Gnosticism, I do not think that this particularly the question. This might be food offered to idols or it might be some sort of asceticism that they had. Whether he is referring typically to the Old Testament uncleanness, I am not sure.
Yes, there is a question about translation, remember? (student asks question, Harris answers as follows) Mark 7:19, you can find the same passage in parallel gospels, and it is a little bit different. Mark 7:19, what comes out, “nothing outside of man can make him unclean by going into him. But rather, what comes out of a man that make him unclean.” Now he has was talking about is cursing father and mother. Cursing your father and mother is what goes out of a man, that comes from the heart, he says. And, nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Now just to take that flat out would make it seem as if Jesus is opposing all the levitical regulations. I can’t and wouldn’t accept that. I do not think that is what he means. Because what he goes on to say is what comes out of a man makes him unclean. Do you know the passage in Peter, where it says a woman should not adorn herself with outward adornment but inner adornment of the heart? And there are people who say that a woman should not wear earrings or gold rings (1 Peter 3:3), Mennonites won’t wear gold wedding rings, you know. A woman should not wear ornaments? Oh, now, wait a minute, that is comparative negative. A woman should not be so much interested in outward adornment but rather in the inner heart. Does not matter what the outward adornment is, it is the attitude of the heart that counts. It is a comparative negative. Whole denominations are built on the lack of knowledge of understanding that this is comparative negative.
And so here, what is it that defiles a man? Not what goes into his mouth but what comes out of his mouth. Now is that an absolute negative or is that comparative negative? What comes out of the heart is what counts not what goes into the man. It is true that there are things that you should not eat and all that, but the main thing is what comes out of the heart. Now if you follow that through a little bit look at what you do, you have your traditions and, of course, they are traditions. What to eat, what not to eat were very explicit, very demanding. Corban was one way they had demanding traditions so they could get around the law very easy. It was to their advantage if they called it a gift to the Lord instead of a gift to their parents. Then they claimed they didn’t have to take care of their parents. They got around the law, you nullify the word of God by your traditions and on the basis of that he said nothing outside makes him unclean.” Then he asked them, “are you so dull, don’t you see that nothing that enter the man from the outside can make him unclean, for it does not go into his heart, into his stomach, then out of his body.” Now in parenthesis, he kept saying this, “Jesus declared all foods clean.” Now the question of the translation there is whether it says, Jesus declared all food clean or what goes into his heart, but not into his heart, but into his stomach and out of his body/ The Kings James says, “purging all meats?” in Mark 7:19. Whether it is the body that cleanses all things or whether it is Jesus that declared all foods clean. “Jesus declared” is not in the Greek there that is an inference. Now it may be rightfully inferred. Now in the context I would hesitate to say that Jesus here declared all foods clean against the book of Leviticus. If you take it just what Jesus says why it doesn’t matter what you would eat it is just said differently or properly, Jesus was not talking about that, he was talking about a major concern.
by Ashley Zavras
Edited by Ted Hildebrandt