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Laws of Clean and Unclean Meat (Leviticus 11-12)

These dietary laws, repeated in Deuteronomy 14, were around long before the institution of the Levitical priesthood—indeed, long before Israel even existed. For even before the Flood of Noah's day, almost 1,000 years earlier, we see the distinction between clean and unclean animals. At that time, God commanded Noah to take two of every unclean animal onto the ark and seven (or seven pairs) of every clean animal (Genesis 7:2-9). Regrettably, many today argue that the dietary laws were done away in the New Testament. However, there are no scriptures that support this view, even though some have misused certain verses to try to make the point. To counter one popular argument, the dietary laws were not done away by the ending of the Old Covenant initiated at Sinai, because, again, they were in force long before that covenant came into being. Nowhere does the New Testament abrogate God's laws regarding clean and unclean animals. Indeed, frogs are still viewed as "unclean" at the very end of the Bible, along with certain birds (compare Revelation 16:13; 18:2).

While the Jewish people have preserved the dietary laws—along with some dietary traditions not enjoined by Scripture—the people of the "lost 10 tribes" of Israel, influenced by their gentile neighbors, gradually stopped observing them. And God remains very displeased about this fact. In Isaiah 65, speaking of the end time, He says: "I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts; a people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face... who eat swine's flesh, and the broth of abominable things is in their vessels" (verses 2-4).

In fact, the next chapter of Isaiah prophesies that Christ, at His return, is going to punish such people for eating unclean meat as part of their willful ignorance of and disobedience to God's instruction, even though they may not view it as such. Notice what God says: "For behold, the Lord will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the Lord will judge all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many. 'Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, to go to the gardens after an idol in the midst, eating swine's flesh and the abomination and the mouse, shall be consumed together,' says the Lord. For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory" (66:15-18). Ultimately all nations will come to know God's truth—including His laws regarding clean and unclean meats.

We will see more about clean and unclean meats as pertaining to holiness (see Leviticus 11:44-47) in the highlights for Leviticus 20:25-26. To learn more about our responsibility in this matter, and to read what several medical professionals have to say on the subject and its impact on human health, request or download our free booklet What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats?

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