Clean and Unclean Meats: Leviticus 11:1-8

Leviticus 11:1‑8  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
In deciding what kinds of meat were clean and what were unclean, nothing was left to the thoughts or personal judgment of one of the children of Israel. God told them what they could eat and what they must not eat, and although, undoubtedly, they did not know the reason for all these instructions, it was enough that God had spoken. Faith always believes God and obeys without questioning, and so with us who can now see the types and shadows in it all; we are not relieved of the necessity of walking in the path of obedience. For us in Christianity we have learned that “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-54For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4‑5)). But we must not forget the spiritual application of all these things, which is most instructive and important.
Divided Hoof
First the Israelites were told that the only animals which were to be clean to them were those that parted the hoof and chewed the cud. Some animals chewed the cud but did not part the hoof, while others parted the hoof but did not chew the cud. Then there were those which did not do either; but all three groups were in the same class before God — they were unclean. Parting the hoof would speak to us of separation and of that care in our walk as children of God. An animal such as a horse or a camel which does not part the hoof, goes recklessly forward, while one that parts the hoof is more careful. This would show us that an unsaved man, like the unclean animals, goes recklessly and carelessly on, not realizing the danger of the path he is treading. The Christian, on the other hand, taught of God, seeks to walk carefully through this dark scene in the spirit of dependence on the Lord. Feeling his own weakness, and that he needs wisdom and strength from above, he realizes that the only safe path is that of separation from this present evil world. In this way he “divides the hoof,” which is most necessary.
Chewing the Cud
The chewing of the cud would speak of something inward, and a most important thing — meditation. Even unsaved men and women and boys and girls often read the Bible, but they never find any real joy in it, nor do they meditate upon it in order to learn more of the loveliness of Jesus our precious Saviour from its blessed pages. Oh how needful this is if we are to go on for God’s glory in this world where all is against us. Let us feed upon Christ!
Both the Outward and the Inward
We see then that two things were necessary, the one outward and the other inward, and it is most important that both of these things characterize us if we would seek to please the Lord in our daily lives. Some animals had one qualification without the other, but as we have already remarked they were still unclean. And so we find some who walk in a formal, outward separation like the Pharisees of old, but they have no love toward God. It is not separation to Christ. They have never had to do with God about their sins but remain, in spite of an outward show of piety, “dead in trespasses and sins” before Him. They are still unclean. Then there are some who read the Word of God, even preaching about it and writing religious books. They are, as it were, “chewing the cud,” but the word they speak and write has no power over their lives. They can talk well, but they are Christ-rejecters in their hearts. These, too, are unclean before God.
For Further Meditation
1. What spiritual meaning does “chewing the cud” represent?
2. An animal that chews the cud spends a lot of time carefully digesting its food. It doesn’t gulp a bite straight into its intestines. What are some practical ways that we can carefully consider Christ and the teaching of God’s Word?
3. A very in-depth book on this section of Leviticus can be found in Priesthood, Its Privileges and Its Duties: Leviticus 8-15 by W. Kelly.