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Chapter 14:1-21 (ESV)

Posted on February 27, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 14:1-21 (ESV) - “You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

“You shall not eat any abomination. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.

“Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

“You may eat all clean birds. But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind; every raven of any kind; the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. All clean winged things you may eat.

“You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God.

“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.

Question to consider: Why did God label some animals as unclean?

Because God was establishing a covenant with Israel in which He would give them land and dwell among them as His own family, their part in the covenantal relationship was to revere and worship Him and Him only. As they inhabited the land, there would be a temptation to follow the worship practices of the nations. One way to remain holy before God was to purge those from among the Israelites who engaged in idolatry and tried to get others to follow them. 

Beyond worshiping their idols, Israel would be tempted to adopt their grieving processes. The pagan nations made a practice of cutting themselves so that the scar would be a memorial to them. They also marked their bodies with tattoos— a practice which was prohibited in the first giving of the Law, “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:28) Making “baldness on their foreheads” for the dead was not about shaving one’s unibrow, but shaving stripes into the eyebrows to remember the dead. Today, people cut lines in their hair or eyebrows or get piercings and tattoos for cosmetic reasons so these passages don’t generally apply. Personally, I’m one who thinks it’s important to understand where ideas come from rather than doing something because it looks cool.

Outside of their appearance, Israel was to set themselves apart from the nations through strict dietary laws. People will attempt to give all kinds of “science” and “health” explanations for God calling some animals clean and others unclean. If we understand this in light of Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-23, the unclean animals represented the Gentile nations. I’d argue that Peter’s vision took place once God’s promise of seventy-sevens given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel were complete, “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy [one].” (Daniel 9:27) The gospel then went out to the Gentiles and was marked by the lifting of the dietary laws against eating unclean animals.

Those who believe they can obtain righteousness by keeping the Law should consider the fact that the command, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk,” did not just cover “goats” but all cattle. Those who keep kosher are technically not allowed to have dairy within a couple of hours of having animal flesh which prohibits them from eating a cheeseburger. I don’t even want to think about what an ancient rabbi would do if he saw someone ordering a Baconator at Wendy’s.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for fulfilling Your promises to Israel in Christ Jesus and freeing us from the burdens and consequences of the Law. May we never use this freedom as a license to abuse our bodies or act in a way that misuses Your holy name. Amen.