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The Word in the World

The Word in the World – You Are What You Eat – Part 1 (Leviticus 11:1-2)

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 11-13

Today’s Reflection: Leviticus 11:1-2

1) And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 2) “Speak to the people of Israel, saying,These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.

Leviticus chapter 11 contains a series of instructions that are considered controversial for some and are dismissed by most: directions on what animal meats should and should not be eaten by the children of Israel.  Whatever your views are on dietary concerns, there is one thing you should understand that perhaps Israel didn’t (or couldn’t) at the time this instruction was given.  The purpose for restricting the eating of certain meats wasn’t arbitrary, but based on what was in the best interests of people’s health and wellness.

If you examine the animals Israel was restricted from eating (those considered ‘unclean’) many of them are scavengers, like pigs and all varieties of shellfish.  This means they eat garbage and even bodily waste.  These animals have short, quick digestive systems that fail to eliminate all toxins, so these toxins build up and reside in their bodies (and enter the bodies of the people who eat them).  Pigs are known to contain worms and parasites, so most people know that pork must be cooked thoroughly to ‘get rid’ of these pests.  But what does ‘get rid’ really mean?  It means killing these worms and parasites—does eating meat with dead worms and parasites sound any better?  It isn’t, especially since these pests also lay eggs in the flesh of the animals they live off of.  Pig fat is known to be one of the best environments to encourage the growth of cancer cells, so much so that many scientists use it for cancer research purposes.  Bear in mind, bacon is basically fried pig fat.

Conversely, animals permitted to be eaten (those considered ‘clean’) like cows, goats, poultry, and most scaled fish, have longer digestive processes that eliminate most toxins, and live off of vegetation or grains.  That said, there are still concerns even with meat from these animals (which we’ll deal with when we reach Leviticus 17).

There has been much discussion about the paradigm of ‘clean/unclean’ in eating animal meats.  Were these distinctions just for ceremonial purposes (as in use for sacrifices in the sanctuary services) or for dietary purposes?  Much of the Christian world today teaches that this was a purely ceremonial distinction. Furthermore they use Acts 10:9-16 as a justification for eating meats today that were considered unclean then.  But the scientific and medical findings of recent years should make clear that there are significant dietary dangers involved in disregarding these instructions.  This HASN’T changed.  And note: If you read the entire chapter of Acts 10 you’ll see the reference to clean and unclean foods in Peter’s vision is actually an analogy for Jewish perceptions of clean versus unclean people  and has nothing to do with eating (see verses 28-29).

The point is this: God gave instruction to His people to avoid eating animal meats that would be harmful for food long before the scientific and medical evidence was available to prove this was the case.  Not only does this demonstrate God’s supremacy as creator of all, it also shows His loving kindness to His creation.  God’s intention is now, as it was then, to provide wisdom to allow His people to live as healthily as possible.

God doesn’t give rules to spoil your fun.  He gives them to save your life.  Because we are what we eat.



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