The Scriptorium

Clean and Unclean Meats

We're supposed to be different. Deuteronomy 4.3-21

Guarding Purity: Deuteronomy 13, 14 (4)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 118.26-29
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
God is the LORD,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 118.26-29

(St. George’s Windsor: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come)
Blessed are they who in His Name come and Jesus’ grace proclaim.
God His light upon us shines in the Savior’s sacrifice.
Praise and thanks to You, O Lord; we extol Your holy Word!
Thanks to You for You are good! Thanks to our great loving God!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 14.3-21

1. Which animals could the people of Israel not eat? Why not?

2. How did Moses describe the meat they could eat?

OK. I think we can be brief here. But first, we have to keep in our minds that ultimately, all these prohibitions are going to be removed. First, Jesus declared all foods clean, according to Mark 7.18, 19 (see the ESV here, which follows the Greek New Testament more closely than NKJV). Second, as if to restate and reinforce Jesus’ statement, God showed Peter a vision of unclean animals, commanded him to eat from them, and declared that He had made them all clean (Acts 10.9-15). Peter interpreted this vision as God opening the way to ingraft Gentiles into the covenant community of the Gospel. This was such an important step that the story is told twice in the book of Acts!

So clearly, the notion of there being certain animals that were considered “unclean” for eating has little to do with whether they are tasty or nutritious. There may be some reasons for caution in eating some of these meats, but caution taken, they’re all available to us now. The reason for abstaining from these was so that Israel would stand out as a distinct people. The indicators He provided – chewing cud, split hooves, no scales, etc. – were merely to help His people keep straight about what they should not eat. They were to obey God in everything He commanded, even if this meant they looked a little weird to some of their neighbors.

Eating something that dies of itself is perhaps not a good idea at any rate (v. 21). I’m not sure about the proscription against boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk. But God said it, so it’s what He wanted.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“You shall not eat any detestable thing.” Execrable, abhorrent, loathsome, odious, vile. These are synonyms for the word detestable; and detestable means arousing or meriting intense dislike: abominable. At this point in history, God wanted the children of Israel to see certain things as inedible. Now God wants us to see our sin the same way. Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 5.4-6 when dealing with the man caught in a detestable sin: “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” Beware that this sin, if ingested and digested into your body of believers, will affect everyone.


1. What does it mean to hate sin? Why is it important to do so?

2. God made Israel distinct in part by the foods they ate. How does He make us, His people, distinct today?

3. How can believers encourage one another to obey God in all He commands?

The dietary regulations set Israel apart from the nations (Lev. 11). Most likely, God prohibited certain animals from being eaten in order to distinguish the practices of Israel from those of neighboring nations. With this physical sign, God symbolized Israel’s holiness. Israel was dedicated to His purposes, not the world’s.
Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Deuteronomy 14.3

I may not understand all Your reasons, Lord; but help me to understand Your Word, and I will…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 118.14-24
We are clean in the blood of Jesus, and free to serve Him joyfully every day. Offer the day ahead to the Lord and yourself as a living sacrifice to Him.

Psalm 118.14-24
(St. George’s Windsor: Come, Ye Thankful People, Come)
In the Savior we are strong! He is all our strength and song!
To His grace now raise your voice; in His righteousness rejoice!
For the Lord does valiantly; we shall live eternally.
Praise His works with all your breath, you whom He redeems from death.

All who know Christ’s righteousness His great Name now thank and bless!
Though His gate full righteous is, He our saving mercy is.
Cast aside and left alone, Christ is now our Cornerstone!
God has made His Son and Word our salvation: Praise the Lord!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore