The Biblical Illustrator
These are the beasts which ye shall eat.
The clean and the unclean
The Mosaic Law attached great importance to meats and drinks: the Christian religion attaches none. The Apostle Peter was shown, by the vision of a sheet let down from heaven, not only that all nations were now to receive the gospel message, but that all kinds of food were now clean, and that all the prohibitions which had formerly been laid upon them for legal purposes were now once for all withdrawn. A Christian may, if he pleases, put himself under restrictions as to these matters. You will remember that the Apostle Paul says, “I know and am persuaded of the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” The doctrine of the New Testament is expressly laid down, “Every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” And as for the practice enjoined upon believers, “All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.” The Levitical law enjoined many precepts as to meats and drinks; but those carnal ordinances were imposed until the time of reformation.
I. It is our firm belief that these distinctions of meats were laid down on purpose to keep the Jews as a distinct people, and that herein they might be a type of the people of God, who are also, throughout all ages, to be a separate people--not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.
1. But you will ask of me in what respects are you to be distinguished? in a pure consistency always, in a vain eccentricity never. Not by any peculiarity in garments or language are you to be known. Heavenly realities within do not always need to be labelled outside, so that everybody may recognise you and say, “There goes a saint.” There are other modes of being distinguished from the world than any of these.
2. We ought ever to be distinguished from the world in the great object of our life. As for worldly men, some of them are seeking wealth, others of them fame; some seek after comfort, others after pleasure. Subordinately you may seek after any of these, but your principal motive as a Christian should always be to live for Christ.
3. By your spirit, as well as your aim, you should likewise be distinguished. The spirit of, this world is often selfish; it is always a spirit that forgets God, that ignores the existence of a Creator in His own world. Now, your spirit should be one of unselfish devotion, a spirit always conscious of His presence, bowed down with the weight, or raised up with the cheer of Hagar’s exclamation, “Thou God seest me”: a spirit which watcheth humbly before God, and seeketh to know His will and to do it through the grace of God given to you.
4. Your maxims, too, and the rules which regulate you, should be very different from those of others. The believer reads things, not in man’s light, in the obscurity of which so many blind bats are willing to fly, but he reads things in the sunlight of heaven. If a thing be right, though he lose by it, it is done; if it be wrong, though he should become as rich as Croesus by allowing it, he scorns the sin for his Master’s sake.
5. The Christian should be separate in his actions. I would not give much for your religion unless it can be seen. I know some people’s religion is heard of, but give me the man whose religion is seen.
6. A Christian is distinguished by his conversation. He will often trim a sentence where others would have made it far more luxuriant by a jest which was not altogether clean. Following Herbert’s advice, “He pares his apple--he would cleanly feed.” If he would have a jest, he picks the mitre, but leaves the sin; his conversation is not used to levity, but it ministereth grace unto the hearers. How shall I urge you to give more earnest heed to this holy separation? If we do not see to this matter we shall bring sorrow on our own souls; we shall lose all hope of honouring Christ, and we shall sooner or later bring a great disaster on the world.
II. The distinction drawn between clean and unclean animals was, we think, intended by God to keep his people always conscious that they were in the neighbourhood of sin. It is all the prayer that is wanted--“Lord, show me myself; Lord, show me Thyself; reveal sin and reveal a Saviour.”
III. It was also intended to be a rule of discrmination by which we may judge who are clean and who are unclean-that is, who are saints and who are not. There are two tests, but they must both be united. The beast that was clean was to chew the cud: here is the inner life; every true-hearted man must know how to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the sacred Word. The man who does not feed upon gospel truth, and so feed upon it, too, that he knows the sweetness and relish of it, and seeks out its marrow and fatness, that man is no heir of heaven. You must know a Christian by his inwards, by that which supports his life and sustains his frame. But then the clean creatures were also known by their walk. The Jew at once discovered the unclean animal by its having an undivided hoof; but if the hoof was thoroughly divided, then it was clean, provided that it also chewed the end. So there must be in the true Christian a peculiar walk such as God requires. You cannot tell a man by either of these tests alone; you must have them both. But while you use them upon others, apply them to yourselves. What do you feed on? What is your habit of life? Do you chew the cud by meditation? When your soul feeds on the flesh and blood of Christ have you learned that His flesh is meat indeed, and that His blood is drink indeed? If so, it is well. What about your life? Are your conversation and your daily walk according to the description which is given in the Word of believers in Christ? If not, the first test will not stand alone. You may profess the faith within, but if you do not walk aright without, you belong to the unclean. On the other hand, you may walk aright without, but unless there is the chewing of the cud within, unless there is a real feeding upon precious truth in the heart, all the right walking in the world will not prove you to be a Christian. That holiness which is only outward is moral, not spiritual; it does not save the soul. That religion, on the other hand, which is only inward is but fancy; it cannot save the soul either. But the two together--the inward parts made capable of knowing the lusciousness, the sweetness, the fatness of Christ’s truth, and the outward parts conformed to Christ’s image and character--these conjoined point out the true and clean Christian with whom it is blessed to associate here, and for whom a better portion is prepared hereafter. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The clean and unclean
Great surprise and wonder have been expressed by some learned men at the profound acquaintance with the animal kingdom exhibited in this chapter. Our greatest men of modern science have penetrated no deeper into natural history than the author of these laws. Leibnitz, and Buffon, and Cuvier, and Erxleben, and Humboldt, have been unable to make any material advances upon the classifications and distinctions, in the nature, habits, and qualities of animals, here given long before mere human science in these departments was born. And those may well wonder who allow no higher wisdom in these laws than that of mere man. The fact is, that these Mosaic institutes all have upon them such distinct traces of the hand and mind of God, that it becomes the height of folly to refer them to the mere ingenuity of man.
I. I find in this chapter A system of wholesome dietetics. All the animals here pronounced clean are the most valuable, nutritious, and whole some of creatures for human food. It does not follow that none among those forbidden are good for food; but I wish to say that it is certain all the animals here called “clean” are the best.
II. A. second, and somewhat more direct aim of these arrangements, looked to the keeping of the hebrews entirely distinct from all other people. They were to be the light and truth-bearing nation among the families of man. They were elected to perpetuate a knowledge of the true God, and, by their peculiar training, to prepare the way for Christ and Christianity. To fulfil this mission they needed to be strongly fenced in and barricaded against the subtle inroads of idolatry. And it was, in part, to effect this segregation of the Jewish people that this system of religious dietetics was instituted, Nothing more effectual could be desired to keep one people distinct from another. It causes the difference between them to be ever present to the mind, touching, as it does, at so many points of social and every-day contact; and it is therefore far more powerful in its results, as a rule of distinction, than any difference in doctrine, worship, or morals, which men could entertain. Kitto says that when in Asia he had almost daily occasion to be convinced of the incalculable efficacy of such distinctions in keeping men apart from strangers. A Mahomedan, for instance, might be kind, liberal, indulgent; bat the recurrence of a meal, or any eating, threw him back upon his own distinctive practices and habits, reminding him that you were an unclean person, and that his own purity was endangered by contact with you.
III. A still further and more direct intent of these religious dietetics was to train the understanding to the perception of moral distinctions--to engrave upon the mind an idea of holiness. Indeed, this was one of the leading objects of the entire ceremonial law. There are islands in the sea which would not exist but for the coral reefs upon which they rest; and so there would be no Christianity without these ceremonial regulations, which, by small beginnings, laid in the human mind the foundations upon which all our Christian convictions have been wrought out. Geologists tell us that the physical world is composed of various layers, one on the other, from a deep granite base up to the fertile mould which furnishes us food while we live and graves when we are dead. It is much the same in the moral and religious world. It has been brought forth by degrees. As there have been many geologic eras, so there have been various religious dispensations, each one furnishing the basis for the next succeeding. Each of these successive dispensations furnished a distinct stratum upon which the following one was built. The last could not exist without the first. Each one is a part of the grand whole. Connecting this chapter with the laws concerning offerings and priests, we can easily see how the whole would operate in begetting and establishing the idea of purity and holiness. Dividing off all animated nature into clean and unclean, some would be regarded as better and purer than others. Of this pure kind only could be taken for sacrifices. And even of the better kind only the purest and most spotless individuals were to be selected. The sacrificial victim would hence appear very widely separated from the common herd of living creatures, and very clean and good. A thoroughly cleansed and consecrated officer was then to take it in charge, and wash both it and himself before it could come upon the altar. And when the presentation was to be made to the Lord in the most Holy Place, only the pure blood, in a golden and consecrated bowl, could be brought, and even that with great fear and trembling. Thus, from the clean beast, and the cleaner priest, and the still further cleansing of both, and the most Holy Place, which could be approached only by so holy a personage with such sacred circumspection, the worshipper was taught the idea of holiness, the intense purity of his God, and the necessity of holiness in order to come into His favour. The fact is, that the religious world has derived its idea of moral purity from the Mosaic rights. It was part of their great office to teach mankind moral distinctions, and to open the human understanding and conscience to the idea of sanctity.
IV. Connected with this, then, was the still further intent of these laws to give a picture of sin. We here have the finger of God, pointing out on the great map of living creation the natural and material symbols of depravity. The combined characteristics of the creatures here declared unclean furnish an exact exhibition of what sin is. They constitute a living mirror in which the sinner may look at himself.
1. In the first place he is unclean, filthy, disagreeable, noxious. There may be some good qualities, as there were in many of the unclean creatures; but, upon the whole, he is unclean. Impurity is upon him. He is unfit for holy association, or to come acceptably before God.
2. In the next place he is brutish. His character is typified by the vile and noxious of living things. He was originally made but a little lower than the angels. And what are the effects of sin upon him in whom it reigns? It dethrones intellect, and makes it the slave of mere impulse, nullifies the deductions of wisdom, stifles and overrides the conscience, and makes the man the servant of lust, living only for selfish gratification, and following only the dictates of the baser nature. A brute is a thing bent downward. It goes upon its hands. Its face is towards the ground. And what is a slave of sin but one whose eyes have been diverted from heaven, and whose absorbing attention is directed to what is earthy? A brute is a creature destined to perish. Its spirit goeth downward. Its end is extinction. How like the sinner in his guilt I What hope has he for another world? But he is not only like what all brutes are in common, but also more or less like what the several kinds of unclean creatures are in particular. Sin is the ugliness and spitefulness of the camel; the burrowing, secretive, wily disposition of the coney, the rabbit, and the fox; the filthy sensuality of the hog; the stupid stubbornness of the ass; the voracious appetency of the dog, the wolf, the jackal, and hyena; the savage ferocity and bloodthirstiness of the tiger, the panther, and the lion; the sluggishness of the sloth; the prowling shyness and cruelty of the cat; and the base treachery and mischievousness of multitudes of unclean creatures that roam in darkness. It is the abominable thing which God hateth. It is of all things the most hideous, an uncleanness which cannot be expressed, a filthiness so intense that God cannot look upon it with the least degree of allowance.
3. But it is just as abundant as it is hateful. The unclean creatures are as numerous and abounding as they are base. The air is full of them; the earth is alive with them; the ocean teams with innumerable kinds of them. They cover every mountain, they crowd every plain. The crevices of the rocks are filled with them; the deserts have them as numerous as sands. The trees of the forests are thick with them; every stream and fountain contains them. They move about every street; they play in every field. They are upon the most beautiful flowers, and crawl within the most guarded enclosures. They are in our houses; they come up upon our tables; they creep into our very beds. They are present in every climate. They may be seen at all seasons. They continue with all generations. And as these unclean things abound, so does sin abound; for they are God’s natural types of sin. And looking at the appointments of this chapter as a mere remembrancer of sin, it seems to me very remarkable. How impressive the arrangement I All living nature, by a few simple words, at once transmuted into a thousand tongues to remind and warn of sin and uncleanness! I do not say that there is no good in the world. There are clean as well as unclean. There always have been good and piety in the earth, and some virtuous ones among the base. But, with all, there were more vile than clean. We have not escaped this uncleanness which has gone out over all the earth. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Many people have a notion that there is something unworthy, or, if I may not be misunderstood, undignified, in God descending to such paltry regulations, or, as they would call it, to little things. But may not this be proof of His presence? The truth is, I know not whether God is greatest when He wields and wheels the planets in their orbits, or when He clothes the lily with all its loveliness, and finds its daily food for the ephemeral insect that is born and perishes in a day. God’s greatest glory is often in His ministry to the minutest things. We call them minute because, with considerable self-conceit, we make ourselves the standpoint from which we look at everything; that which is very much above ourselves we think very great, and that which is below ourselves we think very little; whereas the truth is that the microscope has revealed to man far more stupendous wonders in a drop of water than the telescope has revealed in the starry firmament above him; and we have more majestic footprints of infinite wisdom, beneficence, and power, and love, visible in an atom of dust than in the firmament above us. And, therefore, it was not unworthy of God, who ministers to His creatures the bread of life, to lay down what I may call these dietetic precepts, or such regulations for their nutriment as are given in this and parallel chapters. God wants man not only to be happy in heaven, but He wants him to be happy on earth; and He takes the way of making him happy by trying in these rubrics to show him that sin and disobedience to His Word are the spring of misery; that obedience to God’s Word is the source of all true and lasting happiness. The classification that is made here is a most remarkable one. It is not wholly an arbitrary one; but evidently a distinction originally inherent in the animal economy. The distinctions that are drawn here have lasted till now, and are practically acted on. For instance, animals that are called graminivorous and ruminative, and that divide the hoof, are still found to be most wholesome for food. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Distinguishing the precious from the vile
I. That God’s people, the spiritual Israel, move in a scene of mingled good and evil.
1. In the sphere of daily life we have contact with both.
2. Our contact with them entails the danger of contamination.
3. In such a defiling sphere our duty is to separate the precious from the vile.
II. That in life’s mingled scene the godly must exercise continual vigilance.
1. We enter, by relationship with Christ, into a separated life.
2. Such a separated life must assert itself in habitual avoidance of prohibited things.
3. Minute distinctions are forced upon us by this principle of conduct.
III. That by strictest adherence to divine directions sanctity of life should be maintained.
1. Every godly soul is, to a degree, put in trust with the imparted sanctity.
2. Derived sanctity is no assurance against defilement if we forsake God’s commands. (W. H. Jellie.)
1. All the creatures good in themselves.
2. Of the provident care of God toward both the souls and bodies of men.
3. God no respecter of persons (Leviticus 11:3).
4. Of the difference of sins, and divers degrees of spiritual uncleanness.
5. The doctrine may be good, though the doctors and teachers are evil.
6. Holiness the end of the precepts of the law (Leviticus 11:44).
7. The virtue of the sacraments depends not on the worthiness of the minister. (A. Willet, D. D.)
Types of manhood
1. Of meditating in the Word of God. Whereas the chewing of the cud was one mark to know a clean beast by: hereby is understood that we should meditate, and, as it were, ruminate on the Word of God (Psalms 1:1-2).
2. To the knowledge of the Word, to join practice. Besides chewing the cud, the clean beast was to divide the hoof. Men in their life should discern between good and evil works, and to their profession of the Word add the practice of a good life.
3. Of divers vices to be shunned, shadowed forth in the natural properties of some creatures.
4. Of the necessity of sanctification.
5. Of separating the clean from the unclean. (A. Willet, D. D.)
Clean and unclean animals
It is of much significance to note, in the first place, that a large part of the animals which are forbidden as food are unclean feeders. It is a well-ascertained fact that even the cleanest animal, if its,food be unclean, becomes dangerous to health if its flesh be eaten. The flesh of a cow which has drunk water contaminated with typhoid germs, if eaten, especially if insufficiently cooked, may communicate typhoid fever to him who eats it. It is true, indeed, that not all animals that are prohibited are unclean in their food; but the fact remains that, on the other hand, among those which are allowed is to be found no animal whose ordinary habits of life, especially in respect of food, are unclean. But, in the second place, an animal which is not unclean in its habits may yet be dangerous for food, if it be, for any reason, specially liable to disease One of the greatest discoveries of modern science is the fact that a large number of diseases to which animals are liable are due to the presence of low forms of parasitic life. To such diseases those which are unclean in their feeding will be especially exposed, while none will perhaps be found wholly exempt. Another discovery of recent times, which has a no less important bearing on the question raised by this chapter, is the now ascertained fact that many of the parasitic diseases are common to both animals and men and may be communicated from the former to the latter. In the light of such facts as these, it is plain that an ideal dietary law would, as far as possible, exclude from human food all animals which, under given conditions, might be especially liable to these parasitic diseases, and which, if their flesh should be eaten, might thus become a frequent medium of communicating them to men. Now it is a most remarkable and significant fact that the tendency of the most recent investigations of this subject has been to show that the prohibitions and permissions of the Mosaic Law concerning food, as we have seen in this chapter, become apparently explicable in view of the above facts. Not to refer to other authorities, among the latest competent testimonies on this subject is that of Dr. Noel Gueneau de Mussy, in a paper presented to the Paris Academy of Medicine in 1885, in which he is quoted as saying: “There is so close a connection between the thinking being and the living organism in man, so intimate a solidarity between moral and material interests, and the useful is so constantly and so necessarily in harmony with the good, that these two elements cannot be separated in hygiene . . . It is this combination which has exercised so great an influence on the preservation of the Israelites, despite the very unfavourable external circumstances in which they have been placed . . . The idea of parasitic and infectious maladies, which has conquered so great a position in modern pathology, appears to have greatly occupied the mind of Moses, and to have dominated all his hygienic rules. He excludes from Hebrew dietary animals particularly liable to parasites; and as it is in the blood that the germs or spores of infectious disease circulate, he orders that they must be drained of their blood before serving for food.” It may be added that upon this principle we may also easily explain, in a rational way, the very minute prescriptions of the law with regard to defilement by dead bodies. For immediately upon death begins a process of corruption which produces compounds not only obnoxious to the senses but actively poisonous in character; and what is of still more consequence to observe, in the case of all parasitic and infectious diseases, the energy of the infection is specially intensified when the infected person or animal dies. Hence the careful regulations as to cleansing of those persons or things which had been thus defiled by the dead: either by water, where practicable, or, where the thing could not be thus thoroughly cleansed, by burning the article with fire, the most certain of all disinfectants. But if this be indeed the principle which underlies this law of the clean and the unclean as here given, it will then be urged that since the Hebrews have observed this law with strictness for centuries, they ought to show the evidence of this in a marked immunity from sickness, as compared with other nations, and especially from diseases of an infectious character; and a consequent longevity superior to that of the Gentiles who pay no attention to these laws. Now it is the fact, and one which evidently furnishes another powerful argument for this interpretation, that this is exactly what we see. Even so long ago as the days when the plague was desolating Europe, the Jews so universally escaped infection that, by this their exemption, the popular suspicion was excited into fury, and they were accused of causing the fearful mortality among their Gentile neighbours by poisoning the wells and springs. In our own day, in the recent cholera epidemic in Italy, a correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle testifies that the Jews enjoyed almost absolute immunity, at least from fatal attack. Professor Hosmer says: “Throughout the entire history of Israel,. the wisdom of the ancient lawgiver in these respects has been remarkably shown. In times of pestilence the Jews have suffered far less than others; as regards longevity and general health, they have in every age been noteworthy, and, at the present day, in the life-insurance offices, the life of a Jew is said to be worth much more than that of men of other stock.” (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Answers to objections respecting these regulations
It is Very strange that it should have been objected to this view, that since the law declares the reason for these regulations to have been religious, therefore any supposed reference hereinto the principles of hygiene is by that fact excluded. For surely the obligation so to live as to conserve and promote the highest bodily health must be regarded, both from a natural, and a Biblical and Christian point of view, as being no less really a religious obligation than truthfulness or honesty. The central idea of the Levitical holiness was consecration unto God, as the Creator and Redeemer of Israel--consecration in the most unreserved sense, for the most perfect possible service. But the obligation to such a consecration, as the essence of a holy character, surely carried with it, by necessary consequence, then, as now, the obligation to maintain all the powers of mind and body also in the highest possible perfection. That, as regards the body, and, in no small degree, the mind as well, this involves the duty of the preservation of health, so far as in our power; and that this, again, is conditioned by the use of a proper diet, as one factor of prime importance, will be denied by no one. It may be asked, by way of further objection to this interpretation of these laws: Upon this understanding of the immediate purpose of these laws, how can we account for the selection of such test-marks of the clean and the unclean as the chewing of the cud, and the dividing of the hoof, or having scales and fins? What can the presence or absence of these peculiarities have to do with the greater or less freedom from parasitic disease of the animals included or excluded in the several classes? It may fairly be replied, that the object of the law was not to give accurately distributed categories of animals, scientifically arranged, according to hygienic principles, but was purely practical; namely, to secure, so far as possible, the observance by the whole people of such a dietary as in the land of Palestine would, on the whole, best tend to secure perfect bodily health. It may be objected, again, that according to recent researches, it appears that cattle, which occupy the foremost place in the permitted diet of the Hebrews, are found to be especially liable to tubercular disease, and capable, apparently, under certain conditions, of communicating it to those who feed upon their flesh. And it has been even urged that to this source is due a large part of the consumption which is responsible for so large part of our mortality. Two answers may be given. First, and most important, is the observation that we have as yet no statistics as to the prevalence of disease of this kind among cattle in Palestine; and that, presumably, if we may argue from the climatic conditions of its prevalence among men, it would be found far less frequently there among cattle than in Europe and America. Further, it must be remembered that, in the case even of clean cattle, the law very strictly provides elsewhere that the clean animal which is slain for food shall be absolutely free from disease; so that still we see here, no less than elsewhere, the hygienic principles ruling the dietary law. It will be perhaps objected, again, that if all this be true, then, since abstinence from unwholesome food is a moral duty, the law concerning clean and unclean meats should be of universal and perpetual obligation; whereas, in fact, it is explicitly abrogated in the New Testament, and is not held to be now binding on any one. But the abrogation of the law of Moses touching clean and unclean food can be easily explained, in perfect accord with all that has been said as to its nature and intent. In the first place, it is to be remembered that it is a fundamental characteristic of the New Testament law as contrasted with that of the Old, that on all points it leaves much more to the liberty of the individual, allowing him to act according to the exercise of an enlightened judgment, under the law of supreme love to the Lord, in many matters which, in the Old Testament day, were made a subject of specific regulation. But, aside from considerations of this kind, there is a specific reason why these laws of Moses concerning diet and defilement by dead bodies, if hygienic in character, should not have been made, in the New Testament, of universal obligation, however excellent they might be. For it is to be remembered that these laws were delivered for a people few in number, living in a small country, under certain definite climatic conditions. But it is well known that what is unwholesome for food it- one part of the world may be, and often is, necessary to the maintenance of health elsewhere. A class of animals which, under the climatic conditions of Palestine, may be specially liable to certain forms of parasitic disease, under different climatic conditions may be comparatively free from them. Abstinence from fat is commanded in the law of Moses (Leviticus 3:17), and great moderation in this matter is necessary to health in hot climates; but, on the contrary, to eat fat largely is necessary to life in the polar regions. From such facts as these it would follow, of necessity, that when the Church of God, as under the new dispensation, was now to become a world-wide organisation, still to have insisted on a dietetic law perfectly adapted only to Palestine would have been to defeat the physical object, and by consequence the moral end for which that law was given. Under these conditions, except a special law were to be given for each land and climate, there was and could be, if we have before us the true conception of the ground of these regulations, no alternative bat to abrogate the law. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
It follows, as a present-day lesson of great moment, that the holiness which God requires has to do with the body as well as the soul, even with such commonplace matters as our eating and drinking. This is so, because the body is the instrument and organ of the soul, with which it must do all its work on earth for God, and because, as such, the body, no less than the soul, has been redeemed unto God by the blood of His Son. There is, therefore, no religion in neglecting the body and ignoring the requirements for its health, as ascetics have in all ages imagined. Neither is there religion in pampering, and thus abusing, the body, after the manner of the sensual in all ages. The principle which inspires this chapter is that which is expressed in 1 Corinthians 10:31. If, therefore, a man needlessly eats such things, or in such a manner as may be injurious to health, he sins, and has come short of the law of perfect holiness. No less needful is the lesson of this law to many who are at the opposite extreme. For as there are those who are so taken up with the soul and its health, that they ignore its relation to the body, and the bearing of bodily conditions upon character, so there are others who are so preoccupied with questions of bodily health, sanitation and hygiene, regarded merely as prudential measures, from an earthly point of view, that they forget that man has a soul as well as a body, and that such questions of sanitation and hygiene only find their proper place when it is recognised that health and perfection of the body are not to be sought merely that man may become a more perfect animal, but in order that thus, with a sound mind in a sound body, he may the more perfectly serve the Lord in the life of holiness to which we are called. (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
Apologetic value of this law
The question will at once come up in every reflecting mind: Whence came this law? Could it have been merely an invention of crafty Jewish priests? Or is it possible to account for it as the product merely of the mind of Moses? It appears to have been ordered with respect to certain facts, especially regarding various invisible forms of noxious parasitic life, in their bearing on the causation and propagation of disease--facts which, even now, are but just appearing within the horizon of modern science. Is it probable that Moses knew about these things three thousand years ago? Certainly, the more we study the matter the more we must feel that this is not to be supposed. It is common, indeed, to explain much that seems very wise in the law of Moses by referring to the fact that he was a highly educated man, “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” But it is just this fact of his Egyptian education that makes it in the last degree improbable that he should have derived the ideas of this law from Egypt. Could he have taken his ideas with regard, for instance, to defilement by the dead, from a system of education which taught the contrary, and which, so far from regarding those who had to do with the dead as unclean, held them especially sacred? And so with regard to the dietetic laws: these are not the laws of Egypt; nor have we any evidence that those were determined, like these Hebrew laws, by such scientific facts as we have referred to. Whence had this man this unique wisdom three thousand years in advance of his times? The secret will be found, not in the court of Pharaoh, but in the holy tent of meeting: it is all explained if we but assume that which is written in the first verse of this chapter is true: “The Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron:” (S. H. Kellogg, D. D.)
The clean and the unclean
Here we find Jehovah entering, in most marvellous detail, into a description of beasts, birds, fishes, and reptiles, and furnishing His people with various marks by which they were to know what was clean and what was unclean. With regard to beasts, two things were essential to render them clean--they should chew the cud and divide the hoof. We pass on to the consideration of that which the Levitical ceremonial taught with respect to “all that are in the waters.” Here, again, we find the double mark (Leviticus 11:9-10). Two things were necessary to render a fish ceremonially clean, namely, “fins and scales,” which, obviously, set forth a certain fitness for the sphere and element in which the creature had to move. But, doubtless, there was more than this. If a fish needs a “fin” to enable him to move through the water, and “scales” to resist the action thereof, so does the believer need that spiritual capacity which enables him to move onward through the scene with which he is surrounded, and, at the same time, to resist its influence--to prevent its penetrating--to keep it out. These are precious qualities. From Leviticus 11:13 to Leviticus 11:24 of our chapter we have the law with respect to birds. All of the carnivorous kind, that is, all that fed on flesh, were unclean. The omnivorous, or those who could eat anything, were unclean. All those which, though furnished with power to soar into the heavens, would, nevertheless, grovel upon the earth, were unclean. As to the latter class, there were some exceptional cases (Leviticus 11:21-22); but the general rule, the fixed principle, the standing ordinance, was as distinct as possible; “all fowls that creep, going upon all fours, shall be an abomination unto you” (Leviticus 11:20). All this is very simple in its instruction to us. Those fowls that could feed upon flesh; those that could swallow anything or everything; and all grovelling fowls were to be unclean to the Israel of God, because so pronounced by the God of Israel; nor can the spiritual mind have any difficulty in discerning the fitness of such an ordinance. We can not only trace in the habits of the above three classes of fowl the just ground of their being pronounced unclean; but we can also see in the striking exhibition of that, in nature, which is to be strenuously guarded against by every true Christian. Such an one is called to refuse everything of a carnal nature. Moreover, he cannot feed promiscuously upon everything that comes before him. He must “try the things that differ.” Finally, he must use his wings--rise on the pinions of faith, and find his place in the celestial sphere to which he belongs. As to “creeping things” (see Leviticus 11:41). How wonderful to think of the condescending grace of Jehovah! He could stoop to give directions about a crawling reptile. He would not leave His people at a loss as to the most trivial affair. The priest’s guide-book contained the most ample instructions as to everything. He desired to keep His people free from the defilement consequent upon touching, tasting, or handling aught that was unclean. They were not their own, and hence they were not to do as they pleased. (C. H. Mackintosh.)
The right use of things
We are easily led in the direction of our preferences. All the animals in this chapter were good creatures of God, in the sense of having been created by the Almighty. “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle,” &c. Who made these? God. Then are they not good creatures of God? Possibly so; but they are forbidden in that particular use. You do not depose the creature from any dignity to which it is entitled as a creation of God; you do but discern the right use and purpose of the creature in the intent of God. This argument must be applied to every man according to his own circumstances. The argument of the chapter does not end in itself. There are educational beginnings; there are points to start with. The argument is cumulative and becomes stronger and stronger as the instances are plied in illustration of its meaning, Is God so careful about the body and has He written no schedule of directions about the feeding of the mind? May the body not eat of this, but the soul eat of everything? Are there poisons which take away the life of the body, and no poisons that take away the life of the spirit, the mind, the soul? That is the chapter magnified by spirituality. This is an instance of how things may be made symbols of truth infinitely greater than themselves. It is impossible to believe that God, who takes care of the body, pays no attention to the soul. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The coney unclean
The coney was a very timid creature, which burrowed in the rocks. Now, there are some people who seem as if they like the gospel truth, and they may be put down in the class in which Moses puts the coney, which appeared to chew the cud, though it did not really do so. They like the gospel, but it must be very cheap. They like to hear it preached, but as to doing anything to extend it, unless it were to lend their tongues an hour, they would not dream of it. The coney, you know, lived in the earth. These people are always scraping. John Bunyan’s muck-rake is always in their hands. Neither to dig nor to beg are they ashamed. They are as true misers, and as covetous, as if they had no religion at all. And many of these people get into our Churches and are received when they ought not to be. Covetousness ought to exclude a man from Church fellowship as well as fornication, for Paul says, “Covetousness, which is idolatry.” He puts the brand right on its forehead, and marks what it is. We would not admit an idolater to the Lord’s table; nor ought we to admit a covetous man; only we cannot always know him. St. Francis de Sales, who had a great many people come to him to confession, makes this note, that he had many men and women come to him who confessed all sorts of most outrageous crimes, but he never had one who confessed covetousness. It is a kind of sin that always comes in at the back door, and it is always entertained at the back part of the house. People do not suspect it as an inmate of their own hearts. Mr. Covetousness has changed his name to Mr. Prudent-Thrifty; and it is quite an insult to call him other than by his adopted name. Old vices, like streets notorious fur vice, get new names given them. Avaricious grasping, they call that only “the laws of social economy”; screwing down the poor is “the natural result of competition”; withholding corn until the people curse, oh I that is “just the usual regulation of the market.” People name the thing prettily, and then they think they have rescued it from the taint. These people, who are all for earth, are like the coneys who, though they chew the cud, burrow in the ground. They love precious truth, and yet they are all for this earth. If there are any such here, despite their fine experience, we pronounce them unclean--they are not heirs of heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The hare unclean
The hare is such a timid creature; she leaveth her food, and fleeth before the passer-by. I would not say a hard thing, but there are some people who appear to chew the cud, they love to hear the gospel preached; their eyes will sparkle sometimes when we are talking of Christ, but they do not divide the hoof. Like the hare, they are too timid to be domesticated among the creatures whom the Lord has pronounced clean. They do not come out from the world, enter into the Church, and manifest themselves wholly on the Lord’s side. Their conscience tells them they should be united with the people of God, and confess Christ before men--but they are ashamed! One fears lest his wife should know it, and she might ridicule. Some start abashed lest their friends should know it, for the finger of scorn or the breath of raillery could frighten them out of their senses. Others of them are alarmed because the world might, perchance, give them an ill name. Do you know where the fearful go? The fearful that are afraid of being persecuted, mocked, or even laughed at for Christ--do you know where they go? “But the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Have you never read that sentence which says, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels “? There you are, young man! you are ashamed of Christ. You have just come up from the country, and you did not pray to God the other night because there was another young man in the room, and you were ashamed of Him. There are others of you who work in a large shop, and you do not want to be jeered at, as the other young fellow is who works with you, because he is a Christian. You keep your love as a secret, do you, and will not let it out? What! if Christ had only loved you in secret, and had never dared to come on earth to be despised and rejected of men, where would you have been? Do you think that Christ has lit a candle in your hearts that you may hide it? Oh! I pray you, be not like the hare. Let your hoof be so divided from the rest of mankind that they may say, “There is a man--he is not as bold as a lion, mayhap, but he is not ashamed to be a follower of Jesus; he does bear the sneer and gibe for Him, and counts it his honour to be thought evil of for Jesu’s sake.” Oh! be not, I pray you, like the timid hare, lest you be found among the unclean! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters.--
Clean and unclean fish
It is a well-known fact, that all fish that have both scales and fins are both wholesome and nutritious. This provision, therefore, secured to the people the free use of what was certainly profitable, and kept them back from the uncertainty of choosing among the others what might have injured them. Again, therefore, they were taught that it is better far to lean to the side of abstinence, in doubtful cases, than to run the risk of doing evil. They were trained to the principle, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Those “without fins or scales” are partly creatures of the mud and marsh; whereas the others swim through the clear, limpid waters of “seas and rivers.” Others of them that are “without scales,” are such as the voracious shark. Thus they were naturally fitted to exhibit purity. In Leviticus 11:9 we are to read, “in the waters, i.e., whether seas or river.” In Leviticus 11:10, “All that move in the waters,” is rather, “All that crawl in the waters”; and even any living thing there that has not the specified qualities. In the same verse, and at Leviticus 11:11, “They shall be an abomination,” is more emphatic if read thus--“They are an abomination to you, and they shall be an abomination.” And it is thus strongly stated, because the people might be ready to neglect the rule in the case of some of the smaller creatures in the water. Many of the forbidden creatures are exceedingly small in size; yet, nevertheless, even that atom is to be abhorred, if the Lord has given the command. It is not the importance of the thing, but the majesty of the lawgiver, that is to be the standard of our obedience. “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). There were tribes that were to dwell by the waters. Thus Simeon and Dan had a sea-coast from the river of Egypt up to Joppa. Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh had a sea-coast as far as Carmel--the glorious plain of Sharon descending to the waterside. Zebulun and Asher, too, had their creeks and bays; while Napthali, as well as Zebulun and the other half tribe of Manasseh, encircled the lake of Galilee, so plentiful in its supply of fish; and the waters of Merom, no doubt, swarmed with their kinds. Others of the tribes lay near Jordan, or had some lesser streams and lakes at hand. Hence there was not probably one tribe but had some need of these laws and opportunity for exercising faith by attending to them. The Lord also thus evidenced His care over the spiritual health of the seamen and fishers of Israel. It tried their faith when they needed to cast away whatever unclean fish they had enclosed in their net. Some, indeed, might reckon such minute and arbitrary rules as these to be trifling. But the principle involved in obedience or disobedience was none other than the same principle which was tried in Eden at the foot of the forbidden tree. It was really this--Is the Lord to be obeyed in all things whatsoever He commands? Is He a holy Lawgiver? Are His creatures bound to give implicit assent to His will? But this discrimination between holy and unholy penetrated farther. It reached Israel’s hours of recreation, and kept them, even then, in mind of their Holy One. A wealthy Israelite, who has his villa by the lake of Gennesaret, goes forth on the bosom of the lake. In its clear waters he finds fish, darting on before the slow sailing bark in the strength of their ties, and reflecting back to the surface, from their scales, the light that fell on the waters. All here speaks of purity--conformity to what the law pronounced clean. But at another time he strolls along by some shallow, or is compassing the waters of Merom, and there he finds the crawling reptiles of the mud and marsh--teaching him to draw back in haste from the touch of uncleanness. In like manner, far within their land, at the little brook flowing through the valley of Elah, fringed by its green terebinths, the youth of Judah, in their sports, were taught to keep before them the difference between good and evil, while they scrupulously rejected the unclean minnows, and chose the clean, amid their easy angling at the stream. “Holiness to the Lord”--obedience to His revealed will--thus pervaded Israel’s land and Israel’s families, in public and in secret, in business and in recreation; their youth and their aged men, in their fields and by their riversides, must remember “The Holy One of Israel!” (A. A. Bonar.)
Among the fowls.
Lessons from the fowls
The eagle, darting down from the hills of Moab or Bashan, or from the heights of Lebanon, would often teach the shepherd who saw his flock thus endangered. Those by the sea shore would have the same lesson taught them when the sight or cry of the sea-eagle and fish-hawk called to their mind that God had made a difference between the clean and unclean even in the fowls of the air. The vulture, in their streets or highways, allured by the scent of death, and the kite, poised on its wings till it found a prey upon which to dart down, and the hoarse, unpleasant note of the raven would constantly recall the same distinctions, while their loathsome qualities would serve to make the feeling of uncleanness more and more detestable to the men of Israel. While in the wilderness, and afterwards on their borders, they would meet with the ostrich, whose disagreeable cries, voracious habits, and parental unkindness, would all contribute to deepen their aversion to whatever was unclean. And not less so the small, but most ravenous night-hawk that flies in at the open windows and seeks the life of infants; and the seagull incessantly watching for its victims, over whom it screams in savage delight; and the hawk, so furious in its attack on the birds of the air; and the owl at evening, awake for designs of destruction. All these, every time they were been, helped to deepen Israel’s remembrance of the difference between holy and unholy, and to give them intimations of the hateful qualities of sin. (A. A. Bonar.)
The eagle as a type
Reminds one of those people who are conspicuous for certain noble and praiseworthy qualities, but also for qualities ignoble and deserving of the sternest condemnation.
1. Here is a man who is just, but has no mercy.
2. Another man is kind, but ill-tempered.
3. Ill-temper is often associated with earnestness.
4. Another man is moral, but niggardly. (A. F. Forrest.)
The osprey as a type
The osprey has been identified with the sea-eagle. Some species of it is to be found in almost every part of the world. The most noticeable thing about it is its fierce temper. A writer describes “its savage scream of anger, when any one approaches the neighbourhood of its nest, its intimidating gestures, and even its attempts to molest individuals who have ventured among its native crags.” Like the osprey, some people are most noticeable for their ill-nature.
1. People with bad tempers are terribly numerous.
2. Nothing so much embitters the intercourse of life as the ebullitions of a violent disposition.
3. There are more unhappy homes through bad temper than through any other cause.
4. There is this great peculiarity often about ill-tempered people: they are very good in other respects.
5. Society may be to blame somewhat for the great prevalence of bad temper. It should not be spoken of (as it usually is) as a misfortune, but as a sin.
6. The Bible regards bad temper as a sin, and its denunciations of it are of the most unmistaktable character (see Ecclesiastes 8:9; Matthew 5:22; 1 John 3:15).
7. But the punishment of anger is not altogether in the next life--in the future.
8. Anger leads to other and often greater evils.
9. One of the grandest sights is to see a man, under circumstances of provocation and injury, restraining his anger and showing a composed and peaceful spirit.
10. A good practical specific for the treatment of anger is that given by Solomon (Proverbs 19:11).
11. These ebullitions of temper are not Christlike.
12. Sometimes people attempt to palliate their bad temper on the ground of natural disposition. This is a delusion. (A. F. Forrest.)
The vulture as a type
The vulture is a type of those people who revel in the wreck of their neighbour’s reputation.
1. These are people you never like to meet. They have nothing good to say of anybody.
2. In their stories they uniformly exaggerate.
3. Their caution is remarkable.
4. The gossip makes a pretence of wishing a thing to be kept a secret. But it is only that he may himself enjoy the monopoly of the scandal, and be the first to tell it to everybody.
5. This depraved habit of evil-speaking may spring from various causes.
6. Of all bad people, none are so thoroughly as the tale-bearer.
1. The way to keep the city clean is for every one to sweep before his own door.
2. Expulsive of the feeling which swells in the bosom of the evil-speaker is that charity which thinketh no evil. (A. F. Forrest.)
The kite as a type
1. The kite is remarkable for its very keen sight, and for the immense velocity with which it darts upon its prey. But, its legs and claws being weak, it is withal a cowardly creature. It never attacks large prey, but only insects, mice, and small birds.
2. God would have His people characterised by courage and a spirit of noble heroism.
I. The lowest form of courage is that which meets danger unconscious of fear or flinching:--Bravery. A constitutional quality. Costs no effort.
II. A higher form of courage is that which shrinks not in the presence of danger, not from insensibility to it, but from patriotism, or friendship, or some such noble feeling.
III. A still higher courage is that which adheres to duty--to truth and conscience, in the face of opposition and hardship.
1. How few have the courage of their convictions!
2. Many are cowards only in the matter of avowing and adhering to their religious principles.
3. What you are convinced is right, do, whether the world frowns or smiles, sneers or applauds. Be influenced by no fear but the fear of God.
4. Do you do well to go away? Is it wise to lose heaven to escape from a laugh?
5. What is your cross compared to the cross of those who had, in their adherence to Christ, to brave imprisonment and death? (A. F. Forrest.)
The raven as a type
I take selfishness to be the leading characteristic of the raven. It has no pity and no generosity. With it “number one” is the only number.
1. God did not mean man to be like the raven. The happiness of the creature, like the happiness of the Creator, was to be in giving, and not in receiving.
2. What happiness thus did God intend for the human race! Nothing to hurt or destroy could even enter a society in which love held undisputed sway.
3. But the unhappy revolt of man from God, and his assertion of independence, effectually prevented the accomplishment of the Divine purpose.
4. Before, therefore, the mischief effected by the Fall of man can be adequately repaired, we must find that which will destroy the selfishness of man’s heart.
5. The gospel of Jesus Christ, alone of all religious systems, has recognised this important fact, and proposed to remove the disorder by removing the cause.
6. The sufficiency of this remedy for man’s disease has received abundant proof.
7. The early Christian Church affords us just such a spectacle of unselfish enthusiasm on behalf of the race as we would have anticipated from the renewal of men’s hearts, and the restoration to them of the lost principle of benevolence.
8. Is it asked why in this age we have not a repetition of Pentecostal phenomena? The explanation is to be found in the character of those who are now entrusted with the commission to preach the gospel. The Christian of this age is only partially restored from his enmity against God, partially cared of his disease. (A. F. Forrest.)
The owl as a type
A melancholy bird. Flies about at night. Children afraid of it. Owl typifies all moping, morose, melancholy people, who have no sunshine in their soul.
1. No Christian should belong to this genus. Inconsistent.
2. The Bible everywhere represents religion as a thing of joy.
3. This joy is entirely independent of worldly conditions. (A. F. Forrest.)
The bat as a type
The bat is a type of those people who seek both to walk in worldliness and to fly in heavenliness. Neither believers nor unbelievers; half for Satan, and half for God.
1. The vast majority of professing Christians belong, probably, to this genus. I have read of a Spanish bishop who took a strange way once of ending a controversy. The clergy in his diocese had been debating together in regard to the fate of Solomon in the other world. Some maintained that he was in heaven; others that he was in hell. They referred the matter at last to this dignitary. He thought he would gratify both parties. Accordingly, he ordered an artist to paint on the walls of his chapel a picture of the Jewish king, representing him as half in hell and half in heaven. Multitudes of people could only be represented in the same way.
2. This state of indecision in religion may arise from various causes.
3. However caused, this indecision is most unsatisfactory. Those in this state have neither the mirth of the sinner nor the happiness of the saint. “Woe to the double mind,” says Augustine. “Of God’s own they make a share--half to Him and half to the devil. But, indignant at such treatment, the Lord departs; and the devil gets all!”
4. Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.
5. Oh, why do you hesitate?
Every flying creeping thing.--
Clean and unclean insects
All insects are unclean except four classes; for it is insects that are here meant by “the creatures that both fly and creep,” using feet in the manner of quadrupeds. All reptiles, worms, and insects, e.g., flies and bees, are thus pronounced unclean--except only the four classes that have springing legs, in addition to the legs used in creeping. The sight of insects without number in their groves, on the leaves of their fig-trees, or the vine-leaves that shaded them--the innumerable hosts that thickened the air at sunset, or that played on the waters, and from time to time alighted on the head of the solemn Jew who marked the sight--could not fail to remind the soul that it was encompassed with unholy things. I remember (while in Palestine in 1839) the vast number of such insects, some of them very beautiful and rare, which we saw one afternoon by the lake of Galilee, near Magdala; and, also, on a previous day at the pools of Solomon, near Bethlehem. They skimmed along the waters, or flew gaily through the air, or kept their seat upon a sappy leaf--and the eye could not but be attracted by them. Now an Israelite would feel in these insects a memorial of sin, however fair the external form appeared. No retirement into quiet seats and bowers could give freedom from the presence of what was unclean. The dragon-fly that wafted itself past their eye, and the many magnificent insects, though fed amid the fragrance of Lebanon and the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, were all made to speak of God having set a mark on this earth as no longer a paradise. These creatures on the wing were like messengers sent to admonish the saints of God that the sweetest spots of earth were polluted, and, therefore, they must watch and keep their garments. The only clean insects were the locusts--the insects so often used by God to punish a guilty land and an unclean people. (A. A. Bonar.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Leviticus 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25