Biblical Food Laws

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There are so many diseases afflicting God’s people today that it seems imperative to remind everyone of God’s Divine Food Laws listed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. God loves His children and wants them to be healthy, which is why He gave us these dietary laws in the first place. The Jewish people outwardly keep the food laws, even though God through Moses did not give these laws to them. The Christian Israelites eat all manner of unclean foods (bacon, ham, pork chops, shrimp, clams, shellfish, oysters, rabbit, squirrel, catfish) since they have been taught that the food laws have been somehow abolished by the crucifixion of Jesus, even though their ancestors were the only people ever given instructions by God as to what foods to eat and not eat.

The most familiar Biblical health laws define clean and unclean meats (creatures that are acceptable to eat and those that are not) yet most people (even theologians!) have little or no understanding of the medically sound reasons behind these instructions! The scientific wisdom behind the Biblical dietary laws is seldom taught today; instead, these laws are commonly viewed as Old Testament regulations that are no longer applicable. However these lists of clean and unclean creatures have a significance often ignored. Far from being based on fad or fancy, these lists emphasize a fact not discovered until late in the last century – that animals carry diseases dangerous to man. In fact, the same animals labeled unclean in Scripture still carry parasitic diseases that are still dangerous to man today!

“Clean” land animals are ruminants – grazing animals such as cattle, sheep, deer and elk – whose digestive tracts are designed to turn grass that man cannot digest into meat that we can digest. Most unclean animals are carnivores or scavengers that can transmit dangerous diseases to man. Pigs eat roots and grains, rather than grass, and thus are ecological competitors to man. Clean fish have fins and scales. Unclean aquatic organisms like clams and oysters are filter feeders that purify water, and that concentrate poisonous chemicals and pathologic bacteria and viruses in their tissues. Eating an oyster is like eating your vacuum cleaner bag, yet modern connoisseurs do not like to think about this! Crabs and lobsters are scavengers that eat dead things on the bottom of bodies of water. Most unclean birds are carnivores or scavengers. God in His wisdom inspired laws that protect us from contracting dangerous diseases, but also protect “nature’s clean up crew” by making them “off limits” as food for us. These biological principles still operate today.

Pigs are gluttonous, never knowing when to stop eating. Their stomach acids become diluted because of the volume of food, allowing all kinds vermin to pass through this protective barrier. Parasites, bacteria, viruses and toxins can pass into the pig’s flesh because of overeating. These toxins and infectious agents can be passed on to man when we eat pig. In the United States, three of the six most common food-borne parasitic diseases of people are associated with pork consumption. These include toxoplasmosis, taeniasisor cysticercosis (caused by the pork tapeworm) and trichinellosis. It has long been recognized that the meat of shellfish; shrimp, crabs, lobsters, etc. is especially dangerous. Many illnesses, including instant paralysis, devastate some people every day as a result of eating shellfish.

However, the laws of clean and unclean meats are not the only Biblical instructions that concern diet. In Leviticus 3:17, we read, “It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations, throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.” One of the most significant discoveries in the last century was that high fat diets are linked to increased levels of heart disease, stroke, cancer of the colon and breast and a host of other pathologies – including obesity – that bring additional complications. Our challenge is to learn to recognize major sources of fat in our diet (visible fats on meat, fatty cuts of meat, fast food, frozen meals, etc.), and reduce our intake of fats that are high in calories. It has also become painfully obvious in recent decades that contaminated blood and blood products can transmit AIDS and hepatitis. The simple principle of avoiding fat and blood is a powerful principle of prevention (if it is followed) because it still works today!

Can we eat the liver and kidneys of clean animals? Before we move ahead with the issue, let us first understand that this is not a Salvation issue. The food laws are there for our health, not for us to divide and attack each other over. We believe that it is Biblically wrong and unhealthy for us to eat the caul of the liver and kidneys of animals. Remember, according to these verses in Leviticus 1-9, the fat, the caul that is above the liver, and kidneys were to be burned. Are we to assume that the priests burnt the fat, the caul of the liver, and kidneys and then ate them? This simply does not add up, especially when the Bible clearly forbids man to eat “the fat” except when the fat is mingled with the flesh or muscle. All meat has some fat in it, including the choicest of steaks. The priest was to detach all the separable portions of the fat such as the flare, and that in which the intestines, kidney, and liver are embedded. These portions were then burnt with the daily offering. The fat was chiefly found in a detached state, sometimes referred to as the omentum, or caul.

Biblical principles also cover the use of plant foods – carbohydrates. Ezekiel was instructed to make a nutritious bread from “wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt” (Ezekiel 4:9). This was a multigrain bread containing complex carbohydrates for energy, different kinds of fibre and multiple amino acids for proteins and bodybuilding. It was not a highly refined product like today’s common breads that have most of their nutrients removed, then are misleadingly called “enriched” when a few nutrients are added back.

The Bible advises us to use sweets like honey or other simple sugars sparingly (Proverbs 25:16; 27). We are warned against overeating – gluttony (Proverbs 28:7). Modern books on health give the same advice! The Biblical dietary guidelines are not old-fashioned, burdensome regulations – they are divinely inspired guidelines that have taken mankind’s science thousands of years to understand.

God repeatedly promised His people that if they would hearken unto His voice, and “do that which is right in His sight, and will give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes” that He would not put any of these diseases that He had put upon the Egyptians (Exodus 15:26); “And the LORD will take away from thee ALL SICKNESS, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee, but will lay them upon all those who hate thee” (Deuteronomy 7:15).

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