A common question asked by new believers in the faith is, “What common foods are clean or unclean?” This is a guide to assist you, the new believer. We are all to work out our own salvation. Philippians 2:12, So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. That being said, we are also to assist our brothers and sisters in their walk, as well (Matthew 18:15).
The first verses that appear in scripture relative to our food would be Genesis 1:29-30, Then Elohim said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food,” and it was so. Interestingly, man was given every plant yielding seed and every tree that has fruit yielding seed whereas the beasts and birds were given every green plant for food (no reference to whether or not it yielded seeds).
As a new believer, you probably have already realized that the fruits and vegetables we eat are not in question, scripturally. Although that cannot always be said in this day and age, because there are certain waxes, for example, put on fruits for color enhancement which are derived from unclean sources. If you grow or purchase your produce from a farmer who does grow them, this will not (or should not) be a problem. If not, ask questions.
There are four categories of “meat.” We have the large animals (cattle and such), small insects (grasshoppers and crickets), birds (including chickens and such), and fish (including fresh and salt water). Let’s look at each one separately, starting with the large animals.
Leviticus 11:1-8, YAHWEH spoke again to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you. Likewise, the shaphan, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.’”
The animals are easy to distinguish. The pig is definitely unclean. Not only is the pig unclean, it is probably the source of most all of the conflict regarding foods. These items are or can be derived from pig: gelatin, lard, enzymes, di-glycerides, and/or mono-glycerides. When reading the ingredients of a product, the source of gelatin or enzymes is not required on product labeling.
Although it helps greatly to check for kosher symbols, you are wise to call the company if a product contains gelatin, enzymes, natural flavorings, anything where pork by-products or shellfish could be hidden. There are some who feel that to worry about “enzymes” is burdensome and left to the individual. If you put just a drop of poison in an entire cup of sugar, would it be safe to drink? What would Yahshua do?
The next category would be water critters which are covered in verses 9-12, “These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest. Whatever in the water does not have fins and scales is abhorrent to you.”
Fish, like trout and salmon are good to eat but catfish (which actually has a skin) is not. Bottom-feeders generally are unclean and would include shrimp and lobster.
Do you notice a common thread here? The unclean items are the ones the “world” is drawn to and tend to be the most desired food products and, at times, the most expensive (such as lobster and shrimp). Fins and scales are easy to determine.
The birds are a little more difficult to discern because they have names which may not be the same now as they were back then. Our instructions are in verses 13-19, These, moreover, you shall detest among the birds; they are abhorrent, not to be eaten: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, and the kite and the falcon in its kind, every raven in its kind, and the ostrich and the owl and the sea gull and the hawk in its kind, and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture, and the stork, the heron in its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat. Geese, ducks and chickens would all be clean, but we must be diligent.
Last are the little creeping (and jumping) critters which are covered in verses 20-25, All the winged insects that walk on all fours are detestable to you. Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth. These you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds. But all other winged insects which are four-footed are detestable to you. By these, moreover, you will be made unclean: whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening… Can you imagine eating locusts? You can eat them, and we may have to one day, along with grasshoppers and crickets!
He seems to elaborate more in verses 27-30, Also whatever walks on its paws, among all the creatures that walk on all fours, are unclean to you; whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, and the one who picks up their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; they are unclean to you. Now these are to you the unclean … the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds, and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon.
Yahweh makes a very clear comment in Leviticus 11:46-47, This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that is on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten. We need to make a careful distinction between the clean and unclean because our Creator, Who made these animals, is telling us which ones He created for our food.
Let’s look a little bit at food preparation. There are verses scattered throughout the Bible on preparing your food. For example, we are told in 1 Samuel 14:32-34, The people rushed greedily upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and calves, and slew them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood. Then they told Saul, saying, “Behold, the people are sinning against YAHWEH by eating with the blood.” And he said, “You have acted treacherously; roll a great stone to me today.”Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people and say to them, ‘Each one of you bring me his ox or his sheep, and slaughter it here and eat; and do not sin against YAHWEH by eating with the blood.”’ You want to make certain that the blood is drained from the animal. Some people soak the meat in salt water because the salt will draw the blood out, but this could be a “gray area” because scripture does not say you must soak the meat. The example here in 1 Samuel seems to indicate they were slaughtered on the ground initially, so the blood could not be drained (as the blood would just run out on the ground where the meat was laying). When they brought them to Saul, perhaps they were hung so the blood could more thoroughly drain out. If you shoot wild birds, it is a good idea to soak them in salt water before freezing, because it helps in making it less tough.
There is also a bit said about the fat of meat. Leviticus 7:23-24, Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “You shall not eat any fat from an ox, a sheep or a goat. Also the fat of an animal which dies and the fat of an animal torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but you must certainly not eat it.” YAHWEH permits animals to be used for various purposes, even if we are not to eat it, and this is a good example.
The biggest thing to remember is this: IF you think something is unclean, it would be prudent for you not to eat it until you verify its cleanliness. “If in doubt, do without” is a good rule of thumb and pray always for YAHWEH’S help (Matthew 21:22; Revelation 3:20).
May our Heavenly Father guide you as you walk towards Him!
Acknowledgement: This article is made available by Yahweh’s Assembly in Messiah for our edification and salvation of our souls.