From Deuteronomy 14-16
Deuteronomy reminds the people of Israel about the food laws. What they can and cannot eat. What foods do you consider unclean? Why? In today’s passage the Israelites are urged to be holy because the LORD is holy. In the gospel Jesus abrogates the food laws and clarifies what things make us unclean.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Deuteronomy means second law. The LORD gives Israel many laws that may seem strange to us. But among other things they serve to separate Israel from the nations and keep them holy.
14 “You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead. 2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (Dt 14.1-2)
Moses identifies Israel as the ‘sons of the living God’.
A wonderful expression. God’s people can call him father. Israel calls God, the LORD he is their king. Here we see a more intimate expression. The LORD is their father.
Moses warns them away from the religious practices of the idolaters around them. God’s sons are meant to be holy, just as God is holy (1 Pet 1.16-17).
The bulk of today’s passage concerns the food laws. You may remember we also looked at a similar grouping of laws in Leviticus 11.
3 “You shall not eat any abomination. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 7 Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. 8 And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. (Dt 14.3-8)
The foods are called abominations. What foods would you call an abomination?
The sections are nicely divided into different kinds of animals. Moses starts off with the land animals. The pig is notably present.
9 “Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. 10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you. (Dt 14.9-10)
Then comes the fish. Israel are not allowed to eat sea eels.
11 “You may eat all clean birds. 12 But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 13 the kite, the falcon of any kind; 14 every raven of any kind; 15 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; 16 the little owl and the short-eared owl, the barn owl 17 and the tawny owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, 18 the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. (Dt 14.11-18)
Then the birds of the air. Israel is to stay away from carnivorous birds.
19 And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. 20 All clean winged things you may eat. (Dt 14.19-20)
Lastly we see insects. Im sure John the Baptist and other prophets like him paid attention to these commands.
Various attempts to account for the classifications and prohibitions have been made, none of which is entirely satisfactory but some of which probably contain elements of truth. Thus, some of the prohibited species may have been believed to be animated by evil forces, or they may have been used in heathen rites, or their flesh may have been unhealthy or had a foul taste. The birds may have been prohibited because some of them were birds of prey that ate the corpses of animals. There may also have been economic reasons behind the ban. It has been argued that pigs were prohibited because they competed with humans for scarce resources of grain. A recent suggestion is that the prohibited species were anomalies that did not precisely fit into the classificatory schemes used by the Israelites to distinguish animals. It is likely that a mixture of superstition, custom, practical economics, and observation combined to produce the lists and that attempts to justify them rationally, (Rogerson, J.W., 2003. Deuteronomy. In J. D. G. Dunn & J. W. Rogerson, eds. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 160.)
21 “You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Dt 14.21)
Death is clearly associated with making things unclean. The Israelites are meant to be holy like the LORD. However they are allowed to give these unclean items to the Gentiles.
Of all the laws given to Israel, this one is one which seemed to be observed with a degree of success. However, they neglected to consider the underlying motivation for their obedience. To be holy as the LORD is holy.
In the gospel we see Jesus abrogating the food laws.
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk 7.14-23)
I don’t know for sure how Jesus would feel about eating McDonalds. We do know from both passages the LORD takes cleanliness and purity seriously.
What things in your life are in danger of making you unclean? Avoid them.
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