Leviticus 11 - Clean or Unclean

The Numerical Bible

Volume I, Genesis -
Deuteronomy, Pages 315-320
Leviticus 11
What we eat we are.

(Chapter xi-xv)
Putting a

WE come now to look at the other side of our associations.
We have seen how God has in grace associated us with His dear Son. Thus
belonging to the priestly family, and brought near to God, fellowship with Him
must mean dissociation from all that is contrary to His mind and will. Linked
with God upon the one side, we cannot upon the other link Him with what would
dishonour Him. Our associations become in this way a matter of the most vital
importance to our highest interests here. Innocence is gone from us; the
knowledge of evil is that from which we can no longer escape; and God in His
wondrous way has turned this into a means of holiness, and of fellowship with
Himself: "the man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil;" and we are
of those "who by reason of use" are to "have their senses exercised to discern
both good and evil" (Heb. v. 14).

Even when born again, and our hearts
turned to God, it has not pleased Him to deliver us at once from that
indwelling sin, which if any man saith he hath not, he deceiveth himself (1
Jno. i. 8). Nay, it is then we are brought face to face with it, not surely to
fulfill its lusts, but to realize it in its abominable character, and to learn
in the light with Him His own hatred of it.

In the world around too we
find it in ten thousand shapes, many gross, many alluring, and in beings like
ourselves connected with us in various ways, and exercising various influences
upon us. From these we cannot withdraw ourselves: the prayer of our High Priest
was, "not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst
deliver them from the evil" (Jno. xvii. 15.) We have thus to conquer, not to
flee,- to conquer where we stand; separated from that in the midst of which we
are, "in the world, not of it," and to carry out this separtion while alive to
all the infinite claims upon us of those who are with ourselves of Adam's
fallen race,- yea, in sympathy with the tears of Him who wept over His

Here on every side is evil ready to defile us, and in those
in whom we have to distinguish its various workings, for their sakes and our
own learning to "make a difference:" of some having compassion; others saving
with fear (Jude 22, 23); others only able to withdraw from utterly with horror.
Such things we come to look at now in the fruitful types in which God once
taught to a people just emerged from association with the heathen around, His
holiness. Of this man, fallen from his place, had in himself so little
knowledge, that God must take up the beast below him, to teach it to him. In
truth, nature is one great parable, and God, in drawing out such lessons from
it, but uses it for what it is.

Section 1. (xi.) What we eat we

1. First, then, we have to learn here as to food, what is clean
and what is unclean. The German materialist's bald sophism we are taught to
realize in another sense as a most important truth, "man ist was er iszt," -
"what we eat we are." Spiritually, our food declares our character, as it also
forms it. He that eateth Christ shall not only live by Him, but His life will
be practically assimilated to His also. Thus, in what is here permitted to be
the food of the people of God, we find depicted the spiritual life of the
people of God. That wholesomeness as diet should go with this would not be
wonderful in view of this very symbolism which is in all things round us. That
which is fullest in meaning is also truest in fact, as there need be no doubt.
Nevertheless, the matter of health is never brought forward: it is not of what
is wholesome or unholesome, but of what is clean or unclean that the law

Subsection 1. (vs. 1-8) Harmony of faith and

AND Jehovah spake to Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the animals that ye shall
eat of all the beasts that are upon the face of the earth. Whatever divideth
the hoof, even completely cleaving the hoof, and bringeth up the cud among the
beasts, that shall ye eat. Nevertheless of these shall ye not eat, of those
that bring up the cud and of those that divide the hoof: the camel, because he
bringeth up the cud but divideth not the hoof, he is unclean to you; and the
hyrax, because it bringeth up the cud but divideth not the hoof, it is unclean
to you; and the hare, because it bringeth up the cud but divideth not the hoof,
it is unclean to you; and the swine, because it divideth the hoof, completely
cleaving the hoof, but bringeth not up the cud, it is unclean to you. Ye shall
not eat of thier flesh, nor touch their carcasses: they are unclean to

(1.) Of clean beasts - mammals, as they are best distinguished -
there is but one class, those that ruminate, or chew the cud; but among these
also those are excluded who have not a hoof entirely divided. There must be the
union of these two characters, the power of rumination and the divided hoof, to
constitute the animal clean for the Israelite. It is not hard to realize the
spiritual meaning of rumination: we are well accustomed to the use of it for
"meditation," quiet reflection: and it would seem almost needless to insist
upon the necessity of this for proper apprehension of the truth. The cloven
foot, besides its suitability for a light, firm tread, and so for speed,
prevents miring in soft ground. These opposed hoofs, uniting to give stabilty
in this way, may perhaps intimate to us how the truths of the Word that seem
most opposed to one another, in fact only give balance and firm tread to him
that rests on them, while they certainly prevent being mired in the very place
of pasture. The speed for which the foot is, above all, made surely reminds us
that where spiritual digestion is found in the believer, faith that looks at
what is unseen makes the Christian course a race. Altogether the type here is a
bright and suggestive one: may it speak to our souls with all the power the
Spirit of God can give it!

But now look at the exceptions: of the
really ruminating animals only one - the camel. It is plain he is no racer: two
and a half to three miles is his pace, and he travels it with a burden. Made
for the desert, not for the pasture-lands, ungainly, irritable, not like the
rest of his class, - may he not remind us of how many Christians, while ever
learning, as one would think, the things of God, go yet heavily burdened
through the world, as if the desert was their all? The camel-Christian may be
indeed a real one, as his representative is a ruminant, and yet what a poor
bungled copy does he seem! Cares of this world burden him. He is
earthly-heavenly: according to the Word of God "unclean."

The other
animals named here are not ruminants at all, and many have wondered that the
hare and the coney - the hyrax - should be put among them. But it has been well
urged, that these are practical directions for simple people, and not studies
in natural history; and to people ordinarily the hare and the coney, though
merely grinding their teeth, appear to be ruminating. They are professors of
rumination without reality, taken here as God takes men according to their
profession: but it cannot make them clean.

The last animal here is a
very different one from the rest, and the very type of uncleanness. In the
swine there was no pretense of rumination, but there was the cloven foot; if
one looked only at that, the swine would seem clean. Surely they are the type
of such as, openly slighting faith and the Word of God, plead their good
conduct. "He can't be wrong whose life is in the right." In fact, the life is
not right: loving the mire, and rooting up the ground, the swine is a typical
destroyer. God judgeth not as man judgeth, but His judgment alone is

Subsection 2. (vs. 9-12.) Armed for conflict.

shall ye eat, of all that are in the waters: whatever hath fins and scales in
the waters - in seas and in rivers - these shall ye eat; but of all that have
not fins and scales, in seas and in rivers, of all that swarm in the waters,
even of every living soul that is in the waters, they shall be an abomination
unto you, even they shall be an abomination unto you: yea, their flesh ye shall
not eat and their carcasses shall be an abomination unto you; whatever in the
waters hath not fins and scales shall be an abomination unto you.

We now come to the inhabitants of the water, and here that which was clean had
fins and scales, means of movement and defence; but the opposition of a denser
element than before - the water - seems to make movement itself here a conflict
in which the "fin" is the offensive, and the "scale" is the defensive weapon.
So we are reminded there that the life of faith is a warfare also, and one from
which we cannot be excused: we cannot be non-combatants and clean; to be
unarmed is to be overcome; every step of progress must be a victory.

Subsection 3. (vs. 13-19.) The unclean bird.

And these shall ye have
in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they shall be an
abomination: the griffon, and the ossifrage, and the osprey, and the buzzard,
and the kite after its kind, every crow after its kind, and the ostrich, and
the barn owl, and the gull, and the hawk after its kind, and the little owl,
and the cormorant, and the eagle owl, and the gallinule, and the pelican, and
the vulture, and the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe, and the

(iii.) The birds speak to us of that heavenly character which as
Christians surely belongs to us; yet here also in what assumes to be that,
there may come in that which is unclean, and then we have proportionatly what
is worse. In the parables of Matt. xiii. the birds of the heavens carry off the
good seed, and are devils.

Here there is no rule given for
distinguishing the clean, in general to belong to this class was to be so:
individual exceptions are named, without any specified characters to
distinguish those either. Certainly each one of them has meaning, and the name
alone is given, probably the name is enough, as in Bunyan's allegories, but I
can attempt nothing as to this. It has been remarked that the list consists
almost exclusively of birds which feed on flesh in whole or in part; under
which come necessarily also the omnivorous; while in the bat we have an
illustration of those flying things that go upon all fours mentioned just
afterward, although, of course, a much larger class. "We can trace," says [C.
H.] Mackintosh, "in the habits of the above three classes the just ground of
their being pronounced unclean; but we can also see in them the striking
exhibition of that in nature, which is to be strenuously guarded against by
every true Christian. Such an one is called upon to refuse every thing of a
carnal nature. Moreover, he cannot feed promiscuously upon every thing that
comes before him. He must 'try the things that differ.' He must 'take heed what
he hears.' He must exsercise a discerning mind, a spiritual judgment, a
heavenly taste. Finally, he must use his wings: he must rise on the pinions of
faith and find his place in the celestial sphere to which he belongs. In short,
there must be nothing groveling, nothing promiscuous, nothing unclean, for the
Christian." - (Notes on Leviticus.)

Subsection 4. (vs. 20-28.) The
taint of the earth.

Every flying creeping thing, that goeth upon all
four, shall be an abomination to you. Yet these ye may eat of all flying
creeping things that go upon all four, those which have legs above their feet,
to leap with upon the earth. Of these may ye eat: the locust after its kind,
and the bald locust after its kind, and the cricket after its kind, and the
grasshopper after its kind. But all flying creeping things which have four feet
shall be an abomination to you. And for these ye shall be unclean: every one
who toucheth their carcasses shall be unclean until the even; and every one
that carrieth aught of their carcasses shall wash his clothes, and be unclean
until the even. [The carcass of] every beast that divideth the hoof, but doth
not completely cleave it, or doth not bring up the cud, it is unclean to you,
every one who toucheth these shall be unclean. And what ever goeth upon its
paws, of all animals that go on all four, these are unclean to you, whoever
toucheth their carcasses shall be unclean until the even; and he that beareth
their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the even: they are
unclean to you.

(iv.) The "flying ceeping things"would seem to be
unclean as belonging to two spheres at once, from which those whose mode of
progression was a leap were excepted, the leap being perhaps a repulsion the
earth(?). The earth-taint here in question accounts for the introduction of
legislation as to death, the touch even of the carcasses of the unclean
defiling. Here too, naturally from this point of view, are mentioned as unclean
the beasts that go upon their "hands," - i.e., whose feet are unprotected by
hoofs. The classfication in this way shows clearly how a moral symbolism
governs it: there is otherwise no order apparent.

Subsection 5. (vs.
29-43.) What and how they affect.

These also are unclean to you of
the creeping things that creep upon the earth: the weasel, and the mouse, and
the tortoise, after its kind; and the gecko, and the monitor, and the lizard,
and the sand-lizard, and the chameleon. These are unclean to you among those
that creep: he who toucheth them when dead shall be uclean until the even. And
on whatever any of them when dead shall fall, it shall be unclean; all vessels
of wood, or garment, or skin, or sack, every thing wherein any work is done, it
shall be put into water, and be unclean until the even, - then shall it be
clean. And every earthen vessel whereinto any of them falleth, whatever is in
it shall be unclean, and ye shall break it. All food that is eaten, upon which
water cometh, shall be unclean; and all drink that is drunk shall be unclean in
every [such]vessel. And every thing upon which any part of their carcass
falleth shall be uclean, - oven and covered pan shall be broken: they are
unclean, and shall be unclean unto you. Nevertheless a spring or well, with
plenty of water, shall be clean, but that which toucheth their carcass shall be
unclean. And if any of their carcass fall upon any sowing-seed that is to be
sown, it shall be clean; but if water be put upon the seed, and any part of
their carcass fall theron, it shall be unclean to you. And if any beast which
is yours for food die, he who toucheth the carcass of it shall be unclean until
the even. And whosoever eateth of the carcass thereof shall wash his clothes,
and be unclean until the even; and he that beareth the carcass of it shall wash
his clothes and be unclean until the even. And every creeping thing that
creepeth upon the earth is an abomination, it shall not be eaten. Whatsoever
goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath
many feet, of all creeping things that creep upon the earth, these ye shall not
eat, for they are an abomination. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with
any creeping thing that creepeth, nor shall ye make yourselves unclean with
them, that ye be defiled thereby. For I am Jehovah your God, and ye shall
sanctify yourselves, that ye may be holy; for I am holy: and ye shall not
defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creepeth on the earth. For I am
Jehovah, who am bringing you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: and
ye shall be holy, because I am holy. This is the law of the beast, and of the
fowl, and of every living soul that moveth in the waters, and of every soul
that creepeth in the earth; to divide between the uclean and the clean, and
between the animal that may be eaten, and the animal that may not be

(v.) The reptiles follow, but along with these also the weasel
and the mouse, - showing the same absence as before of any merely natural
classification. Nor indeed does there seem at first a reason for the
specification of certain species here when the whole class of creeping things
is presently declared unclean (v. 41). Commentators seem only able to say that
these are mentioned as being of those from whom there was special danger of
defilement in the way immediately particularized as dropping into vessels,
etc., being generally found in houses or in the abodes of men. But we see also
how differently they affect what they come into contact with - the comparative
receptivity of defilement. Thus every vessel of wood, or garment or skin or
sack, upon which they fell when dead, was to put into water and would be clean
at even; but the earthen vessel could only be broken. The fountain or well
could not be defiled; nor seed intended to be sown, but if it had been
moistened with water, to be used for food, then it would be defiled. That which
died of itself also, though otherwise clean, became unclean, - death in this
way being the type of that which had come in through sin. Whether we can read
these things or not, it is plain that they imply a different susceptibility as
to evil, and a difference in the treatment of that which was defiled, which
should be to us suggestive and important.