“And Yah, God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” (Gen 2:16)
The Hebrew word for “eat” (‘akal ) appears in the Scriptures a total of 810 times*. The very first instructions given to mankind about life on the earth had to do with what Adam and Eve could and could not eat, for their own good; along with the instruction for them to be fruitful and multiply. Ultimately, mankind’s separation from God came about through the eating of the wrong thing. And, though this story may not be foreign to us from a Scriptural study standpoint; at the same time, many people who study the Scriptures also seem to have a disconnect from how their own relationship with the Creator is impacted by that which they put into their own mouths.
Are you familiar with the verse, “Be holy, for I am holy”? Are you familiar with where this verse is found and its context in the Hebrew Bible? Perhaps you may be surprised. Note that it is found in Leviticus 11:44, and this section in context reads as follows:
“You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them. For I am YHWH your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am YHWH who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.’”
The phrase “Be holy, for I am holy” is actually at the end of the Torah Instruction chapter that deals with unclean and clean animals, giving instructions about which ones were acceptable as food. This illustrates that from the perspective of the Creator, our holiness is intimately related to the foods that we eat.
Many people, of course, believe that these instructions no longer apply. To bring it close to home in a practical way, we can compare these instructions with our parental instincts as we teach our children what is good to eat and what, on the other hand, is really “yucky” and will make them sick. It is my conviction that God did not give these instructions in order to only illustrate an abstract spiritual lesson; nor just for the sake of implementing unnecessary religious “stuff” for people to have to follow. Rather, he has complete knowledge concerning the creatures in His creation, what their purpose is, and desires us to step into a healthful and balanced way of being. Thus, walking in obedience to His instructions is an illustration of our trust in Him, in His ways and in His love in giving us instructions of life. Many creatures are here to help keep balance in the creation by being garbage disposals, and mopping up various forms of toxins in the environment. Surely these animals are not suitable for food, and they certainly would not in a very basic sense, be “clean” for us to consume.
An English word that we often see in English translations of this chapter concerning God’s perspective on unclean animals is that they are an “abomination” in the eyes of God (Hebrew: sheqets). In English, this word conjures up very religious sensations, and we may envision a picture of some arbitrary rule that would make God “angry” if we broke it. But, the true God is not like this at all. Arbitrary religious carryings on are the inventions of men who bring people into a stressful order of abstract observances. The Creator, on the other hand, always, always, always has a very good reason for everything He instructs us to do for our own good; which we would expect from any quality form of parental instruction, even within the human sphere. If we as parents choose rules that are for our children’s own good and healthful development, how much more the God of all Creation who has formed us and given us the incredible gift of life.
As far as word choices go, I believe a much better equivalent in our modern day than the word “abomination”, would be to call the unclean animals “toxic” – meaning simply unsuitable for human consumption. In this, our Heavenly Father is essentially saying: “I do not want to see my children filling themselves with toxicity through the consumption of polluted and toxic foods. And, many animals are toxic and not appropriate to eat.” (my paraphrase).
If we saw our own toddler about to put a spider in their mouth, surely we would shout something like “NO! Don’t eat that, it’s yucky!” Well, how much more our God in heaven, who knows exactly what pollutants are lurking within the flesh and bodies of various creatures in the earth. Were all creatures created “very good?” Yes, they all serve a viable purpose, but not are all very good for our food.
Scavenger creatures are among those that are considered unsuitable for human consumption, while grass fed animals that gift us with the blessings of amazing omega 3 fatty acids and numerous other essential vitamins and minerals, are given as appropriate for consumption. This is according to the love of the Creator, and His desire for our health, rather than His unnecessarily “restricting” us.
While it may be somewhat subjective to consider the “why” for the various reasons that God instructed us concerning which animals are clean and which are unclean, I believe it is clear in the Hebrew Scriptures that He does in fact care about what we eat and what we feed our families. There are numerous verses pointing to this in various forms; wherein we can be assured of the importance of putting considerable thought into what we put into our mouths, and its health giving potential. We can also rejoice that we have a God who cares so much about us in every aspect of our existence and experience; in order to help us step into health and vitality, by giving us instructions regarding the daily practices of our lives.
Here are a couple additional Scriptures to consider, which I believe illustrate the point that God’s instructions concerning the eating of clean and unclean foods is more than just an abstract religious practice:
“I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in a way that is not good,
According to their own thoughts;
A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face;
Who sacrifice in gardens,
And burn incense on altars of brick;
Who sit among the graves,
And spend the night in the tombs;
Who eat swine’s flesh,
And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
Who say, ‘Keep to yourself,
Do not come near me,
For I am holier than you!’” (Isa 65:2-5)
This Scripture is very interesting, as it indicates that the people “religiously” thought of themselves as walking in holy conduct above the other peoples of the earth; yet in the simple practice of what they ate, they completely ignored the loving instruction of their God and ate pork and other unclean meats anyway; putting more faith in their own religious reasonings rather than the clear and simple instructions of their Heavenly Father Who only desires to infuse health, wellness and goodness into the lives of His children.
“Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,
To go to the gardens
After an idol in the midst,
Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together,” says YHWH. (Isa 66:17)
In similar fashion to the previous verse in Isa 65, this verse speaks of a people who by their own definition, “sanctify and purify themselves” while believing in and worshiping a God that is “OK” with their eating of swine’s flesh and other unclean meats. In so doing, they are worshipping a “god” that is not the True God of the Hebrew Bible; as the True Creator is not OK with us participating in the toxic and degenerating consumption of these creatures. In fact, this is so serious to the Creator, that here we see His warning that ignoring His Torah Instructions concerning unclean meats will result in our own undoing.
Every Instruction that has come to us from the Creator is for us; for our own good. May we truly look to Him; and in all things demonstrate our trust in His ways through loving obedience, so that He truly can work with us while our hearts continue to be opened to Him and all of the lovely things that He has to share with us.
- Visit the RUAS Resource Page to find out where you can purchase high quality superfoods and herbs for your health.
- You may also be interested in: the “Raising Our Food Standards” Series. Go to part one here.
* According to Online Strong’s Concordance at: https://www.blueletterbible.org.