Editor’s note: This is part 1 in a 3-part series by the author on dietary laws in the Bible.
The dietary laws presented in the Bible were instituted to separate God’s people from the rest of the population on Earth. The Scriptures are clear on why the dietary laws were necessary. In Exodus, God chose the nation of Israel for a special purpose.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. Exodus 19:5-6 (ESV)
The dietary laws were specifically created to set Israel apart from other nations. God even told Moses why he was giving them the laws. He had a special purpose for Israel. They were to be a model nation — the example to the rest of the world.
You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. Leviticus 20:25-26 (ESV)
God separated the people of Israel from others so that the blessings of His laws would serve as a witness to other people who would be drawn to Him. His hope was that other nations may follow the example set by the Israelites when they saw the benefits that were derived from following God’s instructions. This included physical well-being and freedom from disease.
Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time. Deuteronomy 4:40 (ESV)
For centuries, these instructions have been the source of much controversy and confusion among various groups of professing Christians. Some feel that the laws clearly express God’s will and note that they are reasonable and beneficial guidelines that show God’s love for His people. Others see that they serve no useful purpose or have been abolished. However, God himself said that His laws were for our good and to prolong our lives.
Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! Deuteronomy 5:29 (ESV)
…and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Deuteronomy 10:13 (ESV)
The dietary instructions in the Bible were also meant to promote wise stewardship of the environmental resources which God entrusted to mankind. In Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 God told man to “tend and keep” the earth.
So, if we know that God has done and does do everything for our good, and the good of His creation, it makes sense to study closely what He has to say about diet as it relates to our understanding and desire to live a long and healthy life and to preserve the integrity of our environmental resources while glorifying Him.
The Importance of Grass
In Leviticus 11: 1-3, God spoke to Aaron, stating “These are the animals which you may eat among all the beasts’ that are on the earth… whatever divides the hoof having cloven hooves and chewing the cud.’” These animals are plant-eating mammals or herbivores known as ruminants. Ruminants have a very special digestive system and split hooves. Their four-chambered stomachs convert grasses that humans and other animals can’t eat into nutritious protein products such as meat and milk that people can use as a food source. Examples of these clean animals include sheep, goats, bison, moose, cows, caribou, deer, gazelles and giraffes.
From an environmental perspective, using ruminants for food makes sense as so much of the earth is covered in rangelands where food crops like corn and wheat are very hard to grow. Not to mention the fact that grass-fed animals are healthier to eat, providing tremendous nutritional resources to the human body, than grain-fed animals.
Note: Keep in mind that much of the factory farmed meat today is laden with GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics and other toxins that we are not intended to consume. It is best to eat only grass-fed, organic meat.
Next in the series: Carnivores, sea creatures, bugs and birds