In my years of studying the bible, I have found that many religious people I have encountered in my travels ignore some of the most basic instructions found in the bible. It is not our duty to pick and choose what words of the bible we find relevant to the way we desire to live our lives. With that said, I would like to discuss a simple set of instructions given in Deuteronomy that many ignore.
Many Christians today try to reason that the dietary laws given in Deuteronomy are only for the Jews. As we know Jesus Christ says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:4 KJV) If this is true, then how can we logically exclude the dietary laws given in Deuteronomy? Logically, we cannot dismiss these laws for any reason; however, some twist the words of Jesus to fit their own purpose.
The following verses are used to dismiss the dietary laws:
“And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.” (Mark 7:14-15 KJV)
What Jesus says is true; however, many ignore the plain context of these verses. In verse 5 of this chapter, the pharisees accused His disciples of being defiled because they ate bread with unwashed hands. So the conversation about what goes into a man originated from dirty hands. Jesus was not responding to His disciples being accused of eating pork neither did He say that the dietary laws were invalid. In fact, just reading a few verses after verse 15 can provide the understanding of what Christ meant.
“And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:17-23 KJV)
Notice Jesus is saying that the defilement of consuming any thing will pass through the body. He is explaining that this defilement is temporary. In addition, Jesus explains that the defilement we should be most worried about is of those things that come out of our mouthes which proceeds out of the heart. This defilement will not pass through you like what you eat. This should not be hard to understand. Jesus’ primary focus in this conversation was of spiritual defilement which is of a permanent nature. This is why He explained that the things eaten cannot defile a man. These things cannot defile a man spiritually unless done in deliberate disobedience to God. In no way did Jesus excuse us of the dietary laws in these verses!!!
So What Are the Dietary Laws?
The dietary laws can be found in Deuteronomy 14. Let’s look at them. The following verses consist of what we can eat:
“Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat,The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat… These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat.” (Deut. 14:3-6, 9 KJV)
First, God gives us a list of four-legged creatures that we can eat. Then He describes their feet and their dietary habits. Note that these creatures have hooves that part into two claws and regurgitate their food to chew it a second time. These two factors make a well-defined list that cannot be misinterpreted.
Secondly, God says to only eat animals with fins and scales in the waters. This is a big dietary limit. There is a reason why God made these limits to our diet. This will be discussed in the conclusion.
So what does God say we cannot eat?
“Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you. And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase… And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you.Of all clean birds ye shall eat.But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind,And every raven after his kind,And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant,And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten.But of all clean fowls ye may eat. (Deut. 14:7-8, 10-20 KJV)
The list of things not to be eaten is much larger than those things we can eat. If your favorite foods are listed here, be not disheartened; just follow the law of God. Take the time to look up this list. It includes the pig, the rabbit, birds of prey, flying bugs, and other things.
What’s the Purpose of These Laws
At the creation of man, God declares that mankind and the animals were to eat herbs and fruits for food (Gen. 1:29-30). Then God expanded mankind’s diet to every moving thing that lives after the flood (Gen. 9:2-3). Take the time to read these verses.
Understand that God made a special covenant with His people. This covenant included all laws that we must follow. Note these verses:
“Ye are the children of the Lord your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” (Deut. 14:1-2 KJV)
These are the verses right before the dietary laws are given. I believe that the keeping of this law is a sign of and a test of man’s character and desire to follow the law of God. These laws are not hard to keep yet many who claim to be of God do not keep them.
Additionally, knowing that God is omnipotent and knows His creation well, I believe these laws were setup to keep His people healthy. If you study the list of things we can eat and compare it to the list of things we cannot, you’ll see that we all allowed to eat the things that are more healthy for our bodies. Many of the animals excluded from our diet are scavengers. As the saying goes, you are what you eat.
Men have made them difficult to eat after the manner of this law by establishing a culture of eating whatever is available and raising animals that can be fed cheap waste. The effects of ignoring these dietary laws has been a host of physical ailments and conditions that are experienced unnecessarily.
Simply, we must live by every word of God, understanding that every word of God has a greater purpose than we can perceive sometimes. Let us not reason within ourselves the reason not to follow every last law, statue, and ordinance because we feel it is too strenuous to keep.
We hope that this helps you in your effort to follow God.