Deuteronomy 14:3-21

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 14:3 (CSB)

3 “You must not eat any detestable thing.

Reflection/Application:

This passage is about food laws: the listing of clean and unclean animals that the Israelites could eat or not eat.

I’ve heard plenty about the provision of God through commanding His people not to eat unclean animals and how it protected them from certain disease. Pork that is not prepared thoroughly can cause disease, many (all?) of the birds that are listed are either scavengers that would eat carrion, or predatory and would eat flesh and blood. The only fish without scales that I know of is the catfish, and that’s a bottom feeding fish… I have no idea if it would have posed a health risk or not during the time of the writing of Deuteronomy. There may certainly have been an aspect of practicality to these food laws.

But, what I find more interesting, and more in line with the recurring theme of the Israelites being set apart, a holy people for God, is the idea that the food laws contributed to that. In other words, the food laws reinforced the Israelites being different. It made them look unlike the rest of the people around them. And they were not just different, but they were “clean” because of God, and now because they only consumed what God declared as clean. It is certainly interesting that the Israelites are commanded to “not eat any detestable thing,” yet they are free to sell a carcass, a detestable thing, to an alien, a non-Israelite (Deut. 14:21). So does this mean, if the food laws are strictly practical and health-minded, that God is not concerned about the health and well-being of non-Israelites? Of course not! God is for all of His creation. So it would seem that the main point of the food laws is to mark the Israelites as separate, “a holy people belonging to the Lord.”

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for setting us apart as Yours! We are no longer under the food laws outlined here, but we are still called to be different, to be set apart, to be Your holy people. I am sorry for the times that I do consume the unclean things of this world. Help me to stick to Your “diet”. Amen.

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