Eating Clean


Most of us know by now that, in the Bible, there are things which YHWH’s people were prohibited from eating.  Today, these commandments are misunderstood, frequently called into doubt, and even compounded unnecessarily by some.

Now, in this study, we’re going to try to cut through some of the proverbial butter and lay out the Bible facts in comparison to the most popular, competing doctrines on the matter.


What the Bible Says – In the Beginning:

“It’s okay.  Our god doesn’t care what we eat: He cares what’s in our hearts.” – Eve

No, Eve didn’t say those exact words probably, but that’s the essence of her convincing Adam to join her in her rebellion.  And the words are certainly not far from the mouth of anybody today arguing against obeying YHWH’s Law regarding clean and unclean meats.  So, as a beginning to our understanding the context of eating in the Bible, we should realize that YHWH’s very first commandment to man was, “Don’t eat this fruit.”


What the Bible Says – At Mt. Sinai (and Before):

At the time of Moses, we know there were more instructions than just not to eat from one tree.  In Leviticus 11 (included at the end of this study), there is a detailed list of meats that YHWH’s people can and cannot eat.  But here’s an interesting question: what were His people eating BETWEEN the time of Adam and the time of Moses?

While we don’t exactly have a printed menu, we DO have a really great clue!  At the same time we see YHWH giving Moses instructions of what to eat and not to eat, we see him categorizing these animals as either “clean” or “unclean.”  In fact, this is the very definition of what could and could not be eaten.  They COULD eat CLEAN animals, and they COULD NOT eat anything unclean.

Having established that clean / unclean directly correlates to food / not food, consider this: Noah knew how to distinguish between clean and unclean animals, and loaded animals into his ark accordingly!

While most of us were taught that all the animals were loaded in “two-by-two,” a male and female of each species, a quick look in Genesis proves this to be untrue:

Gen. 7:1   Then YHWH said to Noah, Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time. 2 You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; 3 also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

So, if in the time of Noah, YHWH’s people knew the difference of clean and unclean, it can be reasonably assumed that they ate accordingly.  But as a supporting observation to this line of thinking, think back to Cain and Abel.  They made sacrifices (according to the Law) and one sacrifice was considered acceptable and the other was not (again, according to the Law).  So the “Law of Moses” as it is called… did NOT originate with him.  It had already been known to YHWH’s people.


What the Bible Says – After Messiah Died:

For brevity’s sake, we won’t dig into what people ate after Moses or during Messiah’s life.  There really is no controversy to it: we pretty much all agree that they ate clean according to the Law as recorded in the books of Moses.

But here is where the real disagreements occur!

“When Jesus died, the Law was crucified with him and now we can eat anything we want!”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard somebody say that, I’d have a pillowcase full of nickels!  Anyway, this is what we ACTUALLY read in our Bibles along this regard:

Acts 10:9   On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, master, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky. 17   Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate.

Consider this vision.  First, who had it?  This was Apostle Peter himself who walked side-by-side with Yahshua (Jesus) for YEARS.  And now, fifteen years after he died, Peter STILL refused to eat anything unclean.  Even though a voice from heaven TELLS HIM to eat something unclean, he refuses steadfastly!  Furthermore, he affirms that in his life (to include the time he walked with the Messiah) that he has NEVER eaten anything unclean.  It should also be noted that Peter considered eating something unclean as “unholy.”

But wasn’t this vision a revelation that now we can eat anything we want?  The evidence is stacked heavily against this interpretation.  Consider the following:

  • Acts chapter ten tells a single, comprehensive story of which this vision is only a small part – and that story is of Cornelius: the first Gentile convert to follow Messiah and receive the Holy Spirit.
  • Peter (as we read above) was initially confused as to what the vision meant. As we know, in the Bible, visions are RARELY to be taken literally!  In this case, it wasn’t until Peter witnessed the conversion of Cornelius’ entire house that he realized: this vision had NOTHING to do with “dietary laws” and EVERYTHING to do with GENTILES!

Acts 10:34   Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that YHWH is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.

  • In Acts chapter fifteen, we see Gentile new believers being instructed to begin their walk and journey toward righteousness with what: laws about food! They would learn the rest of the Law on Sabbaths in the synagogues rather than try to take it all on from day one.

Acts 15:19  Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to YHWH from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Well, what do we see in the New Testament – people eating pork ribs and crocodile soup?  Did the Apostles usher in a new era of complete disregard towards all of the Laws YHWH gave His people regarding what was to be eaten and not to be eaten?  The answer is, no, that was never the case at all!



If you take a verse out of context, you can really make it say anything you want.  Now that we’ve established throughout the Bible a very clean (pun intended) and cohesive pattern of belief and behavior with regard to meats, let’s look at the “proof verses” unclean eaters use to support their doctrine:

Gen. 9:3 “Every moving thing that moves shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

That verse seems to say it all, right?  “If it moves – eat it!”  But this, being also written by Moses, would create a blaring contradiction with everything else he wrote if it is interpreted to mean “All animals are food for YHWH’s people.”

For a better understanding, let’s put this verse back into context, and look at Leviticus chapter 11 where the Law is spelled out completely.  The part which is most important to us right now is the very end of the chapter:

Lev. 11:46   This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.

See – we’re still talking about “everything that moves,” only now we’re getting a little more specific.

Moving on, aside from this verse and Peter’s vision, we have one more “major proof” that YHWH supposedly threw out part of the Law He once called eternal, and that comes straight from the mouth of Messiah:

Matt. 15:10   After Yahshua called the crowd to Him, He said to them, Hear and understand. 11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

That verse (out of context of course) sure sounds like solid support for ANY doctrine we want to create that says we cannot sin by putting things in our mouths – to include food.  But we’ve already seen that this interpretation would essentially “break the Bible” with contradictions from both before and after this passage, so what was Messiah REALLY saying here?  The answer is simply found…

Yahshua spoke these words in response to the Pharisees accusing him according to the law of Rabbinical Judaism which obligates their people to wash their hands before eating.  Yahshua lived according to the Law of YHWH (the “Law of Moses”) – he didn’t practice Rabbinical Judaism!  So the argument ensued:

Matt. 15:1   Then some Pharisees and scribes *came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

Yahshua answered them with the explanation about what going into the mouth not defiling a man.  But we explained his context even MORE CLEARLY just a few more verses down in a passage unclean eaters quote far less frequently:

Matt. 15:20 “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”

Now, with the context intact we can see exactly what Messiah was teaching about here.  He was teaching about eating with dirty hands and NOT about unclean meats.


Something Else That’s Not Quite “Kosher”

Once people realize that we ARE in fact still supposed to be eating clean, they then stumble (again – pun intended) onto the word “kosher” and mistake this Jewish standard as being the same thing.  It is not.

It is important to emphasize the dispute between Yahshua and the Pharisees in the last section of this study: they were trying to impose laws on him which WERE NOT his Father’s Law.  Rabbinical Judaism started with the same Law we find in the Bible, but then they watered it and fertilized it and added to it for centuries until it became something cumbersome, contradictory and impossible.

“Kosher law” is a standard of Rabbinical Judaism which is BASED ON Leviticus chapter 11, but then adds MANY rules which did not come from YHWH.  For example, according to kosher law, a Jew cannot eat any grape product that was not made by Jews.  Now – try to find THAT in your Bibles!  (Hint: it’s not in there.”


The Bottom Line:

Believers always have and always will eat “clean.”  We can see this standard applied from cover to cover of the Bible.  What we cannot justify Scripturally is eating unclean meats OR the need to keep the excessive kosher laws of Rabbinical Judaism.


Leviticus Chapter Eleven:

Lev. 11:1   YHWH spoke again to Moses and to Aaron, saying to them, 2 Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, These are the creatures which you may eat from all the animals that are on the earth. 3 Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. 4 ‘Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these, among those which chew the cud, or among those which divide the hoof: the camel, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you. 5 ‘Likewise, the shaphan, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; 6 the rabbit also, for though it chews cud, it does not divide the hoof, it is unclean to you; 7 and the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. 8 ‘You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

Lev. 11:9   These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. 10 ‘But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, 11 and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest. 12 ‘Whatever in the water does not have fins and scales is abhorrent to you.

Lev. 11:13   These, moreover, you shall detest among the birds; they are abhorrent, not to be eaten: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, 14 and the kite and the falcon in its kind, 15 every raven in its kind, 16 and the ostrich and the owl and the sea gull and the hawk in its kind, 17 and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, 18 and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture, 19 and the stork, the heron in its kinds, and the hoopoe, and the bat.

Lev. 11:20   All the winged insects that walk on all fours are detestable to you. 21 ‘Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth. 22 ‘These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds. 23 ‘But all other winged insects which are four-footed are detestable to you.

Lev. 11:24   By these, moreover, you will be made unclean: whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 25 and whoever picks up any of their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. 26 ‘Concerning all the animals which divide the hoof but do not make a split hoof, or which do not chew cud, they are unclean to you: whoever touches them becomes unclean. 27 ‘Also whatever walks on its paws, among all the creatures that walk on all fours, are unclean to you; whoever touches their carcasses becomes unclean until evening, 28 and the one who picks up their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; they are unclean to you.

Lev. 11:29   Now these are to you the unclean among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds, 30 and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon. 31 ‘These are to you the unclean among all the swarming things; whoever touches them when they are dead becomes unclean until evening. 32 ‘Also anything on which one of them may fall when they are dead becomes unclean, including any wooden article, or clothing, or a skin, or a sack — any article of which use is made — it shall be put in the water and be unclean until evening, then it becomes clean. 33 ‘As for any earthenware vessel into which one of them may fall, whatever is in it becomes unclean and you shall break the vessel. 34 ‘Any of the food which may be eaten, on which water comes, shall become unclean, and any liquid which may be drunk in every vessel shall become unclean. 35 ‘Everything, moreover, on which part of their carcass may fall becomes unclean; an oven or a stove shall be smashed; they are unclean and shall continue as unclean to you. 36 ‘Nevertheless a spring or a cistern collecting water shall be clean, though the one who touches their carcass shall be unclean. 37 ‘If a part of their carcass falls on any seed for sowing which is to be sown, it is clean. 38 ‘Though if water is put on the seed and a part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you.

Lev. 11:39   Also if one of the animals dies which you have for food, the one who touches its carcass becomes unclean until evening. 40 He too, who eats some of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening, and the one who picks up its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.

Lev. 11:41   Now every swarming thing that swarms on the earth is detestable, not to be eaten. 42 Whatever crawls on its belly, and whatever walks on all fours, whatever has many feet, in respect to every swarming thing that swarms on the earth, you shall not eat them, for they are detestable. 43 ‘Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean. 44 ‘For I am YHWH your god. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. 45 ‘For I am YHWH who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’”

Lev. 11:46   This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, 47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.

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