Under the Law

The law of Moses contained many details about what Israel was or was not supposed to eat. We will briefly summarize the dietary laws here, but for a thorough discussion, read Leviticus 11:1-47 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21. In these passages of Scripture, we find which animals, fish, and fowl God designated as clean (permissible to eat) and unclean (not permissible to eat).

  1. Animals – Any animal that chewed the cud and was cloven-footed was clean. The absence of either of these characteristics rendered an animal unclean. Swine, for example. were unclean in Moses’ day because they do not chew the cud, though they are cloven-footed. Other rules were also given
  2. Fish – For fish to be acceptable to the Israelites for food, they had to have both fins and scales. The absence of either rendered them unclean. Catfish for example, was unclean under Moses’ law because it does not have scales, though it has fins.
  3. Fowl and other flying creatures – Various fowl were clean, while others were unclean, particularly birds of prey and scavengers. Flying creeping creatures that went upon all fours needed to have legs above their feet in order to be clean (Leviticus 11:21). Other flying creeping things with four feet were unclean.

    Israel had other God-given restrictions to their diet. (See Exodus 22:31; 23:19; Leviticus 3:17; 22:8; Deuteronomy 14:21.) Among them were the following:
    1. Israel was not to eat blood.
    2. Fat was forbidden.
    3. They could not eat anything torn of beasts.
    4. Anything that died of itself was off limits to Israel.
    5. A kid (young goat) could not be boiled in it’s mother’s milk.

They may have been strict, but these rules remained in force until the New Testament era. At that time, God instituted a vast change in diet, which caused upheaval for many, especially Jewish converts.