For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

11:1.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,”


11:2.  “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.”


Since Israel’s literal food is symbolic of what we take into our minds, the instructions given them relative to what they ate, apply to what we read and listen to; and since God distinguished between what animals they could and could not eat, the lesson is that He differentiates between what He permits or forbids us to read and hear.


11:3.  “Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.”


The cleft hoof or foot speaks symbolically of a separated walk, and tells us that we are to live separated lives, not for outward show, as did the Pharisees, but for God’s glory, and as a testimony to the truth that we now travel on the narrow way to heaven, and not as formerly, on the broad road that leads to eternal destruction.


While the cloven hoof is related to our outward manner of living as seen by men, the chewing of the cud is related to the state of our lives in the sight of God.  It has to do with our minds and hearts: our thoughts and emotions, God’s command being, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8.


11:4.  “Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”


The camel, chewing the cud, represents the man who studies God’s Word; but the undivided hoof declares symbolically that that study has no effect on his life: he continues to walk in disobedience, his sin being compounded by his deliberate refusal to obey what he reads.


11:5.  “And the coney (rock-rabbit), because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”


11:6.  “And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”


Since the camel is large, and the rabbit and hare are small, their being prohibited as Israel’s food may be to teach the lesson that there is need to guard against the tendency to regard some sins as little, and others as heinous.  All sin is dreadful in God’s sight, and should be also in ours.  Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit was just as deadly as was Cain’s murder of Abel.  The one, just as much as the other, carried with it the sentence of death. Eve’s sin, no less than Abel’s, could be expiated only by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.


11:7.  “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.”


The swine here represents those who mistake moral reformation for the new birth, their belief being that their so-called good works will take them to heaven, in spite of God’s warning, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9.


The countless multitudes of professing Christians who are depending on their good works to take them to heaven, will have a terrible awakening on that day when they learn, too late, that faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, is the only way to be saved from hell, and fitted for heaven.  They would be highly indignant to be told that God likens them here to swine!


11:8.  “Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.”


As noted already, the term carcase relates to the flesh and all its evil activity.


The proscription relative to eating swine’s flesh extended even to touching the carcase of a pig, the lesson here being that there is to be no dallying with sin in any shape or form, as it is written in Proverbs 24:9, even “The thought of foolishness (silliness) is sin,” silliness being synonymous with senselessness and stupidity. It is madness to toy with sin, for it brings death.


11:9.  “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.”


I believe that there is a deeper spiritual significance to this verse, other than that given in the popular commentaries, but I regret being unable to see it, so I would welcome any light readers may be able to shed on it.


11:10.  “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.”


“... abomination” means detestable.


11:11.  “They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.”


The Israelites were neither to eat nor even touch these proscribed creatures.


11:12.  “Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”


The repeated warnings relative to eating or even touching any of these unclean water creatures emphasizes the enormity in God’s sight of any violation of His prohibition


11:13.  “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,”


11:14.  “And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;”


11:15.  “Every raven after his kind;”


11:16.  “And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,”


11:17.  “And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,”


11:18.  “And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,”


11:19.  “And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.”


11:20.  “All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.”


Here in verse 20 the word fowls includes insects which fly and creep.


11:21.  “Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth;”


11:22.  “Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.”


“... goeth upon all four” is simply another way of saying that they walked, regardless of the number of legs.


There is no readily apparent reason why it should have been permissible to eat these creatures.


11:23.  “But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.”


11:24.  “And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even.”


11:25.  “And whosoever beareth ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.” 


It is to be noted that here the command relates to “the carcase of them.” i.e., the dead body; and as discussed already, the term carcase relates to all that is of the flesh.


The washing of the clothes speaks of confession of the sin to God,

of genuine repentance, and a forsaking of the sin; but his remaining unclean “until the even,” i.e., metaphorically until the end of his natural life, man is exposed to the contaminating influence of sin.


11:26.  “The carcases of every beast which divideth the hoof, and is not clovenfooted, nor cheweth the cud, are unclean unto you: every one that toucheth them shall be unclean.”


11:27.  “And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you: whoso toucheth their carcase shall be unclean until the even.”


11:28.  “And he that beareth the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even” they are unclean unto you.”


The only reason for the repetition here of instructions already given, appears to be to emphasize their importance.


11:29.  “These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; The weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind,”


11:30.  “And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole.”


11:31.  “These are unclean unto you among all that creep: whosoever doth touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even.”


Again, no reason is given for the proscription relative to these particular creatures, nor for incurred defilement lasting until the end of the day.


“... when they be dead” may be the typological reminder that man also, in his natural state, is spiritually dead “in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1, and is therefore unclean.


11:32.  “And upon whatsoever any of them, when they are dead, doth fall, it shall be unclean; whether it be any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack, whatsoever vessel it be, wherein any work is done, it must be put into water, and it shall be unclean until the even; so it shall be cleansed.”


“... when they are dead, doth fall” implies lack of volition on the part of the creature itself, and continues to emphasize that man is spiritually dead and unclean, not as the result of anything he does, but because of what he is by natural birth, hence the need of his being born again spiritually.  We don’t become sinners by committing sins: we sin because we are born as sinners who have inherited Adam’s fallen sinful nature.


“... wherein any work is done” declares that man, by reason of his sinful state, defiles everything he touches, as it is written, “... the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” Romans 8:22, as a result of Adam’s sin.


The need of its being put into water in order to be cleansed, points symbolically to the fact that we are sanctified and cleansed “with the washing of water by the word,” Ephesians 5:26; but its remaining unclean until the evening, in spite of the washing, reminds us that even in our converted state we still sin because of the old evil nature within us dwelling there side by side with the new nature, and we will not be freed from that state until the decease of our natural bodies.


11:33.  “And every earthen vessel, whereinto any of them falleth, whatsoever is in it shall be unclean; and ye shall break it.”


This continues to point to the fact that even as believers we are defiled by every activity of the flesh, for the new nature dwells within these sinful natural bodies, as it is written, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” 2 Corinthians 4:7, the treasure being our new spiritual life; and the earthen vessels, our natural bodies.  It is because of this that we are commanded, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,” Colossians 3:5. We are to make good in practice what is true of us by God’s imputation: we have a new nature, hence the need to put to death the old nature, i.e., refuse to permit it to have any control of our lives, which are now to be under the dominion of our new nature.  This is what is portrayed symbolically in the breaking of the unclean earthen vessel.


11:34.  “Of all meat which may be eaten, that on which such water cometh shall be unclean: and all drink that may be drunk in every such vessel shall be unclean.”


Any meat touched by the water used to cleanse the defiled vessel, and any liquid that had been stored in that same vessel, were both defiled, and were not to be eaten or drunk.  Sin defiles everything it touches.


11:35.  “And every thing whereupon any part of their carcase falleth shall be unclean; whether it be oven, or ranges for pots, they shall be broken down: for they are unclean, and shall be unclean unto you.”


The ranges were two parallel stones across which the cooking utensil was placed above the fire.  It might have been concluded that the fire would have purified all the articles listed here, but the lethal nature of sin is revealed in that even fire couldn’t cleanse the defilement; the deadly character of sin being revealed in that all of the defiled things had to be destroyed.  The man who dies without having had his sin cleansed through faith in Christ as his Savior, will suffer eternal destruction, but not annihilation, in the tormenting flames of the lake of fire.


11:36.  “Nevertheless a fountain (spring well) or pit (cistern, reservoir), wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean: but that which toucheth their carcase shall be unclean.”


The springing well and large cistern both represent the Scriptures, the springing well portraying them as that which has been emitted by the Holy Spirit; and the pit or cistern representing the Bible, the written Word.  That pure, living Word is impervious to contamination.


The carcase in such a well or cistern represents anything which man, deliberately or accidently, might do in interpreting  Scripture wrongly.  The touching of a carcase in a well or cistern, is the symbolic equivalent of one’s being guilty of believing or practicing the error.


11:37.  “And if any part of their carcase fall upon any sowing seed which is to be sown, it shall be clean.”


“... sowing seed,” i.e., seed reserved for sowing, has within it the germ of life: it represents believers, for they too have within them the embryo of eternal life.  The fact that such seed couldn’t be defiled by the touch of a dead body declares symbolically that the flesh has no power to rob believers of the spiritual life within them, all their sins - past, present, and future - having been atoned for by Christ’s death.


11:38.  “But if any water be put upon the seed, and any part of their carcase fall thereon, it shall be unclean unto you.”


It seems that the reference here is to grain that had been placed in water in preparation for cooking.  The carcase of an unclean creature touching such grain defiled it, thus rendering it unfit for eating.  Since grain is a type of the written Word to feed us; and water, a type of the Word to cleanse and refresh us; and the unclean carcase represents what is of the flesh, the lesson is that to attempt to understand the written Word, apart from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, is futile.  The attempted exegesis of Scripture, by unspiritual men, attests the validity of the injunction, and the folly of all such work.


11:39.  “And if any beast, of which ye may eat, die; he that toucheth the carcase thereof shall be unclean until the even.”


The reference here is to death by natural causes, not by the God-appointed method of slaughter and bleeding.  Even though the animal might have been of the clean class, and thus ordinarily permitted as food, it was not to be eaten, and for a very good reason.  Every clean animal is a type of Christ, and to be man’s food, that which sustains his life, it must be slaughtered, its death being a type of His.  To eat of that which had died of natural causes would have spoiled the type, for it would have implied symbolically that the Lord could have died of natural causes: a thing impossible, for death had no claim on the sinless Lord of life.


The limitation of the defilement only “until the even” is the assurance that it is only here during our brief day on earth that believers can contract defilement.  There will be perfect holiness in heaven.


11:40.  “And he that eateth of the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: he also that beareth the carcase of it shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.”


As discussed already, to eat of an unclean carcase was the typological equivalent of believing wrong doctrine; and since clothing is the symbolic equivalent of the life as lived under the scrutiny of men, the truth being declared here is that the practice of what is doctrinally wrong is as odious as filthy clothing.


11:41.  “And every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth shall be an abomination; it shall not be eaten.”


11:42.  “Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things, that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination.”


11:43.  “Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.”


The creeping creatures were those that crawled, or that had many short legs so that their locomotion was the equivalent of crawling.  They represent occupation with those earthly things which are of a dubious or evil nature, for example, questionable literature, sensual music, immoral thoughts, etc., that we might occupy ourselves with secretly.  The spiritual lesson is of the need to avoid all unnecessary involvement with such things, for such occupation is inimical to spiritual growth.


11:44.  “For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”


To sanctify is to set apart for a holy purpose, the need of such sanctification being that we are members of the body of Christ, see Romans 6:12-13, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteusness unto God,” and 1 Corinthians 6:15, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?...” and 12:27, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”


11:45.  “For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”


The present tense “bringeth” is instructive here, for it speaks of an ongoing activity.  God had not only brought Israel out of Egypt, but He had continued His care by bringing them through the wilderness, and into the land of Canaan, that deliverance and care being symbolic of what He has done and is doing for us.  Egypt is a type of the world of business and pleasure, living in defiant independence of God, and it is from such a world that He has also delivered us, our present state being typified by delivered Israel’s years in the desert under His protection and provision; and as they eventually exchanged the desert for Canaan, so will we also exchange our pilgrimage through the desert of this world, for permanent residence in heaven with Christ.


It is because we are now possessed of Christ’s life and nature that we are to demonstrate the reality of that truth in our daily lives.  Men, through our thoughts, words, and deeds, should see Christ living His life in us.


11:46.  “This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth:”


11:47.  “To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.”


These two verses are the summation of God’s instructions concerning what Israel might and might not eat literally; and as noted already, they translate into teaching that is applicable to the lives of believers today, relative to the things with which we allow our minds to be occupied.

[Leviticus 12]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough