Scripture begins with today’s reading to teach the difference between clean and unclean.
Most of the lexicons and dictionaries define clean and unclean in a Levitical or ceremonial sense; that it is an arbitrary designation assigned by God having to do with arcane Temple ceremonies now passed away. But if you dig deeper into the usage of these terms in the Scripture, you find that they were used long before the tabernacle, Temple, or Levitical priesthood existed.
“Clean” means, not filthy, as a garment. This is not rocket science. When an article of clothing comes out of the wash, it is clean. After it is worn for a while, sweat, or food, or dirt gets mixed in with the cloth fibers, and it is no longer clean. It is now unclean.
“Clean” means, pure, as gold or silver. When gold or silver ore is first taken from the earth, it is not clean. It is not pure. There are other minerals and rock mixed in with the gold. When the gold goes through the fire, the impurities can be separated from the gold, and pure gold unmixed with other minerals, is left.
Someone or something that is clean can become unclean by pollution; as Shechem polluted Dinah (Gen 34:5, yes, this is the same word in Hebrew as “Levitical” uncleanness); as wickedness pollutes a land (Lev 18:28); as an adulteress pollutes herself (Num 5:13); or as God’s people pollute themselves by idolatry (Hos 5:3).
So now, if we take our understanding of clean and unclean as taught to us by its Scripture usage, and apply it to Lev chapter 11, the law of clean and unclean animals, we realize that unclean animals may not be eaten because eating them pollutes the body. My first experience with not eating pork was that it was forbidden when eating a diet to detox the body. Pigs do not have sweat glands as other livestock, and their meat as a result retains toxins that other livestock do not retain (not to mention the parasites and other diseases that find a ready home in pigs). Sea life that doos not have fins and scales, such as catfish or shellfish, are the garbage scows of the ocean. They were created to feed on uncleanness to keep the oceans clean. The birds that are unclean, are scavengers or predators. God, being smarter than we are, explained for us what animals if eaten would pollute the body, strictly from a health standpoint, not ceremonially, but physically.
In Lev chapter 12, a woman is polluted by her flow of blood from childbirth. We will find as we continue through Torah that any human discharge is unclean. Strictly again from a health standpoint, human discharge breeds uncleanness. These people did not know what bacteria was, but God did. Also, as a woman who has borne children, I must add that it is a relief and a gift of grace, while dealing with the flow of blood, to have an excuse to stay at home and recover, and not have to appear in public!
And that infectious skin diseases such as leprosy are a pollution of the body, goes without saying. May I just point out how wise and loving God was, in the 14th century BC, to explain for humanity the benefit of quarantine to control the spread of infectious diseases, something that has not been confirmed scientifically until modern times? We really need to look at Leviticus and all of Torah in a different light, if it is the word of the God who is love!
Finding Messiah: It is the priest, the Anointed One, who makes atonement for uncleanness, to bring a person from a state of uncleanness into a state of cleanness (Lev 12:8)!
For further reading:
Leviticus 11, Clean and Unclean Food
The Dietary Laws – Wildbranch Ministry (Brad Scott)
Continued in part two, part three, part four, part five
Thematic study of Lev 9:1-11:47 – Restoration of Torah (pdf)
Thematic study of Lev 12:1-13:59 – Restoration of Torah (pdf)