Christian Churches of God

No. CB19




The Biblical Food Laws

(Edition 2.0 20020410-20061224)


The Bible contains rules and laws to teach us what food may be eaten. It also instructs us how animals are to be killed and what parts of an animal may not be eaten. This food is termed clean and unclean meats.





Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA




(Copyright 2002, 2006 Carrie Farris and Wade Cox)



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The Biblical Food Laws


God lets us know what we should and should not eat.


God shows us in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 the things we can and cannot eat. He gave us a guide for a healthy diet and lifestyle. God had very good reasons for giving these Laws to us. The foods He tells us we can eat are very good for us and they help us to grow strong. The foods He tells us not to eat can make us sick.


God’s Law on animals


Clean Animals

Leviticus 11:1-3 And the Lord said to Moses and       Aaron, 2 ”Say to the people of Israel, These are the living things which you may eat among all the beast that are on the earth. 3 Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. (RSV)


Deuteronomy 14:3-6 ”You shall not eat any abominable thing. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the hart, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two, and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. (RSV)


This means that we can eat any animal that has a part or a split in its hoof and that chews the cud. Some of the animals we can eat are cows, deer, and buffalo, as well as sheep and goats.


From Leviticus 7:22-24 we are told that we should not eat the fat of any of these animals, or of an animal that dies on its own, or is killed by another animal. While we are not to eat this fat, we can use it to make things like soap and candles.

Leviticus 7:22-24  The Lord said to Moses, 23 Say to the people of Israel, you shall eat no fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat. 24 The fat of an animal that dies of itself, and the fat of one that is torn by beasts, may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. (RSV)


We are also not to eat the blood of these animals.

Genesis 9:4  Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, with its blood. (RSV)


Leviticus 3:17 It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood. (RSV).


Deuteronomy 15:23 Only you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. (RSV)


Unclean Animals

Just as God tells us what animals we can eat, He also tells us which animals we should not eat.

Leviticus 11:4-8 Nevertheless among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 5 And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 6 And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 7 And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is cloven footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you (RSV).


Deuteronomy 14:7-8  Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: The camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. 8 And the swine, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. (RSV)


Here God is telling us not to eat animals such as pigs, rabbits, camels and horses. There are very good reasons we should not eat such animals. Doctors have discovered that eating these animals has a very bad effect on our heart, liver and other organs in our bodies.


Swine or pigs are responsible for transmitting more infectious diseases to man than any other animal. When the term “pork” is used, it refers to all swine products – ham, bacon and sausages containing pig meat as well. Doctors now know that there is a relationship between eating swine flesh and disease of the liver. Even children can get this disease.


No matter how clean are the conditions for farming pigs, the risk of cirrhosis of the liver from eating pig meat cannot be eliminated. Also of concern is that those persons who both drink alcohol and eat pork appear to be in increased danger of contracting liver disease. It is the pork meat itself that is the causal factor in this incidence of cirrhosis.


For more information and detailed reporting on this important aspect of eating pig meat refer to the paper The Food Laws (No. 15).


God’s Law on fish


Clean fish

Leviticus 11:9 “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. (RSV)


Deuteronomy 14:9 “Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat.  (RSV)


God is letting us know that any fish in all the waters of the world that has fins and scales is clean for us to eat. There are many fish that have fins and scales, including salmon, perch, trout, whiting, snapper, bass and many, many more. 


Unclean fish

God also lets us know what fish we cannot eat.


Leviticus 11:10-12  But anything in the seas or rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is an abomination to you. 11 They shall remain an abomination to you; of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall have in abomination. 12 Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you. (RSV)


Deuteronomy 14:10 And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you. (RSV)

This includes a wide variety of fish and shellfish, including shark, swordfish, catfish, whales, dolphins, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, clams, oysters, and many others.


Again, God has very good reasons for making a law against eating these kinds of fish. Doctors now know that these kinds of fish and shellfish can have high levels of heavy metals and can have naturally occurring poisons in them. They can be very harmful to humans. However, unclean fish are also an important part of the food supply of the fish and species that we can eat. By eating these prohibited species we help destroy the environment. The unclean fish play a role in helping the environment by eating the dead fish. Other fish without scales assist in cleaning up the bottom of the rivers and lakes.


God’s Law on birds


Unclean birds

Leviticus 11:13-19  “And these you shall have in abomination among the birds, they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, 14 the kite, the falcon according to its kind, 15 every raven according to its kind 16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk according to its kind, 17the water hen, the pelican, the vulture, the stork, the heron according to its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. (RSV)


This seems to be a lot of birds that are not good for food, but in reality we can eat a very wide variety of birds.


God also has His reason for us not to eat these kinds of birds. One of the most obvious ones is that most, if not all, of these birds are scavengers. That means they eat a lot of different things including animals that are already dead. This makes them not good for humans to eat because they may have got a disease from some of the food that they have eaten. They also have specific enzymes in their bodies that help them to digest these dead animals and other types of unclean species, and these enzymes are harmful to humans.


Clean Birds

The clean birds are of the family of chicken, turkey, pigeon and dove – those that have a crop. The duck, goose and swan are also clean birds.


Most of the other birds are not clean. Science is finding out more about the transmission of viral diseases amongst unclean birds. It appears that these diseases are being passed on to the clean birds, namely the duck, in areas like Hong Kong, when they are raised with swine. The viruses are contracted by the swine from the migratory unclean birds and passed into the food chain.


Outbreaks of influenza from Asia have been traced to this source. We all know about the dreaded flu that is common every winter and which makes people very sick. The clean birds generally are free from this problem but under certain conditions they too may become infected. The general hygiene rules for contamination can be found in Leviticus 11 and should be applied where necessary.


God’s Law on insects

Leviticus 11:20-23  “All the winged insects that go upon all fours are an abomination to you. 21Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those which have legs above their feet, with which to leap on earth. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind. 23 But all other winged insects which have four feet are an abomination to you. (RSV)


It might seem odd to us for anyone to eat bugs, but for some people around the world locusts are a part of their daily diets. If you got hungry enough you just might eat them too. God says it is all right to eat the locusts, crickets and grasshoppers.


God’s Law on animals with paws

Leviticus 11:27 And all that go on their paws, among the animals that go on all fours, are unclean to you; whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the evening, (RSV)

We should not eat cats and dogs or any other animal that has four legs and paws.


God’s Law on rodents and reptiles

Leviticus 11:29-31 “and these are unclean to you among the swarming things that swarm upon the earth: the weasel, the mouse, the great lizard according to its kind, 30 the gecko, the land crocodile, the lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. 31 These are unclean to you among all that swarm; whoever touches them when they are dead shall be unclean until the evening. (RSV)


Leviticus 11:41-42 “Every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth is an abomination; it shall not be eaten. 42 Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, all the swarming things that swarm upon the earth, you shall not eat; for they are an abomination. (RSV)


Here God lets us know that we are not to eat things like snakes, lizards, rats, mice, ants, worms, and many other things that are of the rodent, reptile, and bug families. Most of us would not want to eat these things anyway.


People of the world go against God’s food laws

Many people around the world eat the things that God tells us not to eat. Some of the most common things they eat are pigs and shellfish. There are those who would eat all of the things God tells us not to eat.


Some even say that it does not matter to God what we eat anymore, but that is not true.


Jesus said that the Law would not pass away until all is accomplished (Mat. 5:17-18). So until all the things in the Bible are done we must keep God’s Law, and keeping the food laws is a part of the Law of God.

Matthew 5:17-18 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. (RSV)


Some people say that Acts chapter 10 makes it all right to eat unclean food. However, that chapter was used to show Peter that God had made salvation open to the Gentiles who had until that time been regarded as unclean. That text has nothing to do with clean and unclean meats.

It also says in Romans 2:13-15 that God writes His Law on our hearts and that it is not the people who hear the Law but the ones that do the Law who will be justified.

Romans 2:13-15  For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them (RSV)


God loves us and He lets us know His Laws in our hearts as well as in His Bible. He has given us a guide in what we should eat. He has also let us know about the things we should not eat. In order to stay healthy and to please God, we must obey His Laws. If humans did their part to protect and keep the environment clean then planet Earth would be a much better place and people would be healthier.


For a more detailed study on the food laws and related issues refer to the paper The Food Laws (No. 15).