Sunday, February 12. Leviticus 9 – 12

Why have these dietary laws?

As one writer puts it: “What does God care whether a man kills an animal in the proper way and eats it, or whether he strangles it and eats it.  What does God care whether a man eats unclean animals or clean ones?”

The answer is difficult because God does not give a rationale for His food laws.  Modern scholars might try to explain them as concerned with health given the primitive hygenic standards of the ancient world, but God never refers to them this way.

Perhaps the answer can be simpler if we simply state: “These are the rules.”  After all, that is essentially what God does.  And when He does, he interjects Himself into a very basic element of human life – what we eat.  Mankind is not forbidden to eat meat.  But God says: ‘You can’t eat just any meat.  I will decide what you eat, and what you don’t.’  By following the rules, Israel demonstrated a divine a distinction between herself and all other people.

Think about it like this: Not every animal was fair game for sacrifice.  Only certain animals would do.  By this God showed He was different from all other gods.  In the same way, His people were different from all others too: they couldn’t eat just any meat, but only that specified by God.  That made them separate (holy) from everyone else.  Even among the animals they could eat, God specified they could not eat the animal’s blood, for life was in the blood and while mankind had a right to nourishment, they didn’t have a right to the life of another.

Which brings about another possible explanation: In deciding the food laws, God limited (without prohibiting) the killing of animals in the ancient world.

Again, life belongs to God.