Clean and Unclean Animals
14 “You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor [a]shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. 2 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His [b]own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
3 “You shall not eat any detestable thing. 4 These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 [c]the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. 6 Any animal that divides the hoof and has the hoof split in [d]two and [e]chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. 7 Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these among those which [f]chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in [g]two: the camel and the [h]rabbit and the [i]shaphan, for though they [j]chew the cud, they do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you. 8 The pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, it is unclean for you. You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses.
9 “These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, 10 but anything that does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
11 “You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these are the ones which you shall not eat: the [k]eagle and the vulture and the [l]buzzard, 13 and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds, 14 and every raven in its kind, 15 and the ostrich, the owl, the sea gull, and the hawk in their kinds, 16 the little owl, the [m]great owl, the white owl,17 the pelican, the carrion vulture, the cormorant, 18 the stork, and the heron in their kinds, and the hoopoe and the bat. 19 And all the [n]teeming life with wings are unclean to you; they shall not be eaten. 20 You may eat any clean bird.
21 “You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your [o]town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
While there are a whole lot of practical reasons for the restrictions on which animals the Israelites could eat, the ultimate reason is in verse 2 and repeated in verse 21.
They were a people holy (set apart) to God, and these were His requirements for them to receive the promises of the covenant that God had made with them.
Sometimes, there are things in our culture that seem to be “gray” areas. Things that are not explicitly defined as sin by the Bible. But we are called to be set apart for God, just as the Israelites were, and we need to keep this in mind when we are tempted to cross into one of these “gray” areas.
As Paul would later say, “all things are acceptable, but not all things are profitable” (paraphrased). God’s grace is big enough to let us do just about anything, but many things that we might do are indulgences of the flesh rather than obeying the cravings of our soul to be close to God.