EVERYBODY should be healthy. God intended that His own people should not only know the truth about food but live radiant, healthy lives.
What "Clean Food" Means
Food that is clean doesn't always mean that it is free of every kind of dirt. It can be pure in that respect, but at the same time it can be unfit to eat. God made animals, birds and fish in a class good for human food and in another class unfit for humans to eat. The Bible calls one kind "clean" and the other kind "unclean." This was known before the Flood. Noah knew what to do when he was told to take seven pairs of each kind of clean animals and birds into the ark along with one pair of each unclean kind. (Genesis 7:2-3.) The detailed knowledge of such things had been lost over the centuries that the Israelites had mingled with the heathen Egyptians, who had no interest in obeying God. The same was true of the Ten Commandments. Adam knew what they were. So did Noah, Abraham and many others. At Mt. Sinai they were brought to the Israelites so they could know again what was God's will. To Israel went the responsibility of preserving the laws in writing and keeping pagan beliefs and rules from becoming mixed with them. God gave a simple rule by which clean animals could be known from the unclean. If an animal chewed a cud and had parted hoofs, it was made to be eaten. (Leviticus 11:3-4 and Deuteronomy 14:6-8.) Cattle, as well as several other kinds of animals, take in their food without spending time to chew it enough. They later bring mouthfuls back up from their stomachs for more careful chewing. These rechewed bits are called cuds. The Bible also gives examples of animals not fit for food. The camel chews the cud, but doesn't have divided hoofs. They are slightly indented on the front, and with grooves on top, but not divided. The rabbit has paws with toes instead of hoofs. Cats, dogs and horses don't chew cuds. Raccoons, squirrels and opossums are also unclean to eat. Pigs have divided hoofs, but don't chew cuds. "You shall not eat swine or any other animals that do not part the hoof and chew the cud," God warned. (Leviticus 11:7-8; Deuteronomy 14:8.)
God Always Has Good Reasons
The Creator never does anything without a good reason. His mind is far superior to human minds, which are rarely able to understand divine decisions and actions. Nevertheless, man tries to figure out why God tells him to do certain things. And when he can't discover God's reasons, he generally decides obedience is unnecessary. Man should obey for his own good, regardless of how little he understands. Only then is he blessed. Unhappily, millions have decided that such animals as pigs and rabbits are proper to eat, especially if God is thanked for them. Now that more is known about animal anatomy, it is evident that certain animals have digestive systems that don't carry off as many poisons as do others. A hog digests its food in about three and a half hours. A cow requires twenty-four hours to do the same thing through two digestive processes screening out impurities that would otherwise pass into its flesh and milk. The main reason any animal is unclean is that it wasn't made to be eaten by man. God made some animals for human food. Others were for work, for pets, for consuming waste products and for controlling the numbers of creatures. If man could have discerned which animals were unclean, there would have been no need for the Bible to inform him.
Water Creatures Fit for Food
God also gave a similar way of knowing what water creatures were to be used as food. To be clean, they must have two features — fins and overlapping scales (which sometimes drop off with age). (Leviticus 11:9-12; Deuteronomy 14:9-10.) Wide varieties of creatures are ordinarily considered great delicacies. Crabs and lobsters are acclaimed around the world as succulent delights, though they are nothing more than flavorful but unclean, spider-like crustaceans that feed mainly on decaying carcasses. Other unclean denizens of the water include the frog, turtle, abalone, scallop, shrimp, shark, whale, eel, squid, various catfish, European turbot, sturgeon, lobster, octopus, clam and oyster. Most of these are thought of as wholesome and nutritious food by millions of people, including most of those who descend from the ten tribes of the House of Israel. Whale oil is also used in foods by many who do not know it is unfit for food. Almost all other common fish on the market are clean. The human body has degenerated since Adam. Should man be surprised if he found that much of that degeneration has been due to centuries of consuming unclean creatures? The Bible doesn't directly give a rule by which clean birds can be recognized. It simply lists all different kinds of those that are unclean. Outside of mentioning the quail, the dove, the pigeon and the sparrow, God doesn't specifically name the clean ones. (Leviticus 11:13-20; Deuteronomy 14:11-18.) It is easy to learn which fowl are clean simply by noticing the characteristics of birds which are named as clean or unclean. Studies of fowl have revealed some striking differences between the two kinds. Clean fowl have six unusual characteristics. One or more of these characteristics is lacking in unclean birds. A clean bird has a craw or crop AND, second, a gizzard with a double lining which can easily be separated. Two such digestive organs are doubly helpful in changing its food into meat that is good for humans and insuring against poisonous waste matter going into its flesh. Third, a clean bird does not prey upon other birds. Fourth, it does not devour food while flying. Fifth, its hind toe and middle front toe are both long. Sixth, when it stands on a perch, it spreads its toes so that three front ones are on one side of the perch and the hind toe on the opposite side. All unclean birds lack at least one of these characteristics. Clean birds have all these characteristics. Clean fowl include the chicken, pheasant, peafowl, ptarmigan, guinea fowl, prairie chicken, pigeon, dove, partridge, grouse, quail, turkey, duck, goose, all song birds and the teal and swan. (The swan is named in the King James or Authorized Version as being unclean, but this is a mistranslation. The water hen should be mentioned instead.) Unclean birds include the eagle, vulture, kite, buzzard, osprey, raven, crow, magpie, ostrich, owl, hawk, cormorant, sea gull, water hen, sandpiper, plover, pelican, stork, coot, heron, bittern, crane, grebe, rail, roadrunner, woodpecker, penguin, parrot, albatross and bat. God also named other creatures that are to be regarded as unclean and detestable. (Leviticus 11:20-23.) They are the weasel, mouse, lizard, snail, mole, snake and worm. Such were to be considered so detestable that anything their dead bodies touched, such as food or dishes was to be regarded as unfit for use until thoroughly washed. (Verses 24-43.) "Do not defile yourself with these unclean creatures," God warned. "Keep yourselves clean and sacred, so that you will be more acceptable to your holy God." (Verses 44-47.) Regardless of what God said, millions who claim to be faithful, obedient Christians feel anything with a high vitamin content must be good for them. They argue mistakenly that the laws of clean and unclean food, inspired by God for all people for all time, were merely "old Jewish laws" "nailed to the cross" at Christ's death.
Some People Lust for Forbidden Food
To justify their eating unclean foods, many of these people turn to the fourth chapter of I Timothy, and point with triumph to the fourth and fifth verses, wherein Paul said: "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving; for then it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer" (RSV). Taken out of its context, this statement would probably cause the reader to conclude that either Paul didn't agree with God or that God has changed His mind and favors the eating of the filthiest of fare as long as God's blessing is asked on it. But Paul didn't disagree with God, who never changes. (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8.) Neither do His laws. (Matthew 5:17-18.) To understand I Timothy 4:4-5, one must read from the beginning of the chapter. Paul was referring to religious extremists who fall away from the truth or never quite get to it. They are the kind such as are against marriage and certain clean foods. The word EVERYTHING in the fourth verse refers to every creature "consecrated by the word of God." Only clean creatures were consecrated or approved as fit for human food. Picking certain words and phrases out of the Bible and adding them together to try to prove untruths is an ancient trick. Such deceit can generally be uncovered by comparing scriptures and by carefully reading whole chapters to find exact meanings of certain words, phrases and sentences.
God Did Not Cleanse the Unclean Creatures
Another example of misunderstanding is based on Acts 10:9-16. If one reads only those verses the impression is conveyed that Peter was told that God had cleansed unclean creatures, and that Peter should not hesitate to eat them. But verse 17 shows that Peter knew God did not mean for him to eat unclean meat. Peter noticed that no animal's nature had been changed; they were still unclean! So he began to wonder what the vision did mean! He did not jump to a hasty conclusion. Verses 28 and 29 show that the vision was for pointing out that Peter should not regard any MAN, regardless of nationality, as common or unclean if he seeks to live rightly. No matter what is believed about clean and unclean creatures, the two kinds still exist. The nature of unclean animals has not changed. They are the same today as they were before the Flood, in Moses' day and in Peter's time. Those who obey the Creator in these matters receive definite blessings.