Deuteronomy Lesson 33
Israel’s Distinctive Cultural Views of Death and Life
26 October 2010
© Charles A. Clough 2010
Tonight if you’ll turn to Deuteronomy, we’re on chapter 14 now. I went through some of the principles of the Mosaic Law up in Duluth and had a very interesting discussion with probably 50 to 60 college students that they have there, and it once again confirmed the same thing is happening there as is happening here and is happening all over. Young people on the college campus might as well go to Soviet Union to learn their academics because the Marxism is so thick on the university campus that young people have a hard time understanding anything but messianic government and socialism. So obviously when I taught on socialism, which was one of the sessions, you could tell that there were some vibrations on the part of some of the young people. But nevertheless, there were a lot of kids there seriously interested in the Word; it was a great time, thank you for your prayers.
On the session outline, on the introduction and review, you’ll see that we’re on 14 and I’ve tried to put a parenthesis after these sections to make you conscious of the fact that each one of these sections expounds the commandments, versions of the Ten Commandments. So the danger of the Ten Commandments, because they’re so neat, crisp and brief, is that you can read the Ten Commandments and think you know them. Well, God didn’t just leave the Ten Commandments; He expounded them. And so again on your outline, the next two rows there, chapter 12 verses 1-31, and 12:32-18, see there, that first and second commandments are really expounded in detail of what that mean in the physical kingdom of God; it meant architectural destruction of any competing religion. We are so used to plurality of religion and religious freedom, that it’s hard for us to even comprehend what it would be like to have only one religion. Of course, if we lived in a Muslim land we’d understand that. But in the Kingdom of God yet to come there’s only one, there’s only room for one religion, and this is a picture, as I pointed out again in these notes, use of these narratives in our Christian life, the sacred space is no longer the land, it’s our heart. And there ought to be only one God worshipped in our heart, and we ought to be zealous about keeping our heart oriented to one God and not distortions of His attributes as these people were supposed to be physically.
Hold the place in Deuteronomy 14, turn back to Leviticus. I want to show you a passage in Leviticus 18 because it’s going to give some background for what we’re going to get to tonight. We’re now into the thick of the Law, and to understand the nuances here we have to kind of get some background. So if you look at Leviticus 18:28-30, this is a section where’s he’s got through certain do’s and don’ts, and in verse 28 you’ll see a purpose clause, and the idea there is after he has expounded the things not to do in Leviticus 18:28, “lest,” and the language is very picturesque here, “lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as if vomited out the nations who were before you.  For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.  Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile y ourselves by them: I am the LORD your God.”
So it really is a picture of the land vomiting the people out of it. And it’s what we call the sanctity of the land. The land was given, in geographical detail, and although it’s not the same kind of thing as sacred space of the temple and the tabernacle, the land had sort of a semi quasi holiness to it. If you lived in the land you had to live a certain way because that land was God’s gift to the nation.
So now we’ve looked at how these things look in the Christian life and we’re looking at this diagram once again, God’s design for human society, and the first, chapters 12-13 have dealt with this issue, the heart allegiance. Chapter 13, when he’s talking about false prophets he’s filling in the integrity of communication. It can’t be a false prophet who is telling falsehoods and pretending to have the language of God, and being deceitful about it and misleading people. So we’ve worked our way up one layer and so we’re on the integrity of communication.
However, in tonight’s session, when we get into 14, now we have all the other commands come into play because we’re going to get involved with labor and property, we’re going to get involved with the functioning of the families and life itself. So let’s look at Deuteronomy 14 and just skim it. We’re going to only look tonight at the first 21 verses and again, when you look at the 21 verses you can see, at verse 22 there’s a definite shift in the subject material. So it starts out in Deuteronomy 14:1, as many of these passage do, reminding Israel their position. They have a position before God.
“You are the children of the LORD your God, you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead,  For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
Now after those two verses we have a whole section about eating, you see verse 3, verse 4, verse 5, verse 6, it goes all the way down, verse 9, it’s talking about eating, verse 11, talking about eating, what you should eat, what you shouldn’t eat, verse 19 he’s talking about eating, verse 20 he’s talking about eating. And then in verse 20 there’s a funny thing there, and it turns out this is a key to some of this passage meaning, verse 21, “you shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to the LORD your God.” And then it ends in this problematical clause, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” So what do we do with this? The first thing we want to do is, as I’ve entitled this section, enforcement of distinct cultural sustenance from life to death, and by cultural sustenance I mean that which makes a culture survive. Cultures are different and God, in the kingdom of God, wants to generate a divine culture.
The word “culture” can mean many things, but here’s a simple way of looking at culture. Think of the word “cultivate.” You have land and you cultivate the land and you grow a crop. A culture is basically plowing the assets that God has given—economic assets, people assets, character assets—and building something out of that, building a character, building a way of living. It cultivates, the result of cultivating, and every culture is unique; there are different kinds of cultures. Now some of us come from Indo-European cultures, some come from the Middle East culture, some even within the Indo-European thing, there’s the Irish, the French, there’s the English, the German, each one of those has a certain cultural thing. Up near Duluth you have the Scandinavian influence, the Fins and the Norwegians. And so you have those different cultures. But what God wants to do here, He’s setting up the way He wants this culture to develop. So He’s already defined the language, language is a strong culture generator. We all know that, so there’s no restrictions on language.
Now what he’s going to do, he’s going to deal with this material in chapter 12 and chapter 13, this comes to a head now in the culture. Now for the filling in the blanks on chapter 12, the “sacred space” implies, or leads to—remember the idea of the “sacred space,” God has a physical space and don’t confuse that with His omnipresence; omnipresent, He’s present everywhere, but at the sacred space that’s His location, where He meets people. That’s where He wants a dialogue—a destruction of all counterfeit sacred spaces. There are no other sacred spaces tolerated; that’s that exclusivity thing, no polytheism, no freedom for other religions. In chapter 13 we have divine revelation through Moses and succeeding prophets. So it’s not just Moses, it’s also after Moses there will be a line of prophets, all revealing God’s Word in a coherent form from book to book of the Bible. Now that sets up the heart allegiance, it sets up the language.
Now we come to the rest of the culture. So we want to think about this chapter we’ve just skimmed over and as often happens, if you look at the beginning of a passage and the end of a passage, they act like brackets. So the first two verses it’s talking about cutting and other rituals that are done at funerals, it’s talking about death. It’s talking about dying. And the very last clause, “you shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk,” has something to do with the fact that you killed the goat but there’s something inappropriate about using mother’s milk that was intended for the life and salvation and grown of that kid, that small goat, and using what was intended to be life for that to cook it. And so it’s something inappropriate as far as God is concerned for His people.
Now one other suggestion I have here is that some of these things seem to us as far out, and the way to think about it is think of a uniform. Each military service has its own distinct uniform. Now that’s not saying that other people don’t have clothes or that it’s wrong for other people to not have the uniform. The uniform is there as a special form of clothing that marks out the people. So if you can think about these details in this culture as Israel’s uniform, so some of these details may not have meaning, we’ll deal with the food issue in a moment but they may not have meaning for Gentiles or us, but it is a way He wanted His people to live because of the testimony Israel is supposed to be in history. And when we get through tonight you’ll see that He’s not just dealing with food here. There’s something else going on. So we want to look at that and see the bracket.
The first one, verse 1, he says, “You are the children of Yahweh.” Families are known by their father and God wants this nation to be known, and that they should have traits that mark him off. Families have character; I mean, think of the Kennedy family. I mean, whatever you think of Joseph Kennedy he was an inspiration to his four boys because every one of them became a political leader. So that was a family; that was a dynasty; that was a character. Well, God has a character and He wants these folks to do with it, but what He doesn’t want is how they deal with the sorrow of death because a culture is marked by how it thinks about life and death.
So immediately when we get into culture issues we’re going to get into how people react to death. And the thing of it is, He, like in Thessalonians, when you go to a Christian funeral, what does the pastor usually say? That we “sorrow not as others without hope.” We have hope because we have resurrection. And Paul, when he wrote Thessalonians he advises us that when we deal with death, when we deal with sorrow, we shouldn’t be dealing with it in the same way a pagan deals with it. It should be something distinctive because a distinctive way is itself a testimony. So it’s the same thing going on here. And what he’s getting at is there were pagan ways of dealing with suffering and in particular the emotional—I mean obviously they weren’t cutting the corpse, the cutting is on the people still living—trauma and sorrow. And this is one way they were dealing with it. And I’ll show you some passages to prove the point but let’s look at what it says. “You shall not cut yourselves, nor shave the front of your head for the dead.” Now that was a method that was throughout the ancient world by unbelievers.
If you’ll turn to Jeremiah I’ll show you where, in Jeremiah’s day it was still going on. In fact, Israel was reverting back to this way of dealing with sorrow. In Jeremiah 16 you have four verses in the outline there, I’m just going to go to the two that are underlined; Jeremiah 16:6, where it says, “both the great and the small shall die in the land, they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, cut themselves, or make themselves bald for them.” So that was a process that was a custom in the land, it was a pagan custom and God says I don’t you people doing this, I don’t want you to express your sorrow in that form.
In Jeremiah 48:37 you’ll see the same thing. “For every head shall be bald, every beard will be clipped, on all the hands shall be cuts, on the loins sackcloth—  A general lamentation….” So this was a custom that was going on, and it’s not unrelated to the modern thing, especially among teenagers, of cutting. Here are four people who express why they cut themselves, why they do this. One person said: “It expresses emotional pain or feelings that I’m unable to put into words; it puts a punctuation mark on what I’m feeling on the inside.” So the cutting transforms an emotional pain into a physical one that people can see, and so that’s one reason why people cut themselves, and it’s the same thing, they were doing that in the ancient world. Another person said: “It’s a way to have control over my body because I can’t control anything else in my life.” It’s almost like you can take the pain, the sorrow, the heartache, and somehow you cut and you control it by doing something to your body. Another person said: “I usually feel like I have a black hole in the pit of my stomach; at least if I feel pain it’s better than feeling nothing.” A fourth person: “I feel relieved and less anxious after I cut. The emotional pain slowly slips away into the physical pain.” So that’s a way people have of dealing with pain and we see it coming back into… I mean, it’s like we’re talking something 3,000 years ago and it’s still with the young people. Nothing has changed because the human heart hasn’t changed.
But we live in a world of sorrow and suffering, so we want to take a few minutes here and review the coping apparatus that God gives us as Bible-believing Christians coping with emotional pain. This is sort of a funny thing, not funny for the dog, but one of my sons is a veterinarian, and this dog came in his office, you can’t see it too well, but this is the second time this dog came to the vets office because he tried to bite a porcupine and so here’s the dog’s mouth with all the porcupine needles and my son’s sitting there trying to figure out how to take them out. And some of them you can’t take out, some of them just have to work their way out. But you can imagine the pain this dog feels after he tried to bite a porcupine. But I thought that was an interesting picture of pain in the world.
But to get more serious, we go back to this diagram that we have, and this diagram is so important because this is the diagram that brackets pain and suffering, so let’s review the diagram. The unbeliever is living in a worldview that does not have an answer to pain, suffering and evil; just simply doesn’t. The best that unbelief can come up with is that it always has existed and always will exist and so you just take your lumps and go on. In the Christian worldview it didn’t always exist. What we live in today, when we see sorrow and suffering and so on, is an abnormal state. From the time of the fall to the time of the judgment, the coexistence of good and evil from God’s perspective is abnormal. That’s why it pains, because we’re created in His image and there’s something that doesn’t fit here, and that’s why death is not normal; sickness is not normal. And when we face these kind of problems and we have the sorrow and the heartaches, the first thing to grab hold of is the big picture and the big picture is of course it hurts, it hurts because we weren’t created to live this way. So that’s kind of comforting, at least in the general sense because you’ve got the big picture under control here; things are not out of control.
In the big picture evil started and evil will end; one day it will be quarantined forever and there will never again be a fall. Now that’s a powerful tool to handle suffering and heartache. But God has also given us specific things that we can remember; that is, that within this large picture He also has things He’s doing in here, between fall and judgment, and that sometimes involves pain. So I’ve listed some of these things and this is just kind of a review, and it should be on the handout. There are two classifications of suffering when we think about it. There’s direct suffering and there’s indirect suffering and I categorized them in those two categories because some suffering is just we bring it on ourselves. We can’t blame somebody else for it, we can’t blame society for it, we can’t blame our parents for it, we can’t blame our children for it, it’s our choice and it’s directly resulting from our bad decisions.
One of the problems in socialism and Marxism is this, particularly in the socialistic programs that try to” help” people; I put “help” in quotes. What always goes wrong is this, and every parent knows this, and it’s so hard to understand why politicians can’t understand it, other than the fact that these programs buy votes, which is probably a motive for most people. But the point is, the programs that try to “help” people err in one simply way. When we make bad decisions we learn from the consequences of the bad decisions. Don’t we? One of the things I pointed out in the series up there was when I retired from the army over there at Aberdeen Proving Ground, you know, they have these retirement things and they kind of like to embarrass you and so on, so one of my sons comes up there and he says yeah, I remember when my dad kept telling me to take the trash out, take the trash out, and I didn’t take the trash out and he took the trashcan and he dumped it all over my bed, and I learned to take the trash out. Well, what I was doing, I was showing there are consequences to decisions and I’m not going to yell; there just are consequences, you might as well learn there are going to be consequences for bad decisions.
Now in grace, God in His grace removes many of those consequences, and thank God He does it or we’d be in hell. The finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ removes the consequences of sin, but God leaves enough sorrow around for training purposes. So there are some things, like our bodies, we don’t have our resurrection body yet so every time we’re sick, every time we have pain, we remember these bodies have been damaged. Why were they damaged? Why do we have babies born with genetic defects? Because our bodies are damaged. And why were they damaged? Why did God do this to me? Because He told us not to sin and we did, in Adam, and so He told us, didn’t He, He told Adam and Eve the day that you eat thereof what’s going to happen. So this is memory.
So let’s just briefly go through these. Direct Suffering: these are all related to what we do, choices we make. The first one, General existence of sickness and death, Genesis 2:17, He said you do it and then you’re going to change existence and you’re going to have this. Hey, that’s the consequences. Another, Galatians 6:7, you reap what you sow, that’s what we call self-induced misery. So when you have mental attitude sin or you have something else, and pity parties and so forth, self-induced misery makes us miserable and we have no one else to blame but ourselves. The third one: judgment on sin and nations. In Acts 17 God says I will remove nations and I will break them up, I establish their boundaries, with one purpose, that they may seek Me, and when a nation no longer seeks Me it’s on borrowed time. So that’s a national suffering. Then we have hell and the lake of fire, the ultimate quarantine of evil, Matthew 25. We have parental discipline in the mortal life of the believer. Remember that passage in Hebrews? We also read the one in Corinthians every communion service, some are weak and sick and some sleep, meaning God has put believers to death because of sin. And then denial of rewards at the Bema Seat. Paul said some of the things that we think so much of are going to get burned up and we’re going to sit there and watch it pffft, like that. So all of this is related because God is training us to understand our responsibility. You learn responsibility and skill in decisions by reaping consequences, and we all have done that, I’m sure.
Now, over here, this is harder to grasp and often times in a suffering situation you get this other effect, and all we can say is God has a plan in the middle of this sorrow, this suffering, this disappointment. But it helps sometimes to think that there are reasons there, even though we don’t know what those reasons are it’s nice to know gee, there’s about five or six things that God could be doing, maybe a combination of these, so let’s run through these. These are not necessarily related to our choices. This is just the sovereignty of God operating in our environment and we happen to be part of the drama of His particular stage.
The first one: evangelistic wake-up call, Acts 9. That’s Paul on the Damascus Road and we’ve all had, some of you probably could give testimony when you became a Christian. Some of us came to Christ in prosperity, others came to Christ in suffering, and that suffering in that situation we didn’t ask for the suffering, we were just some dumb, blind unbeliever and all of a sudden something happened in our lives and we started looking up. Well, we didn’t ask for that, we didn’t warrant that in our choice, because God could have ignored us and we’d wind up in hell. That’s God stepping into our lives to call us to Him. And sometimes He does it with suffering.
Another one, Psalm 119:71, “It is good that I’ve been afflicted that I may learn His statutes.” And that’s a nudge to spiritually advance. Now you go rocking along in the Christian life and all of a sudden, boom, and instead of getting angry think about, perhaps, this is a nudge to trust the Lord more in certain areas to expand your zone of faith.
The third one is evidence for evangelization of unbelievers, 1 Timothy 1:16 where an unbeliever might be looking at you and you won’t even know it, but God knows it; it might be at work, it might be in social areas some way, and God has one or two people out there, you may or may not be cognizant of that, but He’s working in your life so they’re going to say, how can you cope with this, I don’t have the tools to deal with that but they see you successfully dealing with that and that opens doors to the gospel.
Then we have evidence for the edification of believers, 2 Corinthians 1: comfort others with the comfort you have received. Now a pastor can’t empathize, sometimes, with a person’s suffering. One of the stunning things for me in this congregation, last Thanksgiving, remember we had a Thanksgiving service, and we, of course, have the family that have their daughter with her chopped off with a mower from her dad, and that was a tragedy and the little girl, you see her around with her little leg, walking around. And her daddy got up in the service and was thanking God for how it’s working in the family with this little girl with an artificial leg. Well, unbeknownst to him, there was a couple sitting right here in the front, had their daughter’s leg chopped off by a mower, in this case another family member, and they got up and gave testimony and said hey, you know, we’ve coped with this in our family. Well, if you don’t think those two families understand each other, and in a way that none of us could deal with that problem because none of us have had our child’s foot chopped off in that way. So that’s an example and there are hundreds of those examples. And this is why when you suffer and when God puts you through a trial, maybe one thing that might encourage you is the fact that you’re being trained to help somebody else with that same problem.
Then finally, there’s the most mysterious of all, Ephesians 3:10, we haven’t got a clue what’s going on here, all we know is that suffering happens, for some reason, unrelated to other human beings, but the angels are watching, and somehow they’re learning wisdom. And so you don’t know, but they are watching.
So these don’t give concrete answers, you can’t analyze it and say well, I think it’s a little of 3 and maybe 6; I mean, it would be fun to do that, but it encourages you that there are reasons. Don’t despair, there are reasons, and there may be some more but at least those are the ones that I’ve been able to find.
So when we come back to the text here what basically the Holy Spirit is saying is I don’t want you to react to suffering and sorrow. People who cut themselves obviously are having an emotional sorrow, not just physical, an emotional sorrow and we’re supposed to cope with those with biblical tools.
Okay, now let’s go to verse 21c, at the end. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” And as I said before, this apparently was a crude way the pagans had in their rituals; there is a controversial translation of a Ugaritic text that reads: “By the fire, seven times the heroes cook a kid in milk.” There’s some debate about how that is translated but apparently this was something that the Baalists were doing and it was a pagan ritual like cutting, but in this case, rather than dealing with emotional pain it was a callousness toward the creatures. There is a humaneness in the Bible toward animals, and it’s a documented fact that people who are cruel to animals will most likely become cruel to people; it’s just built into them. And the reason is this, it’s not too hard to understand; animal cruelty is basically an attitude toward the God who created those animals.
Now we’re not talking about hunting here, we’re talking about abuse. And it’s a historical fact that the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, was started by William Wilberforce. Anybody know what else he did? He stopped the slave trade in England, and William Wilberforce, if you saw the film… what’s the film that he was in? [someone answers] Amazing Grace, because he was involved in the same thing with John Newton, slave trading, and in that film they didn’t get into his humaneness with animals but if you remember there’s a couple of scenes in the movie where they show all the animals on his property and that was just documenting the fact that Wilberforce was doing a lot of things in England at the time and his problem was he saw people being brutal to horses. And horses were the main transportation system in those times and the cruelty is still going on. I think in one sense the environmentalists cause more cruelty when they want to solve a problem because they don’t solve it right away.
My veterinarian son was telling me, for horses, the hundred thousand, seventy thousand horses a year that are retired, that are old, they are euthanized, but they have places that euthanize them in a humane fashion. Well, they didn’t like this so you had these environmental groups come along in the name of environmentalism and shut down all the places that they were euthanizing these old horses, so now they send them to Mexico and they stab them in the back until those horses collapses. Now they’re horrified at what’s happening to the horses. Well, who was it that sent them to Mexico with your stupid regulations. So here once again we see this foolishness that goes on, and particularly PETA and these groups, they start off with what looks like compassion and they wind up in foolishness.
When my son was taking courses in New York City at one of the big animal hospitals there, there was a big hoopla about one veterinarian researcher who was studying injuries to cats falling out of windows. And he observed, and he wrote a paper about this, that if a cat falls out of a second or third story window they get very injured, but if they fall out of the fifth or sixth story they don’t seem to be as injured as they do when they fall out of a second or third story, and it’s because a cat’s tail is working and the cat has a way of balancing to come down. Well, PETA gets hold of this research paper and they say see, he’s throwing cats out of the windows, and we’ve got to stop that hospital, we’re going to blockade the traffic because he’s throwing cats out of windows. He wasn’t throwing cats out of windows; he was going through the reports of injuries on the animal hospitals. But this is the kind of knee-jerk, stupid reaction we get to these kinds of things against people who are trying to deal with the problem.
So verse 21c is one of those situations. I think it basically is saying that it’s just inappropriate to take a young goat and you’re killing it and cooking it in a fluid that was meant by God to nourish it; there’s just something not appropriate in this.
Okay, that leaves us with the main bulk of text, so let’s look at what’s going on from verses 3 on through verse 20-21. It starts out in verse 3, and these are the food laws, so we have to deal with the food, and why is this stuff in here. Well, on the outline I refer you to Joshua 5, so if you turn to Joshua 5 we’re going to see something about diet. Now why are food laws so prominent here; what is the deal with food? Well, food is an element of culture. When food aid goes to Africa, one of the problems often is that it may be very nutritious, our people may work up this great nutritious stuff, it’s got vitamins, it’s got minerals, it’s got protein, it’s got all the good stuff and the people don’t want to eat it. And the reason they don’t want to eat it is because they’re not used to that food, just like you’re not, I’m not. Dietary preferences are part of a culture. And you’re going to see here how God takes advantage of this. This is slick stuff, it looks like it’s just random and arbitrary but as we go through this passage I want to show you, when God designs something he designs it with multiple causes embedded in it.
But in Joshua 5:2, this is after Moses, they’re crossing the Jordan, and it says in verse 2, “At that time the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.  So Joshua made flint knives for himself,” and so on, verse 4, “And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them,” because “all the people who came out of Egypt,” and so forth and so on. Now it says,  “For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness,” … “they were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD….”  “Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place, for they were uncircumcised,” coming unto the land, see, they’re crossing over the land boundary, now God requires a certain lifestyle and He wants to be sure all the men are circumcised. Verse 8, “And when they had finished circumcising the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed,  Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal.” So they camped at Gilgal and so on, and then verse 11, “And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.” Then verse 12 is a climactic sentence: “Then the manna ceased on the very day [after they had eaten the produce of the land.]”
Now what was the manna? The manna was the food and the diet and the culinary way, they probably had handbooks that the women had on forty ways how to eat a plate of manna, because for forty years manna was the food supply. Now can anybody think about something happening to tastes? What had they been used to eating before the wilderness? What kind of a diet? Egyptian; the Egyptian diet. So God takes them out in the wilderness and for one and complete generation they’re doing nothing but eating manna, they can’t eat the Egyptian food because they don’t have any Egyptian food. They only have manna, so it’s manna, manna, manna, manna, manna, manna, manna, manna, manna, until they cross the land and that very day they crossed into the boundary the manna stops. So now they’re going to eat from the land. So now we have another dietary change. So it may well be that part of the forty years of manna was to make sure that there was a break in their diet, in the way they ate, from the way it was in the pagan world to the way it’s going to be here.
Now the problem is as you read through this passage, it says, verse 3, “You shall not eat any detestable thing.  These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,  the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat,” and he lists them.  “And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split in two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals.” Now the Bible critics have jumped all over and bully Christian students and say ha-ha, gee, there’s some of these animals that it says they chew the cud and they don’t chew the cud. This is phenomenal language. What Moses is getting at is they chew, whether they’re actually chewing a cud up from their stomach or whether they’re just chewing like would happen, because they’re not going to do an inspection, open the mouth of each animal to see whether it’s actually chewing a cud, but you can see how they’re chewing. So it’s an external observing language, it’s not meant to be biologically technical about what you and I would say, “chewing the cud.”
On your outline, there are two ways this is handled, these food passages. One is hygienic, is it hygienic? Probably not because in Genesis 9 God said you could eat any of these foods, and Jesus clarifies it as well as the view to Peter in Acts 10. And it’s highly unlikely that, if it’s hygienic, God would say well, just give the unclean things to the Gentiles. God loves the Gentiles; He’s not poisoning them with bad food. There may be some of it. But another way, the opposite way it’s treated is purely arbitrary, it’s just part of their cultural uniform. I don’t think it’s that either because the details of the Law, when we know more about them, seem to have a reasoning behind them. Remember what we dealt with a few Tuesdays ago about circumcision on the 8th day, and it looked totally arbitrary until the 20th century and all of a sudden we’re doing prothrombin plots and Vitamin K plots and oooh, gee, the blood clotting mechanism peaks on the 8th day. So it turned out there was something going on in the background there.
But whatever, the Scriptures really don’t give us that much other than it tells us in Genesis 7:2-3 that Noah took more of the clean animals aboard the ark than he did the unclean, obviously trying to protect the supply of the clean animals. Probably it has something to do and as I say in my outline, it may be a design feature, that they have less of a propensity to harbor disease, or that metaphorical of good angelic… remember angels show up in zoomorphic forms. So it may be, and we don’t know how this works, but we do know angels show up with animal parts, and so maybe these animals that are clean animals are the ones that are appropriate to be for the good angels, I don’t know. But I’m not willing to say that this is purely arbitrary.
Now in verses 4-8 he’s talking about land animals, and you see the list there. You go to verses 9 and 10 he’s talking about marine animals, fish: “These you may eat that are in the water; you may eat al that has fins and scales.  And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.” Then he says, verse 11, all the way down to verse 20, he’s talking about birds and flying things. And then verse 19, “Every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you,” that’s insects, they’re unclean, yet we know that people have eaten locusts and so on, so in the land under the theocracy these things were considered unclean.
Now, this is the heartland of the passage, verse 21, because you can talk all night about clean and unclean things and really get not too far, but in verse 21 it’s the distribution of the clean and the unclean that begin to show us certain things in God’s mind here. “You shall not eat anything that dies of itself;” okay, who’s the “you” there? “You” are the Israelites. Now in your chart, let’s look at categories of people. On the top we have an Israelite who is clean, we have an Israelite who is not clean. We’ve already seen that passage before, where the unclean Israelite can eat in the town and eat food, no problem. The clean and the unclean means ceremonially, when they approach the sacred space. And this is why that if they touched or ate these things, you can look at it in Leviticus in these passages, you’ll see that they could not approach God in the tabernacle. They had to be ritually and ceremonially cleansed in order to get to the sacred space. Now what do you suppose that’s a picture of? Confession of sin. It’s not denying that they weren’t Israelites, it’s rather denying that they’re in an appropriate status for communicating with God. So God had this whole business of clean and unclean.
So let’s look at what happens here. The first category, not only could they not eat it, but Leviticus says you couldn’t touch a dead carcass or you were unclean until evening and had washed. So it’s not the food so much that’s setting people apart here, it’s the people and how God is treating them. So number one, in verse 21, “You shall not eat anything that dies of itself,” and we know from Leviticus they couldn’t even touch it. That’s one category of people.
Then, “…you may give it to the alien who is within your gates,” in the Hebrew that’s ger, now the ger could eat and touch it, but they couldn’t buy it, it had to be given to them. There are economics that are coming up now; they could eat and touch it. Now who are the ger? The alien who was resident; those are the people who have joined Israel that are Gentiles. They’re living, more or less, permanently in the land. So you’d say that those are legal immigrants, to use a modern category. They are legal immigrants, they are people who have gone through the process, they are agreeing, and this is interesting, these legal immigrants are agreeing that they will accept the laws of Yahweh. But Yahweh recognizes that they are not sons of Israel, so He makes a distinction and He allows them to eat and touch this stuff. But, there’s something else we’ll see later in the economic principles; they could not be charged for the food, they could not buy the food. Moreover, there was no interest on loans given to the ger. You could not charge a ger interest on particular loans that were going on. So they, in some way, as immigrants, they share the blessings of Israel but they are not considered like Israel in their cleanliness.
Now we come to the third category. You won’t eat, but you may give it to the alien who is within your gates; and he may eat it, or,” third category, “you may sell it to a foreigner.” Now the “foreigner” here is the nokree, and the nokree were traveling businessmen. Remember, Israel is on the crossroads of the trade world of the international history. They were constantly getting people moving through Israel. God placed His chosen people right smack-dab on the interspace of the ancient world. So people, and they weren’t buzzing through at sixty miles an hour, they were walking, so they may have had bed and breakfasts around, I don’t know, but they had hospitable areas for the visiting businessmen. Now these guys were not gers in the sense they were not resident aliens, they were just passing through the country. Now interestingly they could buy and they could purchase, they could eat it, touch it and purchase it.
So what is going on here? We’ve got an unclean animal that the Jews are prohibited of eating, they can give it to a ger, and they can sell it to a foreign businessman. Now I’m relying here on Gary North’s economic commentary on the Bible. He’s an economist, he’s a post-mil and kind of anti-dispensational, but the strength of him is he’s the first economist who has gone through the entire Scripture verse by verse and looking at the economic things that are going on in the text. And it really is an eye-opener to see this. For example, the first thing about the food laws is, who enforced these laws? Was it the elders of the city that were the local judges, or was it the Levites, or did anybody do it. Well, the clean and the unclean meant your approach to the Tabernacle, so obviously, if you were unclean who was the guy that wouldn’t let you near the Tabernacle? The Levites. So this is an ecclesiastically enforced law, the food laws, and they have to do with approaching the sacred place, the meeting place of God.
Now there’s something else going on here, and if you’ll look at the end of your handout, the economic effects of what is going on in verse 21. The price of unclean meat was higher because the supply was lower. The Jews could not touch it and they couldn’t raise unclean animals. So the animals might be around but Jews couldn’t raise them because they couldn’t touch them and stay clean. And the problem was that the unclean meat would be outside, maybe Syria, Ammon, you know, up in Lebanon they had it, but in Israel the unclean meat was in a low supply; there was no market for it, nobody wanted the stuff because the Jews wouldn’t have that.
Now, if you were an Israelite and you touched an animal that died, would you rather give it to a resident alien or would you rather sell it? You’d rather sell it, right? So the point is that Israelites were more likely to sell the unclean to the nokrees than to give it to the gers. The businessman, then, would take it and go on their way. It was a way of discharging this stuff out of the culture and making a profit while you’re doing it.
The third thing, the gers might produce unclean animals, remember, they could touch it, of course they couldn’t sell the unclean animals to the Jews, so they might want to start a small business raising pigs, for example, but the problem was who do you market your produce to? You can’t market it to the Jews, who are you going to market it to? The only ones you can market to are the businessmen coming through on the interstate. So there would be room for limited business but then there’s another hang-up. To have herds, raising pigs, you have to have acreage, but the resident alien here, while he might get acreage because Jews have borrowed money and somehow they are in debt and he uses the land, what happened in the year of Jubilee to the acreage? The acreage would revert back to the Jewish family. So after the year of Jubilee his business would go to pot because he had no acreage any more. So these laws produced a certain kind of economic flow here.
And the point we want to make is that while diet was an ever-present issue to the Gentile immigrants and travelers, this made the distinctions real. But there was free market discrimination. Now there are no totalitarian socialist price controls going on here; God doesn’t interfere with the free market. The Bible is free market and pro-capitalism and don’t let some college professor say to you or your children that out of the Bible social justice and Marxist doctrine flows; it doesn’t! The Bible does not argue for anything but a free market, and here in this passage is a good example of it. God is controlling the meat supply, He’s controlling the culture purity, and He does it by arranging it in terms of supply and demand. There’s no price controls being set here by the government; it’s supply and demand that’s driving this. So I think that’s an interesting commentary.
So in our conclusion today, enforcement of cultural holiness made us of key cultural components of their view of death and their view of daily living dependency on a specific diet. Enforcement was not always by civil judicial proceedings, but by free market principles. And so we need to think, and thank God for how well thought out these rules are; it’s not just food, it includes the whole economic transactions that were going on, as shown in verse 21, where the giving and selling occurred. That had tremendous economic implications.