Did Pre-Flood & Post-Flood Man Keep the Clean and Unclean Meat laws of God?
by Peter Salemi
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? …For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”(Isaiah 28:9, 10)
A Pre-Sinai Law
The clean and unclean laws are specifically are mentioned early in God’s Word, in the account of the Noachian Flood, when Noah was commanded to take “seven each of every clean animal” (Genesis 7:2). When he and his family were back on dry land, Noah “took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Genesis 8:20). This suggests that these laws were known and practiced before the Flood—even from the earliest days of mankind (compare Genesis 4:4, Abel’s acceptable offering). Since there were no Jews or Israelites then—not even any Hebrews—these laws are obviously for all humankind not just Israel!
Some however argue that the clean and unclean meat distinction was only for sacrifices and not because of diet. Is this true?
Genesis 9:3 contains a command that has proven difficult for some to understand: God says to Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” Some take this to mean that God gives man carte blanche authority to eat any kind of animal. But is this what God said?
The key to this verse is “even as the green herbs.”
Or as the newer translations put it, “And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything [both plants and animals for food]” (ESV)
“Just as I gave you green plants before, so now you have everything.” (ISV). Before the fall man was strictly to eat the vegetation provided by the plants (Gen 1:29-30). It was only after the fall that, “… the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Gen 3:21). All commentaries demonstrate that this meant not just clothing but a sacrifice for sins or else why would this little detail be mentioned? Why would Abel sacrifice of his flock unless taught by his father Adam? And, “nor is it likely that the notion of a sacrifice could have ever occurred to the mind of man without an express revelation from God.” (Clarke’s Commentary, emphasis added).
This was for sacrifice, but also for “food” (Gill Commentary). For, “mankind offered to the Divinity what he himself ate…
“Prehistoric findings point to primitive man as an omnivore [eater of meat and vegetables]. It is only after settling down as an agriculturist that humans became chiefly eaters of vegetable food. Semi-nomads like the patriarchs combined both categories (18:5-8)” (1982, Vol. 2, p. 327, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, emphasis added). What man offered to God is what he ate. Many times we find in the Bible the priests and the Israelites eating afterward what they offered to God as a thanksgiving for the blessings received from God and partaking in those blessings, (see Lev 7:15; 10:12-14). So when God picked out what was clean and unclean it was not just for sacrifice for also for food, and thank God for that blessing!
All Vegetation Allowed?
Now some may argue that since man was allowed to eat all vegetation as it says in Genesis 1:29; then as God says, “Just as I gave you green plants before,” (Gen 9:3) then does that mean man can eat any kind of meat?
Before the fall, was man allowed to eat all vegetation? Notice what God says in Genesis 2, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (vv.16-17). When God says “every” obviously he does not mean free reign on every tree, but the ones he appointed man to eat-he can freely eat!
According to Genesis 1:29 and Psalms 104:14 the herbs, vegetables and fruits we are to eat are:
1. Trees - edible yield is bearing
2. Plants - edible yield is bearing seeds.
3. Field plants - herbs, roots, leafy vegetables.
Others plants outside of these parameters are forbidden and not appointed by God to eat, “Not every plant is suitable for food. We must discriminate …However; many herbs that are not edible may still be beneficial used externally as a poultice. Keep a book of herbs at hand in your home and become familiar with simple, natural remedies.” (Factforum.com, emphasis added). God did not mean we are to eat ragweed and poison oak; but the plants he appointed for us to eat we can freely eat!
It is the same with the meats! This same source says, “Can we eat any green plant that grows? Or, must we make a distinction between the edible and poisonous? [by the word of God]. Likewise, we must discern [by the word of God] which animals may be eaten and those which we may not. Noah was already aware of the distinction between clean and unclean animals” (Factforum.com, emphasis added).
Clean and unclean was known in the days of Noah-why were they designated in this way? for just sacrifices? No! Such knowledge was then important only if mankind was actually eating meat. Again, “The distinction between clean and unclean animals in the ark has no meaning if meat was not eaten (7:2).” (1982, Vol. 2, p. 327, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, emphasis added).
In other words, God gives mankind the authority to eat flesh within the same parameters as He allows us to eat vegetation; “Just as I gave you green plants before [appointed by God to eat]” (ISV). So this does not give us permission to do as we please! Again, does God allow us to eat poisonous plants like poison ivy, hemlock, deadly nightshade, etc.? Of course not! Just as certain plants are harmful to us, so are certain meats.
God confirms it here, he says, “This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth:
“To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.” (Lev 11:46-47) -Not just for sacrifices but for us to eat and avoid.
Did God change his ways in Moses’ day? No! He said, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” So why would it be acceptable to eat all meat in the days of Noah and NOT Acceptable in the days of Moses? Does God contradict himself? No! “For God is not the author of confusion,” (1 Corinth 14:33). The reason why they were called “unclean” and “clean” animals in Noah’s day was for the same reason they were called the same in Moses’ day and Jesus’ day-they were either clean or unclean to eat! And it was for ALL MANKIND, not just Israel. THE WHOLE LAW IS FOR ALL MANKIND! The Sabbath was made for MAN Jesus said (Mark 2:27). It was created in Adam’s day (Gen 1) and Adam kept the Sabbath! God’s laws are universal and will be kept by all mankind when the Kingdom is set up on this earth! (Isaiah 2:1-3; Zechariah 14:16-21). It has been this way since the beginning!
Purpose of these Commandments?
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 contain God’s commandments to Israel concerning clean and unclean meats. In these passages, either He lists specific animals that are clean or unclean or He provides us with instructions about how to determine if an animal is clean or unclean. For instance, He tells us specifically that the camel, the hyrax (rock badger), the hare, and the swine are unclean (Leviticus 11:4-8), but regarding fish He instructs us to determine if a species possesses both fins and scales (verse 9).
God designed many of the unclean animals for the specific purpose of disposing of the earth's garbage. For instance, without feeling any ill effect, vultures can consume 59 times the amount of botulin, the neurotoxin that causes botulism that it would take to kill a man. Pigs are scavengers that will eat anything, and if pork is not fully cooked to kill the Trichinella spiralis in it, it can destroy a person’s health or even kill him.
Even though people throughout the world eat unclean food and live, and even though we could probably do the same—and many of us once did—for Christians, it is more than a health matter. In the Bible, it is also, a test commandment to see if we will obey God.
Would you eat those “creeping things”-lizards, snakes, spiders? Would you eat skunks and hyenas? Of course you wouldn’t! Why? Common sense! Because you have already the essence of the law in your mind of what you think is clean and unclean! As Romans says, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
“Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…” (Romans 2:14-15).
Common sense tells us that God did not intend for us to eat every creature. But we just aren’t willing to let our Creator tell us which meats will give us lasting health and strength, and which ones are injurious to our bodies, and will eventually bring on more sickness and disease. It is time we let God tell us exactly what is clean and what is unclean instead of using our faulty human reason!
There is not a single scripture showing that God ever set apart as fit for food any unclean creatures -snails, oysters, clams, snakes, octopuses, eels, horses, rabbits, or swine!
Indeed, we already saw the distinction drawn between clean and unclean—i.e., edible and inedible—animals before the Flood in Genesis 7. Why would there have been a distinction at that time if animals were not then eaten? Thus it appears that God was simply telling Noah and his family that it was okay to eat meat again.
It is most likely that Genesis 9:3 is simply a reaffirmation from God to man that animal life would still be available for food - even though many animals had now been given a wild nature (see Gen. 9:2). They now had a fear of man which they did not have before the Flood. This made it more difficult (but not impossible) for man to hunt them for food. Neither did God go to the trouble of telling Noah about the differences between the clean and unclean when He commanded him, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you.” (Gen 9:1) Noah already knew the distinction!
So clearly God had the intention of all of mankind, not just Israel to live by his laws all along including the clean and unclean meats. Let’s obey God and subject ourselves to his will.
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Clean and Unclean Meats