In Saturday's study we looked at some domesticated farm animals that are and are not to be eaten by the Israelites. The animal must have a divided hoof and chew cud to be considered clean for consumption. We talked about how the cow, the sheep, and the goat could be eaten but not the horse. Wild animals like deer and antelope and gazelles were edible. Many more animals meet the criteria to be clean and if you'd like you may want to Google a list to see them for yourselves. The list is a bit lengthy and some of the animals are a bit obscure to anyone living in our part of the world so I'm not including a comprehensive list here.
Next we find out which water creatures can and cannot be eaten. "Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales." (Leviticus 11:9) Most fish are kosher. An exception would be the catfish because it lacks scales.
"But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales---whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water---you are to regard as unclean." (Leviticus 11:10) This verse renders shellfish unclean. The Israelites were not to eat things like oysters, clams, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and things of that nature. These are non-kosher foods and those of us who are Gentiles would probably do well to exclude these items from our diets because shellfish are "filter feeders", scavengers that feed off of waste products in the water. You can catch several types of foodborne illnesses from undercooked shellfish and you can also contract a strain of hepatitis from shellfish (from raw oysters in particular). In addition, if a person is going to be allergic to any type of food from the rivers or the oceans, it's most likely going to be shellfish. The Lord is trying to prevent the people from contracting food poisoning and diseases. He's also helping them to avoid allergic reactions when He tells them to refrain from eating shellfish.
"And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you." (Leviticus 11:11-12) In yesterday's study we found the Lord prohibiting the people even to touch the carcass of an unclean animal if it's at all possible to avoid touching it. We learned earlier in Leviticus that if a person came in contact with an unclean animal he must bathe and wash his clothes and remain ceremonially unclean until evening. He could not go up to the tabernacle and could not attend any type of religious feast until his time of uncleanness was up. I don't believe he could attend a meal at anyone else's home either, for later in the Bible we'll find King Saul musing that perhaps the reason David doesn't show up for dinner at his house is because he somehow became ceremonially unclean that day. (On the contrary, David didn't show up because he knew Saul was plotting to take his life.)
But we see that occasions might come up when a person would have to remove an unclean carcass from the roadway or from his property and in that case there was a procedure he could follow to be clean again. A fisherman might come in contact with unclean water creatures if some of them got caught in his net along with the clean creatures. He would have to discard them by throwing them back into the water or rinsing them out of his nets. I assume he'd try not to make physical contact with them while doing so but there must have been times when this was unavoidable. In that case he had a procedure to follow to be ceremonially clean again by evening. The bathing and the washing of clothes and the self-isolating for several hours helped to protect the community from communicable illnesses that are carried by unclean animals. In a time long before antibiotics were invented, it was of the utmost importance to be as sanitary as possible with food, for if a person became violently ill from an unclean food there was little that could be done for him. His body would either fight off the illness or it wouldn't.
Now we move on into the subject of which types of fowl are considered unclean. "These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not to eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat." (Leviticus 11:13-19) The Lord only provides a list of unclean birds and it is generally accepted that if a bird is not on this list then it is alright to eat. We'll note that the birds that are prohibited are scavenger types. We find bats on this list even though they are not of the bird family, but people in ancient times believed they were birds without feathers. They thought anything that was warm-blooded and had wings and could fly was a bird, so we find the Lord grouping bats in with birds here. Bats can be carriers of a number of serious and even deadly diseases. We're most familiar with rabies, of course, but they can also transmit Ebola and SARS. In verses 13 through 19 we find the Lord prohibiting the consumption of scavenger birds (birds who feed off of carcasses or other types of waste) and the consumption of bats because they always have been and still are some of the most prevalent carriers of many serious and even fatal zoonotic diseases (diseases that spread from animals to people).
We are living in a time when a plague that is believed to be zoonotic in nature has broken out among the world's population. If Covid-19 did indeed originate from people consuming animals that would definitely be on the Lord's "unclean" list, then we can certainly see why the Lord felt it so important to include lists of clean and unclean foods in the Holy Bible. He put these lists here for our protection. The Lord doesn't want plagues to break out. He wants us to observe sanitary food practices and to eat foods that provide the things our bodies need so we can be healthy and strong. If you're my age or older then you'll remember a phrase that was popular when computer use was beginning to become common: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." This meant if the programming was bad, the computer couldn't perform the work the program was designed to produce. In Leviticus 11 the Lord issues the same warning about what we put in our bodies: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Our bodies are designed to run their best on certain types of fuel. Putting the wrong fuel into our bodies causes health issues like clogged arteries and high blood pressure and obesity. Putting the wrong fuel into our bodies can give us food poisoning or an allergic reaction. And putting the wrong fuel into our bodies can transmit to us a serious or even fatal disease. The Lord wants the best for us and His best includes treating our bodies like the temples they are and bringing into these temples only what He has said is good.