TODO: genetically modified foods, hybrid seed, organic food, open pollination, jubilees and land sabbaths
INTRODUCTION | GENERAL PRINCIPLES | LAWFUL HERBS | FORBIDDEN HERBS | SEAWEED | YEAST | LAWFUL FLESH | FORBIDDEN FLESH | CANNIBALISM | FLYING FOWL | SEAFOOD | INSECTS | BLOOD | FAT | INTERNAL ORGANS | DAIRY PRODUCTS AND BABY FOOD | LAW FOR FEEDING LIVESTOCK | LAWS FOR AGRICULTURE | MERCY | CONCLUSION | REFERENCES
It has been a long time since Moses recorded the laws, statutes, and judgements at Mount Sinai. People today are largely unaware of them. Some of this is because of the widespread belief that God's laws are no longer relevant. This includes those laws concerning diet. Even among those who believe the dietary laws are still valuable, it is common to find an incomplete understanding of them.
There are many health benefits to following the food laws. Whether you are religious or not, following the ancient diet is so simple, easy, and unobtrusive that you need to ask yourself: "How can I justify not finding out what this diet involves?"
Some people assume that the food laws of the Bible are more or less identical to Jewish kosher and the Islamic halal restrictions. There are actually some quite important differences, which I'll note as we go along.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. Genesis 1:29
Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. Genesis 9:3
Not every "herb" bears seed, and not every tree bears fruit. That rules out some plants as possible food sources. If the green, photosynthesizing herb was given to us, why do we assume that the non-green, non-seed-bearing, non-photosynthesizing herbs were given to us? Since every moving thing was given to us as the green herb was, we know the flesh of moving things is also given to us with restrictions. The restrictions on eating flesh are more commonly known, so let's start by examining the situation with herbs.
First, the good news. Most of the vegetation we eat today is lawful. Tubers like carrots and potatoes; grains like corn and wheat, and all the delicious varieties of fruits and nuts, garlic, onions and spices we enjoy are approved under God's law. They all bear seed and live above water. Rice, which spends some of it's early life submerged in water, isn't as nutritious as the wheats, barleys, and other grains that grow completely above water, but is completely lawful.
The unlawful herb most likely to be part of your diet is mushrooms. Mushrooms are fungi, spore-spreading scavengers of the plant world. All forms of fungus are unlawful to eat as food because they don't meet the criteria of "bearing seed". What is more, they are not "green"; they don't photosynthesize. They live like vampires off the corpses of dead plants and animals, instead of getting their nutrients from the soil. Only experts can tell which are safe and which are not, and even the experts are fooled sometimes, and die early deaths from gruesome poisonings.
The other unlawful plants are never eaten in the West: ferns, lichens, molds, and mosses. Inuit and Japanese people are known to eat "rock tripe", which is a lichen. Ferns, lichens, molds, and mosses have little nutritional value for humans, and can be quite dangerous to eat.
All forms of seaweed are unlawful on the basis that they are not "herbs of the field". There are no fields underwater. Also, all the commonly eaten seaweeds like dulse (carrageen), kelp, and rockweed are unlawful on the grounds that they are forms of algae. Algae does not bear seed.
Many kinds of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese food include seaweed, especially sushi snacks. Sashimi, which is just slices of raw fish, has no seaweed, and is lawful to eat.
Many desserts include carrageen because of it's good binding and gelatin-making properties. Jello, pudding and cake with pudding layers often have carrageen and when they do, should not be eaten. Gelatin made of animal cartilage often includes pork, even when it has a kosher label. Gelatin products made with locust bean gum are lawful. Locust bean is also known as "carob".
And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, … for wine, or for whiskey. Deuteronomy 14:26
Yeast is an interesting organism. It is really good at sucking up the types of vitamins, nutrients, and proteins that are good for humans. If you eat live yeast, this has a negative effect, because the yeast will eat up the nutrients and things that were supposed to be used by your body. If the yeast is dead however, they are a potent, bountiful source of easily digested nutrition.
Yeast is an essential component in bread and fermented alcoholic drinks. Both involve dead yeast, not live yeast. In the baking process, yeast not only dies, but disappears, leaving behind it's payload of nutrition. In the case of alcohol, the yeast goes dormant and flocculates to the top or bottom, where it is strained out of the beverage of happiness.
And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. Ruth 2:14
Baked goods made with yeast, "Nutritional Yeast", and fermented liquids, both alcoholic and vinegary, are lawful. One delicious Italian dish, Focaccia bread, is eaten just as described in the Bible; you tear it into pieces, and dip them in vinegar.
What is leaven? During the week-long Festival of Unleavened Bread is it unlawful to eat goods made out of sourdough (leaven). Beer (shekar) used to be made with leavened bread. I don't know whether beer was allowed during the Seven of Unleavened. Todays beer is made differently, and throwing out the carefully cultivated strains of domestic yeast would bring the industry to a standstill. Jesus drank wine at the Passover meal, so probably wine was allowed during the rest of the festival. And if that is the case, maybe beer and vinegar were allowed also. This is speculation; I don't know. If anyone does know, please contact me immediately.
Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. Leviticus 11:3
When it comes to meat, we have more good news. The only common meat that is unlawful is pork. The other common meats are lawful, to wit, beef, lamb, goat, and venison. The milk of these animals is also lawful. Antelope, bison, buffalo, elk, gazelle, giraffe, moose and reindeer are also lawful. The criteria for lawful meat is that the animal must split the hoof and chew the cud.
Anything without hooves, is unlawful. This rules out reptiles, rodents, and anything with paws. Apes, cats, dogs, snakes and turtles are unlawful meats commonly eaten in Asia. In Africa, cheetah, elephant, hippopotamus, lion and rhinocerous are commonly hunted unlawful meats. In the West, some eat bear, opposum, raccoon, rattlesnake and squirrel, all unlawful meats.
Some animals have hooves, but don't split them, or don't properly split them. Members of the horse family, including donkeys, horses and zebras, are unlawful for this reason. Some other animals chew the cud, but don't have hooves, such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Camels chew the cud, but their hooves are only partially split.
Finally, we have animals that have split hooves, but don't have a cud to chew. The only example I know of such a meat is swine. People have thought that today our cleaner techniques for raising, slaughtering, and cooking pigs make them clean and safe. Science however has shown that for all our modern technology, pork is still a toxic and dangerous meat. A pigs body is structured in such a way that no amount of clean diet and clean environment will make it clean. It is not healthy to even touch a pig.
The tapir, in modern times classified as a swine, may be lawful to eat. It chews the cud, and splits the hoof. It is also a vegetarian, unlike the pig. The only reason I hesitate with the tapir, is that the hoof is not split into two portions, but into three.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 1:27
The Bible says that "man is made in God's image". To desecrate a human body would be to disprespect "God's image". And to disrespect God's image is to disrespect God.
He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. Numbers 19:11
If it makes you unclean for seven days merely to touch a dead human body, how much more unclean does it make you to eat a human corpse?
Human beings don't have hooves, so it is impossible for them to split the hoof. Neither do human beings chew the cud, nor have any cud to chew. We are thus unlawful to eat as food. Apes and monkeys are unlawful to eat for these same reasons.
Doves, pigeons, and quail are the only birds that we know for sure are lawful. Doves and pigeons, because they were accepted as sacrifices. Quail, because Jehovah himself sent quail on two occasions to feed the assembly of Israel. Todays science classes chicken, grouse, peacock, pheasant, ptarmigan and turkey as part of the "quail" family. The Jewish Mishnah also accepts this categorization, because they all share a unique crop and gizzard digestive arrangement that breaks down the food properly, just as the four-stomach arrangement of cows, sheep and goats makes them fit to eat.
Duck, goose, and swan are not allowed, as they fit into the category of diving, web-footed birds. Not eating duck isn't such a great loss; the small amount of non-fatty meat one can get from them makes it wasteful to use them as food anyway. The majority of duck and goose meat is forbidden under the law against eating fat.
The eggs of all lawful birds are lawful to eat. There is nothing in the Bible specifically forbidding the eggs of unclean birds, but I personally will not touch them.
It may be a surprise to some that many consider birds of the order Galliformes (the quail family) to be clean; their diets can be quite disgusting at times. I have seen chickens greedily gobbling up bloody goat placentas and pecking snakes to death. Although they do eat flesh, they are not primarily carnivores, and their unique crop and gizzard arrangement handle their diet cleanly.
Carnivorous and scavenging fowl of various types such as eagles, owls, pelicans, ravens, seagulls, storks, vultures, etc, are unlawful. Ostrich and emu, which some have tried to promote as a food source, is unlawful.
And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you. Leviticus 11:10
The Law says only water-creatures with fins and scales may be eaten. This leaves the most commonly eaten fish, such as salmon, ling cod, albacore tuna, trout, bass, pike, walleye pickerel, perch, smelt, sardines, and tilapia as lawful to eat. This lawfullness naturally includes their roe, or eggs, known as "caviar". Everything else living in the waters, whether of ocean or river, is forbidden. Halibut, eulachon, some kinds of tuna, some kinds of cod, catfish, eel, sturgeon, swordfish, some kinds of sailfish and flying fish are forbidden. Swordfish and sturgeon have scales when they are young, but lose them when they reach maturity. If it helps you judge their kosherness, sturgeon urinate through their skin. If you don't skin them immediately on catching them, the meat is tainted. This is identical to sharks and their method of urination through the skin.
For all practical purposes, in todays Western world, God's seafood law means no mollusks. Clam, crab, lobster, mussel, oyster, and shrimp fall into this category. Other unlawful water dwellers commonly eaten outside the West are alligator, crocodile, dolphin, dugong, manatee, seal, shark, squid, walrus, and whale.
Frogs are an interesting case. Not only are they forbidden as aquatic creatures, but they don't meet the criteria for a lawful "leaping" land creature either, nor do they meet the criteria of splitting the hoof and chewing the cud for non-leaping land animals. Frogs were chosen to embody the three "unclean" and disgusting spirits coming forth from the beasts mouth in the book of Revelation. (Revelation 16:13) When you understand that frogs were already considered unclean, you can understand the repugnance that was supposed to be attached to these unclean spirits. You will notice that in Japanese cartoons for children, such as "Spirited Away", the benevolent ghosts and spirits are often depicted as frogs. This clearly contrasts with the Bible view of frogs.
Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. Leviticus 11:22
The grasshopper family, including crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts are lawful to eat. The word "beetle" is an incorrect translation of the Hebrew "chargol", which is a kind of grasshopper. If someone offers you a candied grasshopper, remember that John the Baptist lived on locusts and honey all the time that he wandered in the desert. They're kind of crunchy, like a cross between potato chips and mildly roasted peanuts, but with a richer, more interesting flavor.
If you miss eating shrimp, grasshopper is a very passable substitute.
Keith Hunt says: "grasshoppers have a crop, gizzard, gastric caeca and a stomach, in that order, from front to back. Truly, they could be classified as "clean birds" according to the Mishnah!" Like the other clean birds, grasshoppers eat a clean diet.
All other insects are not lawful. This includes ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, caterpillars, cockroaches, dragonflies, flies, mosquitoes, slugs, snails, and worms. The honey of bees however, is lawful.
But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. Genesis 9:4
For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. Leviticus 17:14
That which dieth of itself, or is torn with beasts, he shall not eat to defile himself therewith: I am the LORD. Leviticus 22:8
The Bible says eleven different times, "do not eat blood". It must be a pretty important restriction. Science has revealed that the blood stream acts as a gigantic waste disposal system, carrying toxins, viruses, and waste away from the muscles and organs. It is truly unclean and unhygienic. For practical purposes, this command rules out blood sausage, blood pudding, commercial meat containing "meat byproducts", and "diniguan" (A Filipino delicacy made of hogs blood).
Even when a clean animal is slaughtered, it is not clean to eat until the blood is drained out of it. The Bible doesn't say how to do this. The important thing is that an honest attempt is made to get the majority of the blood out. In the West, the rule of thumb has been to hang the animal vertically by it's feet, and let the blood drain out of it's throat until at there are at least 15 seconds between drips of blood.
Kosher and Halal butchering methods, where the butcher slits the animals throat and lets it bleed to death, are very quick and humane. The precedent for kosher slaughter is in Exodus 12:46, where it says the Passover lamb must be slaughtered without breaking any bones. Nowhere is kosher slaughter commanded in the scriptures, but my personal experience is that the animal drifts off to sleep very quickly, with no apparent pain or thrashing around.
Kosher meat preparation includes extensive washing with water and then using salt to "suck" the remaining fluid out of the meat for several hours. I personally have never tasted kosher meat, but have read that it is very tender and tasty. On the other hand I have heard that kosher meat has "no flavor". And another person told me that kosher meat is tasty "if you use the proper spices". Such measures in meat preparation is a matter of conscience. I personally do not view meat juice the same as the "life blood" that drains out immediately after slaughter.
Meat from animals that die by themselves, or are found dead, are unlawful to eat. In former days this usually meant animals that were killed by other animals and partially eaten. Today this includes roadkill. This law is a direct consequence of the necessity to bleed a food animal immediately after it dies. Unless you control the circumstances of the animals death, you have no idea what kind of poisons were inserted into it's body by the killing predator, or if it died of some disease.
Blood is to be poured into the ground. This precludes it's use for other purposes, such as creating serums for vaccines. This also precludes dumping it into the sewage system, which almost always leads to the river or ocean. Blood contains a lot of minerals and nutrients; when disposed of into the water system, those minerals and nutrients don't replenish the land the way they were intended to. Gardeners have found that animal blood greatly helps their compost heaps; this is a lawful use of blood.
It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood. Leviticus 3:17
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Ye shall eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat. Leviticus 7:23
Today's manufacturers of hamburger meat and hot dogs inject fat until it reaches a concentration of 30%. Is it any wonder that we are dying of heart disease, clogged arteries, and strokes? Next time you eat at MacDonalds remember that that tasty burger is forbidden under Jehovah's Law.
Animal fats are "trans fats". When vegetable fats, called "oils" are hydrogenated, they become chemically identical to animal fats. So if you eat hydrogenated oil in any form, you are breaking the ordinance against eating fat, and will reap the bad health consequences.
This Law refers to the body fats of clean animals, not to milk fats. Milk fats are healthy and good for you.
It is forbidden to eat fat. Some consider this to mean that all fatty parts, such as kidneys, tongue, and skin, should be thrown away. I agree with this. There is some fat present even in lean meat. That is why it is a good idea not to eat too much meat. Once a week, once a month, or just in the wintertime, is good. All clean meat containing fat needs to be roasted. As with blood, you can't remove all fat from meat, but you should remove what you reasonably can. There should at least be no big chunks or layers of fat left in the meat when you eat it.
Whatever fat drains away from the animal, you can use for anything except cooking and eating.
Food that is roasted together with meat, so that the fat of the meat comes in contact with it, is unlawful to eat. Gravy, which is made from the juices that come out of roasted meat, is unlawful until you remove the fat. To make lawful gravy, you refrigerate it. This makes the fat form a crust on top. You can remove the crust of fat, then the gravy is fine.
Kosher and Halal law forbid eating various internal organs. However, at the first passover, the Israelites were commanded to roast a sheep whole, only bleeding it. They were instructed to eat the whole thing. When making an offering, the kidneys and fatty membrane encasing the liver were to be burnt on the altar, and never eaten.
Once you smell the intense odor of cooked kidney, you can detect the same smell in heart meat, although to a lesser degree. Having smelled kidney once, the odor was so pungent that I cannot even eat heart meat now. Heart meat is very lean and tasty, but the uric smell is probably telling us that it is not good.
Tongue is an extremely fatty organ. You cannot cook the fat out of it, just as with duck meat. Because of the law against eating fat, I do not eat tongue.
By "baby food" I do not mean food for human babies. Milk, eggs, honey, nuts and grains are all "baby food". They are all very pure, easy to digest, and extremely nutritious packets of food made by their respective species to feed their "babies". They are also some of the most beneficial foods a human can eat, full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and extremely high energy content. Compared to these things, ordinary vegetables and tubers have less than half the food value.
Cheese, cottage cheese, keifer, yoghurt, and curds and whey are direct derivatives of milk. As the milk is lawful, so are these milk products. The eggs of clean birds are lawful to eat, and so is the roe of clean fish, since roe is just fish eggs.
And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. Genesis 18:8
Jewish Kosher rules say that dairy products and meat must not be mixed. The classic example of a kosher forbidden food is the cheeseburger. God himself disagrees with the Rabbis, since he set the example by sitting down and eating meat, milk, and butter together at the same meal.
Honey is a clean food, but shouldn't be given to babies who are less than twelve months old. Bees sometimes mistakenly collect botulism spores along with their pollen. When eaten, the human intestine kills the resulting Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Babies intestines can't yet deal with this bacteria, and so they get botulism, a form of toxic poisoning.
And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat. Genesis 1:30
Not only does the Bible specify what foods are fit for humans, but it specifies what foods are fit for animals. Some animals are carnivores, but since they are not lawful to eat, their diets need not concern us. The animals that are clean to eat, cows, sheep, and goats, are supposed to eat "green herbs". Seaweed, moss, lichen, and fungi are lawful animal food.
If todays food industry would follow God's law, there would be no mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). They violate the law by mixing chopped up animal organs, bones, blood, hair, hormones and even manure into the food they give the livestock. This isn't healthy for the poor animals, and the resulting polluted meat is dangerous for us.
We humans were given the very best of the foods, and what we leave behind was ordained to be food for the animals. When we eat grain, God grants the hay that is left over to the animals. When we eat vegetables, God grants the remaining parts of the plant to the animals. Even when we are vegetarians, we still wind up on top of the food chain!
Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee, And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat. A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. Leviticus 25:3-7,11,12
Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. Leviticus 19:19
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk. Exodus 23:19
And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day. Leviticus 22:28
If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young. Deuteronomy 22:6
And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. Genesis 1:20,21
Because we are at the top of the food chain, we need to show mercy and restraint in our eating habits. The Jews interpret these laws in a purely nutritional sense, saying that you cannot eat meat together with dairy products. This is false and unbiblical. These rules exist to remind us of God's mercy, and our human duty to extend that mercy to all the plants and animals which God put under our dominion.
God commanded the animals to swarm and multiply and fill the earth. By obeying the scriptures cited at the beginning of this section, we not only show mercy to the animals, but we show respect for the divine mission that God gave them. If you take eggs from a nest, you must leave the mother alone; you may not kill and eat her. Likewise, if you take a goats kid away, you may not cook the kid in its own mothers milk. It is a heinous crime to make a parent participate in the death of their innocent child. The world was horrified when reports came from Rwanda of parents being forced to watch as their children were hacked to pieces. These laws are also reminders that parents and children may not be punished for each others sins.
Although not directly discussed in scripture, the principle of mercy applies to methods of slaughter too. To be merciful, one must kill the animal quickly and painlessly, and start draining the blood as soon as possible. When one injures an animal while hunting, one has an obligation to locate it as quickly as possible and finish the kill, so it dies with as little agony as possible.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 1 John 3:4
Should you follow these laws today? The food laws predated Moses. Noah knew which animals were clean and unclean. Abel, son of the first man, Adam, raised and ate sheep, a clean and lawful meat. God gave the law directly to Adam concerning which vegetation he could and could not eat. Is it not reasonable that after the Flood, when men were authorized to eat meat, they would be restricted in that aspect of their diet too?
Jesus said that the things you eat would not make you unholy. However, God did not send out his word for it to have no effect. Even today, if we follow God's food laws, we will enjoy health benefits, including longer life. Even if you don't believe in God or in the keeping of his laws, for the sake of your health this particular set of laws is still worth following.
Good health to you!