This blog gains its name from the book Steele's Answers published in 1912. It began as an effort to blog through that book, posting each of the Questions and Answers in the book in the order in which they appeared. I started this on Dec. 10, 2011. I completed blogging from that book on July 11, 2015. Along the way, I began to also post snippets from Dr. Steele's other writings — and from some other holiness writers of his times. Since then, I have begun adding material from his Bible commentaries. I also re-blog many of the old posts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Leviticus 11:1-8: Beasts

"1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. 3 Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. 4 Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 5 And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 6 And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. 8 Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you." — Leviticus 11:1-8 KJV.


1.) The sacrifices have been instituted, the ritual of the altar has been ordained, the Aaronic priests have been consecrated, and under the supervision of Moses have performed their first official service. The nation, typically purged from sin, must be led along the path of holy living. To attain this end the people, unable through lack of intellectual and moral development to grasp broad principles and apply them to their own conduct, must be put into the school of manifold and minute rules of life. Fleshly ordinances were made, to a great extent, the channels of spiritual instruction, and for bringing perpetually into remembrance the grand distinctions of the law respecting good and evil. It was necessary that this should be spread out into a vast variety of forms, as the Mosaic dispensation admitted so very sparingly of direct instruction. The Israelite in the very food he ate must have something to remind him of the law of his God, and feel himself enclosed on every side with the signs and indications of that righteousness which it was his great duty, as a member of the covenant, to cherish and exemplify. Hence the nation in its childhood must be “under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father.” It must be thrust into “bondage to weak and beggarly elements” until the great Emancipator shall proclaim “the royal law of liberty.” As a man’s character is greatly affected by what he puts into his mouth, through the mysterious connexion between body and mind, the divine Lawgiver begins at the foundation and regulates the food of the chosen people. We cannot regard as wholly fanciful the suggestion of Wunderbar, that the animal element may only with great circumspection and discretion be taken up into the life of man, in order to avoid debasing that human life by assimilation to a brutal level, animalizing the affections and disqualifying the soul for drawing near to God. This should be regarded as a limitation to our Saviour’s announcement that “there is nothing from without a man that entering into him call defile him.” For the depression of the moral tone and the darkening of the spiritual intuitions by an improper treatment of the body are of the nature of a defilement.

2.) But the great purpose of Jehovah was to insulate the Hebrews from the surrounding idolatrous nations, that they might be witnesses to the unity of the Godhead and the worship of the one true and living God. Intercourse in ancient times, as now, was an interchange of hospitality. The banquet seals friendship. Hence it was most important that so strong a tie should not bind up into social unity the worshippers of Jehovah and the votaries of bloody and lustful gods. The natural effect of such association is not a matter of mere speculation. In Numbers 25:2, 3, we have an historical account of the moral and religious danger of accepting of the hospitality of idolaters. Nothing can be a more effectual barrier between nations than this legislation respecting the diet of the Israelites. It stood in the way of the unifying purpose of the Gospel of Christ, and it was removed from the heart of Peter only by a miraculous trance. Acts 10:9-18. Dietetic laws hedge about Mohammedanism, and keep the modern Jews, sojourning in all lands, from national absorption and extinction. This chapter treats of the clean and unclean cattle, fishes, fowls, wild beasts, and reptiles. It pronounces unclean the carcasses of all animals which have died a natural death. It enjoins upon Israel the duty of holiness, as the ground of the distinction in food. Hence the following dietary precepts are given without the assignment of any reasons, they being simple and requiring no exercise of the judgment in their application.


2. These are the beasts which ye shall eat — See Genesis 7:2.

3. Whatsoever parteth the hoof — There is here no limit to the number of divisions, but in Deuteronomy 14:6 we find the words “cleft into two claws.” Thus also the Seventy in this verse. And cheweth the cud — Literally, Causeth what has been chewed to come up. This describes the method of rumination. The ruminant is endowed with four stomachs. The first receives the vegetables coarsely bruised by a first mastication, which pass into the second, where they are moistened and formed into little pellets, which are brought up again to the mouth to be chewed again, then swallowed into the third stomach, from which they pass into the fourth, for final digestion. The qualities required in this verse exclude all carnivorous, but do not include all graminivorous, animals.

4. The camel — Some think that this beast is not to be eaten because of his extraordinary usefulness as “the ship of the desert.” But Jehovah pronounces him unclean, and for this reason commands his people to abstain from his flesh, a food much esteemed by the Arabs. Many attempts have been made to explain the grounds of this interdict of camel flesh, none of which is satisfactory. Divideth not the hoof — He does not fully divide the hoof into two equal parts, the front part only being cleft; he was excluded by the very terms of the definition. Since the number of camels in the East is immense, and their flesh is very palatable — according to Tristram’s taste less savoury than horse flesh — their prohibition was a great privation. The Jews, no doubt, ate camels’ milk, which is excellent. Jacob presented Esau with thirty milch camels. Genesis 32:15.

5. The coney —
The שָּׁפָ֗ן (shaphan), erroneously translated coney, is a gregarious, thick-skinned animal, living in caves and clefts of the rocks in Palestine. Its scientific name is hyrax Syriacus. Aside from this verse and its concordant, Deuteronomy 14:7, it is mentioned only in Psalm 104:18 and in Proverbs 30:26. It is scarcely of the size of the cat, timid, yet easily tamed, gray on the back, white on the belly, with long hair, a very short tail, and round ears. It resembles the Alpine marmot, and is not now very common in Palestine, though occasionally seen among the hills. It is singular in its structure and anatomy, being neither a ruminant nor a rodent, but is classed by naturalists between the hippopotamus and the rhinoceros. See Robinson, 3:387. Because he cheweth the cud — From the motion of their jaws both the hyrax and the hare were long supposed to ruminate, even by Linnaeus and other eminent naturalists. It is the opinion of modern scientists that they are only apparent, not real ruminants. The popular view is evidently given here. The mention of rumination is merely incidental, since it was not sufficient to classify them as clean. According to Revelation J.G. Wood the coney and the rabbit are rodents, and have to be working their chisel-like incisive teeth continually, to keep them sharp and from growing too long.

6. The hare —
This is probably the species lepus Sinaiticus, seen by modern travellers in the Sinaitic Peninsula and in Mount Lebanon. Hares are hunted in Syria with falcon and greyhound. Only the Arabs eat their flesh.

7. The swine — The Jews are not alone in their abhorrence of swine’s flesh. It was forbidden to the Egyptian priests, disallowed by the Koran, and rejected by the Phenicians, Ethiopians and other Eastern nations. At the present day a hog is scarcely ever seen in Palestine. Native Christians abstain from pork out of a prudential regard for the scruples of their Moslem and Jewish neighbours. Besides being a non-ruminant it is probable that the swine was excluded from the diet of the Hebrew on hygienic grounds, as liable to induce cutaneous diseases, especially the leprosy. The intimate connexion between disorders of the skin and the eating of pork is found in the derivation of the word scrofula, from the Latin scrofa, a breeding-sow.

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