Clean and Unclean Foods.

The question has been asked,

"Why don't the Jews eat pork?"

A fair question if you don't know what is going on.

It all starts in the Bible.

A religious Jew is very concerned about what is written in the first five books of the Old Testament. To them it is "The Law" - or God's instructions on how to live life.

In two different books, God describes what animals He made to be eaten by man, and those mankind should not eat. These descriptions can be found in  Lev 11 and Deut 14.

Let us look at the summary in,

Lev 11:46-47 NET  This is the law of the land animals, the birds, all the living creatures that move in the water, and all the creatures that swarm on the land,  (47)  to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between the living creatures that may be eaten and the living creatures that must not be eaten.' "

There are differences.

If things are obvious, then God will often leave it to us to work out what we should or should not do. For example, certain plants and fruits will make us sick, so we soon learn which ones not to eat.

However, in the animal kingdom, the difference between the clean and unclean are not obvious at first, so God has had Moses write down instructions about the ones he made to be eaten by man, and those mankind should leave alone.

What are those differences?

In the world of animals, fish and birds, there are two different types. The ones God made to be eaten by man, have a special system of digestion that either stops or takes out any poisons that could be bad for us. For example, those animals that chew their cud and have cloven hoofs, have multiple stomachs. The digestion process is longish, and the resulting meat is considered "clean". If you like there is a "barrier" between the poisons taken in/produced and the final meat.

The ones not made to be eaten have a different function. The food that they eat is digested quickly. Any poisons eaten or produced in the stomach are not filtered. For instance, the pig is made by God so that it can eat anything - including dead animals, and even rattlesnakes - and reduce them down to manure so that it can go back into the soil. Sharks also perform the same function in the sea, and vultures and hawks and the like, within the bird species.

However, some animals even go further, and absorb any toxic material in their environment. An example would be oysters. If there is any toxic mercury in the water, they will take it in (in an effort to keep the environment clean). If you eat oysters, then you could be giving yourself a "cocktail" of poisons - therefore oysters are on the unclean list.

What should we eat?


Those that have cloven hoofs and chew the cud.

Deu 14:6 NET  You may eat any animal that has hooves divided into two parts and that chews the cud.

The pig has cloven hoofs - but does not chew the cud, so is unclean. The camel chews the cud - but its hoof is not divided, so it too is unclean. And so on.


This one is easy - any fish that has fins and scales is clean and OK to eat.

Deu 14:9 NET  These you may eat from among water creatures: anything with fins and scales you may eat,

Sharks don't have scales, so are not OK to eat. All crustaceans (animals with their "bones" on the outside, such as prawns and lobsters) are not meant to be eaten. In general, all bottom dwellers are there just to keep the oceans clean - like pigs on the land.


This one is not so easy, but we can come up with things to look for. Clean birds will have a crop. They sit on a branch with three toes in front and one behind. They do not eat while flying. It is specifically stated that grass hoppers are clean, but not any other flying animal that walks on all fours.

A more complete list can be found on the website. At the top put "clean and unclean" into the Search box.

With hindsight.

If we - like the Jews - have read our Bibles and taken God's instructions to heart, and then we look at the statistics of who gets sick from what foods, we can see that ingesting toxins most often comes from the unclean foods group.

A couple of quick quotes about pigs from off the Internet, (

"The meat and fat of a pig absorbs toxins like a sponge. Their meat can be 30 times more toxic than beef or venison."

"Swine and pigs have over a dozen parasites within them, such as tapeworms, flukes, worms, and trichinae. There is no safe temperature at which pork can be cooked to ensure that all these parasites, their cysts, and eggs will be killed."

In short, they are walking garbage cans.

God knew we needed the instructions up front - and I thank Him for that.

Bob Orchard Sep 2015

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