The Permissibility of Eating Particular Animals (Leviticus 11)
There are several plausible theories about the rules governing animals for human consumption in Leviticus 11. Each cites supporting evidence, yet none enjoys a general consensus. Sorting them out is beyond our scope here, but Jacob Milgrom offers a perspective directly related to the workplace. He notes three dominant elements: God severely limited Israel’s choice of animal food, gave them specific rules for slaughter, and prohibited them from eating blood that represents life and therefore belongs to God alone. In light of these, Milgrom concludes that Israel’s dietary system was a method of controlling the human instinct to kill. In short, “Though they may satisfy their appetite for food, they must curb their hunger for power. Because life is inviolable it may not be tampered with indiscriminately.” If God chooses to get involved in the details of which animals may be killed and how it is to be done, how could we miss the point that the killing of humans is even more restricted and subject to God’s scrutiny? This view suggests more applicability to the present day. For example, if every agricultural, animal, and food service facility practiced daily accountability to God for the treatment and condition of its animals, wouldn’t it be all the more attentive to the safety and working conditions of its people?
In spite of the extensive details in Leviticus that initiate the ongoing discussion of food in the Bible, it would be inappropriate for any Christian to try to dictate what all believers must do and avoid doing regarding the provision, preparation, and consumption of food. Nonetheless, whatever we eat or don’t eat, Derek Tidball rightly reminds Christians of the centrality of holiness. Whatever one’s stance on these complex issues, it cannot be divorced from the Christian’s commitment to holiness. Holiness calls upon us even to eat and drink “for the glory of God.” The same applies to the work of producing, preparing, and consuming food and drink.
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 704-42.
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 105.
Derek Tidball, The Message of Leviticus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 15.