Laws about what’s okay to eat
Don’t mourn like others1You are the LORD’s people. You belong to God. When you mourn the loss of someone, don’t express your sorrow by cutting yourself, like people in other nations do. And don’t shave the hair at the front of your head. 2You are the LORD’s chosen people, selected from among all the people in this world. You are devoted to the LORD your God, which makes you holy to him.
Land animals on a kosher menu3Don’t eat anything the LORD forbids you to eat. 4It’s okay to eat cattle, sheep, and goats. 5And you can eat deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, and mountain sheep. 6You can eat any animal that chews the cud and walks on split hooves.
7But you’re not allowed to eat animals that do only one of those two: chew the cud or walk on split hooves. These animals include camel, rabbit, rock hyrax. They chew a cud, but don’t have split hooves. They are ritually unclean for you and forbidden. 8The pig has split hooves but doesn’t chew a cud. Don’t eat it. Don’t even touch a pig’s dead carcass. Dead or alive, pigs are ritually unclean.
Seafood9You’re allowed to eat anything from the water that has fins and scales. 10But don’t eat anything that doesn’t have both. Those animals are ritually unclean.
Non-kosher birds11You can eat any ritually clean bird.
12But don’t eat any of these birds: eagle, vulture,
13any kind of kite, falcon,
14any kind of raven,
15ostrich, owl, any kind of hawk,
16little owl, great owl, white owl,
17pelican, Egyptian vulture, aquatic cormorant,
18stork, any kind of heron, hoopoe, and bat.
Kosher insects19If a critter has wings and can fly in a swarm, don’t eat it. It’s ritually unclean and not fit to eat. 20Birds aren’t in that group. You can eat any ritually clean bird.
Drop-dead animals21If an animal dies on its own, don’t eat it. You can give it or sell it to someone who’s not an Israelite, so others can eat it. But don’t you eat it; you’re devoted to the LORD your God. Also, don’t boil a young goat in the milk of its own mother.
Give 10 percent of what you produce22Give a 10 percent tithe of everything you harvest from the seeds you plant. 23Take your tithe to the place of worship that the LORD your God will choose. That’s where you’ll eat a meal from this tithe. You’ll eat some of your grain, new wine, olive oil. And you’ll have some meat from the firstborn animals of your herds and flocks. Do this to develop a growing and lasting respect for the LORD your God. 24If you live too far away to carry your tithe of crops and livestock to the worship center, 25you can sell it. Then bring the money to the worship center of the LORD your God.
26When you arrive at the worship center, use that money to buy whatever you want: cattle, sheep, wine or beer. Whatever you want. Then use it to prepare a meal that you and your family eat in the presence of the LORD your God. Celebrate. 27Hey, don’t forget the Levites who live near you. Give them their share of the tithe. That’s their salary. They didn’t get any tribal territory, and they depend on the tithe. 28Every third year, instead of taking your tithe to the worship center, store it somewhere locally. 29Then give it away. Give it to Levites who don’t own a tribal territory and who depend on the tithe for income. And give it to orphans and widows and immigrants. Let them all eat to satisfy their hunger. Do this so the LORD your God will bless you with success in the work you do.
It was common throughout the ancient nations in what is now the Middle East for mourners to express their grief by cutting their skin and shaving part of their heads (Jeremiah 16:6; Amos 8:10).
These are educated guesses of which animals the writer may have been talking about. The meaning of the Hebrew terms are not obvious.
An example: cattle, unlike horses, have a split down the middle of their hooves. They also chew the cud, which means they can chew the food for a while, swallow it, then recall it for a second chew. The first chew may simply moisten the food before the cow swallows it into the first of four sections of its stomach, the rumen. Stomach acids further soften the food and turn it into a ball of “cud.” Rumen muscles shoot the cud back to the cow’s mouth. After that chew, what’s left of the cud drops into another part of the stomach.
Native to Israel and surrounding nations, this small plant-eating animal looks a bit like the love critter of a groundhog and a Guinea pig. Kind of cute, until it opens its mouth and shows off what looks like vampire fangs.
Eating a ritually unclean animal would make the eater unclean, too, and unfit to worship in the worship center. Also, anyone the person touched would become unclean, as well. To cleanse themselves, they had to wash their clothes and wait until evening (Leviticus 11:28).
In many cases, scholars have to guess what birds or other animals the writer was talking about. That’s why Bible translation seems to vary a bit. The Bible writer didn’t describe all the birds and other animals with enough detail to identify them. For example, the first bird mentioned is a neser. That’s a Hebrew word that can mean eagle or vulture. And in 14:13, the word “falcon” comes from the Hebrew word ayya, which can refer to a falcon, vulture, or black kite.
Worshipers don’t eat their entire tithe. They apparently share a family meal taken from the tithe, as a way of celebrating their harvest and honoring God who provided all the ingredients for the harvest. Levites were to get their share of the tithe, too (14:27).
When a cow gives birth to its first calf, that firstborn animal belongs to God. It will be sacrificed. The same holds true for sheep and goats. Animals born after the first one belong to the herders.
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