Under the Levitical law, there were restrictions on what those who followed the God of Israel could eat. Certain foods were deemed clean and unclean. These foods were mostly outlined in the Book of Leviticus. It addresses creatures on the earth, insects, birds, and creatures of the sea.
These rules can be summarized with the following verses and examples:
Creatures on the earth: “ Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat” (Leviticus 11:3).
Creatures of the sea: “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you” (Leviticus 11:9-10).
Birds of the air: “And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind, every raven of any kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat” (Leviticus 11:13-18).
Winged Insects: “Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you” (Leviticus 11:22-23).
Other restrictions include swarming things, with a few exceptions, and snakes. Many of the animals that are unclean under this system are scavengers in some way, able to survive by consuming dead animals, and many of the fish forbidden by the Law are bottom feeders. The handling of carcasses, both human and animal, is what a large portion of the cleanliness laws address.
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