Leviticus 11 (in concert with Deuteronomy 14:3) provides a description of the animals that are unsuitable for food for G-d's people, Israel.
Leviticus 11:3-8 describes the animals that are "kosher" [kosher is a Hebrew word that means "proper"].
Acceptable animals are those that:
- have a divided hoof/split hooves
- chews the cud
Camels, the shaphan (possibly a "coney" or rock rabbit?), and hares are specifically excluded. Even though they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof. The pig is excluded. Even though it has a split hoof it does not chew the cud. Leviticus 11:8 indicates that not only should G-d's people not eat of it but they should not touch their carcasses because they are unclean.
Leviticus 11:9-12 describes the things "in the water" that are suitable for food. The scope of things "in the water" would include fish, shellfish, beavers, otters, etc.
Acceptable things "in the water" are those that:
- have fins
- have scales
Anything with fins and scales is suitable for food. Leviticus 11:12 indicates that anything in the water without fins and scales should be considered "abhorrent". The Hebrew word there is שׁקץ (sheqets) which means "filth".
Leviticus 11:13-19 describes the things "among the birds" which are unsuitable for food. Birds are described differently from the animals and fish in that only animals that are unsuitable are listed. The general gist of what is forbidden seems to be birds that are scavengers or birds of prey:
- the eagle
- the vulture
- the buzzard
- the kite
- every kind of falcon
- every kind of raven
- the ostrich
- the owl
- the seagull
- every kind of hawk
- the little owl
- the cormorant
- the great owl
- the white owl
- the pelican
- the carrion vulture
- the stork
- every kind of heron
- the hoopoe
- the bat
Leviticus 11:20-23 describes the insects which are suitable for food:
- Insects that walk on all fours are forbidden
- Insects that walk on all fours but have jointed legs with which to jump are permitted
Leviticus 11:27-30 provides some general prohibitions and lists specific animals that are unsuitable for food.
These things are forbidden:
- whatever walks on paws (e.g. dogs and cats)
- the mole
- the mouse
- all kinds of great lizard
- the gecko
- the crocodile
- the lizard
- the sand reptile
- the chameleon
Leviticus 11:41-43 provides some additional clarification:
These things are forbidden:
- swarming things that swarm the earth
- whatever crawls on its belly (i.e. snakes and lizards)
- whatever has many feet
It interesting to note that G-d uses a single chapter in Scripture to describe the creation of the entire universe. He then uses multiple chapters in other parts of Scripture to describe animals which are unsuitable for food. This particular passage regarding clean and unclean animals and things that are and are not suited for food (Leviticus 11) concludes with the following:
'For I am the LORD your G-d. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your G-d; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.' This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten. (Leviticus 11:44-47)
G-d tells us that we should
be holy because
He is holy
G-d tells us that we should be holy because He is holy and that these "food laws" are matters of holiness.
For more information see What Scripture Says About Holiness.
As followers of Messiah Yeshua, we should also actively consider what He said about these matters.