“These are the living creatures which you may eat among all the land animals: any that has a separate hoof which is completely divided and chews the cud — these animals you may eat. But you are not to eat those that only chew the cud or only have a separate hoof. For example, the camel, the coney and the hare are unclean for you, because they chew the cud but don’t have a separate hoof; while the pig is unclean for you, because, although it has a separate and completely divided hoof, it doesn’t chew the cud. You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.-Leviticus 11:2-3
Today we are going to look at the characteristics of what type of BEHEMAH or land animals are okay for God’s people to eat.
The number one physical characteristic of a God-approved land animal is that it must have a cloven or separate hoof.
What exactly is a cloven hoof?
A cloven hoof is split so that it separates into TWO COMPLETELY SEPARATE PARTS.
As you can see by the picture, they look like two big toes.
There are many animals that have split hooves but they are only split at one end like horses for example.
A horse’s hooves don’t completely separate, front and back, to form two unattached pieces.
The second physical characteristic is that the land animal must “chew the cud”.
This explanation might be a bit on the gross side, but basically chewing the cud is the process whereby the animal only partially chews its food, swallows it, and then brings it back up later and chews it some more before swallowing again.
The biological term for animals that chew the cud is RUMINANTS.
These are animals whose stomachs are usually divided into four compartments.
The phrase “chewing the cud” is a description referring to how a ruminant’s digestive system is designed.
Now what’s interesting about verse 4 is that in this verse the Lord is giving some examples of those COMMON animals that were typically eaten in those times but that He deemed as a NO-NO for Israel.
And He also explains why.
For example, the camel or the hyrax, while they may chew the cud, do not have separate or cloven hoofs.
Actually, come to think of it, the hyrax doesn’t even have a hoof.
And the same also goes for the hare.
Rabbits chew the cud but don’t have hooves.
And of course, the ultimate symbol of uncleanness in the Bible is mentioned: the pig!
While pigs do indeed have cloven hoofs, they do NOT chew the cud.
Hence, the Lord has deemed them unfit for human consumption by any person who would consider him or herself to be a member of YAHWEH’s Kingdom.
To sum up, here are the three characteristics of those animals that are okay for believers to eat.
First, based on the use of the Hebrew word BEHEMAH which normally does NOT include wild animals, one requirement would seem to be that the land animal in question must be domesticated.
However, check out this Scripture.
“These are the animals you may eat:
the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer,
the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat,
the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep.
You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof
and that chews the cud.”
So rather than to be dogmatic and say this is a requirement, to be safe, I will just say that in THIS passage here in Leviticus 11, the Lord is talking about domestic animals.
Second, it must have a fully cloven hoof.
Third, it must chew the cud.