THE DIETARY LAWS IN LEVITICUS
ERROR: "When the sons of Israel were released from the bondage of Egypt they received from Yahweh through His servant Moses the commandments, statutes and judgements - including the dietary law." Clean Food And The New Testament (P.3) Yahweh's Assembly In Messiah
FACT: The dietary laws were not given at the same time as the Ten Commandments. They were given one full year later. Unfortunately few people know about this time difference which is the key to understanding why the dietary laws were given to the nation of Israel.
Please bear with me as this subject is too important to be discussed briefly. Here are the Biblical facts concerning the chain of events leading to the food laws being given to the nation of Israel:
1. God spoke from heaven and made a covenant with the nation of Israel which included the Ten Commandments, (see EX 20:1-17) and the statutes to be included in that covenant. (Ex 20:21-23:33).
2. Then after all the instructions had been given, God promised to keep sickness away (23:25) and to protect them from the enemy if they would obey Him, Moses ratified the covenant with the sprinkling of blood upon the people:
"Moses came and told the people ALL THE WORDS of the LORD and ALL the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice. and said,"All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do." ....And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with ALL these words." (EX 24:3,8)
In that first covenant that God made with Israel THERE WERE NO DIETARY LAWS! In "all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances" given to the people of Israel, there were no restrictions concerning foods.
3. Then the LORD told Moses to go up on the mountain where He would write the commandments on tables of stone. After forty days The LORD told Moses that the Israelites had already broken His covenant and He was going to destroy the whole nation, every man woman and child. (EX 32:8-9)
4. Moses pleaded for the LORD to spare the Israelites and to blot out himself in their place. "But the LORD said to Moses":
"Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." (EX 32:33)
The LORD consented to sparing Israel as a nation, but those who had broken His covenant would be punished. The end result was that all the adults who came out of Egypt fell in the wilderness and never received the promise of the LORD except two, Joshua and Caleb.
5. Again the LORD called Moses to the mountain and gave him another set of tablets and made A SECOND COVENANT with the nation of Israel. (EX 34:10)
6. It was a full year after the original covenant was made with Israel that the dietary laws were given. These were part of the second covenant (remember that the first covenant had been ratified by blood and contained no food laws-see #2. above) We know that it was a year later because the book of Leviticus begins:
"The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting [the tabernacle].... (LEV 1:1)
According to Biblical scholars the construction of the tabernacle was complete in about one year. So we see that the food laws were not given until after the tabernacle was completed and were not part of the LORD"S original covenant with Israel. Why were they added?
7. It is at this point that we must deal with a very perplexing passage of scripture in the book of Ezekiel which reads:
"Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them through the countries, because they had not executed my ordinances, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my Sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers's idols. MOREOVER I GAVE THEM STATUTES THAT WERE NOT GOOD AND ORDINANCES BY WHICH THEY COULD NOT HAVE LIFE;" (EZK 20:23)
What were these statutes that were "not good"? It could not have been the Ten Commandments or the statutes given in the first covenant made with Israel because in the book of Nehemiah the Bible says:
"Thou didst come down upon Mt. Sinai, and speak with them from heaven AND GIVE THEM RIGHT ORDINANCES AND TRUE LAWS,GOOD STATUTES AND COMMANDMENTS." Neh 9:13
According to Nehemiah this happened before the Israelites "appointed a leader to return to their bondage in Egypt" (9:17) and before they "had made for themselves a molten calf" (9:18). As you can see, the statutes that were not good must have been given after the first covenant was broken because all the statutes given before the making of the golden calf were "right, true, and good".
Obviously not all of the Mosaic law given subsequent to the making of the golden idol should be considered statutes that were not good. For example the command to "love your neighbor as your self" (LEV 19:18) was repeated by our Lord Jesus as necessary to inherit eternal life. And yet in the book of Acts, Peter speaking of the Mosaic law says:
"Now therefore why do you make a trial of God by putting a YOKE UPON THE NECK of the disciples which neither our fathers or we have been able to bear?" ACTS 15:10)
And Paul in the book of Galatians, speaking of the Mosaic "book of the law" said:
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the YOKE OF BONDAGE." (GAL 5:1)
Why then were the food laws added to the covenant? According to the Bible, the food laws were added as an additional burden to the people of Israel in order to keep them separate from the peoples of the nations that surrounded them. In the book of Leviticus The LORD says exactly that in no uncertain terms...
"You shall therefore keep my statutes and all my ordinances, and do them; that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out...
...But I have said to you, 'You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.' I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, WHO HAVE SEPARATED YOU FROM THE PEOPLES.
You shall THEREFORE make a distinction between the clean beast and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground teems, which I have SET APART FOR YOU TO HOLD UNCLEAN.
You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and have SEPARATED YOU from the peoples that you should be mine." (LEV 20:22-26)
The clean and unclean food laws were part of the yoke of bondage and were a means of keeping the people of Israel apart from the nations around them. After the resurrection of Christ it was no longer the will of God to keep the Gentiles separate from the Jews. Paul was careful to say exactly that in the book of Ephesians. He wrote:
"...remember that you [Gentiles] were at that time separated from Christ, ALIENATED FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one [Jews and Gentiles] and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, BY ABOLISHING IN HIS FLESH THE LAW OF COMMANDMENTS AND ORDINANCES,"
We know the food laws must be included in the list of ordinances that were abolished because the reason they were given was to keep Israel separate from the Gentiles. God in his wisdom knew that people who could not eat together would soon become as separate as if there was a "dividing wall of hostility" between them.