Was Noah instructed to “eat every moving thing”?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of dietary laws in the Bible, particularly regarding what was permitted for consumption after significant events such as the Fall of Man and the Flood, offers insights into God’s instructions for humanity’s well-being and spiritual purity. This exploration will examine the progression of dietary regulations from Eden to Noah’s time, including the distinction between clean and unclean animals, and the implications for understanding God’s design for humanity’s physical and spiritual health.

Dietary Laws in Eden

In the pristine environment of the Garden of Eden, God provided an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and grains, as a diet perfectly suited to sustain human life in its purest form (Genesis 1:29). This diet reflected God’s original intention for harmonious relationships between humans, animals, and the natural world, free from the corruption of sin and death.

Post-Eden: The Introduction of Animal Sacrifice

Following the Fall of Man and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, God introduced the practice of animal sacrifice as a means of atonement for sin (Genesis 3:21). The sacrificial system involved offering clean animals, such as sheep and goats, as a symbolic substitution for human transgression, foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the redemption of humanity. But there was no reference that humans were permitted to eat the flesh of animals.

Clean and Unclean Animals in Noah’s Time

During the time of Noah, God instructed Noah regarding the preservation of clean animals for sacrifice and propagation after the Flood. In Genesis 7:2-3, God commanded Noah to take with him seven pairs of every clean animal, male and female, and one pair of every unclean animal, male and female, into the ark. This distinction between clean and unclean animals suggested that even before the formalization of the Mosaic Law, God had established principles of dietary purity and sanctity.

“Every Moving Thing” – After the Flood

After the flood, the Lord instructs Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). This permission did not imply an unrestrained and unlimited eating of every kind of animal for the following reasons:

First, the phrase, “Every moving thing that lives,” clearly excluded the eating of carcasses of animals that had died or been killed by other beasts, which the Mosaic law later specifically forbade (Exodus 22:31; Leviticus 22:8). Second, though the distinction between clean and unclean animals concerning food was not given here, God’s command did not mean that it was unknown to Noah. Noah clearly knew this distinction from God’s previous command to bring more clean than unclean beasts into the ark (Genesis 7:2), and by the fact that he offered only clean animals as his burnt offering (Genesis 8:20). This distinction must have been known to humans that it was not necessary for God to bring it to Noah’s attention.

It was only when this distinction had been lost through the centuries of man’s departure from God that new and written directives were issued regarding clean and unclean animals (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). The immutability of God’s character (James 1:17) precludes the possibility of misusing this passage as permission to slaughter and eat all animals. Animals that were unclean for one purpose could not have been clean for another.

God saw beforehand that after the flood, there will arise a need for consumption of clean animals, therefore, He sent more clean animals into the ark than the unclean ones. As God allowed Noah and his family to eat all green herbs and naturally not all green herbs are fit to be eaten (some are poisonous or thorny), likewise, God allowed them to eat clean meats while its obvious that not all meats are healthy and fit for human consumption.

Clean and Unclean Animals in Mosaic Law

It is clear that the distinction of clean and unclean was known from the beginning at the time of Noah but with the passing of generations, this knowledge was forgotten which necessitated that God would give it again through a written instruction by Moses in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.

With the establishment of the Mosaic Law, God provided specific guidelines regarding clean and unclean animals for dietary and ceremonial purposes. Leviticus 11 outlines these distinctions, categorizing animals based on characteristics such as cloven hooves and chewing the cud. Clean animals, which met these criteria, were considered suitable for consumption and sacrificial offerings, while unclean animals were prohibited (Leviticus 11:1-47).

Application and Lessons

  1. Physical Health and Hygiene: The dietary laws outlined in the Bible, including the distinction between clean and unclean animals, have practical implications for human health and hygiene. Clean animals, which typically include herbivores with characteristics conducive to cleanliness, pose fewer risks of transmitting diseases to humans when consumed.
  2. Spiritual Purity and Holiness: Beyond their physical benefits, the dietary laws also symbolize spiritual principles of purity and holiness. Just as clean animals were considered suitable for offering sacrifices in worship to God, maintaining dietary purity reflects a commitment to honoring God with one’s body and lifestyle (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  3. Separation from Worldly Practices: Observing dietary laws serves as a reminder of the importance of spiritual separation from worldly practices and influences. By abstaining from unclean foods, believers demonstrate their dedication to living in accordance with God’s standards of righteousness and obedience (Romans 12:2).

Conclusion

The progression of dietary regulations from Eden to Noah’s time reflects God’s concern for humanity’s physical and spiritual well-being. While the specific guidelines regarding clean and unclean animals may have evolved over time, the underlying principles of purity, obedience, and worship remain constant. By honoring God’s instructions for dietary purity, believers demonstrate their commitment to holiness, stewardship of their bodies, and devotion to God’s will. As followers of Christ, may we seek to glorify God in every aspect of our lives, including our dietary choices, as we strive to reflect His character and share His love with the world.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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