In Genesis 9:3 it says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you” but in Deuteronomy it gives a list of the clean and unclean meats. Can you explain?

Hello E,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

“Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3).

After the flood, God for the first time authorized, or rather allowed, men to eat meat as food out of necessity. The wicked antediluvians were flesh eaters but it was not the original will of the Creator that His creatures should consume flesh. He had given man plants for food (Gen. 1:29). With the temporary destruction of all plant life during the flood and the exhaustion of the food supplies that were taken into the ark, an emergency arose that God met by giving permission to eat the flesh of animals.

This permission did not imply an unrestrained and unlimited eating of every kind of animal. The phrase, “moving thing that liveth,” clearly excludes the eating of carcasses of animals that had died or been killed by other beasts, which the Mosaic law later specifically forbade (Ex. 22:31; Lev. 22:8). Further, Noah had been given the instructions concerning the distinction between the clean and unclean animals. He brought more clean than unclean beasts into the ark (Gen. 7:2), and he offered only clean animals as his burnt offering (Gen. 8:20).

This distinction must have been known to early man so well that it was not necessary for God to draw Noah’s special attention to it. It was only when this distinction had been lost through the centuries of man’s estrangement from God that new and written directives were issued regarding clean and unclean animals  (Lev. 11; Deut. 14). The unchanging character of the Lord (James 1:17) precludes the possibility of making this passage as permission to slaughter and eat all creatures for food. Animals that were unclean for one purpose could not have been clean for another.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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