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What was a clean animal to a Hebrew?

Deut 14:6 And every beast that parteth the hoof, and cleaveth the cleft into two claws, and cheweth the cud among the beasts, that ye shall eat. 

There is a twofold prescription for a clean animal:

  1. Parted Hoof

  2. Chewed the Cud

The issue becomes why the distinction? Why parted hoofs and chewing the cud? Because further in the chapter there are animals that have split hoofs but don’t chew the cud, or vise versa, an animal that chews the cud but doesn’t split the hooves.

Seems like splitting hairs, splits hooves, chewing the cud, what is going on here?

An examination of the animals in question does reveal some interesting facts. 

For example, a split hooved animal according to a hunter friend of mine has a very stable foot hold. A mountain goat can climb up on steep, steep, cliffs with little or no effort. The hoof design is one of a shovel and a clamp.

Goats Hoove

Picture taken from: The Atlas of Topographical Anatomy of Domestic Animals, By Peter Popesko,1977  Page 90

 Quite interesting engineering. 

Bottom line, is that the split hoofed animal has a “sure footing” or a “secure foot hold” on the unstable ground beneath. 

My hunter friend noted:  

The hoof of a mountain goat spears the gravel.  When hunting mountain goats you will notice that the shale is loose and full of gravel and small material.  Our feet are flat and the gravel slides out from under our feet.  We have make one step and slide back half a step, or sometimes we slide back further and loose all our gains.  Or you may even slide right off the mountain. A goat has pointed hoofs and he jabs them into the ground making an anchor point like a peer.  Each step he takes is equal to one step and he goes right up the mountain, fast. Its funny to watch them stab at the ground as they run away to safety."

The amazing foot hold of the animal is obviously of note.

What about chewing the cud? 

What is note worthy about that? 

Again, an examination of the cow versus the pig for example will show two distinct digestive tracts. 

A cow has 4 stomachs and a pig 1. The cow actually chews on the food at least 4 times before passing it through the intestinal tract. The action of chewing is mixing vital enzymes into the food. Because of the nature of the food, multiple chewings (mixings) are required for complete use of the food energy.

Cow's Stomach

Picture taken from: The Atlas of Topographical Anatomy of Domestic Animals, By Peter Popesko,1977  Page 53

The pig however, only eats once. The characteristic of a pig also is its frantic “shnarfing” down of food. Almost a non-conscious munching and devouring.

That final picture of “shnarfing” and “devouring” is key to the picture of unclean in contrast to the “chewing” or “methodical processing” of the food of the clean animal.

The two pictures together of “sure footedness” and “methodical chewing” are to be linked and picture a very important picture.

The Christian man is to be “bold as a lion” and also to be “thinking about tomorrow.”

In the Psalms it speaks of the children “contending with the wicked in the gates” and also “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Duet 8:3)

The picture of the clean animals was one of ethic or the way one lives righteously in the earth. The foot steps of the individual are measured and sure. The action of the individual is well thought out, and based on the Laws of God. In fact Psalm 1 bears that fact out as the Psalmist uses a metaphor of chewing in his description of the Blessed man.

The clean animal, never had an significance towards making you healthier. The intent was picture, a picture that should be studied.

What Is The Lesson?

A basic lesson of Hebrew culture is always ask the “why?” question. Why would God do that? What is he trying to teach us here? It is always something much deeper than just eating, and drinking, it is always about Righteousness, and what God wants done in the earth.

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