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Answer: In Leviticus 11:3 two general rules are given by which it
might be known what animals were permitted to Israel for food: one
which has a split hoof and chews the cud.

The text of Lev. 11:6 states: "The hare, because it chews the cud but
does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you...".

It is true that the hare, as well as the rock hyrax, or rock badger
(v.5, rendered coney NIV) do not technically ruminate. It is not God's
purpose here to provide a complete scientific classification, but
rather He is giving a simple and practical "rule of thumb" for
distinguishing between clean and unclean quadrupeds.

Both the rock badger and the hare work their jaws in such a way as to
appear to ruminate. I have read that this sort of animal chews half an
hour after eating: therefore they were classified popularly with cud
chewers.  Their thoroughness in chewing falls within the empirical
significance of the Hebrew phrase.

To flatter oneself that he has discovered a foolish mistake on Moses'
part because the hare has a single stomach, and does not have the four
stomach compartments of the ruminanita is to create a problem where
none exists. It is to misunderstand the purpose of the passage.

There were several reasons for the dietary restrictions.

Israel was set apart as God's holy nation. They were to be a separate
people. They were in covenant relationship with God, and every detail
of their lives was to reflect this. The dietary restrictions were an
extension of this principle, even as further reading in this passage
shows: ..."you shall be holy; for I am holy..." (Lev. 11:44,45). That
is the "big picture."

But there may have been other considerations. Some students of
Scripture believe that some of the dietary rules were given because of
idolatrous practices of Israel's neighbors. For example, the Canadian
scholar Peter C.  Craigie (now deceased, former Associate Professor of
Religious Studies at The University of Calgary) says this regarding
the pig: "...the sacred associations of the pig/boar with certain
Canaanite-Syrian cults may have made the pig particularly
reprehensible to the Hebrews..."(NICO.Deut.231).

Even if Israel then, or we today, may not understand WHY God commanded
or forbad a given thing, the fact is, He is God. He is our creator,
and the sustainer of life. We are the creatures. Our part is to
believe and obey His will.

One other observation I would make is that these dietary restrictions,
were applicable during the Mosaic dispensation. Under the New
Testament, this distinction between clean and unclean animals was
removed. Jesus, in Mark 7:19, declared all meats clean (Mt. 15:17-20;
Acts 10:10-15). But the principle is permanent; that is, Christians
must have discernment, and avoid what is unclean (sinful) (2 Cor. 7:1;
Phil. 1:9-11; Heb. 5:14). ---Leon Mauldin

If you have corrections, questions, comments or suggestions about these questions and answers, please contact Leon Mauldin directly at

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