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Let's discuss edible insects....

In the annual reading of the Parashas one comes upon the rules in Leviticus describing what can and cannot be eaten. These rules are found in Leviticus 11:1 through 11:23.

Verses 20-23 cause a particular problem because they describe which insects can be eaten and many are quick to leap on the apparent scientific error implied because the verses refer to bugs with only "four legs" and, as we all know, insects have six legs!

So what gives? Are we to wonder whether or not Moshe (Moses) could count?

The Bible is inerrant - we err in our modern interpretation!

A simple Google search reveals that many charge the Bible as being "false" or "in error" because (we all know) insects have six legs, not four, so therefore the entire Bible cannot be trusted, or they go off on some tangent about how the description only means that they "counted the legs" differently in those days, and compare the Bible verses to George Orwell's "Animal Farm", citing (of all things) "Snowball the pig's' slogan: Four legs good, two legs bad". Really? Explaining the Word of YHWH by Snowball the pig?

I really don't think we need to go to such extremes to understand Leviticus 11, so let me ask you to shake off everything you've ever thought about these verses, forget whatever anyone else has said, and look at this whole issue with fresh eyes. Here we go!

We already know that green plants are edible, because these are found near the very beginning of the narrative of the revelation of YHWH to us by Moshe in Genesis chapters 1 and 9:

Genesis 1:29 [Speaking about the humans He just created - male and female] Then God said, "Here! Throughout the whole earth I am giving you as food every seed-bearing plant and every tree with seed-bearing fruit."

Genesis 1:30 "And to every wild animal, bird in the air and creature crawling on the earth, in which there is a living soul, I am giving as food every kind of green plant." And that is how it was.

Genesis 9:3 [Speaking to Noach] "Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I gave you green plants before, so now I give you everything"

[Now don't get ahead of me here! In Genesis 9:3, YHWH is NOT saying that "every" animal is food for Noach and his family; rather, see Genesis 7:2 - YHWH tells Noach to take into the Ark "Of every clean animal you are to take seven couples, and of the animals that are not clean, one couple". So Noach already knew which animals were clean and which were unclean! Thus, by the commandment in Genesis 9:3 which says "Every moving thing that lives will be food for you", it can only mean "clean moving things" to Noach.]

Do take note that the first we hear of what humans can eat is in Genesis and it is "every seed-bearing plant" and every tree with "seed-bearing fruit". Therefore we already have a sense that YHWH intended only certain things for us to eat, for while telling us we can eat seed-bearing fruits and plants, it simultaneously implies that plants that do not bear seeds, we cannot eat! This is a most important understanding!

Take note also that during the creation, YHWH gives every wild animal, bird in the air, and creature crawling on the earth "as food every kind of green plant"! So it seems that YHWH intended EVERY animal, bird and creature to eat green plants!

But evil entered the world.

We are not told how, but only that "...the serpent was more crafty than any wild animal which YHWH, God, had made." And we all know it was the serpent which mislead Havah (Eve) to take of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Through this all-too-brief story, we learn that the rules clearly changed. No longer could man simply eat any green plant or seed-bearing tree, but now he had to cultivate, and clear out the weeds and take great care to fend for himself. See Genesis 3:17-24.

Obviously a lot happened after Adam and Havah's fall from grace which was not recorded by Moshe. Perhaps the story was too difficult to tell, we will never know. But Genesis 4 begins with the story of Kayin (Cain) and Hevel (Abel) and you know how that turns out, but nothing further is mentioned in the revelation of what clearly was a significant change in the hierarchy of food! What little we know is that by the time of Noach, in Genesis 6, YHWH was very unhappy with His creation and that clearly, YHWH had to make a distinction between clean and unclean foods:

Genesis 6: 6 YHWH regretted that he had made humankind on the earth; it grieved his heart. 7 YHWH said, "I will wipe out humankind, whom I have created, from the whole earth; and not only human beings, but animals, creeping things and birds in the air; for I regret that I ever made them."

And....

Genesis 6: 18 [Speaking to Noach] But I will establish my covenant with you; you will come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 "From everything living, from each kind of living being, you are to bring two into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they are to be male and female. 20 Of each kind of bird, each kind of livestock, and each kind of animal creeping on the ground, two are to come to you, so that they can be kept alive. 21 Also take from all the kinds of food that are eaten, and collect it for yourself; it is to be food for you and for them." 22 This is what Noach did; he did all that God ordered him to do.

Genesis 7: 1 YHWH said to Noach, "Come into the ark, you and all your household; for I have seen that you alone in this generation are righteous before me. 2 Of every clean animal you are to take seven couples, and of the animals that are not clean, one couple; 3 also of the birds in the air take seven couples - in order to preserve their species throughout the earth.

And finally, as I mentioned earlier, Noach is told in Genesis 9:3, that clean animals are edible, and from Genesis 1:29 and Genesis 3:17-19, we know that the food chain changed! Man now had to ferret out from amongst all plants and animals, just what was permitted as food!

So we know that something happened, just not what! Between Genesis 1:29, and Genesis 3:17-19, clearly things changed. We know only that by the time of Noach, rules existed for foods because Scripture is clear that Noach knew to take clean and unclean animals on the Ark.

Now let me turn back to Leviticus 11:20-23, the perplexing verses about bugs.

In Moshe's time, many generations had passed since Noach, and Moshe was capturing, perhaps for the first time in writing the laws for food. The laws for meat in Leviticus 11:1-19 are not terribly hard to understand. Of the large animals of the land, water, and air it is fairly easy to tell which is edible and which is not. In this there is not much argument. But when it comes to bugs, in Leviticus 11:20-23 and 42-43, it is not so clear!

Let's look at these verses and examine them.

Leviticus 11: 20 "'All winged swarming creatures that go on all fours are a detestable thing for you; 21 except that of all winged swarming creatures that go on all fours, you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, enabling them to jump off the ground. 22 Specifically, of these you may eat the various kinds of locusts, grasshoppers, katydids and crickets. 23 But other than that, all winged swarming creatures having four feet are a detestable thing for you.

Leviticus 11: 42 whatever moves on its stomach, goes on all fours, or has many legs -all creatures that swarm on the ground; you are not to eat them, because they are a detestable thing. 43 You are not to make yourselves detestable with any of these swarming, crawling creatures; do not make yourselves unclean with them, do not defile yourselves with them.

Many people zero-in on the words "goes on all fours" citing that "insects have six legs!" These same people like to use these verses to point to "errors" in the Bible, and therefore claim that the entire Bible cannot be trusted! (Truth be had, there are errors in translations of the Bible, but that is an entirely different topic). Yes, how dare the Bible say insects have FOUR legs when we all know they have SIX!

I say to this mindset: GROW UP!

Yes, grow up! First, the text of the Pentateuch (first five Books of the Bible) was written something like 3000+ years ago, and what gives anyone the right to assume the definition of "insect" (if there was such word in that age) carried the same definition of "6 legs" as it does today?

I do not pretend to know why Scripture refers to "goes on all fours" instead of "goes on all six" as we might describe it today. There is a clear distinction in verse 21 which says "...except that of all winged swarming creatures that go on all fours, you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, enabling them to jump off the ground." Any novice, even today, can look at a grasshopper, katydid, or cricket and see that the rear two legs are clearly different than the other four, and that the rear legs are powerful appendages allowing the bug to jump, leaving 4 "lesser" legs on which they walk - just as the Bible describes.

You can readily see that these illustrations of the edible insects do, indeed, look like they have "4 legs" and that pair at the rear is clearly not the "same" as the legs on which the bug walks. When still, notice that the rear, jumping legs can even be "tucked in" such that the bug appears to be using only its 4 legs!

Thus the true answer of "4 legs" most likely lies in the simple fact that in ancient times, bugs with a powerful pair of rear legs used for jumping were far more common than the others, and that the people of the day simply thought that all bugs should have powerful jumping legs, leaving only four legs by which they walked, and it was simply the completely normal conclusion that "bugs have four legs" and that of those that did not have powerful jumping legs, well, they still had four walking legs, and two useless jumping legs!

Only modern man would insist that ancient man must have known that the genre of the "insect" had 6 legs the same way we describe them today, and conclude that the Bible is "in error." No, I don't think this is a proper conclusion.

Let's look at some other verses in the same chapter of Leviticus for comparison.

Leviticus 11: 13 "'The following creatures of the air are to be detestable for you - they are not to be eaten, they are a detestable thing: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, 14 the kite, the various kinds of buzzards, 15 the various kinds of ravens, 16 the ostrich, the screech-owl, the seagull, the various kinds of hawks, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the horned owl, the pelican, the barn owl, 19 the stork, the various kinds of herons, the hoopoe and the bat.

Without any details revealed in Scripture as to why each of these flying animals are not to be eaten, take a moment to figure it out for yourself. Go ahead...I'll wait....

Did you see it? All of these birds EAT MEAT! These are all carnivores or, will eat anything (the seagull and ostrich for example).

You think this is not important? Then please go back to Genesis 1:30:

"And to every wild animal, bird in the air and creature crawling on the earth, in which there is a living soul, I am giving as food every kind of green plant." And that is how it was.

Remember, earlier, when I said that "something changed"? Between the time when YHWH created the animals, and gave them only every kind of green plant to eat, something changed such that when the serpent tempted Havah, some animals - the serpent included - now were somehow now "evil" ("the serpent was more crafty than any wild animal...") and many animals, which had formerly only eaten green plants, now ate meat! These birds in Leviticus 11:13-18 now ate meat (or anything), and YHWH was warning His precious chosen that they should not eat of them.

Now let us look at YHWH's prescription for which large animals we could eat:

Leviticus 11: 2 "Tell the people of Isra'el, 'These are the living creatures which you may eat among all the land animals: 3 any that has a separate hoof which is completely divided and chews the cud - these animals you may eat. 4-6 But you are not to eat those that only chew the cud or only have a separate hoof. For example, the camel, the coney and the hare are unclean for you, because they chew the cud but don't have a separate hoof; 7 while the pig is unclean for you, because, although it has a separate and completely divided hoof, it doesn't chew the cud.

Take a really close look at these verses and ask "What is it about these animals which differentiates them?"

Do you see it? Clean edible animals only eat grasses! They are distinguished by a completely split hoof and chewing the cud! All others eat meat (or junk - the pig for example)!

This is brilliant! Of the birds, we can only eat those which are not carnivores, and of those large land animals we can only eat those which are not carnivores. Wow!

What about fish? Does this rule hold? Here are the verses:

Leviticus 11: 9 "'Of all the things that live in the water, you may eat these: anything in the water that has fins and scales, whether in seas or in rivers -these you may eat. 10 But everything in the seas and rivers without both fins and scales, of all the small water-creatures and of all the living creatures in the water, is a detestable thing for you. 11 Yes, these will be detestable for you -you are not to eat their meat, and you are to detest their carcasses. 12 Whatever lacks fins and scales in the water is a detestable thing for you.

It's a little different here, but study these verses to see the revelation.

...Okay, here it is; I'm happy to help you out: Only those fish with fins and scales eat only the green plants of the oceans, lakes, or rivers. Those water animals such as crab, shrimp, lobster, crawfish, catfish, clams, mussels - well, they eat decaying matter, or dead animals from the river or sea bed, or even live animals. In other words, they eat the crap on the ocean floor!

Look at what we have learned! Of all the animals YHWH tells us not to eat, it is only those which eat meat or disease-riddled crap from decay! And yes, this includes the PIG from which we get ham, bacon, and pork chops, all of which is FORBIDDEN because the pig consumes CRAP.

Okay, you can see a theme here.... Now, what about bugs? So as not to keep you in suspense, here it is:

Of those insects listed of which are permissible to be eaten....they consume only green plants! Look at the list!

Leviticus 11: 20 "'All winged swarming creatures that go on all fours are a detestable thing for you; 21 except that of all winged swarming creatures that go on all fours, you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, enabling them to jump off the ground. 22 Specifically, of these you may eat the various kinds of locusts, grasshoppers, katydids and crickets. 23 But other than that, all winged swarming creatures having four feet are a detestable thing for you.

And....

42 whatever moves on its stomach, goes on all fours, or has many legs -all creatures that swarm on the ground; you are not to eat them, because they are a detestable thing.

Thus you see that the grasshopper, katydid, and cricket are okay to eat because they consume only green plants. Spiders, ants, snakes, lizards, millipedes, centipedes and many others are not edible because they eat OTHER ANIMALS and CRAP.

So you see, I hope, that it is not important if the Scripture describes insects as having 4 legs or 6 as we would classify them today. What is important is that you UNDERSTAND what is edible and what is not in this fallen world!

Also - I'm sorry to have to tell you this - but that bacon you love so much is FORBIDDEN! That Christmas ham you love so much is FORBIDDEN! And no, Yeshua (Jesus), did NOT die so you could eat ham! I'm sorry, but that did not happen (and that is an entirely separate topic)!

No, the answer is as it was in the creation: We are permitted to eat plants, animals, and bugs, but only those animals and bugs which themselves ate only plants. Today, most of us would not eat bugs, but this is only our culture. I don't know about you, but I find great comfort in this understanding of YHWH and in what He permits us to eat.

In many ways it is very clear in the Parashah of Leviticus 9:1-11:47.

Verse 46: "'Such, then, is the law concerning animals, flying creatures, all living creatures that move about in the water, and all creatures that swarm on the ground. 47 Its purpose is to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.'"

And just above that: 44 For I am ADONAI your God; therefore, consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy; and do not defile yourselves with any kind of swarming creature that moves along the ground. 45 For I am ADONAI, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy.

Eating by YHWH's rules is simply one other way we can show Him, in our daily lives, how much we love Him by obeying His marvelous Torah! I hope this article was edifying to you! Shalom.