Making Sense of Clean and Unclean
Making Sense of the Clean and Unclean
God set down many guidelines for Israel to discern what was to be considered 'clean' and what was to be considered 'unclean'. Women during their monthly menstruation were unclean (Lev. 12). Dead bodies were unclean. Those that touched dead bodies were unclean. Pigs were unclean, rabbits are unclean, the ostrich is unclean. Concerning animals, only those that are cloven-footed AND chew the cud are to be considered clean (Lev. 11:3). Creatures of the water had different rules. Birds were different still. The list has some strange inclusions and exclusions.
We can easily see those things that we now know would be diseased and contagious would want to be considered unclean. Knowing what we now know about the nature of some animals and the danger of diseases they often had would again cause us to want to consider such as unclean. We think that there were certain activities that were associated with the practices of idolatry by those people of the land and hence we can see why they were declared unclean.
Not everything falls into such comprehensible categories. From the perspective of ancient Israel even the ones we can understand because of our knowledge of disease would have been unclear to them WHY God declared them to be unclean. Reading today's commentaries on this section reveals that 'scholars' have no consensus on WHY things fall into the 'clean' or 'unclean' category. How then would one deal with these things? Do we have to know WHY in order to keep the commandments of the LORD?
They are unclean because God said so. Trust Him. So it still is with the relationship between people and God. Many will 'obey' only what they 'understand'. If they cannot see the WHY behind a rule of God then they feel no compulsion to follow such a rule. In essence they are walking not by God's word but by their own understanding.
The Proverbs give us a much better approach to God's word: "Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:3-6).
Why? Because God said so. "I am the LORD thy God."