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Exod. viii. 26, but to deviate from them in the most common actions in life. By having a diet peculiar to themselves, by eating in one instance that to which the others attributed a certain sanctity, as the ox, the sheep, and the goat, and by holding in detestation, those creatures which the others venerated as sacred, as the hawk, &c. they would be precluded from all intimacy or agreement, and of course from becoming corrupted by their idolatries or addicted to their superstitions 8.
Not only were the Egyptians, but other heathen nations, and particularly the Canaanites, grossly corrupt in their manners, morals, and worship: and this restriction with respect to diet was alike calculated to prevent intimacies with them; so that in no instance should “their table become a snare, or their entertainments a trap.” Psal. lxix. 22.
“This statute, above all others, established not only a political and sacred, but a physical separation of the Jews from all other people. It made it next to impossible for the one to mix with the other either in meals, in marriage, or in any familiar connexion. Their opposite customs in the article of diet not only. precluded a friendly and comfortable intimacy, but generated mutual contempt and abhorrence. The Jews religiously abhorred the society, manners, and institutions of the Gentiles, because they viewed their own abstinence from forbidden meats as a token of peculiar sanctity, and of course regarded other nations, who wanted this sanctity, as vile and detestable. They considered themselves as secluded by God himself from the profane world by a peculiar worship, government, law, dress, mode of living, and country%. Though this separation from other people, on which the law respecting food was founded, created in the Jews a criminal pride and hatred of the Gentiles; yet it forcibly operated as a preservative from heathen idolatry, by precluding all familiarity with idolatrous nations 10.”
So bigoted were the Jews in the observance of this law, that by no reproaches, no threats, no sufferings, nay hardly by a new command from God himself,could they be brought to lay it aside. See 1 Maccab. i. 63; Ezek. iv. 14; Acts x. 14.
Though some thousand years have passed since this discrimi. nating ritual was given to the Jews, and though they have been scattered abroad among every nation upon earth ; though their government and temple have been entirely destroyed, yet this prohibition of particular foods has been regarded, and has served, with other reasons, to keep them distinct and separate from every other people.
8 Chæremon, in Porphyry de Abstinentia, 1. iv. c. 7, tells us that the Egyptian priests would not eat any sort of fish which their country afforded, nor any animals that had solid hoofs, or divided paws, or horns.
9 « Aristeas (Hist. Septuag. bibl. Gr. Patr. tom. 2. p. 870.) cuidam objicienti, yopigany TOIS TOOLS Tepiseylav EX ELY, &c. Multis visum esse, multa in lege temere comprehensa, ut illa quæ de cibo et potu, et animalibus illis quæ habentur impura, tradita sunt; sic apud auctorem illum respondetur, cernis quid possint et efficiant conversatio et consuetudo, quod homines ex conversatione improborum depraventur et fiant miseri per totam vitam. Hoc diligenter contemplatus, utpote sapiens legislator noster, ne per impietatis ullius communicationem inficeremur, neve conversatione improborum depravaremur, circumsepsit nos legali sanctitate et puritate, cibi, potus, tactus, auditus et risus.'
10 Tappan's Lectures, p. 263.
We find Peter, after the vision recorded in the 10th chapter of the Acts, when he had entered the house of Cornelius, observed to the people who were present, “ Ye know that it is not lawful for a man that is a Jew to keep company with, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should call no man unclean.”—“Here,” says Mr. Jones, in his Zoologia Ethica, “ we have an apostolical comment upon the sense of the vision. God had shewed him that henceforward he should call no living creatures unclean which were in any sense proper for food; and by these brutes of all kinds he understands men of all nations. And, without question, he applied the vision to what the wisdom of God intended to express by it. The case was this: St. Peter, as a Jew, was bound to abstain from all those animals, the eating of which was prohibited by the law of Moses: but God showed him that he should no longer account these animals unclean. And what does he understand by it? That he should no longer account the heathen so. “God hath shewed me that I should call no man common or unclean;' or, to speak in other words borrowed from the apostle, “God hath shewed me that a Jew is now at liberty to keep company with or come unto one of another nation;' which, so long as the Mosaic distinction betwixt clean and unclean beasts was in force, it was not lawful for him to do.”
II. Another reason for the distinction was, that, as the Jews were a people peculiarly devoted to God, they should be reminded of that relation by a particularity of diet, which should serve emblematically as a sign of their obligation to study MORAL PURITY. This is expressly given as the reason, Levit. xi. 43, 44, and 45 (referring to the forbidden animals), “ Ye shall not make yourselves unclean with them that you may be defiled thereby; for I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God, YE SHALL THEREFORE BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” The meaning of which is, “ I Jehovah who am distinguished from all other gods, am your peculiar sovereign, and have selected and separated you from all other people; therefore, you must be holy; and, as indicative of this, you are distinguished from all other people by sacred manners and institutions, and especially by a distinction in the articles of your food, that you may know yourselves to be set apart from all other nations of the world, and in your very diet evidence to them the purity which you should in every thing cherish and preserve.'-As thus Jehovah meant to impress on his people a constant sense of his own infinite purity, as the Holy One of Israel, so he meant to habituate them to regard and honour him as such by the conspicuous purity both of their manners and worship. Not one of the Pagan gods so much as pretended to purity of character, or claimed to be worshiped under the title of the Holy One. Far from this, even the worship of these gods was frequently perforined by impure rites, and the use of vile and filthy animals 11, by which the worshippers proclaimed the foul character of their deities. On the contrary, the pure ceremonies of the Hebrews constantly reminded them of the immaculate purity of Jehovah, and this nice distinction of meats was fitted to teach them the rudiments of moral purity or true holiness; Isai. Ixv. 3, 4; lxvi. 17.
As several of the remarks adapted to this head were anticipated in the preceding, I go on to state other reasons for the distinction between animals as clean and unclean in the Levitical institute.
III. It has been suggested that the quality of the food itself is an important consideration, and that to the eating of certain animals may be ascribed a specific influence on the moral temperament. I introduce this topic rather because it is insisted upon so much among the ancient Jewish interpreters, than because I consider it of any real force or importance. It savours strongly of the allegorical style of reasoning and interpretation in which the Rabbins delighted. There are several mischnical tracts devoted to this explication. One of them says, “ As the body is the seat of the soul, God would have it a fit instrument for its companion, and therefore removes from his people all those obstructions which may hinder the soul in its operations; for which reason all such meats are forbidden as breed ill blood; among which if there may be some whose hurtfulness is neither manifest to us nor to physicians, wonder not at it, for the faithful physician who forbids them is wiser than any of us 12.”
The moral or tropological reasons, alleged by Aristæus, in Eusebius Præp. Evang. 1. viii. c. 9, are in substance (for the whole passage is long, though curious), that the Jews should, by these inhibitions and limitations, be secure and fenced from whatever contagion or immorality might otherwise invade them and spread among them from any heathen or idolatrous quarter; and also to teach them morality even in their food; for the birds and beasts allowed were of the tame and gentler kinds, and not of fierce and voracious natures, to teach them the great truths of justice, moderation, and kindness.
11 This is the prevailing reason assigned by the fathers of the Christian church: See Theodoret, quæst. xi. in Levit. Cyrill. Alexandr. I. ix. contra Julian, p. 302. Origen, Homil. vii. in Levit. Clem. Alex. Strom. 1. v. Opera, tom. ii. p. 677. Novatian, de Cibis Jud. c. iii. Euseb. Emisen, in Hexapl. Montf. p. 120.
12 Levi Barcelona, Precept. lxxix.
The learned Wagenseil, also, in his Annotations on that title in the Mischna called “ Sota,” fol. 1171, discusses the moral reasons of these precepts. · In a volume by the Rev. William Jones, entitled “ Zoologia Ethica,” this particular construction is largely insisted upon. · The learned Ainsworth, in his Commentary, has extended these reasons to the borders of mysticism. His remarks are: “The parting of the hoof signified the right discerning of the word and will of God, the difference between the law and the gospel, and the walking in obedience to the word of God with a right foot. The chewing of the cud signified the meditating in the law of God night and day,” &c. · IV. Another reason for the distinction here made was, without doubt, dietetical, and to make a distinction between wholesome and unwholesome food. Those animals are denominated clean which afford a copious and wholesome nutriment, and those unclean whose flesh is unwholesome, and yields a gross nutriment, often the occasion of scrofulous and scorbutic disorders. Maimonides, More Nevochim, p. iii. c. 48, discourses at large upon this subject; Wagenseil, Conf. Carm. R. Lipmanni, p. 556, defends it; and Michaelis, in his Commentary on the Laws of Moses, article ccii. assigns it as the principal reason. .
The special propriety of it may be found also in the situation of those regions in which the Jews resided, in which the flesh of some animals was more unwholesome than it would be in a more northern climate. Their sultry climate made it necessary to be considerate in the use of food, as they were exposed to inflammatory and putrid disorders. So that the wisdom of the interdiction of those kinds of flesh which tend soon to corruption is very evident. Blood, in particular, is not only difficult of digestion in the stomach, but easily putrifies; and so the flesh of strangled animals, or of wild animals heated by the chase, and full of blood, soon becomes corrupt. The free use of very fat meat is always prejudicial to health; and is the cause of bilious and putrid disorders. The flesh of the swine, in particular, which is generally supposed to breed the leprosy, as an aliment must have been highly improper for a people so subject to leprosies as the Jews appear to have been 13.
13 Mr. Beloe, in his note upon Herodotus, “ Euterpe," lxxii. has the following remark: “ Antiphanes in Athenæus, addressing himself to the Egyptians, says, "You adore the ox; I sacrifice to the gods. You reverence the eel as a very powerful deity; we consider it as the daintiest of food.' Antiphanes and the Greek writers, who amused themselves with ridiculing the religious ceremonies of Egypt, were doubtless ignorant of the motive which caused this particular fish to be proscribed. The flesh of the eel, and some other fish, thickened the blood, and by checking the perspiration, excited all those maladies connected with the leprosy. The Priests forbade the people to eat it, and, to render their prohibition more effectual, they pretended to regard these fish as sacred."
Of those animals whose flesh the Israelites were prohibited from eating, most sought their food in filthy places, lived on prey, or fed on carrion; so that their juices were in a state' strongly tending to putrescence; of course, their flesh was very unfit for the purposes of nutrition.
Agreeably to this opinion, Dr. James, the learned author of the Medicinal Dictionary, under the article" Alcali," after having made some critical remarks on the nature of alcalescent aliments, and their effects on the human body,--and commented on the various animals clean and unclean, enuinerated in the Levitical institute, draws the following conclusion: “ From what has been said in relation to the alcalescence of animal aliment, one reason at least will appear, why it pleased the Supreme Being to forbid the Jews, a people that inhabited a very warm climate, the use of many sorts of animals as food, and why they were enjoined to take away a great deal of blood from those which they were allowed to eat.”
On the whole, as Mr. Lowman justly observes, “the food allowed to the chosen nation was of the milder sort, of the most common and domestic animals; creatures of the cleanest feeding, which afforded the most palatable and nourishing meat, and which by a proper care might be had in the greatest plenty and perfection. If the Jews, as a select and holy people, ought to have any distinction of foods, surely none could have been devised more proper than this. Was not this far better than to license and encourage the promiscuous hunting of wild beasts and birds of prey, less fit for food, more difficult to be procured, and hardly consistent with a domestic, agricultural, and pastoral life? Did not the restrictions in question, tend to promote that health and ease, that useful cultivation of the soil, that diligence, mildness, and simplicity, that consequent happiness and prosperity, which were among the chief blessings of the promised land.”
The following passage, translated from Tertullian, ado. Marc. 1. ij. c. 18, in fine, may be a fit conclusion of this dissertation: “ If the law takes away the use of some sorts of meat, and pronounces creatures unclean, that were formerly held quite otherwise, let us consider that the design was to inure them to temperance, and look upon it as a restraint laid upon gluttons, who hankered after the cucumbers and melons of Egypt, whilst they were eating the food of angels. Let us consider it too, as a remedy at the same time against excess and impurity, the usual attendants on gluttony. It was partly, likewise, to extinguish the love of money, by taking away the pretence of its being necessary for providing of sustenance. It was, finally, to enable men to fast with less inconvenience upon religious occasions, by using them to a moderate and plain diet.”