The Word Made Fresh
1“You are the children of the LORD your God. Don’t cut yourselves or shave the front of your head when someone dies. 2You are sacred to the LORD your God, chosen out of all the people on earth to be the LORD’s people, and the LORD treasures you.
3Don’t take as your food just anything you find. 4The animals you may use for food are oxen, sheep, goats, 5deer, gazelles, roebucks, wild goats, ibex, antelopes, and mountain sheep. 6You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and chews the cud. 7Do not eat camels, rabbits, or rock badgers because although they chew the cud, they do not have divided hooves. 8Do not eat pigs. It has a divided hoof but does not chew the cud. They are not food for you. Don’t eat their meat and don’t touch their dead bodies.
9“Among all the creatures that live in the water you may eat whatever has fins and scales. 10If it doesn’t have fins and scales, don’t eat it. It is not for you.
11“You may eat birds that are acceptable, 12but these are unacceptable: eagles, vultures, ospreys, 13buzzards, kites of any type, 14any kind of raven, 15ostriches, nighthawks, seagulls or hawks of any kind, 16small and large owls, water hens, 17desert owls, carrion vultures and cormorants, 18storks, herons of all types, hoopoes, and bats. 19Every swarming insect with wings is forbidden to you, 20but some winged creatures are okay for you to eat.
21“Don’t eat anything that has already died when you find it. You can give it to outsiders who live among you or sell it to foreigners, but don’t eat it yourselves because you are people the LORD your God has set apart. And remember to never boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
22“Every year at harvest time, set aside a tenth of whatever you have grown in your fields. 23Eat it with new wine and oil and the firstborn of your sheep and goats in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling place in the LORD’s name. This will help you learn always to revere the LORD. 24If the distance is too great to carry all of it, 25you may sell it and take the money to the LORD’s place and use it to purchase whatever food and drink you want and dine and rejoice with your household there in the presence of the LORD.
27And do not neglect the Levites who may live in your towns. Remember that they do not inherit any of the land with you. 28Every third year gather a tenth of your grain for that year and store it within your towns. 29The Levites, along with foreigners, orphans, and widows in your towns, may eat their fill. Because you provide for them, the LORD will bless you in all your undertakings.”
1-2: Certain pagan practices — cutting oneself to bleed and shaving the forehead as a sign of mourning — are specifically forbidden. Verse 2 seems to imply that the reason for this rule is simply to separate them from the other people — to distinguish them as God’s people and keep them away from practices of people who worship other gods.
3-21: Various dietary restrictions are given. We have already seen these in Leviticus. Again, the reason for these laws is to set them apart from everyone else and identify them as God’s people.
22-27: The tithe of grain crops was to be eaten only in the sacred place God would designate. If that were not possible, it could be sold and the money used to buy “clean” animals, then go to the place the LORD might designate (which would eventually be Jerusalem).
28-29: Provision is made for those who have no crops to harvest — Levites, orphans and widows, resident aliens. Every third year the tithe was to be given to those groups.
All of these regulations were practices by which the people would be regularly reminded that they were God’s chosen people. All of the rules involving animal sacrifices passed away when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Christians have never had to kill and sacrifice animals to God or pour the sacrificed animals’ blood on the altar. The counterpart to those instructions in the Old Testament is our sharing of the blood of Christ in the ritual we call Holy Communion.