Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening. When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean. If one of them falls into a clay pot, everything in it will be unclean, and you must break the pot. Any food you are allowed to eat that has come into contact with water from any such pot is unclean, and any liquid that is drunk from such a pot is unclean. Anything that one of their carcasses falls on becomes unclean; an oven or cooking pot must be broken up. They are unclean, and you are to regard them as unclean. A spring, however, or a cistern for collecting water remains clean, but anyone who touches one of these carcasses is unclean. If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean. But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you. – Leviticus 11:29-38
I wonder if a major U.S. insurance company knows that their cute green mascot with a British accent is unclean;). All kidding aside, this is an odd list of critters to avoid. Perhaps there is a cultural or geographic context here that I am missing. Maybe a gecko’s sticky little feet are really dirty and track bacteria all over the house…who knows…seriously if someone reading this knows why geckos should be avoided please let me know. The rat I get, although I have to say that ever since I watched Charlotte’s Web and Templeton the rat, I see rats differently. It would probably be different if the rat was living in my house.
There is a sound scientific basis for most of the recommendations in this passage. For example, if a weasel, rat, or gecko (or any other animal for that matter) falls dead into my clay pot of soup on the stove, I wholeheartedly agree that one should not eat it and it is a very good idea to get a new pot. It may also be prudent to determine why animals are dropping dead in your kitchen as there may be some other issue which is more urgent — like poisonous gas or bad water. The details about a clay pot harboring something bad after it has come into contact with a dead animal also has a sound scientific basis. Clay after it is fired is porous. It provides lots of nooks and crannies for organisms to “hang out”. This property is actually used to treat water in some countries as the porous nature of the clay allows predatory bacteria to survive and they remove the “bad bacteria” when you filter water through the pot.
The specificity and details of what and how we should eat and deal with food in this passage took me somewhat by surprise. How did we get from God saying “I give you everything” to this laundry list of food and cooking faux pas? Honestly, it seems like micromanagement on God’s part (or maybe on the part of Aaron and his sons depending on how well they were listening to God). Jesus made it clear when he arrived on the scene that it is not what you eat that makes you clean or unclean, but rather what resides in your heart and soul. We are not what we eat, at least spiritually. Jesus provided lots of guidance about relationships and behaviors that are not good for us. This guidance is usually not so straightforward as dealing with weasels, rats, and geckos falling into our soup.
This verse is helpful for learning about food safety and how we can keep our bodies safe from getting sick (or unclean), but how can we be sure we are getting a balanced diet for our soul? I think the answer lies in praying, listening to God, and carefully studying what God said through Jesus about how to stay spiritually fit. It involves a much more complicated process of discerning God’s will which can sometimes seem like a long and winding road.
Prayer: God help me to listen to your spirit so that I am feeding my soul the healthy food it needs.