Bible Trivia

Which birds were considered unclean?

Horned Owl

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Which birds were considered unclean?

In the Old Testament, God provided the Israelites with guidelines regarding food consumption, including which birds were considered clean and unclean. This distinction served to establish a separation between the chosen people of Israel and the nations around them. It also promoted hygiene, as many unclean animals carried diseases or parasites. In this study, we will examine the specific birds mentioned as unclean, the reasons behind this classification, and how this teaching applies to our lives today.

Key Scripture: Leviticus 11:13-19

Passage Breakdown:

Leviticus 11:13-19 (NIV)
13 “‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture,
14 the red kite, any kind of black kite,
15 any kind of raven,
16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk,
17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,
18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey,
19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.'”

I. Context and Interpretation
A. The Levitical Law
The Levitical Law was given to the Israelites by God through Moses. These laws were intended to govern the Israelites’ relationship with God, one another, and the environment. They also served to set the Israelites apart from the surrounding nations.

B. Unclean Birds
The passage in Leviticus 11 lists various birds that were considered unclean. Most of these birds were either birds of prey, scavengers, or carrion eaters, which often fed on dead animals and other unclean food sources. These dietary habits made them susceptible to carrying diseases or parasites, posing a health risk to the people who consumed them.

II. Applying the Teaching Today
A. Jesus and the New Covenant
With the coming of Jesus Christ, the old covenant was fulfilled, and a new covenant was established. Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:18-19) and emphasized that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that makes them unclean, but what comes out of it (Matthew 15:11).

B. Spiritual Lessons
While the dietary restrictions of the Levitical Law are no longer applicable to believers, there are still spiritual lessons we can learn from them. The distinction between clean and unclean birds can serve as a reminder of the importance of discernment in our lives. Just as the Israelites were to avoid consuming unclean birds, we should avoid engaging in sinful behaviours and be mindful of what we allow into our lives.

The classification of unclean birds in the Bible served as a practical means of promoting health and hygiene among the Israelites while also setting them apart as God’s chosen people. As believers under the new covenant, we are no longer bound by these dietary restrictions. However, the principle of discernment remains relevant today, encouraging us to be mindful of our actions and the influences we allow into our lives.