Birds of the Bible – The Law Of The Birds

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Dan

Eurasian Collared Dove (a “clean” bird) by Dan

This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten. (Leviticus 11:46-47 NKJV)

The phrase “law of the animals and the birds” caught my eye while looking at Leviticus 11. We have written other articles on the “Clean and Unclean” birds in this chapter, but I like the way the verse is worded in the NKJV. See Clean vs Unclean and Deuteronomy 14:11-18 Visualized. In those articles the birds were named whether clean or unclean.

This “law of the birds” was given to the Israelites for instruction on which birds could be eaten and which were to be avoided as cuisine. But why were they selected and what significance does this have today for Christians? Here are some of the commentator’s remarks on this verse.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) by Derek

Long-eared Owl (an “unclean” bird) by Derek

Believer’s Bible Commentary – “In giving this law concerning clean and unclean creatures, God was teaching lessons concerning His holiness and the necessity for His people to be holy as well (vv. 44-47).
In Mark 7:18-19, the Lord Jesus declared all foods to be ceremonially clean. And Paul taught that no food should be refused if it is received with thanksgiving (1Tim_4:1-5). However, even that would not include foods that are contaminated, culturally unacceptable, or digestively disagreeable to a person.”

So we know it was to teach God’s holiness and for the people to be holy. Also stated by:

Bible Knowledge Commentary – c. Summary and theological conclusion (Lev 11:41-47)
“The whole set of food laws is summarized by the repetition of selected examples (Lev 11:41-43). As God’s people were to distinguish between clean and unclean animals, so God had distinguished between them and other nations. These food regulations were to serve as a perpetual reminder of the holiness of God and His grace in choosing Israel (Lev 11:45).”

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) by Lee at LPZoo

Wild Turkey (a “clean” bird) by Lee at LPZoo

The practical applications for today are given in several of the commentaries such as:

Matthew Henry’s Condensed Commentary – “These laws seem to have been intended,
1. As a test of the people’s obedience, as Adam was forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge; and to teach them self-denial, and the government of their appetites.
2. To keep the Israelites distinct from other nations. Many also of these forbidden animals were objects of superstition and idolatry to the heathen.
3. The people were taught to make distinctions between the holy and unholy in their companions and intimate connexions.
4. The law forbad, not only the eating of the unclean beasts, but the touching of them. Those who would be kept from any sin, must be careful to avoid all temptations to it, or coming near it. The exceptions are very minute, and all were designed to call forth constant care and exactness in their obedience; and to teach us to obey. Whilst we enjoy our Christian liberty, and are free from such burdensome observances, we must be careful not to abuse our liberty. For the Lord hath redeemed and called his people, that they may be holy, even as he is holy. We must come out, and be separate from the world; we must leave the company of the ungodly, and all needless connexions with those who are dead in sin; we must be zealous of good works devoted followers of God, and companions of his people.”

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) by Peter Ericsson

Steppe Eagle (an “unclean” bird) by Peter Ericsson

“It is God who makes the sharp distinction between the clean and the unclean. Holiness in little things is essential. This is the real test of God’s man. The acid test of any life of any of God’s people is this. God says, “I am your Lord. I am holy. Be ye holy.”
My friend, you must make the decision as to whether you are going to walk with God and for God in this contaminated world. This is the lesson for us from his chapter of the clean and the unclean.”

We are told in Scripture that the birds can teach us:

But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; (Job 12:7 NKJV)
Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, And makes us wiser than the birds of heaven? (Job 35:11 NKJV)

Maybe we should watch and observe things about them and also comprehend truths taught about them from the God who created them.

Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 42:6 NKJV)


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