Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat …’ Leviticus 11:2
We focus on what we can’t do, but God focuses on what we can do.
Commentators differ on why some animals are designated ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’. Reasons tend to fall into 6 categories: 1. Arbitrary meaning there is no reason. God is simply looking for obedience. 2. Cultic meaning that animals associated with pagan practices were prohibited. 3. Hygiene and health, some suggest the ‘unclean’ animals were unhealthy for human consumption and therefore prohibited. 4. Aesthetical reasons based on appearances. 5. Ethical reasons to teach people there is right and wrong. 6. Symbolic meaning the animals represented a deeper principal.
Some commentators feel a combination of reasons is the most likely explanation. However, it’s the symbolic meaning that makes the most sense as to why the division between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ were dispensed with under the New Covenant. There’s a threefold division of animals into clean, unclean and sacrificial, symbolically these could parallel to Jews, non-Jews and priests.
I believe God’s commandments are to instruct and bless us. If there were genuine health reasons for not eating some animals these regulations would have continued throughout the New Testament. I find arbitrary reasons are inconsistent with God’s character. God acts with purpose.
I favour a symbolic meaning because in the New Testament the Jews appear to regard their food laws as symbolic of the division between themselves and Gentiles (Acts 10). The abolition of these laws under the New Covenant illustrates the fact that by his death Jesus has broken down the wall of partition that separated Jews, Gentiles and priests.
We are all one in Christ.