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What Does the Bible Say About..Clean and Unclean Animals?

I understand that there is 'no food unclean.' However the way I understood their OT uncleanness was because God had declared them unclean to the Israelites, then Jesus sort of nullified that commandment. But now I've realized that long before the Israelites, still there were some unclean animals (Gen. 7:2). Are there animals that were created unclean and are they the ones in Lev 11 and what’s the command regarding eating these? Supporting verses would help.


I commend you for a close reading of the Bible. This one is a problem that used to bother me.

I don’t know what animals Noah was told were clean and unclean. They may be the same as the animals listed in Leviticus. They may not. Chances are they are the same, but that is only based on the idea that Moses wrote Genesis, and his idea of clean and unclean would be influenced by what he was told on Sinai.

In the case of Noah, we can know that whatever made them clean or unclean it was not based on whether they were to be eaten or not. Every indication is that when Noah took the animals on the ark no man or animal had ever considered animals as potential food. God told Adam he and the animals could eat the plants. (Genesis 1:29-30) It was not until after the flood that God told man he could eat flesh. (Genesis 9:3)

So if they were not unclean based on whether they could be eaten or not, for what were they unclean? The Bible does not clearly state this, but the probability is that they were clean or unclean for sacrifice to God. As soon as he got off the ark Noah offered sacrifices of “every clean beast, and of every clean fowl.” (Genesis 8:20) If he had been required to offer every clean and unclean beast and bird, then he would have had to kill the only remaining animals of the unclean kinds. Perhaps God required more than one pair of the animals clean for offering because he expected an offering as soon as Noah left the ark. By ordering that more of the clean animals be taken on the ark, he ensured they were available for sacrifice afterward without killing off the species.

That some animals were unclean for offering but not for eating is clear when God finally allows man to eat animals. In Genesis 9:3 he says, “Every moving thing shall be meat for you.” He did not restrict Noah to eating only some animals; he allowed all animals as food. It was only to the Jews that he placed dietary restrictions on the unclean animals. Most rabbis will say that this was for no other reason than to set the Jewish people apart from the rest of the world.