These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers–that you may eat. But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales–that shall be an abomination to you. (Leviticus 11:9-12)
No Fins, No Scales, No Good
The Law of Moses is a unique body of laws instructing the nation of Israel in every part of their lives. What is exceptional about God’s law with the Hebrews is the manner it affects every part of their lives. Laws that establish an overriding policy of requirements govern most societies but the Law given at Mt. Sinai was a law of government, family life, personal hygiene, health, foreign policy and clothing. Reading the Law of Moses reveals a detailed keeping of law in every part of the Jewish life. There were certain foods the Jews were allowed to eat and many foods were forbidden. This law was not given as a suggestion but as absolute law that would execute judgments upon those who disobeyed. One such example is the exclusion of anything that swims in the sea that does not have fins or scales. Eating this animal would be an abomination for the people. When the Lord placed the label of abomination upon a matter, it was to be rejected at all cost.
Prohibiting fish without fins or scales would include catfish, eel, clam, crab, crayfish, lobster and oysters to name a few. Many have tried to assume the reasons for God making these distinctions forbidding the Jews from eating animals without fins or scales but the truth remains it remains the truth of God’s word. Whether the Lord was trying to save the people from harmful food or not does not understand the character of His law. The law of God said not to eat shrimp. I like shrimp a lot. If I were a Jew living under the Law at that time, I would not be able to eat shrimp. Why? God’s law said shrimp was unclean. It was to be an abomination only to Jews. A Gentile could eat a whole platter of shrimp, lobster and smoked catfish without sin. The reason is the Law of Moses was given to the Jews alone and they were bound to keep the Law in every detail. It served also to serve as a strict distinction between the Jew and Gentile.
The Law of Moses was given to the Jews alone and when Jesus died on the cross, the Law was taken away. God no longer makes distinction between clean and unclean foods. Paul would later tell Timothy, God created every creature for good and is acceptable with prayer and thanksgiving. Forbidding the Jews from eating any fish that did not have fins or scales was the test of the law above all else. There are many parts of the Law that are strict adherence to the will of the Lord as tests to show the people’s faithfulness. Would eating a lobster kill a Jew? No, but their disobedience would bring about the judgment of the Lord. It is important to see this law as a matter of obedience, not taste. If eating clams were forbidden today, would we have faith in God to refuse to eat them? That is the lesson. Clams are tasty and enjoyable but the question has to do with whether we will follow the will of God or not.
Reading the Law of Moses is a lesson on obeying the Lord whether we understand His commands or not. Many people reject parts of God’s law today because they do not see the value of doing certain things. It does not make sense to them and they cannot see any harm in either doing or refusing to do certain things. Because they do not have an explanation why the command is necessary, they refuse to obey it. The point they miss is it has nothing to do with man understanding God; it has everything to do with man obeying God. Does baptism make sense to the mind of man? Many refuse to accept this teaching because human wisdom cannot understand it. Does that justify refusing to be baptized for the remission of sins? God commanded it and that is all there is for man to understand. The question of salvation, marriage and divorce, worship and church organization are just a few of the points of the law of God that men refuse to obey because they do not understand the why. What they miss is that it does not matter what men think. The only thing that matters is what God commands. If the Jews followed the will of God like most today, shrimp, lobster, and catfish would be on the daily menu. That law has been abandoned. God’s law through Christ remains. Obedience. Saved or lost. That is what matters.