Does The Bible tell us not to eat meat and dairy together, as modern-day Judaism teaches? Is pork used in making cheese? Are dairy products bad for your health? Was cooking goat meat in milk an ancient pagan religious ritual? Why put any time into studying something like what The Bible has to say about dairy foods instead of sharing the Good News of Yeshua? These are the type of questions that this article seeks to answer.
When dealing with topics of food and The Bible much of the focus is on the Leviticus 11 food laws and what meats we are commanded not to eat, as well as those given by The Father as human food. Little attention, however, is given to other products, such as dairy. There is also much confusion among Believers today—both in mainstream Christian circles as well as Messianic and “Hebrew Roots” groups—regarding dairy products and what may or may not be permissible as food.
For this reason I have sought for some time to take on the task of putting together a study on the topic of dairy foods and what The Bible has to say about them. I think it’s important that we look at some of the bad information floating around that has given dairy products a certain stigma among some people of faith.
There are primarily three points that come up frequently with regard to dairy in The Bible—the Jewish kashrut laws of meat/dairy separation, a claim that pork is used in making cheese, and concerns or beliefs that eating dairy is not healthy. So, with that, let’s begin to examine these concerns people have and see where the truth of the matter is in each of them.
Don't Mix Meat And Dairy?
One of the first areas of concern people encounter when they begin to follow The Father’s Torah and explore biblical food mandates is a Jewish belief that meat and dairy are not to be eaten together. In the most extreme cases practicing Jewish households will have two kitchens, two sets of dinnerware and silverware, two dishwasher machines, two refrigerators, and so on to ensure that nothing used for dairy foods is also used for meats and vice versa. They also believe that a period of about six hours should pass between eating a meal or snack that contains dairy and a meal or snack that contains meat. So, eating a cheeseburger or a pizza with a biblically clean meat like chicken or beef on it is totally out of the question.
Some writers on this topic, such as Aaron Eby the author of Biblically Kosher: A Messianic Jewish Perspective On Kashrut, go as far as suggesting that the reason there are no prescribed dairy Temple offerings in The Torah is to prevent the blending of meats and milk products in The Temple. Says Eby:
The Torah repeatedly praises the land of Israel by speaking of it as a “land flowing with milk and honey,” even during the declaration of first fruits, as a person brings gifts from their harvest to God. One would expect that since milk was something that symbolized the bounty of the land, it would be prescribed as an offering in the Temple. Fruit, grain, oil, and meat were presented before God, but why do we not find milk, cheese, or other dairy offerings?
It is possible that dairy was not brought into the Temple to prevent the combination of meat and dairy. If this is true, then the separation of meat and dairy dates back to the Torah itself.
Let’s be clear about something, The Bible plainly tells us that God is not the author of confusion. If such prohibitions as we find in modern Judaism regarding kashrut laws are truly of biblical origin and Torah mandate than we would find a very clear and undeniable record in The Torah of such lengthy prohibitions. The Torah even addresses what to do if something unclean comes into contact with porous clay/stone cookware (Leviticus 11:35) and metallic cookware (Leviticus 6:21/28), but is silent about the alleged details held by some today who promote Rabbinic meat/dairy separations.
Where does this idea come from? It is a somewhat odd interpretation of a commandment to not boil a kid (young goat) in its mother’s milk. Let’s take a look at this commandment.
Bring the choicest firstfruits of your land into the House of Adonai your God. “Do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. — Exodus 23:19 (TLV)
“You are to bring the choicest firstfruits of your land to the House of Adonai your God. “You must not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” — Exodus 34:26 (TLV)
For you are a holy people to Adonai your God. You are not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. — Deuteronomy 14:21 (TLV)
I like what Messianic Jewish author Hope Egan says about this matter in her book Holy Cow! Does God Really Care About What We Eat?:
That’s it. That’s all the Torah says. Nothing else.
This simple command appears in the Torah three times, signaling that God takes it seriously. Thankfully, most of us can easily say that we regularly obey it. Very few of us boil young goats, let alone boil them in milk, let alone boil them in their mother’s milk.
After providing a variety of great thoughts on the debate over interpretations of this commandment, Egan closes the chapter in her book on this topic by saying: “We all need to come to our own conclusions on the matter. So long as we do not actually boil young goats in their mother’s milk—right?”
The first two records of this commandment, in Exodus, seem to associate the instruction with the Spring and Fall Harvest Feasts. Another interesting point with Exodus 34 is that this may be part of the actual “Ten Commandments” that were written on the stone tablets. That’s a whole topic in itself, but when you really begin to scrutinize the Torah record there is no indication that the “Ten Commandments” of Exodus 20 are the “Ten Commandments” written on the tablets.
The initial mention of what is written on the tablets is the Torah and the mitzvot (Exodus 24:12). Then in Exodus 34, the new tablets are made with the same thing written on them. Then in Exodus 34:12 a set of commandments is given, after the new tablets were prepared with everything written on them that was on the first set. After this series of commandments is given, which can be broken up into ten commandments, Moses is told to write these ten commandments on the tablets himself and we see the first reference in Scripture to anything that is written on the tablets as “The Ten Words”. So this commandment not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk may be one of the actual “Ten Commandments” distinct to the stone tablets. But that is really a topic for another message—I’m just highlighting what The Bible actually says instead of what religious tradition says.
The other mention of the commandment to not boil a kid in its mother’s milk is in Deuteronomy 14, as part of the biblical food laws that primarily deal with what meats we are permitted to eat and what meats we are prohibited from eating. I find it particularly interesting that Rabbinic Jewish beliefs claim that this commandment is to not mix meat and dairy, yet here the commandment is presented “mixed together” with the commandments of what meats we can and cannot eat.
The reason it is important to know the surrounding context for this commandment is because there is a popular theory that it was related to a Canaanite pagan religious ritual, and of course it is prohibited by Torah to blend the religious rites, rituals, and practices of pagan religions with the worship of Yah (Deuteronomy 12:29-31). So this would certainly be of concern if true. The problem is that there is no sufficient archaeological evidence that there ever was such a pagan ritual practice.
The idea that this commandment is the prohibition of a Canaanite ritual comes from a single source, a set of stone cuneiform tablets known as the Ugaritic Text. In this record there is a line that is badly damaged and unreadable, but in 1933 a translator attempted to “reconstruct” the line and concluded it was describing the alleged ritual. Newer research, however, has found that this was almost certainly in error and there is no other evidence to support the claim. Noted Bible scholar Rabbi Jacob Milgrom states in an article titled ”You Shall Not Boil a Kid in Its Mother’s Milk”, published in the Fall 1985 Volume 1 Issue 3 edition of Bible Review:
Our present concern is with one line in this tablet. Unfortunately, this critical line is damaged. Virolleaud therefore “restored,” as the scholars say—more accurately, he reconstructed—part of the text. In the following quotation, the part in brackets is Virolleaud’s reconstruction. As restored, the text reads as follows: t\b[h g]d\bh\lb. annh[.]bhm’at. Virolleaud translated the first three words of the line this way (again the restored part is in brackets): “Fais [cuire un che]vreau dans le lait” (“Cook a kid in milk”).
Milgrom goes on to note that a number of widely used theological resources have incorporated this idea of the passage referring to a Canaanite ritual, even though it has been fully debunked. Some of the references he mentions are The Interpreter’s Bible, Moody Bible Institute Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, Daily Study Bible, New Century Bible Commentary, and The Torch Bible Commentary. From there he goes on to provide further details of why the original theory about what the missing segment of the Ugaritic text is certainly wrong and how it likely describes something else altogether.
In addition to this, the commandment is not paired with commandments against an unholy mixture with pagan rituals; it is paired with the Feasts and the food laws. So it makes very little sense to conclude this prohibition is related to paganism, otherwise it would be listed with other prohibitions against specific acts of pagan religious rites and rituals—such as Deuteronomy 12:29-32, 18:9-12, 20:17-18.
It is important that we do not call things “pagan” when there is no actual proof that they are. Not only is this an act of bearing false witness, but it also makes it difficult to address things that actually are associated with pagan religion, like the Christmas and Easter holidays. It’s bad enough that even in some Torah-positive circles there are now people insisting that these holidays are not pagan, despite a plethora of evidence that they at least very likely are. But calling something like this commandment to not boil a kid goat in its mother’s milk pagan without one shred of credible evidence discredits our witness of things that likely really are pagan.
Another theory has been proposed that this commandment, due to its association with the Feasts, is an old Hebrew idiom that means we are not to combine the old with the new—to not bring last year’s harvest mixed with this year’s harvest in your offering for the Feast celebrations. Such would make sense in the context of the Feasts, if it could even be proven that this was an idiom (which at the time of this writing appears to be unproven), but you still have the matter of the commandment listed with the general food laws in Deuteronomy 14 as well.
There is, however, a logical explanation that would make a whole lot more sense to a review of an ancient society of people that relied heavily of their production of livestock animals, especially the goats to which this commandment applies. There are strong indications that the phrase “in its mother’s milk” is misunderstood the way it reads and is actually referring to a goat that is still nursing and not yet weaned.
Philo of Alexandria was a first century Jewish scholar whose work is widely regarded. His life is dated from around 20 B.C. to 50 A.D., which means that he was already an authority and teacher of Torah when Yeshua began His ministry. This is what he had to say regarding the commandment not to boil a kid (goat) in its mother’s milk in his work On Virtues (emphasis added):
For he orders them not to separate an animal from its mother before it is weaned, whether it is a lamb or a kid or any other animal in their flocks. And he also commands them not to kill the mother and offspring in the same day. Now he bestows upon them lavishly when he says, “You shall not boil a lamb in its mother’s milk.” … But if anyone thinks fit to boil meat in milk, let it be done with no cruelty and without impiety. There are countless herds of animals everywhere, and each day they are milked by cowherds, goatherds, and shepherds, whose largest source of income in tending their herds is milk, sometimes in liquid form and sometimes reduced and congealed into cheese. And since there is such an abundance, anyone who boils the meat of lambs or kids or any other animal in its mother’s milk exhibits a terrible unseemliness of manners, which have been severed from that passion that is most indispensible and most closely related to the rational soul, mercy.
Again, this is a belief expressed in the first century by a man who was alive when Yeshua was. If he was wrong and we really are supposed to have two kitchens, two refrigerators, two sets of dishes, and so on, Yeshua had every opportunity to bring clarity to the topic and tell us it’s not really about caring for His Father’s Creation, but about all of these extensive meat and dairy separations.
Clement of Alexandria, a late second century – early third century writer and follower of Yeshua, draws a similar conclusion based on a humanitarian view. In his book The Stromata, Or Miscellanies he states the following:
Those, too, that kick the bellies of certain animals before parturition, in order to feast on flesh mixed with milk, make the womb created for the birth of the fœtus its grave, though the law expressly commands, “But neither shall you seethe a lamb in its mother's milk.” For the nourishment of the living animal, it is meant, may not become sauce for that which has been deprived of life; and that, which is the cause of life, may not co-operate in the consumption of the body.
Keep in mind this is an early follower of Yeshua, long prior to the establishment of the “New Roman Religion” under the emperor Constantine in the fourth century, and he is upholding such instructions from The Torah as this commandment against boiling a young goat or lamb in its mother’s milk. But this is no surprise to those who study the early pre-Christian belief of Yeshua followers (prior to the fourth century). Clement also appears to have upheld the Leviticus 11 food laws, as he states in this same work: “The divine law, then, while keeping in mind all virtue, trains man especially to self restraint laying this as the foundation of all virtues; and disciplines us beforehand to the attainment of self-restraint by forbidding us to partake of such things as are by nature fat, as the breed of swine, which is full-fleshed.” Think about that, this late second century – early third century writer, a man who placed his faith in Yeshua, not only believed in following the Torah food laws, he said not eating pork is the foundation of all virtues. This is very different than modern “Christian” theology, especially in the United States.
Stefan Schorch, in an article titled “A Young Goat in Its Mother’s Milk”? Understanding an Ancient Prohibition as published in the journal Vetus Testamentum Vol. 60, Fasc. 1 (2010), in referring to an alternate translation of the passage states: “The translation ‘You shall not boil a young goat which is at it’s mother’s milk’ definitely fits the rules of Hebrew syntax. Taken this way the passage is perfectly understandable: A young goat which is still sustained by the milk of its mother shall not be boiled.” This rendering of the passage clearly indicates that the prohibition was against taking a young goat for food while it is still nursing.
Consider also is stated in the book Creation: Biblical Theologies in the Context of the Ancient Near East by Othmar Keel and Silvia Schroer:
A sort of divine motherliness is recognized in the relationship between mother animals and their young, which is why they are not separated immediately after birth:
When an ox or a lamb or a goat is born, it shall remain with its mother for seven days; only from the eighth day onward will it be acceptable to be offered as an oblation to YHWH. You shall not slaughter an ox or a sheep on the same day with its young. (Lev 22:27f.; cf. Exod 22:28b-29)
It was sacrilegious to cook a kid in the milk of its own mother. The corresponding prohibition in Exod 23:19b, 34:26, and Deut 14:21, originally a taboo out of respect for the mother-child relationship, had major cultural consequences because the original meaning was misunderstood and the commandment became the foundation of the separation of dairy and meat cuisines in Judaism.
In Exodus 22:28-29 we find a peculiar commandment that seems to relate to this “boiling a kid in its mother’s milk” passage. The text reads: “Do not hold back the fullness of your crops or your vintage. You are to present the firstborn of your sons to Me. Do the same with your cattle and with your sheep. For seven days it is to be with its mother, and on the eighth day you are to give it to Me” (emphasis added). There is no mention of the goat here, but we see that the lambs and calves were given seven days on their mother’s milk and then offered to Yah. Seeing as the commandment to not boil a kid goat in its mother’s milk is tied to both the Feasts and the food laws, it seems that there is a greater connection here. We are being told not to take a kid goat for use as food or sacrificial offering until it is past the time of its weaning. This also makes me wonder if the controversial and cruel way in which veal is produced could be related to these prohibitions, which appear to propose a certain responsibility on humanity’s part in proper treatment of newborn livestock animals.
There is also a commandment in Leviticus 22:28 prohibiting the slaughter of a cow or ewe with her young on the same day. Also, Deuteronomy 22:6 prohibits taking a hen that is tending to her eggs or chicks. These commandments are all about the proper care of The Father’s Creation and the most humane way to select animals for harvesting as food or for use in Feast offerings (which were also ultimately eaten for the celebration). This would all tie into our prime directive where The Father charges humanity with the care of all other life on earth (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:15).
Regarding the Feasts, many scholars note the commandment first being stated in connection with these annual celebrations and most particularly the Fall Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Menahem Haran, who earned his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where he went on to lecture as Professor of Bible Studies, makes the following remarks in an article titled Seething a Kid in its Mother’s Milk:
How is it associated with the feast of ingathering? Again through the prevailing cultural circumstances. The lambing season depends on condition of grazing which, in turn, varies according to climatic areas within the country, and the annual amount of rainfall and edible herbage. Goats and sheep are in heat generally through the summer months, from June to September, and gestation takes five months. Thus, lambing begins mainly in November and continues into the winter months. Taking into account the ecological differences and oscillations in the country's various regions, it appears that the first lambs and kids were born at about the time of the feast of ingathering. At any rate, the festival of ingathering was the annual pilgrim feast closest to the period of lambing. Therefore, the Israelite is warned that during the feast of ingathering, the most exuberant and joyful of the annual pilgrim-feasts, celebrated with much food and drink and the choicest delicacies - he must remember not to seethe a kid in its mother's milk. This, as has been noted, has nothing to do with a rejection of some cultic observance; it is rather a deliberate reminder of humane behaviour even in the midst of general jollity.
This is interesting on a number of levels. First it really brings together why the commandment would be closely linked with the Fall Feast Season, with the lambs nursing. However, it should be noted that kidding, lambing, and calving also take place in the early spring months and some would contend that this is when the majority of lambs, goats, and calves are born. Some have proposed that the spring lambing season is an indication that Yeshua was born during Passover as opposed to Sukkot. However, here we have one of the world’s renowned Hebrew scholars placing an emphasis on fall kidding and lambing in ancient Hebrew culture.
In this Milgrom also agrees, stating in The Anchor Bible: Leviticus 1-16: “The attribution of this prohibition to Sukkot would appear to be justified both from its position in the biblical text, where it occurs after injunctions concerning the other two pilgrimage festivals, Pesach and Shabuot (Exod 23:18-19a; 34:25-26a), and from its zoological basis, because goats drop their young in the rainy season, which begins in autumn.”12 It should be noted again, however, that while both Milgrom and Haran highlight fall lambing and kidding, lambs and calves were also born in the spring months and the height of milk production through cattle takes place around the time of Shavuot. In fact, Mishnah Bekhorot 9:5-6 points out that there were three designated “cut-offs” for lambing, kidding, and calving established for determining tithes, and these three markers were associated with Pesach, Shavuot,and Sukkot.13
Schorch also notes a view taken from Amos 6:3-4, where the prophet issues a rebuke that includes the statement: “…dining on lambs from the flock and calves from amid the stall…” Of this passage he proposes that the reference to the stall is a place of nursing, thus the rebuke may have been connected with the original commandment to not take for food a young goat while it is still on its mother’s milk, and also extending the prohibition to all biblically clean livestock animals that provide both meat and dairy foods.
Milgrom takes exception with this line of interpretation, claiming that it is not possible for the Hebrew phrase in use here (בַּחֲלֵ֥ב - in milk) to refer to suckling. However, again from The Anchor Bible: Leviticus 1-16, he states that Keel is “on the right track” with the text referring to a still-suckling kid goat but ultimately concludes: “The life-versus-death theory, I submit, completely and neatly elucidates the other prohibitions, which, heretofore, have been explained as humane.” So this is a question as to which of two highly regarded scholars are correct. But I would not be so quick to write off Keel, Haran, Schorch, Clement, Philo, or any others in this, in this, as the word in question is “in”, which is represented here by the Hebrew letter bet. This is often used to add “in, with, by” before a word. For example, the Hebrew term B’Ruach HaKodesh takes the Hebrew Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and makes it the phrase In The Holy Spirit. This, of course, is not a reference to merely being in the presence of The Spirit, but also to the indwelling of The Spirit within you. So it may not be so unreasonable, after all, to think that the reference is to the indwelling of the mother’s milk in (the belly of) the suckling kid.
While Milgrom comes to an ultimate conclusion that the commandment is about life-versus-death, stating that the same substance that provided life should not be used in it’s death (cooking the meat), I think that Keel’s, Schorch’s, and Haran’s interpretation seems to be more consistent with other similar commandments as well as our primary commandment to care for all of Creation. Either way, the commandment seems to have nothing to do with paganism, nor is it saying you cannot mix meat and dairy products in food preparation.
I know that to some that may not seem as “sensational” as saying that it’s from some Canaanite ritual and so it’s “pagan” to boil a goat in its mother’s milk. But what would you rather have—the truth, or something that sounds electrifying?
Genesis 18:8 (TLV) says: “Then he [Abraham] took butter and milk and the young ox that he had prepared and set it before them. While he was standing by them under the tree, they ate.” Genesis 26:5 says that Abraham was a man who kept The Father’s mitzvot and obeyed The Torah. If the prohibition against “boiling a kid goat in its mother’s milk” were a prohibition against eating meat and dairy products together, then there is a problem because then Abraham, considered the father of Hebraic faith and culture, would have violated a mitzvot out of The Torah.
The simple fact is that there is a good likelihood that this commandment doesn’t even prohibit you from boiling a kid goat in it’s mother’s milk, but rather from taking it for food while it is still nursing on its mother’s milk. However, it is always wise to err on the side of caution, and since I do not know anyone who boils meat in milk on a regular basis today, there is no real need to start either. But you can breathe a sigh of relief; it’s OK to have yourself a cheeseburger, a pizza topped with beef or grilled chicken, or a plate of cheese and a good kosher summer sausage.
That Cheese Has Pork In It!!!
One of the other things that so often goes around when you see people starting to follow Torah and researching the commandments is a rumor that there is pork in cheese. The simple answer is: No, there is not. However, since there is so much misinformation floating through Torah-positive circles of faith, I will take a moment and explain in greater detail why No, there is not!
The argument is typically something like this: You have to be careful with cheese because some cheeses are made with animal rennet and sometimes that animal rennet comes from pigs. To this I would ask these well-meaning people: Do you know what rennet is?
Rennet is an enzyme that has long been used historically in the making of cheese. It causes the milk to coagulate and separates the curds (solids) from the whey (liquids). This is an important step in the process of making cheese.
So, where does rennet come from? I am glad you asked.
Rennet is derived from the fourth stomach of young calves, lambs, and goats. I suppose it could be obtained from the fourth stomach of any biblically clean ruminant—such as deer, antelope, giraffes, or gazelle—but cows, sheep, and goats are the three most common domestic clean ruminants.
A ruminant has four stomachs, which is a part of the process of chewing the cud. Basically, even though this may sound gross to some people—as if taking an enzyme from a stomach has not already grossed out some people—the cow or other ruminants chew grass, swallow it, regurgitate it, and chew it some more. This process carries on until its food has passed through the fourth stomach.
Pigs do not have a fourth stomach, they have one stomach like humans. In fact, scientists have noted that there are a lot of similarities in the physical makeup of pigs and humans, so much so that eating a pig meat may be very close to eating human flesh—perhaps another on the long list of reasons to just follow The Bible and not eat pigs.
There is a product called pepsin that is derived from the stomachs of pigs, cows, and poultry birds. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica entry on pepsin, it is used commercially by the leather industry to remove hair and residual tissue from animal hides prior to tanning and in the recovery of silver from discarded photographic films by digesting the gelatin layer that holds the silver compound. Interestingly, pepsin is a natural enzyme that is found in all sorts of meats, eggs, seeds, and dairy products. It is naturally found in all animals, including humans. So it is not harmful and even in the off chance that there is a use of pig-derived pepsin in a food product, it’s really not something you have to worry about as an act of breaking Torah. I will explain why in a moment.
The idea that porcine pepsin is used in the making of cheese comes from research that was done in the 1990’s while seeking alternatives to rennet due to the increases in cost. Several pepsins were reviewed, including chicken and bovine in addition to porcine. As it turns out, bovine pepsin seemed the most effective but more than that plant-based microbial enzymes ultimately turned out to be the best alternative. In the book Fundamentals Of Cheese Science by Patrick Fox, Ph.D., Timothy Guinee, Ph.D., Timothy Cogan, Ph.D., and Paul McSweeney, Ph.D., published in 2000, “A 50-50 mixture of porcine pepsin and calf rennet gave generally acceptable results, but porcine pepsin has been withdrawn from most markets.” Keep in mind this is in reference to experiments that were done in the 1990’s and by the publishing of this science book on cheese science written by four people with a Ph.D. who work in food science and dairy research the use of pepsin—whether from pigs or other sources—was essentially completely abandoned by 2000. Most cheeses today are produced with a plant- or fungal-based microbial enzyme, and even specialty cheeses that still use rennet are using true rennet from the fourth stomach of biblically clean ruminants.
In regard to the making of cheeses today, according to an article titled What Enzymes In Cheese Are Vegetarian?:
Ninety percent of cheeses contain vegetarian enzymes, as of 2010, according to the Central Co-op's Madison Market. Through technology it has become the least expensive option; and therefore, it is the most attractive option for cheese manufacturers. Traditionally, cheese enzymes or rennet were derived from the stomach lining of young cows. It was a labor intensive process and contained animal-based ingredients, which excluded vegetarians. Check the ingredient label for "vegetable enzyme or rennet" or "microbial enzyme" to ensure you are selecting the vegetarian option.
Basically, pretty much all cheese today is made using a plant-based enzyme, and in the increasingly rare cases you find animal rennet still in use it is certainly from a biblically clean animal, because they are the animals that have that fourth stomach where rennet comes from. So you have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to your cheese, you can breathe another sigh of relief and know that the cheese on your cheeseburger or grilled chicken pizza has pretty much a zero percent chance of having anything derived from a pig in it.
But I will play “devil’s advocate”, as they say, for a moment and let’s say that there is still a chance, a remote possibility, that there is a cheese product that has somehow been coagulated using pepsin from pigs. Well, again, pepsin is not a product of the flesh of pigs—it is an enzyme that is used to break down food, exactly the same as what is naturally in your human stomach. But, you see, the key is that it is from the stomach, not the animal itself.
Some may call it a stretch I suppose—though nowhere near as much of a stretch as people scaring everyone away from eating cheese based on an unsubstantiated rumor that there is “pig-stuff” in their cheese—but honey is a clearly acceptable food item according to The Bible. In a moment I will talk to you about how God took His people to a land flowing with milk and honey, and why that is so significant to this discussion about what The Bible says about dairy products.
Bees produce honey; I think most people know that. What many people may not know is that the production of honey involves the bees eating nectar from flowers, which is then processed in their stomach, and then regurgitated out and made into honey. There I go again, ruining everyone’s appetite by telling them how honey is made. But it is what it is, and bees are also considered unclean based on Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 yet honey is a perfectly acceptable and clean food, per The Bible. A product that is not from the flesh of the animal, that comes from inside the stomach of the animal, is considered clean and acceptable for food.
Many people raise objections to anything connected with pigs, and these are valid concerns. Pork gelatin—a product found in many foods like gummy candies, marshmallows, and Jell-O®, as well as the gel capsules on many pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements—is as equally concerning to people as porcine pepsin. The difference, however, is two-fold. First, gelatin is made from the physical body of the pig—sourced from the skin and bones. This is very different than a product like pepsin and honey that comes from a byproduct in the stomach, even of unclean animals, that is not part of the physical body. Second, unlike pepsin that was rarely used for a brief time in the 1990s and today is pretty much never used in cheese making, swine is the primary source for gelatin. Unless the ingredient label specifically lists bovine gelatin, fish gelatin, kosher gelatin, or a plant-based alternative like pectin, you can be pretty certain that the gelatin is sourced from pigs.
Now, I get it. A product like pepsin may still be most unappealing to those who are committed to following The Father’s Torah. After all, the pig is pretty much the height of all unclean animals in the mind of those who keep The Father’s food laws, so the thought of anything connected to swine may cause a committed Believer to feel nauseated at the thought of eating it. I will say that if I knew of a food product that actually contained pig-derived pepsin or anything else associated with swine I would not eat it for the sake of erring on the side of caution. But since this is a study of dairy foods and The Bible, I can say with good confidence that cheeses do not contain anything derived from pigs. Do as I do, read ingredient labels, and if your cheese is labeled with rennet or microbial enzymes, with no indication of any type of pepsin, you have nothing to worry about. Particularly since the use of pepsin as a way to cut costs fell out of practice a very long time ago when plant-based enzymes were found to be much more cost-effective and had no taboos at all against them.
Where Milk And Honey Flows
So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, to bring them up out of that land into a good and large land, a land flowing with milk and honey, into the place of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. — Exodus 3:8 (TLV)
This promise from The Father to deliver His people to a land flowing with milk and honey is mentioned 20 times in The Tanakh (the “Old Testament”). 15 of these mentions are in The Torah alone, followed by one mention in Joshua and two each by the Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It would seem that this is a rather important promise.
I have known people who have come to some conclusion that dairy products are “bad for their health” and so they quit eating them. Some have even gone as far as to say that “God spoke to them” and told them to stop eating dairy products—for their health’s sake.
Here’s my issue with this—and you can call it my personal opinion if you want. If the most emphasized aspect of the blessing of The Promised Land is that it’s a land flowing with milk and honey, why would The Father tell you not to enjoy this promise “for your health’s sake”?
Let’s take a moment and really think this through. Consistently in The Bible we find that God is a healer, he is Yahweh Rapha. So we have a God who provides healing and ultimately divine health to those who obey His commandments (Exodus 15:26), and this same God seeks to bless us in a land that flows with milk and honey, but for some reason people choose to believe that He would rather they not consume dairy products to prevent them from getting sick. Do you see how this makes no sense at all?
Now, I can see if we are talking about someone who eats ice cream five times a day every day. If that’s the case, then surely The Spirit will prompt you to give that up or at least cut down your consumption. But ice cream is a far different product than something like an organic Greek yogurt with active cultures in it or real organic butter.
Quite frankly, this sounds like more Genesis 3 serpent deception to me. It is, after all, the serpent who leads people to question The Father. “Hath God said…?” That is the question of the serpent. Apply this ideology of the serpent’s question to this matter of eating and drinking dairy products: Did God REALLY say that He wants to deliver you to a land of milk and honey? You should not mess with those dairy products; they might have a negative impact on your health.
I don’t doubt for a minute that people who hear these things are hearing from a spirit, I just don’t think it was The Father’s Spirit that they were hearing from. God will not tell you to avoid something that is part of His package of blessings. If there is a valid concern, then so long as you are walking in His covenant through obedience to His commandments He will heal your body so you can enjoy His blessing without reservation. And as I will show in a moment, eating dairy foods might not be just a part of the blessing but in fact part of a commandment and part of The Gospel.
I hear this stuff all the time. Not to deviate from the primary topic, but we are talking about biblical food principles and I have noticed a lot of Believers have taken to vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diets. They have quit eating meats that The Father created for our blessing and benefit. Contrary to some of the satirical claims that go around, it turns out that meats from biblically clean animals are quite beneficial to our bodies providing us valuable nutritional benefits. I speak at much greater length to this in an article titled: Faith And God’s Food Laws.
We have just as much of an obligation to receive The Father’s blessing as we do to obey His commandments. Applying this to food, we have as much of an obligation to eat those things He provided for us as we do to not eat those things He commanded us not to. And as I have pointed out in the past, at the very least every Believer is commanded to eat lamb prepared with bitter herbs annually at Passover. Passover and Unleavened Bread, after all, is literally THE Feast that Paul referenced when he said: …let us celebrate the feast (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
To not eat biblically clean meat, in proper moderation, is as much a violation of Torah as eating unclean meat is. If you are really that convinced that a primarily vegetarian diet is better for your health, at least take one day a week, perhaps your Shabbat evening meal, and eat a biblically clean meat. Most health experts will say that fish is the best meat for human consumption and fish is a very popular Shabbat meal tradition, so perhaps that would be the way to go. Then you can maintain a practice of eating fish, as we know from the Gospel records Yeshua did, weekly and annually eating the Passover meal with lamb, as we also know Yeshua did. We are told, after all, to walk as He walked (1 John2:6). If nothing else, do the minimum with regard to this—at least until your faith takes you to a place where you believe you can eat what The Father has blessed for you without risks to your health because the promise of divine health is to those who fully follow His commandments.
These same principles apply to dairy products. You have people today, honestly believing they are doing The Father’s work, telling people what are ultimately lies about dairy foods—saying that you can’t eat cheese because it might be made with swine, or that you can’t eat a cheeseburger because you are not supposed to boil a kid goat in/on its mother’s milk, or that dairy “is not good for your health” when it is a part of The Father’s promise of the land He wants to bless you in. Either you believe The Bible or you believe the unsubstantiated claims of religion. And there is a lot of unsubstantiated claims of religion floating around “Torah-keeping” ministries in regard to dairy foods, as well as food in general—bad theology is not exclusive to Torah-rejecting “Christianity” or Yeshua-rejecting Orthodox Judaism.
Walk As He Walked, Eat As He Ate
One of the most revered Scriptures among many in Torah-positive faith-walks, as mentioned a moment ago, is 1 John 2:6 where we are told: whoever claims to abide in Him must walk just as He walked. In knowing that Yeshua was a fully Torah-compliant Jewish Rabbi, those who walk in Torah look to His life as an example. The Apostle Paul put it this way: follow me, as I follow the example of Messiah Yeshua (1 Corinthians 11:1). We see that He kept The Sabbath, so we believe we too should walk as He walked and keep The Sabbath. In seeing that He celebrated the biblical Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot (Pentecost), The Day of Shofar Blowing, The Day of Atonement, and Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles)—as well as the biblical festivals of Purim and Hanukkah—we too believe that we should walk as He walked and celebrate these as well.
In fact, 1 John 2:6 and 1 Corinthians 11:1 are built on a commandment from The Torah. Deuteronomy 18:15-19 tells us that a prophet like Moses will be raised up and we are to shema (hear, listen to, obey, and follow) Him. The Book of Acts confirms that the “prophet like Moses” is indeed Yeshua, our Messiah. So following the same dietary practices Yeshua kept, celebrating the Feasts He celebrated (including Purim and Hanukkah), and keeping The Sabbath are all part of following the commandment to shema the “prophet like Moses”—Yeshua our Messiah. Yet these are among the most rejected parts of The Bible among the masses claiming to be His followers.
If you believe in following whole council of Scripture then you should also believe that among the most important reasons to follow biblical food laws outlined in Torah is because we must walk as He walked and therefore we must eat as He ate. We know He kept the biblical food laws; He could not be The Messiah if He did not. He used pigs to cast devils into, not as a source of food. We see that He annually celebrated The Passover so surely he ate his portion of lamb prepared with bitter herbs. He clearly ate fish, and probably plenty of it since some of His top disciples were fisherman by trade. But what about dairy products? Did He eat any type of dairy, therefore making dairy foods something we should eat as He ate in order to walk as He walked? Let’s take a look at what the Prophet Isaiah said:
Therefore Adonai Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive. When she is giving birth to a son, she will call his name Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey by the time he knows to refuse evil and choose good. — Isaiah 7:14-15 (TLV)
So often the focus on this passage is to the virgin conceiving a son. This portion of Isaiah’s prophecy is validated as being about Yeshua in Matthew 1:23, so we know the next portion stating that He will be eating curds and honey by the time He knows to refuse evil and choose good is also a reference to Yeshua. This means that Yeshua ate dairy, as curds are a dairy product.
Isaiah’s prophesy regarding The Messiah continues to verses 21 and 22 where the prophet states regarding the day of Messiah: “In that day it will be that a man will rear a calf and two sheep, and from the abundant milk they give, he will eat curds—for anyone left in the land will eat curds and honey.” Clearly eating dairy food is linked with the life of Messiah and even with those who dwell in His presence, as the prophetic words of Isaiah extended to include those who lived in the land with Him. Certainly an often overlooked part of walking as Yeshua walked involves embracing the blessing of the land of milk and honey, which would include eating dairy foods created by The Father to bless us.
As I mentioned, I know people who believe God “told them” not to eat dairy products. In Genesis 3 we find the serpent reveal his hand in convincing people to eat things Scripture says not to eat. But the other side of the coin, if the devil can’t convince you to do something Torah says not to do, would be to convince you not to do things we are supposed to do. 2 Corinthians 11:4 tells us that there are counterfeits of Yeshua, the Gospel, and The Spirit that will be raised up. I would propose that someone who thinks God told them not to eat dairy in fact heard from the serpent, convincing him/her to do something that would prevent them from walking as Yeshua walked. And that is of great concern.
The Feast Of Shavuot
In regard to celebration of the biblical Feast Days, it is the custom in modern times to incorporate dairy products into your festive meal for the Feast of Shavuot—or what many Christians refer to as The Day of Pentecost. There are numerous theories as to why this is the common practice of this particular festival. Some have speculated that it is in homage to the blessing of the land flowing with milk and honey. Others that it is the result of Israel, upon receiving Torah at Sinai, did not have time to make all of their cooking utensils kosher through the practice of having separate items for meats and for dairy. And still others connect it to a passage from the Song of Songs referring to honey and milk under the tongue (Song of Songs 4:11).
These theories, however, all seem to be of relatively modern origin. If we look at the tradition from a perspective that considers life in ancient times and a focus on celebrating The Father’s provision, I think we may see a better reason for such a tradition to ultimately develop. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, in his book Seasons Of Our Joy, states: “Theodore Gaster points out that spring festivals in many areas of the world focus on cheese and other milk foods. To a pastoral society, the renewal of milk in cattle, goats, and ewes along with the spring birthings may have been the reason for this.”
As we have already discussed, the prohibition against boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk likely was to say not to take the goat for food preparation while it was still suckling. While it is seen that such livestock animals may give birth in the fall months, the majority of such births take place in the spring. This makes the production of milk by dairy animals—primarily cows, sheep, and goats—climax between May and July. As such, dairy foods would be at the height of their abundance during the Feast of Shavuot.
Something else to note here is that, as discussed earlier, birthings of the major categories of livestock milk-producing animals occurred primarily in both the spring and fall months. However, most cheese production is done in cooler temperatures and aging would take place through the winter months. So, in addition to the abundance of milk at the time of Shavuot, many cheeses made from the previous year’s spring and fall milk production would be ready for consumption at Shavuot as well. Modern technologies may change the traditional seasons foods are produced, but they don’t change the seasons of celebration established in Scripture.
The earlier Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits) and the Fall Feasts (Shofars, Atonement, and Sukkot) center around an abundance of produce harvests. In the case of Shavuot, it seems that there is reason to believe a similar commemoration is made, again to The Father’s provision, celebrating the abundant flow of milk needed to produce dairy products. This would also harmonize with the initial mandate of humanity to care for Creation and subsequently to celebrate the Creator’s provision through His design in Creation.
In most Jewish communities Shavuot is celebrated with an abundance of dairy, and as such meats are either not eaten or there are two meals on this day—separated by the standard six hours. However, I think we should again turn to the passage in Deuteronomy 18 where we see Abraham prepare a meal with both dairy and meat foods. Deuteronomy 18:1 opens the chapter in stating: “Then Adonai appeared to him at Mamre’s large trees while he was sitting in the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day.” The fact that it states the heat of the day would logically indicate this event most likely took place in the summer months. While purely speculative, I cannot help but wonder if this scenario actually played out on The Day of Shavuot.
Regardless of whether or not the events of Deuteronomy 18:1-8 took place on Shavuot, clearly we know from this study that there is no actual Torah prohibition against consuming meats and dairy foods in the same meal. While there is good reason to maintain the tradition of dairy foods during your Shavuot meal in celebration of the abundant flow of milk in the late spring-early summer months, you can also follow the pattern of Abraham who prepared a full and balanced meal that included both meat and dairy foods.
Among the many dairy food options used in the modern celebration of Shavuot, perhaps the most popular today and certainly the one that stands above the rest is a dessert of cheesecake. While there is no true rhyme or reason as to why this has become a staple of modern Shavuot celebration other than it being a dairy food, it is also my firm position that there is never a bad reason to enjoy a slice of cheesecake—academically speaking, of course, from a position of being a self-proclaimed expert in the field of eating slices of cheesecake.
We Must Pursue Truth
When it comes to wild claims about “prohibited foods” beyond the scope of what Scripture commands the lists are long and often littered with the influences of Jewish Talmudic additions to Torah. One good example is the often-debated question of whether or not certain fish, such as tuna or sturgeon, are biblically clean. The commandment says that anything that comes from the water must have fins and scales. But the Rabbis and Sages have come up with five different types of scales on fish: placoid, cosmoid, ganoid, ctenoid and cycloid. From there they determine some types of scales that are kosher and others that are not. This, of course, is no different than the extremes to which the commandment to not boil a kid goat in it’s mother’s milk have developed into under modern Rabbinic kashrut laws dealing with what is kosher and what is not.
Tuna and sturgeon both have visible scales. Tuna species have small scales, but they are visible to the human eye—you can even find pictures on the Internet of several tuna species where you can clearly see their scales (see the photos at the end of this article). Tests on the toxicity of these species have shown that they are on par with all other biblically clean species of fish. If it makes you feel better to not eat certain fish species that are “questionable” because of Rabbinic additions to Torah—making stuff up that is not clearly stated in Scripture—then don’t eat it. But seeing as these species and others have both fins and scales and have been shown to be non-toxic through scientific study it would seem that they are absolutely acceptable to be eaten.
Sturgeon is really only much of an issue with caviar, which of course is made from the eggs of the sturgeon—I’m sure there are people who eat sturgeon, but I don’t see it as a commonly eaten fish, at least not in my experience. Personally, I think caviar sounds gross and would never eat it anyway, but I guess if you are into that it appears that it is biblically acceptable. As for tuna, some argue that they have small scales that are not of the type you scrape off buy running a blade against them from the tail to the head. Well, the same is true of the scales of salmon and trout. These too have very small scales and you don’t scrape them off when cleaning these fish either. Nobody I am aware of who researches the food laws questions salmon and trout, and I can say that when I have caught trout in local rivers I typically gut them and bake them whole with the skin on them.
The FAO Species Catalogue Vol. 2 Scombrids Of The World is a great resource if you want to read about the physical characteristics of tuna, mackerel, and bonito species. It speaks on the scales of the most popularly sold tuna species, such as albacore, yellowfin, tongol, big-eye, and bluefin. It’s far from exciting reading, unless you are a marine biologist, but it can give you the peace of mind—combined with studies that have shown tuna do not test as toxic—that if you like tuna you can consider it a clean fish.
Another one that comes up is waterfowl. This is not so much a result of Rabbinic addition to Torah, but a mistranslation in dated Bibles like the King James Version. In Leviticus 11:18 and Deuteronomy 14:16 the King James Bible includes the swan in the listing of unclean birds. As a result, people in religion have again made stuff up and said that there is a general biblical prohibition against “web-footed birds”. But that’s not what The Bible actually says, nor is there any mention of “webbed feet” being a characteristic of unclean birds.
The Hebrew word used is tinshemeth (תַּנְשֶׁמֶת) and it means “white owl”. This correction has been made in many newer English Bible translations, yet it still seems to be an area of concern for many because once an error has set in and become tradition it is often difficult to change people’s minds. This is the same thing we saw above with the error regarding the Ugaritic text and the ensuing false claim that the prohibition against boiling a goat in its mother’s milk was derived from an alleged Canaanite religious ritual—a ritual that likely never existed. But having been accepted and published in major theology resources (just like the error regarding the Ugaritic text), it is now that much more difficult to correct. However, consider this passage of Scripture:
Solomon’s provision for one day was 30 measures of fine flour, 60 measures of meal, 10 fat oxen, 20 pasture-fed oxen, 100 sheep, beside deer, gazelles, roebucks and fatted geese. — 1 Kings 5:2-3 (TLV)
Some would debate the use of “geese” here, but the Hebrew word is barburim (בַּרְבֻּר), and it translates to: capon, geese, fowl. Examples beyond this of what birds are included in this word are swans, guinea hens, and other waterfowl. So the word used in the list of unclean birds is clearly a reference to an owl, which fits with the other birds of prey listed, and there is one Hebrew word that refers to both poultry and waterfowl species. In addition—as with questioned fish species—ducks, geese, and swans have also been tested for their toxicity levels and found to be on par with other clean birds. So, whether Solomon’s fowl were geese, chickens (capons), turkeys, guinea hens, ducks, or any other bird under the banner of barburim, it is abundantly clear that waterfowl species are clean birds and acceptable as food. While our topic is dairy, I use these examples because it is important for us to shun religious additions to Torah where people are making stuff up or repeating what others made up. So much of what has been taught about food prohibitions in The Bible has been wrong for so long that today people in religion shun what The Father wants us to eat and eat what He told us not to eat. This is clearly the work of the serpent. We read about his first act of deceiving people through food, causing Adam and Eve to break the first food law, in Genesis 3. Then we can look to Revelation 12:9 and we see the serpent revealed for who he was: “And the great dragon was thrown down—the ancient serpent, called the devil and satan, who deceives the whole world.” People in religion are so confused about God’s food laws and it’s nothing more than the deception that started in Genesis 3:1 where the ancient serpent began his work to deceive the whole world.
I hope that this message has cleared up some issues for you regarding dairy foods and what The Bible says—with the added bonus of clarifying confusion about certain fish and fowl. But more than that, I hope studies like this encourage you to look deeper into Scripture. This is the kind of topic rarely if ever looked at by even the most sincere and committed of Believers. But as you can see, it is a rather deep topic that leads to a whole lot of essential information about what it means to wholly obey The Bible. It’s not difficult, you know. All we really have to do is read The Bible and do what it says without the influence of modern religion that has strayed so far from the truth.
Visible Scales On Various Tuna Species
~Blessings and Shalom~
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