Is It Wrong to Eat Pork and Shellfish?

You are probably aware that observant Jews don’t eat pork or shellfish; perhaps you also know that God’s law forbids eating those and certain other animals. But maybe you think that law doesn’t apply to you. Let’s examine the evidence.

The Creator of human beings knows what causes human happiness and success. He teaches us those causes through His “instruction manual”: the Bible. His instructions guide you to happiness in every aspect of life, from your innermost thoughts to your outward actions to what’s for dinner.

Human beings think we automatically know the way to happiness, yet it eludes us. But our Creator reveals that way in the Bible through His laws. Your obedience to these laws of happiness determines your success and quality of life (Proverbs 29:18), just as a builder, pilot or athlete succeeds by using—not breaking—the laws of physics.

Sadly, many throw away long-lasting joy and abundant blessings from God for the sake of fleeting pleasure. They deny themselves the health and prosperity that would come if they believed God and did as He says.

Many laws of God are spiritual, establishing overall principles that can be applied to many cases for our spiritual health. Other laws are physical and specific, and apply to our physical health. Several of these laws instruct us on which animals we should and should not eat.

Most people ignore what God says when it comes to diet. They decide what to eat based on taste and observation. They would rather eat what they believe is good for food. But if our Creator gives us direction, we ought to rely on Him, rather than our sense of taste. God designed our bodies. He knows far better than we do what is good to put in our stomach.

God’s instruction book first describes “clean” and “unclean” animals in Genesis 7. There, He instructs Noah several times to distinguish between these two types of animals.

God lists which “clean” animals are good for food in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. Leviticus 11:3-4 provide specific instruction on identifying mammals that are good for food: They have cloven hooves and chew the cud. He also includes examples: “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (verse 7). Here our Creator identifies pigs as unclean and commands that they must not be eaten.

Verses 9-10 provide God’s instruction on seafood: “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.” This shows us that shellfish, such as crabs, lobsters, oysters, mussels and shrimp, must not be eaten.

Many Christians who have looked into this subject say God’s identification of clean and unclean animals was merely ceremonial and was part of the Old Covenant, which has ended. Yet God made this “clean” and “unclean” distinction with Noah, centuries before the Old Covenant was established. Many Christians also say the Apostle Peter’s vision in Acts 10 revealed that unclean animals had become clean for human consumption after the death of Jesus Christ. However, the meaning of that vision is revealed in verses 28 and 34: God was opening His plan of salvation to human beings who had been considered unclean. This was a major event in God’s plan for humans, but it did not affect the consumption of meats. You can read a biblical explanation of this vision in our article “Does the Bible Condone Eating Any Kind of Meat?

Perhaps God’s command seems arbitrary to you. Many people grew up eating these animals and think nothing of it. But God’s law is not arbitrary.

Why are God’s laws regarding meats important? Evidence shows there are health benefits to following these food laws. God created all those animals, and He could have made pigs, cockroaches, maggots, eels, sharks, vultures or anything else perfectly healthful as human food. But God took pains to set apart certain animals as food for humans. Animals not reserved for that purpose are unclean and not to be eaten.

In fact, there is an important spiritual principle—and even an inspiring spiritual vision—behind His commands regarding clean and unclean meats! You can read about it in our article “Just What Do You Mean … ‘Unclean’?”, which explains the biblical principle distinguishing clean from unclean.

At the most fundamental level, these laws also teach us to allow our Creator to govern our lives—even what we eat. God’s law is not grievous (1 John 5:3). It is truly a great gift! Even before you understand why your Creator commands something, you can trust Him, knowing that if you obey Him, you will be happy! Prove this for yourself. Eat only the meats that God has provided and identified for you to eat. You will see your health improve, and you will begin to learn much more about your Creator. Read more about this subject in our article “Is All Animal Flesh Good for Food?