People sometimes lament that there is no “owner’s manual” for living, but there is. Scripture is a guidebook that shows us how to live our lives in a way that will please Yahweh. Only, we have to be careful to interpret His word the right way (and then apply it).
A car’s owner’s manual tells us what kind of fuels and lubrications the car likes best. It is important for us to follow these “manufacturer specifications” if we want to get the best life from our car, with as little maintenance and breakage as possible. In just the same way, if we eat the foods that Scripture tells us to eat, we will have less maintenance and breakage on our bodies.
To understand how Yahweh wants us to eat, first we need to understand First Use Theory. First Use Theory says that the first time Yahweh establishes a pattern in Scripture, that is the standard for all that follows. For one example, Adam and Havvah (“Eve”) were married as one man, and one woman, together for life. First Use Theory says that therefore, lifetime monogamy is the ideal for marriage (and this pattern rings true). While Scripture does allow certain variations under certain special circumstances, lifetime monogamy is generally the ideal rule.
First Use Theory has a great deal to say about our diet. In the beginning, Yahweh created Adam and Havvah to eat every plant of the field in which there is seed. While we shall see Yahweh allowed us to eat other foods later, our diet should consist primarily of plants of the field which bear seed. (We will discuss mushrooms at another time.)
B’reisheet (Genesis) 1:29
29 And Elohim said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”
There are many theories about what life was like in the Garden of Eden. Some theorists suggest that originally there were no seasons, but that the seasons only got started when the earth was knocked off of its axis at the time of the Flood. If true, then Yahweh may have intended Adam and Havvah to eat pretty much the same diet each day, rather than eating “seasonally.”
However, many scholars have difficulty with the idea that there were no seasons, for most plants only grow and bear fruit according to seasonal cues. If there were no seasons before the Flood, then how would these plants have propagated? This is an important question, because if there were seasons before the Flood, then it would make sense that Yahweh intended man to alter his diet according to the seasons. In modern language, that would mean Yahweh intended us to eat primarily what is fresh, local, and in-season.
Many health researchers today are discovering benefits of eating fresh, local, and in season. That means we should consume more fresh leafy greens in the spring, more vegetables and fruits in the summer and fall (as they come ripe), and then eat more grains, nuts, dried fruits and other concentrated sources of energy during the winter, when we need more calories to survive. During winter the vegetables should also tend more towards vegetables that store well in refrigeration (such as cabbage), as well as root-vegetables that store well (such as potatoes and carrots).
One advantage to eating that which is fresh, local and in season is that these foods are more often on sale. And if we will eat this way, not only will it improve our health, it will also greatly reduce our medical costs. This kind of healthy eating pleases Yahweh.
As we discussed in the last chapter, originally our food was non-GMO (non-genetically modified), and organic. It can be expensive to eat this way, but there are both health and spiritual benefits in the long run. Once we understand these basic principles, then we are ready to talk about how our diet changed after the Flood.
Before the Flood, Yahweh did not allow us to eat meat. However, after the Flood we may eat it. Only, we are not allowed to consume any blood, for the life is in the blood.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 9:1-4
1 So Elohim blessed Noach and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
Since the Flood washed most of the topsoil into the sea, some scholars theorize that the atmosphere and soil were of much higher quality before the Flood. For this reason, these scholars speculate that perhaps the reason Yahweh did not allow us to eat meat before the Flood was that we were able to get all of the necessary vitamins and nutrients from plants. However, after the Flood, with the topsoil and atmosphere degraded, we can no longer get everything we need from a diet of plants alone. If this theory is true then we should notice one very important thing: since we were not originally designed to eat animals, animal consumption is never going to be truly good for us biologically, apart from being a “fix” for diet of plants grown on depleted soils, and in a depleted atmosphere.
A great deal of modern research has borne out the fact that meat is toxic, and promotes all manner of bodily diseases and ailments, including strokes, heart attacks, arterial plaque, cancers, and diabetes. There are too many variables to separate, but basically what the studies show is that when we eat a lot of meat (and particularly red meat), the incidence of these kinds of diseases rise, perhaps as a result of systemic toxicity.
Longitudinal studies such as the China Study (Dr. T. Colin Campbell) showed that Chinese people eating a traditional diet of 5-10% meat have a much lower incidence of cancer and heart disease then Chinese people who have adopted a Western diet.
Historical studies of Norway show that after the Nazis occupied Norway in 1939, they took all of the cows for use by their army. Coronary disease plummeted, only to bounce back after the war, when the Norwegians began eating cows again. There are many other factors to consider, and the study does have its detractors, but there does appear to be a link between eating “too much” red meat and the rise of other bodily ailments. But the only question is, “How much is too much?”
Mishle (Proverbs) 23:20-21
20 Do not mix with winebibbers, Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.
Yahweh tells us that when He enlarges our border, we may eat as much meat as our heart desires.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:20
20 “When Yahweh your Elohim enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, ‘Let me eat meat,’ because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires.”
The patriarch Yitzhak (Isaac) loved his wild game, and asked his son Esau to go hunt for it, so he could bless him.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 27:3-4
3 Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me.
4 And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.”
But did the patriarchs eat meat every single day? And did they eat it in the same quantities we eat of it today? Today the average American eats 200 pounds of meat, up from 125 pounds a century ago; and that number is probably up from the days before refrigeration. So how much meat is it really good to eat? That is the real question.
There are times Yahweh commands us to eat meat.
Shemote (Exodus) 12:11
11 “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is Yahweh’s Passover.”
The commandment to eat the Passover does not equal a commandment to eat meat every single day, and in the quantities we presently eat it. Meat plus dairy comprises perhaps 30-40% of most Americans’ diets. This percentage of animal products begins to border on substitution for the original diet of plants bearing seed, and public health records tell us that something is very wrong.
Modern nutrition tells us that not only should we eat fresh, locally and in season, but that we should also eat “as close to the source” as possible. That is, rather than eat processed food (such as breads, gravies, and candy), we will be much healthier (and feel better) if we only cook our food as much as we really need to, in order to make it delicious.
But if it is bad to depart from the “first use” diet, then why did Yahweh commands the priests to eat so many processed breads and meat, basically every day?
Vayiqra (Leviticus) 8:31
31 And Moshe said to Aharon and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and eat it there with the bread that is in the basket of consecration offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aharon and his sons shall eat it.’”
Scripture tells us that it was the job of the priesthood to bear the iniquity of the priesthood, and also the iniquity of the people.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 18:1
1 Then Yahweh said to Aharon: “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood.”
But how does eating meat and processed bread cause one to bear the iniquity of the people? To answer this question, let us remember that according to Scripture, eating meat is not a good thing. Many people think of the animal sacrifices as a “set-apart picnic with Dad,” but this is the opposite of the truth. Instead, the animal sacrifices were meant as a reminder of our sins.
Ivrim (Hebrews) 10:3
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
Basically, when we live in the land of Israel and there is a cleansed temple, when we commit a sin, we have to take our very finest animal, and give it to Yahweh. And not only do we have to kill it (with the priesthood standing on), but then we have to eat part of it. (To get an equivalent sense for modern times, it would be kind of like “killing the family pet.”)
It may sound glamorous that Aharon and his sons were called to “bear the iniquity” of the people, but part of their job was to suffer meat toxicity, and have their intestines coated with fine wheat flour, such that they probably developed all sorts of digestive illnesses.
So how much is the “right” amount of animal products (meat, eggs, dairy, etc.) to incorporate into our diet? Conventional wisdom says, “If some is good, more is better;” yet many studies show dire consequences for eating too much animal protein. Rather than starting with the modern American diet of 30-40%, and taking away some, it might be more instructive to begin with our Father’s original “first use” diet, and then add animal proteins back in, until one feels healthy.
While an on-duty Levitical priest should always eat the sacrifices, some people can forego meat at other times. For example, when Daniel was going to be served the king’s meats and foods (which were probably sacrificed to idols), he requested plain water and vegetables.
8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
9 Now Elohim had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.
10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my adon the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”
11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.”
14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.
16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
While some people can maintain a vegetarian diet long term, not everyone can. While protein can be obtained from plant sources, animal products contain certain vitamins and minerals (e.g., vitamin B-12, calcium, etc.) that are not easily replaced by plants alone. Vegans and vegetarians have to be careful to eat foods in certain combinations, and typically they eat a great deal of soy (which creates estrogen in men), as well as a large amount of nuts (which again departs from the originally-intended diet). Everyone is different, and if you can make veganism or vegetarianism work for you, then praise Yahweh: but at the same time it seems unreasonable to tell others to forego animal products, as Yeshua fed the multitudes with loves and fishes.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 14:19
19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.
Solomon tells us that it is good to eat honey.
Mishle (Proverbs) 24:13
13 My son, eat honey because it is good,
And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste….
However, we should only eat as much honey as we really need, lest it make us sick.
Mishle (Proverbs) 25:16
16 Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, Lest you be filled with it and vomit.
Solomon again emphasizes how honey is something we should “add to” our diet sparingly, rather than eating a lot of it (as a staple).
Mishle (Proverbs) 25:27
27 It is not good to eat much honey; So to seek one’s own glory is not glory.
We know that meat and other animal products cannot be all bad for us, because Yitzhak ate meat for 180 years. Scripture does not record any cancer, heart disease, or other chronic ailments on his part. Rather, it tells us that he died “old and full of days.”
B’reisheet (Genesis) 35:28-29
28 Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years.
29 So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
There are also studies done of towns such as Roseto, Pennsylvania, where the people all have terrible diets, with huge amounts of red meat, lard, and pork, and yet heart disease and cancer is almost non-existent. When these kinds of case studies are brought into the mix, what we find is that lifestyle, community and spiritual health are even bigger factors in bodily health than our diets. We will talk about these things later on in this study, but even with healthy spiritual lifestyles, we should still adhere to the Torah Diet, in which we eat mainly plants that are fresh, local, and in season, and then add in enough animal-based products to make us feel good, and satisfied. The amount of animal-based products may vary from person to person, but unless we hear Yahweh’s voice telling us otherwise, we should probably err on the low side (and typically much lower than the standard 30-40% animal products in the American diet). This will mean “better mileage” and “less frequent breakdowns” in our bodies, as a result of “following the Manufacturer’s specifications.”
As children, we often decide what foods we like based on how it tastes (alone). We gravitate towards sugar, and sweets. Then as teenagers we can tend towards alcohol and other intoxicants, because we have not yet learned to pay attention to how we feel later: we only value how we feel at the moment. It is only later, as we grow more mature, that we begin to base our opinions of food on how they make us feel in general. The key to retraining ourselves is simply to ask ourselves not only how the food tastes, but how something makes us feel an hour, or even a day later. If we really take stock of these things, then we have a much easier time cutting the toxins out of our diets, and treating our bodies as the temporary temples they are.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 6:19-20
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Set-apart Spirit who is in you, whom you have from Elohim, and you are not your own?
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify Elohim in your body and in your spirit, which are Elohim’s.
The need to eat animal-based foods is basically a toxic curse, but it is one we cannot really do anything about at this point. That is, it is a curse we have no choice but to endure, and be glad for. For although we should not be glad for a curse, and although we should not be glad that animals have to die for us, we should be glad and give thanks at each meal that our Elohim loves us and cares about us so much that He values our lives above all the animals, and that He has us sacrifice their lives to remind us of how much we owe to Him, and His Son.
Ivrim (Hebrews) 10:3
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
Blessed forever is Yahweh the Father, and the Lamb of Elohim, who died for our sins.