Does God give permission to eat meat?
S.C., United States, writes:
Genesis 9:3 ‘Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”
God is now saying that just as I gave you vegetation bearing fruits to eat. I give you the fruit of, animals, birds, insects for food. The fruit of cow, sheep and goat is milk. The fruit of chickens are eggs. The fruit of bees is honey. These animals produce fruit for food, even as trees produce fruits for food.
Genesis 9:4, “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
Isaiah 66:3 “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;”
Lita Sanders, CMI-US, responds:
Thank you for writing in. It is of course important to understand what God has given us permission to do and what He has prohibited. When we look at the totality of the biblical revelation on this matter, we see that God has given us permission to eat meat.
We agree that Genesis 9:3 is extending permission to Noah and his descendants (including us) to include something in his diet that was previously not permitted. You say that this is only the “fruit” of animals—that is, milk, eggs, honey and so on, and not the flesh itself. The more common interpretation is that the flesh of animals is allowed to be consumed, but the blood must be drained away. When there is an interpretive question, we must look to other parts of Scripture to decide the matter. To make it as clear as possible, we won’t look at the multiple places where people are described eating meat; we will only look at the instances where God speaks specifically about eating meat.
There are a number of places where the Jews had to eat meat to be good Jews. A lamb is a non-negotiable part of the Passover meal (coincidentally, this guarantees that Jesus ate meat) (Exodus 12). In Exodus 29:31–34, Aaron and his sons are commanded to eat the flesh of a ram as part of their ordination. There are a number of other times when a priest is commanded to eat the meat of an offering (for example, Leviticus 6:26). In fact, Moses was angry with Aaron when he failed to eat the meat of an offering (Leviticus 10:19). The food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 do not make sense being viewed in your proposed sense of the ‘fruit’ of animals, as fish do not produce anything one could eat without killing the fish. It is the “living creatures” themselves that are being discussed as allowed or not allowed as food, not simply their products. Deuteronomy 12 in particular gives rather sweeping permission to eat meat, as long as one pours out the blood like water.
Romans 14 establishes pretty clearly that for the Christian, our diet is a matter of conscience, and we are not allowed to look down on one another for what our conscience dictates, so long as whether we eat or abstain, we are doing it in honor of the Lord. Paul tells the Corinthians to “eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience” (1 Corinthians 10:25).
I hope this is helpful.