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Does God give permission to eat meat?

Published: 21 March 2020 (GMT+10)

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 Cosner, 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.

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
US $14.00
Soft Cover
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

King T.
Great Answer, Lita! I really like this thought: "There are a number of places where the Jews had to eat meat to be good Jews."
One tends to overlook the simple verbs that are sprinkled all over the old testament and it's only when questions like these are raised that one realizes just how important it is to keep track of the meaning of what is in front of one.
For instance with the Moses Controversy it is the words "Moses wrote.." or God said "write down these words.." that refutes the arguments of the modern tendency to view Genesis as myth ( because they claim that Moses could not write or that there was only embellished verbal history as stories were repeated ).
Then there's the other controversy about whether hell is an everlasting punishment where the ungodly suffer forever versus whether they are annihilated and there is no eternal suffering. The contention there being over the meaning of the words "destruction", "perish", "death", "everlasting" and "eternal" in their context.
Kishore Babu D.
Response to comment by John C:
The yellow yolk is most of the mass of the cell, but the important parts of the cell (such as the nucleus that contains the DNA) are in a small spot on the surface of the yolk called the germinal disc. This is often invisible in the eggs you buy, because they are unfertilized, so the cell has not split and grown. It is sometimes visible as a small spot on the surface of the yolk, though, called a blood spot. If the egg was fertilized, the germinal disc is the spot where the chick would begin, as it splits into multiple cells and grows, fed by the nutrients in the yolk. a small, circular, white spot (2-3 mm across) on the surface of the yolk; it is where the sperm enters the egg. The nucleus of the egg is in the blastodisc. The embryo develops from this disk, and gradually sends blood vessels into the yolk to use it for nutrition as the embryo develops. Though science called as tiny blood cell, it might not be or might be. It is impossible to eat meat without invisible tiny blood spots which may be negligible. The intention of the creator is that we should not eat blood in such possible quantity and just cautioned that should not eat/drink blood in any form. Even science should agree that most of the disease from blood. Even some of the sea creatures which we eat like fish have white-blood which may not be harmful than red-blood cells. We should rely on creator because he knows better than what we discovered which already created by him. - John 20:29 "Blessed are those who believe without seeing". --- Kishore B. D.
John M.
I think the passage that includes Matthew 15:11 is also helpful in understanding this sort of topic.
Pat G.
I appreciate your response. I have been researching veganism for years. There are at least six critical nutrients you CANNOT get on a vegan diet. This is especially important when you consider the health claims made by Seventh-day Adventists. Their health problems, primarily dementia, are never revealed. There is no ABSORBABLE source of Vitamin B12 in the plant kingdom. A pescatarian can make up some of these deficiencies. Eating eggs also helps. It is important for the general public to know this.
John C.
In reference to Greg H.'s suggestion, Lita: The basis of all metaphors needs to be in fact--otherwise the metaphor becomes self-refuting. I think that lends a bit of weight to Greg's idea.
Lita Cosner
I agree, but I chose to use only the strongest evidence rather than attempt an exhaustive treatment of the issue.
Samuel H.
I did not see it mentioned, but I believe many of the acts that God told the Israelites to do was just sanitary. Eating under-cooked meat was unhealthy, but back then people were not aware of germs, viruses, and micro-organism parasites.
Tom G.
Really great reply, however I don’t think Isaiah 66:3 was addressed entirely.
Taken in context it wasn’t so much to do with what was done but rather addressed the Children of Israel’s attitude and behaviour.
Johann L.
Isa66:3 needs to be seen in context.
Terence W.
I don't get into it unless a person is genuinely seeking the truth, God has permitted us to eat meat with specific guidelines of what's clean and unclean for good sound reasoning, also we are not permitted to eat the blood or the fat because that's where diseases proliferate..both old and new testaments reveal that clearly...
Todd G.
Good day, I loved your response the the question, I have read some of Jonathan Sarfati's book and I really love his thoroughness with that in mind I would add to your comment the appstles were fishermen, jesus miracle of fshes and loaves, Jesus ate fish after he was resurected is very important , also bible prophecy indicates there will at least be meat offerings in temple during millenial reign , you brouht up romans ..I would add it specifically says those who eat meat have the greater faith.many today follow vegan diet s due to fear of death they place there faith in docter advice above God nothing wrong with vegan if you choose but trusting God will keep you is greater faith,to be honest I fall in between.i try to eat vegan mostly but i trust God and eat fish and sometime chicken again I loved your response its just im used to thoroughness from Jonothans books and I love that thankyou
Pratha S.
Of course God gives permission to eat meat! The new testament changed all that -- the new testament is a better covenant.When Peter had the dream that God gave him concerning what could eaten,it included meat.God gave him this dream to let him know that all things that God created could be used for food.And the reason God gave Peter this dream is because Peter was still thinking 'old covenant'.Christ changed all that.Unfortunately,it's still the 'sticking point' with many Jewish people today.In the book of John,the Lord told a group of Jewish people that 'you go by your traditions'{and not by God's Word}.They of course,didn't like what He said,and wanted to stone Him.Many Jewish people think that they have to 'give up being Jewish' to become a Christian -- Christ changed all that! Jewish people can still 'be Jewish' and become a Christian.Paul talks A LOT about this in his writings{and both he and Peter were Jews}! Paul refers to it as 'living under the law'.You can't get to Heaven by 'keeping the law'.This is why Christ came -- TO FREE PEOPLE FROM THIS!! So if Jewish people want to 'remain Jewish' and become Christians,they can choose not to eat meat or to go ahead and eat it -- it's their choice! Christ{with the new covenant}changed all that -- ALL CHRISTIANS are ONE in Christ!
Bob E.
Great question and answer but I'd add two clarifications. The command in the dietary law to drain the blood was part of Israel's national covenant. Christian theology varies widely, but some see this as one of the symbolic ordinances that are no longer applicable. As the Epistle to the Hebrews in 7:12 says in my NKJV, "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law." Likewise, and again Christian theology varies widely, but some see the Romans 14 options, whether to keep the Sabbath or not, whether to eat meat (including that sacrifice to idols) or not, at that time as a matter of conscience under the covenant that a believer was living by, whether believing Jews still living under the covenant of circumcision, or Paul's converts and other Jews and Gentiles living under the covenant of grace. It's not as though Paul would have no qualms about his converts putting themselves under the covenant of circumcision. And again, theology varies widely among committed Christians.
Nicholas A.
Thank you. I believe it but you have explained it very well and in a most interesting way. If we give thanks before eating a meal, we are reminded of our Provider and also of the animal (in the case of meat) that has had to die for our benefit. There would be much less waste in the world if everyone did this.
Donald M.
And Acts 15:29.
A S.
As a vegetarian myself, this person has really stretched the scripture to their interpretation. The scripture quoted in Isaiah is specific in context to how Israel was misusing the sacrificial system to comfort themselves in the practice of their sins. I would hope the person wasn't using this logic to encourage others in such a flawed use of Scripture.
Just to address the passage in Isaiah 66:3 - He's saying that those former actions are rendered pointless by the attitude that accompanies them (the chief sacrifice of pride has not been made) and therefore they might have well have gone all the way and dishonoured/messed up/ run roughshod over God's design by carrying out the latter - an obvious insult to the formal process of repentance.

God isn't saying that the latter label is a direct consequence of the former action. He is saying don't even bother leaving the house until your heart is in the right place.

Previous verse: “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at My word."

I imagine when the wise man offered Frankincense to the family, and saw the saviour of the world in front of him, it was as far away from "blessing a idol" (e.g."Shall I bow down to a block of wood?") as the soul could get!!
Danny J.
Also, that passage S.C. quoted in Isaiah ignores the context of why God was rejecting them killing those animals. It was to do with their sacrifices (killing and/or eating of those animals) being performed in disobedience.
Greg H.
You might have also included Acts 10:9-15, where God tells Peter in a vision to eat ALL kinds of meat.
Lita Cosner
I didn't include that one because it would be easy to argue that God was giving a metaphor for the Gentiles.
Pat G.
In the 9th chapter of Genesis concerning the immediate aftermath of Noah's Flood, we are told that the fear and dread of us will be on the animals, and we shall eat meat. In the Hebrew, "shall" is in the qal form, which is a command, but more than that, it is a command that WILL BE OBEYED. That means it is inevitable. Given the fact that the flood destroyed the ecology, it was no longer possible to get adequate nutrition from plants alone. This is why God commanded us to eat meat. To suggest that this passage means that eggs and milk are the fruits of animals that we are now allowed to eat is to twist scripture. And in addition to what the Bible says, we now know that if a person does not eat meat, or at least eggs and milk, he will suffer from significant malnutrition, and his life will be significantly shortened.
Lita Cosner
From my understanding, it is possible to be healthy on a vegan diet if one is very careful about eating the correct foods to get the nutrients most get from animals.
John C.
It is interesting to note that milk and honey are the excretions of ungulates and bees, while eggs are the immature offspring of chickens (and fish, by the way). It goes without saying that one is eating blood when one consumes eggs of any kind, as that is the way nutrients are supplied mother to young. Also, eggs are harvested at various levels of development, so pre-mature circulation could be beginning within the egg. It is an original way of looking at the passage in Genesis, but an inconsistent and illogical one.
Joe B.
It is also important to note that beginning in Isaiah 65:17 through the end of the book of Isaiah, the Lord is describing a restored creation in the new Heavens and Earth. This is when the Lion will eat grass and lie down with the Lamb and sacrifice will no longer be necessary as the price has been paid and all things fulfilled.
Peter H.
I do appreciate the response. I think the Isaiah 66 passage might be seen in an scatological context.
Terry D P.
Moreover, God gave himself permission to eat a right royal feast of meat/veal, prepared by his friend Abraham: THE LORD APPEARED to Abraham by the terebinths of Mamre. […] So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, ‘Take three measures of flour quickly, knead it and make some cakes.’ Then Abraham ran to the cattle, chose a fine tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurriedly prepared it. He took curds and milk and the calf he had prepared, set it before them, and waited on them himself under the tree while they ate. — Gn 18:1,6-8
Norman P.
The point about animal sacrifice is that it should signify repentance and remission of sins, in the place of, or on behalf of those who are making the offering to God. It signifies holiness through the eventual supreme offering of the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. Hence Isaiah 66:3 is preceded by "but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word". The Jews of that day had corrupted themselves with their abominations, thinking the sacrifice itself would justify them. This is like Christians who, at the Lord's Supper, eat and drink unworthily, eating and drinking damnation to themselves, not discerning the Lord’s body (1 Cor 11:38-40).
Concerning eating animals for food, I believe the ecosystems of the post Flood world was drastically altered, as implied by the establishment of seasons, and the change in relationship of animals to man. God chose a pastoral race to be his covenant people, who would bear witness to his name, and it was of his providence that they (and others like us) could live off the less productive hill pastures - implying the opposite to a life of ease in Egypt or Sodom. Beware bloodless religion! Only when Christ comes, will the reversal of the Fall be finally realized. Meanwhile, kindness and care for animals is entirely biblical, even in the act of killing them for food (Proverbs12:10).
G G.
I don't understand SC's confusion. The verse s/he quoted says: "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything." Yet SC turns around and says: "I give you the fruit of, animals ... The fruit of cow ... chickens ...". SC added the word "fruit", to their description, yet the verse clearly lacks that word when saying what God was now giving us. I'm not sure why SC had a question in the first place. Am I missing something here?...
Chandrasekaran M.
Indeed, if I pick and choose specific verses and passages discarding any contrary verses and passages on the same subject in the Bible then I go astray and miss the total overall picture altogether. All the requirements we need God has given them in poetry, narrative, law, parable, metaphor, prophecy forms using about 40 authors across different generations. This does not mean the Bible is any less reliable. It is a reliable and immutable first hand history of the past and the future.
James K.
what is the ‘fruit’ of grasshoppers and fish (which are permitted for consumption according to biblical law)? and do we throw deuteronomy and leviticus out the window now? Also is this person an actual (malinformed) christian or just a troll trying to sow discord among biblical believers?
Lita Cosner
In my opinion, the person wasn't a troll but was expressing a genuine opinion.
Simon S.
Good question and good response.

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