Please I don't really understand what the Bible means by clean and unclean animals so please can I get some examples of such animals

  • Hi! While I'm glad you're here and willing to ask questions I'm voting to close as off-topic. The purpose is to ask about specific biblical texts. A quick google search would probably answer the question you're searching for. I've done one and this seems like it would answer your request. gotquestions.org/animals-clean-unclean.html Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 4:16
  • If you search (above) you'll find there's a question where that was addressed before. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/9155/2873 Welcome to BHSE. Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 19:55

3 Answers 3


The texts you need for this answer are Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 3

The first designation of clean and unclean animals first appears in Genesis 7. It would seem that sense God did not have to explain the difference between clean and unclean animals to Noah, the difference between the two was already understood and recognized by man from the beginning. This seems clear from the fact that in chapter 8, Noah offered only clean animals to the Lord when he left the ark. At that time, this would have had no meaning in dietary use because prior to the flood, animals were not used as food among God’s people. Food for man was apparently limited to vegetation.

“’Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food;’ and it was so.” Gen 1:29-30.

Since this is true, this means the designation of clean and unclean had some other meaning that had nothing to do with dietary restrictions. The only purpose for this designation would seem to have been for sacrificial purposes. As is demonstrated in Genesis 4, sacrificial worship through the shedding of animal blood had already been instituted and we know that what Able sacrificed was a clean animal because verse two tells us he was a keeper of sheep.

Even after the flood, the designation of clean and unclean animals persisted, but this time, the designation did not restrict one from eating an unclean animal. The only restriction involved the eating of blood. God told Noah, in 9:3-4, “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” The restriction of not eating unclean animals did not appear until the Law of Moses.

While only clean animals were acceptable for sacrifice, not all clean animals were permitted as sacrifices under the law. The deer for example, is a clean animal but was not permitted as a sacrifice. However, there was no such sacrificial restriction concerning the offering of clean animals before the Law of Moses. Genesis 8:20-21 says,

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” This apparently was met with great approval from the Lord because, “The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.’”

So, sacrifice seems to be the overriding reason for the distinction of clean and unclean. Dietary concerns were for ceremonial cleanness, not for health concerns. Dietary concerns were a secondary matter and limited in time; In fact, the issues of human health never seem to have been a consideration at all. It is simply never mentioned.

The distinction between clean and unclean animals no longer exists, (Peter’s vision in Acts 10). Since the Mosaic Law was fulfilled and taken out of the way, and since animal sacrifices to the Lord are no more, there is no longer a need for the designation of clean or unclean animals.

These laws were another distinction that set Israel apart from the rest of the world. This was something entirely new in the world. In the Law, God placed a dietary restriction on certain animals that he had previously permitted Noah to eat after the flood. Israel was given a set of guidelines to help them distinguish which animals THEY were permitted to eat.

  1. Concerning animals of the hoof that chew the cud.

“Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat.”

Any creatures of the families of oxen, sheep, goats, deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, and mountain sheep were considered clean thus, good for food.

  1. Forbidden animals of the hoof or which chewed the cud, 7-8

“Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these among those which chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in two: the camel and the rabbit and the shaphan, (probably the hyrax which is similar to a large rodent) for though they chew the cud, they do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you. The pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, it is unclean for you. You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses.”

So, all non-hooved animals or hooved animals that did not chew the cud were unclean and were not to be eaten.

  1. Of the creeping things (creatures that go on their bellies. NAS say, “things that move along the ground.”) Leviticus 11:29-32

“Now these are to you the unclean among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the mole, and the mouse, and the great lizard in its kinds,"

The phrase “in its kind", or "after its kind” such as we see throughout Genesis 1, refers to all species within that particular family group. In other words, all flowers “after their kind” would mean every kind of flower regardless of type or species. All cattle “after their kind” would mean every animal within the cattle family group. All cats would mean any creature within the cat family group. All dogs, goats, sheep, etc…) and the gecko, and the crocodile, and the lizard, and the sand reptile, and the chameleon. These are to you the unclean among all the swarming things; whoever touches them when they are dead becomes unclean until evening. Also, anything on which one of them may fall when they are dead becomes unclean, including any wooden article, or clothing, or a skin, or a sack—any article of which use is made—it shall be put in the water and be unclean until evening, then it becomes clean. In other words, no reptiles of any kind. No creature from any of these family types could be eaten. These groups are only mentioned in general but the implications are more far reaching. For example, only the crocodile is mentioned of the crocodilian family group yet, this encompasses all of that particular category of reptiles – crocodiles, alligators, gharials, and caimans, any creature of that family group. Also, lizards of any kind, snakes of any kind, and turtles of any kind were not to be eaten.

  1. Aquatic creatures, 9-10

“These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, but anything that does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.”

All fish that do not have fins and scales were unclean. This one has always been something of a mystery to me because no rule seems to apply across the board. Most fish are carnivores. Most fish that have scales and fins eat other fish. The carp however, is a scavenger fish that has scales and fins but is consider clean and good for food.

  1. Avian creatures, 11-19

“You may eat any clean bird. But these are the ones which you shall not eat: the eagle and the vulture and the buzzard, and the red kite, the falcon, and the kite in their kinds, and every raven in its kind, and the ostrich, the owl, the sea gull, and the hawk in their kinds, the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, the pelican, the carrion vulture, the cormorant, the stork, and the heron in their kinds, and the hoopoe and the bat. And all the teeming life with wings are unclean to you; they shall not be eaten. You may eat any clean bird.”

Basically, no predatory or scavenger birds. All birds that eat other animals and do not have a crop were considered unclean. Interestingly enough, the only birds clean accepted for sacrifice were the turtle dove and the pigeon.

  1. Insects, Leviticus 11:20-23

“All the winged insects that walk on all fours are detestable to you. Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth. These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds. But all other winged insects which are four-footed are detestable to you.”

All non-flying insects were unclean. This seems to apply to any insects that are further down on the food chain than the locust or grasshopper.

  • Late here: Why does the quotation last above describe insects as four footed?
    – civitas
    Commented Jun 18 at 21:09

there are animals which the Tannakh calls Tahor- clean which means It can get on the altar as a sacrifice and also it can be eaten (Jews are not allowed to eat all kinds of animals)

(you can find in Deuteronomy 14; 3-6 the signs of a clean animals)

Examples for 'clean' (Tahor) animals: cow, sheep, rooster, some fish with certain signs and more.


Genesis 9.3 Every moving thing that lives shall be yours to eat; "like the green vegetation", I have given you everything. I believe the Lord meant "from" every living creature shall be your food. He didn't include every creature as Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean. The same as plants. Not every green plant is good for food. Some are poisonous. (Poison ivy, oak, and sumac etc.).

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