As brought up in the Skeptics Annotated Bible, there seems to be contradicting dietary laws given within Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 12:15–18 seems to suggest that when they get to the promised land they may eat both clean and unclean meat.

Deu. 12:15–18
15 However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake.
English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

But Deuteronomy 14:3–8 says they cannot eat certain things:

Deu. 14:3–8
3 You shall not eat any abomination. 4 These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, 5 the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. 6 Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 7 Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you. 8 And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.
English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

How are these two passages reconciled?

1 Answer 1


When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they were commanded to dispossess the nations dwelling therein and eliminate traces of their worship by destroying their altars, breaking their sacred pillars, burning their wooden images, cutting down the carved images of their gods, and destroying their names from those places. The Israelites were forbidden from serving and worshipping Yahveh in the same manner as the nations.1


        1 Deu. 12:2–4

Instead, Yahveh would specify a particular place where all the Israelites would go to offer sacrifices in service of Yavheh.2 Unlike the nations that the Israelites were dispossessing from the land of Canaan, the Israelites were commanded not to “offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see.”3


        2 Deu. 12:5–7, 12:11–12. This place was first the tabernacle, and later, the temple.
        3 Deu. 12:13

Having commanded that the Israelites only offer holy things at the specified place where Yahveh dwelled and placed His name, Moses then informs the Israelites that they are allowed to slaughter animals and eat meat at their own homes (“within all your gates”).

Deu. 12:15
15 However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike.
New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

The phrase “the unclean and the clean” might be the cause for confusion. This phrase does not refer to unclean and clean animals, but rather, unclean and clean Israelites.

Whenever an Israelite offered and ate of a sacrifice at the specified place where Yahveh dwelt, the Israelite was required to be ritually pure (clean). Those who ate the sacrifice (holy things) in an unclean state would be cut off from their people.4


        4 cf. Lev. 7:20–21

However, Moses clarifies that whenever an Israelite ate common food (not holy food) within their own gates (at their own homes), they were not required to be ritually clean. Both unclean and unclean Israelite could eat common food, unlike the holy offerings which were required to be eaten only by those who were clean.

  • Blesed is the man that walketh not in the way of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Jan 12, 2021 at 23:09
  • Excellent answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jan 13, 2021 at 5:03
  • A very helpful disambiguation, thanks. Upvoted +1 May 17, 2021 at 1:30

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