Deuteronomy 14:21

“You shall not eat anything which dies of itself. You may give it to the alien who is in your town, so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” ‭‭

How is an animal that died of natural causes unholy?

  • By intuition, we could view The Holy Israelite people group choosing to eat animals killed by natural causes as being a disrespectful because it's incidental. In other words, animals dying by natural causes just happens Unintentionally, & so you decide to eat it.But, when The Holy Israelite people intentionally choose to kill an animal, they are intentionally & knowingly taking steps to reduce their ancient "financial assets". In OT, the cattle & folk belonging to a person would represent their wealth (For example,(Genesis 13:2)"Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold." ) Jun 11, 2022 at 11:53

1 Answer 1


As defined in several places, animals that were not slaughtered may not be eaten:

  • Ex 22:31 - You are to be My holy people. You must not eat the meat of a mauled animal found in the field; you are to throw it to the dogs.
  • Lev 17:15 - And any person, whether native or foreigner, who eats anything found dead or mauled by wild beasts must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean until evening; then he will be clean.
  • Lev 22:8 - He must not eat anything found dead or torn by wild animals, which would make him unclean. I am the LORD.
  • Deut 14:21 - You are not to eat any carcass; you may give it to the foreigner residing within your gates, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. You must not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.

The reason for this prohibition of eating animals that died of natural causes is not stated but such reasons are not difficult to deduce. It was very probably because of the following:

  • The animal had not been bled correctly and the blood (now decaying) was still in the flesh, and, eating of blood was prohibited, Gen 9:4, Lev 3:17, 7:26, 27, 17:10-14, 19:26, Deut 12:16, 23, 24, 15:23. (see also Ps 50:13, Eze 33:25, Acts 15:20, 29, 21:25)
  • There was no way to accurately determine how long the animal had been dead - very likely it had been dead too long and was unsuitable for consumption. Decay of a complete animal is much faster than if it is dissected and properly butchered. Lev 19:5-7
  • The animal may have died of some (unknown) disease and thus was unsuitable for consumption
  • The age of the animal may have influenced this regulation - most animals for consumption were younger - an animal that had died of old age would also be unsuitable for eating for a combination of reasons.

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