Of all the grey areas within the dietary laws, that
concerning the eating of offal is probably the most
controversial, and the most difficult to comprehend. Within the
ranks of those who keep the law are many who would happily tuck
into a steak and kidney pie, whilst criticising others for eating
stuffed hearts. At the same time the orthodox Jew would
condemn both parties whilst chomping his way through a liver
sausage. However all these groups would probably find the Muslim
Arab's alleged delicacy of sheep's eyeballs a little hard to
stomach. Another group of law keepers, and possibly the largest,
are those who refrain from eating any kind of offal. Their
reasons are varied, and many are based upon personal likes and
dislikes. The two most common explanations concern not eating
blood, and the fact that the organs, because of their functions,
are most likely to carry diseases.
The question then is, who is right? There is no EASY ANSWER.
In Exodus, chapter 12, we read of the institution of the
Passover. It is the first time that God gave instructions
concerning the preparation of a meal.
First, we note that the lamb had to be without blemish
(verse 5). It then had to be kept separate for four days, in
order to observe any signs or symptoms of disease. The word
blemish, 'tamtym,' suggests perfection. If any disease of
deformity was found, the lamb could not be eaten.
In the Levitical law of ordinances we again find the only
animals without blemish could be used.
Today, when animals are being slaughtered for "Kosher" or
"Halal" butchers, the carcasses have to be inspected by the
priest, who not only certify that they have been killed
correctly, but also that they are free of disease. If any sign of
disease is found, whether it be in the fish, or in the entrails,
the whole carcass is deemed unfit to eat.
Unfortunately this is not true of ordinary slaughterhouses.
Very often the diseased part is cut out, and the rest offered for
sale (very true, as I once knew a person who worked in a "chicken
factory" and they indeed told me how the diseased part was cut
out and the rest continued on to become human food - Keith Hunt).
The Second point to notice is that they were to "take of the
blood" (verse 7). After the flood, we read God gave
Noah....."you shall not eat flesh with the life of it, which is
its blood" (Gen. 9:4). At Sinai, God, through Moses, reiterated
this command (Lev. 3:17; 7:26 and 27). For this reason, both the
Jews and the Muslims slaughter animals by cutting the throat and
allowing the heart to pump out the blood. It is claimed that this
method ensures a quick and almost painless death, and that the
maximum amount of blood is drained from the animal.
The council of Jerusalem reiterated that the prohibition
against eating blood should be upheld, and extended to gentile
believers (Acts 15:20 and 29).
To most people the term "kosher" denotes meat that has been
slaughtered in accordance with Jewish ritual. More correctly the
term "Kosher" denotes the ritualistic preparation of the meat, by
the housewife, prior to cooking it. To Kosher meat or poultry,
the meat should be placed in a bowl reserved for this specific
purpose. The meat is then covered with water, and allowed to soak
for half an hour. Then every particle of blood is washed from the
meat before removing it from the water. Then it is placed on a
wooden board with holes in it, and lightly sprinkled with salt.
It is allowed to drain for a further hour before being rinsed in
cold water. Anyone following this procedure for the first time
will be surprised at how much blood is removed from the meat.
They will also be surprised at how tender and tasty the meat
Verse 8 brings us to the third point, the lamb was to be
roasted with fire. This point is reiterated inverse 9. As we have
already seen when considering animal fat, the roasting was done
in order to seethe the fat from the flesh. It is also worth
mentioning that the Egyptians used to eat RAW meat in honor of
Osiris. By forbidding the eating of raw flesh or flesh "sodden
with water," God was making sure that the Israelites would not
confuse the Passover with any idolatrous practices of their
Verse 9 brings us to the last point. The lamb was to be
roasted "his head with his legs, and with purtenance thereof."
The Hebrew word "qereb" translated "purtenance" in the A.V. is
translated "inner parts" in the N.I.V. and the R.S.V. and other
translations. According to Gesenius, the word "qereb" denotes the
interior, midst of a thing, especially the inside of the body,
When God instituted the Passover feast, He ordered that the
lamb chosen should be without disease. The blood was to be
drained, and then the WHOLE lamb, head, brian, offal and flesh,
was to be roasted so that the fat ran off. In verses 8-10 we read
that they were to eat it all, and not let any remain until the
From the account it would appear that God has set a
precedent for the eating of offal. According to the orthodox Jew,
the objection to offal is connected to those parts of the animal
which were FORBIDDEN due to their allocation for Temple
sacrifice. Therefore to them neither the KIDNEYS, no the HEART
are Kosher, although it may be treated in the proper manner, or
with the necessary parts excluded, some parts of the kidney and
heat mat well be permissible. The LIVER, however, is allowed.
The previous paragraph is a precis of a reply to a question
of the eating of offal, and from this reply it can be seen that
orthodox Jewry has doubts on the subject. One point is clear, and
that is that their authority for the prohibition of heart and
kidney does not come from the dietary law as set out in Lev.
chapter 11 and Deut. chapter 14, but rather from the law of
In Exodus chapter 19 verses 13 and 22, and in Leviticus
chapter 3 verses 4, 10, 15 and chapter 4 verse 9, and chapter 8
verse 16 and 25, we find that internal FAT, BOTH KIDNEYS AND THE
CAUL ABOVE THE LIVER, were to be dedicated to the Lord by burning
them upon the altar. From these passages the KIDNEYS were clearly
FORBIDDEN. In Hebrew the word translated kidney is "kilyah."
Strong shows the word also means in a figurative sense, the mind
(as the interior self). The same word is also translated as
"reins" e.g. Psalm 7 verse 9. "Oh let the wickedness of the
wicked come to an end; but establish the just, for the righteous
God trieth the heart and the reins."
The term "heart and reins" is an idiom for thoughts. In
simple terms, as the function of the kidneys is to filter
impurities from the blood, so our minds should be used to filter
out all impure thoughts.
Let us now consider the LIVER. In the passages just quoted
from the A.V. we find that the CAUL above the liver is FORBIDDEN.
In the N.I.V. it is rendered as "the COVERING of the liver." The
R.S.V. reads, "the APPENDAGE of the liver." The Good News has
"the BEST PART OF the liver." Moffatt translates it as "the LOBE
on the liver." Ferrar Fenton prefers "the CAUL over the liver,"
whereas the basic English version reads, "the FAT joining the
liver and the kidneys."
From this random selection of translations it is easy to see
why some authorities ARGUE that liver is FORBIDDEN, and OTHERS
advocate it CAN be eaten lawfully. Indeed most translators
indicate that the fatty or membraneous bag enclosing the liver
is forbidden, rather than the liver itself.
The word "caul" appears once more in the A.V. namely in
Hosea 13 verse 8 where we read: "I will meet them as bear that
is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the CAUL of their heart,
and there will I devour them like a lion." In this passage "caul"
is the translation of the Hebrew word "segore" meaning to shut up
- i.e. the breast (as enclosing the heart).
In this instance the A.V. translators are clearly using the
word "caul" as meaning that which covers the heart, rather than
part of the heart itself.
According to strong, the Hebrew word "yothereth" translated
"caul" in the A.V. means the LOBE or FLAP of the liver. Gesenius
indicates it means that which is REDUNDANT, hanging over...."the
greater lobe of the liver," as though it were the REDUNDANT part
of the liver, something ADDED to it.
R.J. Rushdoony states that the Berkeley version translates
"caul" as the "lobe of the liver." He then shows that George Bush
(not the ex or present President of the USA - Keith Hunt), in his
work "Notes, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Exodus,"
makes it clear that "lobe" is the correct reading, i.e. "the
greater lobe of the liver," is also forbidden food.
The Jewish Encyclopedia has this to say on the subject:
"In six passages of the bible in which the liver is
mentioned the expression "yothereth" is met with in reference to
the part of the organ which had to be sacrificed as a fatty
piece. (Exodus 29:13 and 22 at passim). The meaning of this
expression has not been successfully established."
The Encyclopedia goes on to say:
"The Authorized Version, following Jerome, renders it 'the
caul above the liver,' and it seems Rashi gave it the same
interpretation. But the Septuagint renders it by 'the lobe
of the liver,' which shows that the piece sacrificed was a PART
of the liver itself. The interpretation 'caul' or 'flap around
the liver' seems to be based on the Aramaic.....taken in the
sense of surrounding. But Bichart.....has proved the error of
such interpretation, referring to Saadia's Arabic rendering
From this brief study we must conclude that we CANNOT BE
CERTAIN of the CORRECT meaning of "yothereth." Clearly if God
wished the WHOLE of the LIVER to be sacrificed, He would have
said so, as He did in the case of the KIDNEYS.
Meanwhile, what advice should we offer those seeking to obey
God's will? Clearly we must ADMIT our UNCERTAINTY but SUGGEST
that where there is doubt, it is better to leave it OUT.
As mentioned earlier, Orthodox Jewry consider the heart as
FORBIDDEN, because of its connection with Temple sacrifice.
However, when we read the passages citing the Law of Ordinances,
we find no mention of the heart being SPECIFICALLY sacrificed,
but only those organs already discussed. There appears to be NO
Biblical foundation for such a belief.
Many people consider that the heart MUST be excluded from
our diet BECAUSE of its function in pumping the BLOOD, and as
blood is DEFINITELY forbidden, they would seek to exclude the
heart also. Such reasoning is illogical, because if the animal is
slaughtered correctly, there is not likely to be any more blood
contained in the flesh of the heart as in any other part of the
END of quote and article by P. Bennett (all capital words for
emphasis were mine - Keith Hunt).
Well, now you begin to see why I have said that many
"Hebrew" (or Greek for that matter) scholars do NOT agree as to
how to translate or understand certain words, phrases or even a
sentence, at times.
I think Bennett summed it all up pretty well in this
case.....when in doubt probably best to leave out.
It is very interesting to read and study the details about
the kidneys and the liver from a well pictured and diagrammed
human Anatomy book.
Entered on Keith Hunt's Website May 2003