Cleanness and uncleanness (14:1-21)
God’s people were not to follow the superstitious practices of the heathen (14:1-2; see notes on Lev 19:26-28). They were to be ‘holy to the Lord’, which meant they had to be careful concerning even the food they ate (3-20; see notes on Lev 11:1-23). An animal that died of itself probably contained blood and therefore Israelites were not allowed to eat it; but non-Israelites, to whom blood did not have the same ritual significance, were allowed. Boiling a young animal in its mother’s milk was a superstitious practice to be avoided (21; cf. Exod 23:19).
All Israelite families had to pay an annual tithe, amounting to one tenth of all their produce and animals, for the support of the Levites (see notes on Num 18:21-32). This tithe was at the same time an offering to God. The offerer therefore took it to the central place of worship where he presented it to God (and to the Levites) in a ceremonial meal. If the offerer lived so far from the tabernacle (or later the temple) that transporting his goods was a problem, he could sell his tithes locally and take the money instead. The Levites joined in the ceremonial meal, and so too did the offerer’s family and slaves (22-27; see also 12:5-7,17-19).
Every third year this tithe, or possibly an additional tithe, was to be distributed in the family’s own locality, so that local poor people could benefit from it as well as the Levites. In this case the offerer, after he had distributed his tithes, had to go to the central place of worship and declare before God that he had fulfilled his obligations according to God’s command (28-29; see also 26:12-15).