Are certain animals "unclean" in the OT because they broke their covenant with God?
I am now studying at the Moscow Seminary, where one of the teachers made a statement. He said that some animals are considered unclean because they broke the commandment of God with regard to their environment. For examples, hares run on land, but are not allowed to go into holes. Also some animals eat other animals, which is also not God’s will. The claim of this professor is that God supposedly made a covenant with animals, too, and the animals, in turn, broke the covenant, making them to be unclean. Do you have any thoughts about this?
I will have to say that this is one of the craziest teachings I have heard of. You can be very confident that this is nonsense. Animals, unlike humans, always obey God’s will for them. They do not have “free will.” They do not sin and they are not accountable to God. They are in the Kingdom of God. The entire physical creation is very good (Genesis 1). Of course, this includes all animals. I have no idea where your teacher got this crazy idea, but you can safely dismiss it. To say that God did not intend for lions or tuna to eat other animals is ludicrous. These animals cannot eat plants and they cannot survive on plants. To say that rabbits are “sinning” when they go into a hole is similarly without biblical or scientific foundation. Like the stars and the trees, animals always do God’s will and always declare the glory of God.
I cannot say with absolute certainty why God said certain animals are unclean to eat. However, I would note that they are not unclean to touch, but only to eat. They are not inherently unclean, but only prohibited for the Jews to eat. My speculation is that certain animals are “unclean” to eat for Jews because they are relatively unhealthy for humans to consume. For example, pork, shellfish and carnivores carry many more diseases than cows, sheep and fish with scales.