Following the pattern of the previous two chapters (which deal with the first two commandments), Deuteronomy 14 is an exposition of the third commandment: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain (Exo. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). Taking the LORD’s name in vain means to associate His holy character with something that is unholy, ordinary, meaningless, or empty. One way this could happen was to disobey the Suzerain LORD concerning dietary restrictions and also to bring an offering that would associate His holy name with something abhorrent. This chapter deals with what was and was not acceptable for the Israelites to eat and to tithe.
Deuteronomy 14 can be outlined as follows:
How to maintain holiness and purity in mourning (Num. 14:1 – 2)
How to maintain holiness in their diet (Num. 14:3 – 21)
Creatures on the Land (Num. 14:3 – 8)
Creatures in the Sea (Num. 14:9 – 10)
Creatures in the Air (Num. 14:11 – 18)
Creatures that Crawl (Num. 14:19 – 20)
Creatures that are Dead (Num. 14:21)
How to tithe their agricultural products (Num. 14:22 – 29)
These requirements were meant to teach the Israelites the proper way to please their Suzerain (Ruler) God. In each case, it was up to Israel to choose whether to comply. But God made it clear there were consequences for their choices.
The Israelites are commanded not to cut themselves nor shave their forehead when mourning because they are a holy people to the LORD who chooses them to be His treasured possession.
Continuing the theme of holiness, Moses then moves to what food the Israelites were permitted to eat and what they were prohibited from eating. He specifies which land animals were acceptable as food and which ones were to be avoided.
Moses gives regulations regarding aquatic animals that were acceptable and unacceptable for food. Any fish that has fins and scales is permitted. Any fish that does not have fins and scales is forbidden.
Moses lists the unclean birds which the Israelites are prohibited from eating. He commands the people to eat any clean bird.
Moses continues with the dietary laws and briefly describes the flying insects that are clean and those that are unclean to Israel.
The Israelites are to refrain from eating anything which dies naturally because they are a holy people to the Suzerain (Ruler) God.
The Israelites were commanded to tithe all their agricultural products in order to learn to fear the Suzerain (Ruler) God. They were also commanded to take care of the Levites.