Law of First Mention/ Clean & Unclean

Law of First Mention/ Clean & Unclean 

by Christine Egbert

In biblical exegesis, the Law of First Mention requires studying the very first instance in which a principle or doctrine is used. That first occurrence  establishes the inherent meaning in an unchangeable pattern throughout the rest of Scripture. Unfortunately, when Christians study only the apostolic writings (New Testament) and interpret them through the lens of their denomination’s doctrine, they frequently miss the author’s original intent. In this article, we will examine the words “clean” and “unclean” found in Scripture (both Old and New Testaments) in light of the Law of First Mention.   

The First Mention

Genesis 7:2 You shall take to yourself from every clean animal by sevens, male and female, and from the animal that is not clean by two, male and female.

Lev 10:10-11 And that you may put a difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and cleanAnd that you teach the children of Israel all the statutes which YHVH has spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.

In Lev 11:44-43 He says this: You shall not make yourselves “abominable” with any creeping thing that creeps, neither shall you make yourselves “unclean” with them, that you should be “defiled.” For I am YHVH your Elohim: you shall therefore “sanctify” yourselves, and you shall “be holy, for I am holy”! 

Lev 11:46-47  This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps upon the earth: To make “a difference between the unclean and the clean“…

This principle of “clean and unclean” is further addressed in Lev 20:24-26. 

“But I have said unto you, You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey: I AM YHVH your ELOHIM, who has “separated” you from other people. “You shall therefore put a difference between clean beasts and unclean”… you shall not make your souls abominable by beast or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And you shall be holy unto me: for I YHVH am holy, and have severed you from other people, that you should be mine.”

Eze 22:26  Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holyand profane, neither have they showed a difference between the unclean and the clean...

Eze 44:23 And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.


1Thessalonians 4:7  “For God has not called us unto “uncleanness” but unto holiness.” When most Christians read this they fail to apply the principle of “first mention”. In spite of the fact that unclean is contrasted to holiness, they wrongly assume that the writer of Thessalonians meant something other than what YHVH clearly laid out in the Torah.  

Rom 6:19  “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as you have yielded your members servants to “uncleanness” and to “iniquity”(anomia: literally lawlessness) unto iniquity (lawlessness); even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.”  In this passage again uncleanness is contrasted to holiness and linked to lawlessness. But somehow most Christians fail to make the connection.    

2Co 12:21  Andlest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and thatI shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the “uncleanness” and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

Gal 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and things like these; of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before, that the ones practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Here uncleanness is listed with 16 other sins, including murder, sorcery, and heresy. The writer says those practicing these sins which include “uncleanness” will NOT inherit the kingdom of Heaven. Yet, somehow they miss it.

Here are some more mentions of uncleanness: 

Eph 4:19  Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all “uncleanness” with greediness.

Eph 5:3  But fornication, and all “uncleanness” or covetousness, let it not be once named among you as becomes saints;

Col 3:5  Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, “uncleanness”, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

1Th 2:3  For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the “unclean” thing and I will receive you.

So the next time someone (with or without a doctorate in Theology) tells you that clean and unclean isn’t taught in the New Testament, and it therefore no longer applies, remind them about the Law of First Mention. To understand God’s original intent, we MUST go back to the beginning!