Sometimes the Bible tells us things that don’t seem to make sense. For example, the book of Leviticus tells us not to eat pigs. It tells is we can eat cows and goats and sheep, but not pigs. Why is this prohibition in the Torah? Some say that this prohibition may have made sense thousands of years ago, but it certainly doesn’t make sense today. I’m Wes White of cgi.org and welcome to Connecting History and the Bible. Let’s go to western Tennessee.
I’m standing in Tennessee at the Mississippi River. Everything across the river is eastern Arkansas. Back in 1539 the Spanish explorer DeSoto traveled up this river. And when he and his 600 soldiers looked into eastern Arkansas, they saw a land populated with about 50 settlements of over 200,000 people. That’s a lot of people. For several years, DeSoto and his men wandered all over Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and the southwest—stealing gold, burning, pillaging, and raping. But these aggressive acts didn’t decrease the native population. When DeSoto left, there were the same amount of people here as when he arrived.
But then something strange happened about 200 years later. That was when a French explorer came thru this region. His name was LaSalle. LaSalle found the place practically deserted. The French didn’t see an a native American village for 200 miles. What happened to the 200,000 people who lived here during the time of DeSoto? Why where they no longer here by the time LaSalle arrived two hundred years later?
The answer is that DeSoto had inadvertently killed them. You see, along with his 500 men, DeSoto had 200 horses, and his meat supply—pigs. When DeSoto traveled, he didn’t keep his pigs in cages or on leashes. That was totally impractical. Like pet dogs, his swine were allowed to roam freely along with the soldiers and horses as they all traveled. These pigs were DeSoto’s ambulatory meat locker. And the pigs usually stayed close to DeSoto’s army. But some wandered away, turned wild, and started populating and traveling all over the Mississippi Valley. It doesn’t take pigs long to multiply and spread in the wild.
No one knew it at the time, but these pigs carried European diseases such as anthrax, trichinosis, tuberculosis, and bru-cell-OH-sis. The native population didn’t have any immunity to these European diseases, so they were susceptible to them. And these natives didn’t always get these diseases directly from the pigs. Sometimes the pigs gave the diseases to deer and turkey-- and then the natives got the diseases from them. The point is that the majority of the indigenous population in eastern Arkansas contracted these diseases…and died.
From the time of DeSoto to the time of LaSalle, the Caddo population in this area fell from 200,000 to about 8,500. It was a horrible chain of events.
That was then. What about now? And what’s the status of DeSoto’s wild pigs that were the cause of so much death and destruction? Today, wild pigs are an epidemic over most of this country—not just in Arkansas. Three quarters of all states in America have a wild hog problem. Every year, wild hogs inflict $1.5 billion in damage to agriculture and livestock. And that number is growing. And sadly, we don’t know how to eliminate this wild hog problem. We don’t even know how to slow their population growth.
These animals were a curse in the 1500s and they’re a curse today. And we can’t escape the fact that, if Europeans weren’t eating this animal that God tells us not to eat, the Caddo tribes people wouldn’t have suffered these epidemics back then …and our country today wouldn’t be suffering such agricultural damage. The more we examine the Bible, the more we realize that God’s laws are for our own good. Sometimes it takes time to understand why God commands certain things, but sooner or later we recognize the goodness of His commands.
If you’d like more information on God’s laws regarding which animals are and which animals aren’t fit for human consumption, contact us at cgi.org. We’ll see you again next time on Connecting History and the Bible.