This is the beginning of a new series highlighting scientific facts found in the Bible. Why do we care about science in the bible you might ask? Finding science references in the bible helps to validate the authenticity of the authorship (God) as many of the scientific principles found in scripture were not ‘discovered’ by science until much later.
Leviticus 11 has one such scientific reference. In Leviticus 11 Moses is going over a bunch of rules to determine if a food is clean or unclean. Verses 29-38 discuss various types of unclean animals that were not to be eaten. Should one of these animals die, touching it made the offender unclean until they washed themselves. It was in this section that I discovered something interesting. If the animal dies and falls on something, whatever it falls on is unclean until it was washed. If it dies in an oven, or cooking pot the oven or cooking pot must be discarded as you can no longer eat out of it.
The verses that caught my eye are 37 and 38. “If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean. But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.” That immediately made me wonder why dry seeds would still be safe to plant, but wet seeds were not. Investigating this led me to something I haven’t looked at since grade school; the seed germination cycle.
Prior to getting wet, seeds are dormant and protected by a thick outer skin called a testa. These skins protect from parasites, mechanical injury, and extreme temperatures. Adding water to the dry seeds begins the germination process. The seed absorbs the water which causes enzymes to become activated, respiration to increase and plant cells to duplicate rapidly. Once this process has begun, the seed is no longer protected by its testa and is susceptible to external contaminates. This outer coating can rupture in as little as 6 hours after getting wet.
So, if there is a carcass on your dry seeds throw it out and go about your business. If however, the critter corpse is laying on seeds that have become wet for whatever reason; the whole mess needs to be thrown out because it’s contaminated or unclean.
We can either believe that Moses, during his free time as leader of the Jewish people in 1500 B.C., studied seed germination or he had some divine inspiration. Hopefully this is the first of many such articles highlighting scientific facts found throughout the Bible, the only ancient text that has them.
If you study and enjoy the subjects of biology or seed germination feel free to add your insights in the comments below.