Questions From Readers
In the original language, the words translated “the fatty things” at Nehemiah 8:10 and “fat” at Leviticus 3:17 are different. The Hebrew word cheʹlev, translated “fat” at Leviticus 3:17, refers to the fat either of animals or of men. (Lev. 3:3; Judg. 3:22) The context of verse 17 shows that the Israelites were not to eat the layers of fat found around the intestines and the kidneys of sacrificial animals nor the fat upon the loins because “all the fat belongs to Jehovah.” (Lev. 3:14-16) So the fat in the body of animals to be offered to Jehovah was not to be consumed.
On the other hand, the word translated “the fatty things” at Nehemiah 8:10 is mash·man·nimʹ, and this is the only occurrence of this word in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is derived from the verb sha·menʹ, which means “be fat, grow fat.” The basic concept of the group of words related to this verb seems to be prosperity and well-being. (Compare Isaiah 25:6.) One of the words most commonly derived from this verb is the noun sheʹmen, which is often translated “oil,” including in the expression “olive oil.” (Deut. 8:8; Lev. 24:2) As used at Nehemiah 8:10, mash·man·nimʹ seems to refer to food prepared with a large quantity of oil and may even have included meat with some traces of fat but not layers of pure animal fat.
Although the Israelites were forbidden to consume the layers of animal fat, they could eat rich, tasty food. Some things, such as cakes made from grain, were cooked, not in animal fat, but in vegetable oil, often olive oil. (Lev. 2:7) Thus, Insight on the Scriptures explains that “the fatty things” here “refers to rich portions, things not skinny or dry, but luscious, including tasty items prepared with vegetable oils.”
Christians, of course, bear in mind that the prohibition against eating fat was part of the Law. They are not under the Law, including its requirements related to animal sacrifices.—Rom. 3:20; 7:4, 6; 10:4; Col. 2:16, 17.