Not to Seethe a Kid in his mother’s milk, a study in Compassion by Jack Kettler
“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psalm 25:4)
In this study, we will look at the passage: “The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19)
As will be seen, this passage and related passages will note, men exercising good stewardship are to care for animals.
As in previous studies, we will look at scriptures, and commentary evidence for the purpose to glorify God in how we live in response to God’s Word. May God be glorified always!
“The first of the first fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23:19)
Commentary evidence from Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Exodus 23:19:
This seems to be a general rule, extending to all the fruits which the earth first produced; in every kind of which the very first are here enjoined to be offered unto God, before they should presume to eat any of them. It may seem to be repeated here, where the year of rest is mentioned to leach them the first-fruits were to be given to God of all that the earth produced, not only by their labour and seed, as might be thought from Exodus 23:16, but also of its own accord, as is here implied.
He names one kind, under which he understands a lamb, or a calf, &c., according to the use of Scripture style. This law many understand literally, and that it is forbidden to them, because the idolaters had such a custom, whereof yet there seems to be no sufficient proof; nor, if there were, doth it seem to be a rite of that importance or probability to entice the Israelites to imitate it, that there needed a particular law against this, more than against a hundred such ridiculous usages which were among the heathen, and are not taken notice of in the book of God’s laws. The words may be rendered thus,
Thou shalt not seethe, or roast, (for the word bashal signifies to roast as well as to boil, as it is evident from Deuteronomy 16:7)
A kid, being, or whilst it is (which is to be understood, there being nothing more common than an ellipsis of the verb substantive)
In his mother’s milk; which it may be said to be, either,
1. Whilst it sucks its mother’s milk; and so it may admit of a twofold interpretation:
(1.) That this is to be understood of the passover, of which most conceive he had now spoken, Exodus 23:18, in which they used either a lamb or a kid, Exodus 12:5, and then the word bashal must be rendered roast.
(2.) That this speaks not of sacrifice to God, wherein sucking creatures were allowed, Exodus 22:30 Leviticus 22:27 1 Samuel 7:9, but of man’s use; and so God ordained this, partly because this was unwholesome food, and principally to restrain cruelty, even towards brute creatures, and luxury in the use of them. Or rather,
2. Whilst it is very tender and young, rather of a milky than of a fleshy substance, like that young kid of which Juvenal thus speaks, Qui plus lactis habet quam sanguinis, i.e. which hath more milk than blood in it. And it may he said to be in its mother’s milk, by a usual hypallage, when its mother’s milk is in it, i.e. whilst the milk it sucks as it were, remains in it undigested and unconverted into flesh, even as a man is oft said to be in the Spirit, when indeed the Spirit is in him. And what is here indefinitely prohibited, is elsewhere particularly explained, and the time defined, to wit, that it be not offered to God before it was eight days old. And this interpretation may receive light and strength from hence, that the law of the first fruits, which both here and Exodus 34:26 goes immediately before this law, doth in Exodus 22:30 immediately go before that law of not offering them before the eighth day, which implies, that both of them speak concerning the same thing, to wit, the first-fruits or first-born of the cattle, which were not to be offered to God while they were in their mother’s milk, saith this place, or till they were eight days old, saith that place. And consequently, if they might not be offered to God, they might not be used by men for food. (1)
“And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day.” (Leviticus 22:28)
From Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Leviticus 22:28:
And whether it be cow or ewe. Or “an ox or sheep” (f), for this law, as Aben Ezra says, respects both male and female, and neither the one nor the other with their young might be slain; though Jarchi says, the custom is concerning the female, for it is forbidden to slay the dam and its son, or daughter; but it is not the custom concerning males, wherefore it is lawful to slay the father and the son:
ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day; or, “it and its son” (g), the young, whether of a cow or ewe, and whether it be male or female; though Gersom observes, that this law takes place only in the dam and its female young, and not in the father and the son; for it is not manifest, in many animals, who is their father, wherefore he is not guilty of stripes, if the father and his son are slain in one day, even though it is known it is its father: the reason of the law seems to be, to encourage mercy and pity, and to discourage cruelty: hence the Targum of Jonathan is, “and my people, the children of Israel, as our Father is merciful in heaven, so be ye merciful on earth: a cow, or a sheep, &c.”’
(f) “bovem vel pecus”, Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (g) “ipsum et filium ejus”, Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (2)
“If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam [mother] with the young.” (Deuteronomy 22:6)
From the Pulpit Commentary on Deuteronomy 22:6:
Verses 6, 7. – (Cf. Leviticus 22:28; Exodus 23:19.) These precepts are designed to foster humane feeling towards the lower animals, and not less to preserve regard to that affectionate relation between parents and their young which God has established as a law in the animal world. That thou mayest prolong thy days (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Exodus 20:12). (3)
A New Testament passage similar to what we have seen is in 1 Corinthians:
“For it is written in the Law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (1 Corinthians 9:9)
The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says this regarding the Corinthians text:
9. Ox … treadeth … corn—(De 25:4). In the East to the present day they do not after reaping carry the sheaves home to barns as we do, but take them to an area under the open air to be threshed by the oxen treading them with their feet, or else drawing a threshing instrument over them (compare Mic 4:13).
Doth God … care for oxen?—rather, “Is it for the oxen that God careth?” Is the animal the ultimate object for whose sake this law was given? No. God does care for the lower animal (Ps 36:6; Mt 10:29), but it is with the ultimate aim of the welfare of man, the head of animal creation. In the humane consideration shown for the lower animal, we are to learn that still more ought it to be exercised in the case of man, the ultimate object of the law; and that the human (spiritual as well as temporal) laborer is worthy of his hire. (4)
As the commentary noted: the Corinthian passage is quoting Deuteronomy 25:4, livestock were also allowed to eat as they worked. It would have been cruelty to the beast to deny it food as it labored in the field.
From the book, The Law of the Covenant. An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, consider:
This law is thrice stated in the Torah (Ex.23:19; 34:26; Dt.14:21). It is obviously quite important, yet its significance eludes us. There are many laws which prohibit the mixing of life and death, yet we wish to know the precise nuance of each. There is no example of the breaking of this law
In Scripture, unless we go to a metaphorical application, seeing the kid as a symbol for a human child. We notice that the kid is a young goat, a child. The word only occurs 16 times in the Old
Testament. In Genesis 27:9, 16, Rebekah put the skins of a kid upon Jacob when she sent him to
Masquerade as Esau before Isaac. Here the mother helps her child (though Jacob was in his 70s at the time). In Genesis 38:17, 20, 3, Judah pledged to send a kid to Tamar as payment for her services as a prostitute. In the providence of God, this was symbolic, because Judah had in fact failed to provide Tamar the kid to which she was entitled: Judah’s son Shelah. Judah gave his seal and cord, and his staff, as pledges that the kid would be sent, but Tamar departed, and never received the kid. When she was found pregnant, she produced the seal and cord and the staff, as evidence that Judah was the father. The children that she bore became her kids, given her by Judah in exchange for the return of his cord and seal and his staff. Finally, when Samson visited his wife, he took her a kid, signifying his intentions (Jud.15:1). These passages seem to indicate a symbolic connection between the kid and a human child, the son of a mother (Indeed, Job 10:10 compares the process of embryonic development to the coagulation of milk.) The kid is still nursing, still taking in its mother’s milk in some sense, Jacob and Rebekah being an example of this. The mother is the protectress of the child, of the seed. This is the whole point of the theology of Judges 4 and 5, the war of the two mothers, Deborah and the mother of Sisera. Indeed, the passage calls attention to milk. The milk of the righteous woman was a tool used to crush the head of the serpent’s seed (Jud.4:19f. 5:24-27). How awful if the mother uses her own milk to destroy her own seed!
Victor P. Hamilton as written that “in the husbandry of Israel a young male kid was the most expendable of the animals, less valuable than, say, a young lamb. The young males were used for meat; the females kept for breeding. Thus, a kid served admirably as a meat dish: Gen. 27:9, 16; Jud.6:19; 13:15; 15:1; 1Sam.10:3; 16:20….” Accordingly, one of the most horrible things imaginable is for a mother to boil and eat her own child. This is precisely what happened during the siege of Jerusalem, as Jeremiah describes it in Lamentations 4:10, “The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children; they became food for them because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.” The same thing happened during the siege of Samaria, as recorded in 2 Kings 6:28f.In both passages, the mother is said to boil her child.
We are now in a better position to understand this law, and its placement in passages having to do with offerings to God. The bride offers children to her husband. She bears, them, rears them on her milk, and presents them to her lord as her gift to him, Similarly, Israel is to present the fruits of her hands, including her children, to her Divine Husband. She is not to consume her children, her offerings, or her tithes, but present them to God. The command not to boil the kid in its own mother’s milk is a negative command; the positive injunction it implies is that we are to present our children and the works of our hands to God. Jerusalem is the mother of the seed CPs. 87:5; Gal. 4:26ff.). When Jerusalem crucified Jesus Christ, her Seed, she was boiling her kid in her own milk. In Revelation 17, the apostate Jerusalem has been devouring her faithful children: “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” Her punishment, under the Law of Equivalence, is to be devoured by the gentile kings who supported her (v.17). (5)
Attempting to find applications for eternal principles in the Older Covenant, in a previous study we learned that a binding overarching principle is found in Mark’s gospel.
“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)
This command applies even to animals that a neighbor owns.
Wandering or lost animals must be returned to the owner:
“Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again. In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother’s, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself.” (Deuteronomy 22:1-3)
If a pit is left uncovered, and an animal falls into it, the owner of the pit shall pay the owner of the animal restitution:
“And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.” (Exodus 21:33-34)
If neighbor’s ass or an ox fall by the way, help shall be given him to lift the animal up again:
“Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.” (Deuteronomy 22:4)
“And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11)
Loving the neighbor is the key. Is there a principle in the law that protects a neighbor? The actual law in the Old Covenant Israel is expired today. Digging a little deeper it may be possible to glean a modern-day application from a binding moral principle. From this study and looking at scriptural cross-references, we can see that God wants us to care for our neighbor and his property, including animals.
“Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.” (Psalm 36:6)
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)
God cares for the birds of the field and animals. Therefore we should take care of animals under our care.
“And he said unto him, my lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.” (Genesis 33:13-14)
‘Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
God’s Consideration for Animals by G.T. Coster on Jonah 4:11:
And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city…
The “much cattle” in Nineveh a plea with God for the preservation of the city. And still, be animals where they may:
1. God has made them.
2. He preserves them. “His full hand supplies their need.”
3. He dowers them with beauty, or swiftness, or strength, with sensibility and sagacity.
4. He makes them of varied serviceableness to man, and has given man authority over them. “Thou madest him to have dominion over all sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field.”
5. “He regardeth the life of the beast;” complacently, in their “lower pleasures;” pitifully, in their “lower pains;” constantly and minutely, “not one falleth on the ground” without him.
6. He would have them preserved from cruelty and needless destruction (Exodus 9:19).
7. It is God-like to care for the lower animals.
“He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man, and bird, and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God, who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.” G.T.C. (6)
“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.” (Psalm 147:9)
“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)
“Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” (Proverbs 27:23)
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” (Luke 15:4-6)
When looking for modern applications, use as the rule of thumb, protecting and loving a neighbor and his goods or property. Thankfully, we are not stumbling in the dark ethically. We have God’s wisdom from the Old Covenant case laws as a place to look for solutions.
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 1, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985), p. 169.
2. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Romans, 9 Volumes, Romans, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 349.
3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Deuteronomy, Vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p.355.
4. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 1205.
5. James B. Jordon, The Law Of The Covenant, An Exposition of Exodus 21-23, (Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, Texas 1984). pp. 190-192.
6. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Jonah, Vol. 14, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), pp. 97-98.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* For an excellent source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/