Why You Can’t Cook a Baby Goat in Its Mother’s Milk

The Old Testament is so quirky.

Perhaps you’ve come across this immortal passage from Exodus or Deuteronomy in your own studies:

Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk. (Exo. 23:19b)

This mandate actually occurs three times, so it’s probably important. But what does it even mean? What a bizarre command.

Bunky's Pickle (CC)

It seems superfluous, unimportant, out of place. As if Moses had ADD and just threw it in there for fun. But as part of the Holy, inspired word of God, it’s there for a reason.

As I discussed in Do No Work, when it comes to Mosaic Law, Christians need to ask whether the specific command was intended to separate the Jews from other nations or for reasons of morality.

Here’s an example:

Circumcision was strictly to separate the Hebrew nation from other peoples around them. It was a symbol of the covenant relationship they had with Yahweh. Sure, there are health benefits, but God prefers a metaphorical circumcision—a circumcision of the heart (See Lev. 26:41 and Deut. 30:6).

Thou shalt not murder, on the other hand, is clearly an issue of morality. Life is sacred because God created it. This applies universally across the board from Cain to Dahmer.

Although a literal reading of the law is useful, understanding the heart of the commandment is more important.

With that in mind, let's get back to the whole cooking a young goat thing.

I’m no theologian, but I think this command contains both elements. That the command is so specific probably means a pagan people had a similar ritual. So there’s the distinction quality of law, since God said:

You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. (Deut. 12:31a)

Regardless, the command reveals much about the heart of God.

It shows that God cares about His creation, even animals. If that’s not enough evidence for you, consider this:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Mat. 6:26)

Yes, God made mankind in His image, and yes, we are the crown of creation. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care for young goats too.

The purpose of a mother’s milk is to nourish, to provide immunity, and to comfort her young. So to slaughter a baby animal and then use the very thing God intended the animal to live on as an instrument for destruction is just morbid. It’s disrespectful.

God has no problem with you eating animals. But He still cares for His creation and therefore you and I should respect it.

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