Like coming upon a car accident with injuries, for some reason it always jars me when I read the following in the Old Testament. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Deuteronomy 14:21; also Exodus 23:19; 34:26). Something about the very thought of this just makes me go “Yuck!”
It is not just that I do not like goat’s milk, which I do not. Recently the men had a discussion around the table at Fellowship Lunch about goat’s milk. Words like “brown” and “smelly” and even “mucous-like consistency” were used to describe it. I know some out there surely like goat’s milk, but there were no fans around that table. No, it is not the milk per se, but the way it is being used that is disgusting. What is it about this verse that makes the very idea revolting?
In this brief post, I’m not going to discuss or defend the relevance of Old Testament law or its general equity. Whether this particular practice should still be avoided can be debated another time. We will not look into whether this was the Lord calling Israel to avoid a pagan ritual of the Canaanites, which may or may not have been the case. Let’s just be content with a simple understanding here.
For does not the idea of a young goat being boiled in its own mother’s life-giving fluid seem like a strike against nature itself? Taking the very substance produced by the mother goat to nourish her offspring and using it to cook the baby goat just seems barbaric, does it not? Then to actually eat that mixture seems even more so. Indeed, the old Keil-Delitzsch Commentary says about this practice that it is “indicating a contempt of the relation which God has established and sanctified between parent and young, and thus subverting the divine ordinances.” That’s just it.
Now I remind you that the word we use for a baby goat is “kid.” Interesting that we have borrowed that same word to describe our human offspring. Surely any reader out there would think it beyond cruel if we read of a crime where a newborn child had been boiled in its mother’s milk. Even more so if it was eaten. That is so disgusting I can barely write it. I hate even putting that unthinkable thought before you.
Yet I remind you that every day thousands of these unborn human kids are cut up or chemically boiled in the life-giving fluids of their mother’s wombs. Many are sustaining their lives with careers devoted to defending this practice. That is truly jarring and revolting.
You may think that the above paragraphs are an unfair jump – taking an ancient law about an animal and trying to draw a moral lesson out of it for humans. Yet nearly every children story you read to your kids, with its use of animals, does the very same thing. Besides, I believe that is truly God’s original intent. I remind you that in another place in Scripture the apostle Paul uses the Old Testament law about not muzzling the ox to teach the church about caring for its pastors. In the midst of this he says, “God is not concerned about oxen, is He?” (I Corinthians 9:9), to show God’s true concern is, and has always been, people. In the same way, I might say, “God is not concerned about goat kids, is He?” For we do know human kids, created in His image, fashioned by Him in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16), welcomed and blessed by the Savior (Matthew 19:13-14), are very much His concern.
They should be yours also.