WHY DID GOD COMMAND ISRAEL NOT TO SEETHE A YOUNG GOAT IN HIS MOTHER’S MILK?
by Shawn Brasseaux
We read this commandment on three occasions in the Holy Bible:
- Exodus 23:19: “The first of the firstfruits 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 34:26: “The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.”
- Deuteronomy 14:21: “Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.”
The above notion is quite strange to us. Some have even dismissed it as “utterly ridiculous.” Here in the United States, we certainly know nothing about “seething” (boiling) a young goat in his mother’s milk. I for one have no interest in eating any goat meat—sodden with or without its mother’s milk! Bible scoffers chuckle at the thought that God would consider it a “sin” to seethe a young goat in its mother’s milk. They quote these verses—and others—in an effort to portray the Bible as absurd and make Bible believers look foolish. Just what is so wrong with boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk? (We ask this in faith, not doubt!)
Let us start by reviewing a little background. JEHOVAH God brought the nation Israel out of Egyptian bondage (a picture of sin and the world) so that they may serve Him in His land—the Promised Land. For centuries, heathen had defiled that Holy Land with their idols and assorted “religious” services. God was now forcefully evicting these Gentile nations, and placing Israel in their stead. Israel was to do what those Gentiles had deliberately refused to do. The Jews were to value and esteem the Word of the one true God, the Creator God, JEHOVAH God. God repeatedly warned Israel not to repeat the gross sins of the nations He had driven out of the land. Otherwise, He would force Israel out of that land, too! (Which He ultimately did, beginning with Israel’s Babylonian captivity about 600 B.C.)
We read in the opening verses of Leviticus chapter 18: “ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God.  After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.  Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God.  Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.”
Now, we look at the closing verses of Leviticus chapter 18: “ Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:  And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.  Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:  (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled; )  That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.  For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.  Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God.”
While the above excerpts from Leviticus largely involve the Gentiles’ perverted sexual acts—incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality (human having sex with animals), and so on—the general commandment stood firm. Israel was to refrain from copying the Gentiles’ previous lifestyles in the land of Palestine. The Jews were a “set apart” (sanctified) people. In the case of boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk, it must have been some type of pagan practice that JEHOVAH God did not want Israel to repeat. (God thought that that commandment was so important He issued it three times.) God wanted Israel’s lifestyle to be so radically different from her Gentile predecessors and neighbors. Being God’s favored nation, the Jews were different—accordingly, they were to act different! (For more info, see our related study linked below.) That testimony was crucial to exalting the one true God in a world where He was ignored by every other nation. With Israel upholding God’s Word, Satan’s activities on the Earth would be destroyed. Alas, the temptations were too great. Israel was unfaithful to JEHOVAH God, eventually going the way of the Gentiles!
“For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you [Israel],
as it is written” (Romans 2:24).
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» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?
» What did Jesus mean, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice?”
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?