(Ex. 23:19) Why couldn’t the Jews boil a young goat in the milk of its mother?

CLAIM: This commandment is not cruel, but it is unusual. Why would God make such a bizarre commandment?

RESPONSE: This may have been a Canaanite fertility ritual. In this case, God banned it for contextual and religious reasons.[1] On the other hand, it could be that these are clashing symbols of life (i.e. the mother’s milk) and death (i.e. the baby goat). In this case, God may have banned this practice to help the Jews distinguish life from death. In either case, this law was used as a teaching tool. For more information on OT law, see my earlier article.

[1] Kaiser writes, “The prohibition… has been explained since 1933 by a reference in a broken passage of a thirteenth-century B.C. Ugaritic text called “The Birth of the Gods Pleasant and Beautiful” (text 52, line 14). It is generally agreed that the reference is to a fertility rite that entails boiling a kid in milk; but there is no sure reference to the milk of its mother in the broken Ugaritic text.” Kaiser, W. C., Jr. Exodus. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1990. 445.