Some of the laws I can directly see why they were given, however I do not understand the last part of the verse below regarding not boiling a kid in its mothers milk.

Deuteronomy 14:21 NIV Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk.

What does this law mean really, is there some spiritual significance I am not getting?


3 Answers 3


There is much debate about this one but I think the Rabbis never understood it, which causes trouble to some Christian commentators as well. It reminds me of this:

For it is written in the Law of Moses:“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? (1 Corinthians 9:9, NIV)

The Apostle applies this to establishing an argument that ministers should be paid for their effort. A prohibition is there about an animal but for the purposes of how we treat each other.

In this case about a goat and its mother, the lesson is we ought to respect the tender relationship of an animal and her young. The law is established about less important things to make a stronger point. God honors the relationships of a goat and her child. How much more than should we honor the relationship of parents and children? We should not despise relationships that God honors so strictly.

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    To think that some of the nations surrounding ancient Israel were so corrupt that they offered up their children to their god Moloch by burning them alive is to understand a little bit better how important to God are the relationships between parents and children. The logic involved in Dt 14:21 is similar to the logic Jesus used in his "how much more" statements, of which he made quite a few. In other words, if God cares for even a goat and her kid, HOW MUCH MORE does He care for the relationship between two of His image bearers, whether it be parent to child or any other relationship! Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 16:31
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    @rhetorician That is a keen insight. Sadly, the Israelites themselves engaged in this practice also. Gehenna, a word Bible scholars translate to as Hell when spoken by Christ, is the valley just outside of Jerusalem where this took place. Contrast this with the hill just outside Jerusalem where our Father's Son was offered up.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 17:59
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    But don't also forget the original command with this understanding. We really should not engage in cruelty toward creation, but seek to benefit all creatures, as God has since He created them.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 18:03

Opinions abound. One is that the practice was cruel and inhumane, but given the animal sacrifices for sin, that just doesn't make sense to me. Another is that the Jews were lactose intolerant, but if that were true, only common sense would be required, not a law. Perhaps the practice did not fully or properly cook the meat, so the prohibition was actually a health benefit.

What does make sense is that the practice was perhaps associated with idolatry. One opinion I read suggested that this was a foreign religious ritual meant to obtain favor from pagan gods over the fertility of their herds. As such, it would seem to violate the first and second commandments given to Moses, namely, to have no other gods before God and to not be involved with idolatrous practices.

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    As a note: people who are lactose intolerant are generally able to drink goat's milk. Cow's milk is the problem. Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 14:48
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    If you can get a source or two on the idolatry aspect your answer would be perfect.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 16:44
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    Lactose intolerance seems very unlikely, considering that God promised the Jews a land flowing with milk and honey, and they seemed pretty happy about that. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 0:40

Boiling a young goat in the very thing that is intended to bring life to the goat would be abhorrent. A goat in the Old Testament was killed for one of two reasons, for food or for atonement for sins. In both instances, the goat is giving up it's life for the good of the people. Not only has the goat's life been taken, but now we're taking something that is intended to give life to the animal, and we're using it to add flavor to the young animal whose life has been taken. This practice would be considered abhorrent mainly because of the blatant misuse of the milk. It's main purpose is life intended for the young, not flavoring to please those who take the life of the young.

It's not unlike the respect that hunters have for the deer that they kill. The hunters I know (and I know quite a few living in Texas), will tell you that one of the most disturbing things that can happen while hunting is that might fail to make a clean kill. That is, they don't shoot the animal in a place where it's death is as quick and painless as possible. Hunting isn't about animal cruelty. It's about finding food for the hunter. No hunter I know wishes to bring pain upon the animal. They recognize that the life that the deer gives brings life to those who take it (via it's meat), and they seek to respect the animal by not bringing more unnecessary suffering upon it.

There's a respect that comes in the exchange of one life for another.

Of course, there are many differing viewpoints. But this is mine.

  • This all seems like opinion. By this same logic the Jew cannot even drink the milk because it is meant for the goat, but that was allowed.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 16:47
  • It may very well be opinion. :) Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 16:48
  • But when you drink goat's milk, doesn't it bring life? Using something intended to bring life to an animal for the purpose of preparing that same animal to be consumed just "seems" wrong. Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 16:49
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    I'm not saying that your opinion here is not held by a particular Christian group, or even that it is wrong. I am saying that you are clearly giving your opinion and only your opinion. You do not even mention a denomination that takes this view or quote a commentary. There are many reasons just as valid as mentioned in other answers and you neglect them which makes for a very incomplete answer (and subsequently appearing biased). "seems" is not good enough.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 16:58
  • Okay, I've appended my post. Commented Feb 25, 2013 at 17:00

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