The command against boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is an enigma designed to horrify us as we chew upon it.
Passover in the Motherland
You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:19)
And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! (Matthew 24:19)
Fatherhood and motherhood are different blessings. The father initiates life and the mother brings it to pass. The father is a husbandman, the farmer, and the mother personifies the land. The word for “land” in Hebrew is feminine. The father protects the land, nourishes it, and tends it, so the land can bring forth an increase from God. Subsequently, the corruption of fatherhood and motherhood bring different curses.
The Old Testament is the history of the battle between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent. It is a history of barrenness and fruitfulness. As a new Eden, Israel frequently suffered barren Land and barren wombs, and it took the love, mercy and power of God to make her fruitful again. In her final years, it was a virgin’s womb that God made impossibly fruitful, and the words of her Offspring sent the entire Land into birth pangs.
There are two kinds of men in the Bible, shepherds and wolves. There are also two kinds of mother; a mother who lays down her life for her children, as her husband lays down his life for her, and there is the mother who has no natural affection, hardened by the abuse of evil men.
The command against boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is an enigma designed to horrify us as we chew upon it. The very means of the infant’s life becomes its shroud in death. However, it is not a dietary law. James Jordan writes:
The law forbidding boiling a kid in its own mother’s milk is not properly a food law at all. Obviously, if one is not to boil the kid, one is not to eat it either, but this is not what the law explicitly states. It is the very act of boiling, quite apart from the eating, that is forbidden. This can reasonably be extended to boiling the young of any animal in its own mother’s milk, and that is as far as reasonable inference can take us. Had God intended to prohibit cooking meat and milk, He would have phrased the law that way on at least one of the three occasions He caused it to be recorded.1James B. Jordan, Studies in Food and Faith, “On Boiling Meat in Milk.”
Jordan observes that the command is associated with the Feast of Tabernacles, and “with a general theology of sabbath, success, and inheritance.” The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of the fullness of life. Boiling a kid in its mother’s milk was a mixing of life and death.
Just as the Passover sacrifice of a lamb or kid redeemed a human child, so a kid boiled in its mother’s milk for this final feast pictured the deliberate foiling of human succession. It was the sacrifice of a permanent blessing on the altar of a temporary gain. Lamentations 4:10 and 2 Kings 6:28-29 both record mothers boiling their own children and eating them.
And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” (2 Kings 6:28-30)
The forbidden combination of kid and milk is a sick parody of motherhood, and it pictures the state of Israel at her most corrupt. Imitating the Canaanite practice, Israel attempted to secure abundant crops from Baal through the means of child sacrifice. This lawless mixture of blessing and cursing, life and death, is a corporate outworking of the events recorded in Genesis 3. Molech was simply another dragon hijacking the offspring of the woman with an offer of certain food (kingdom) outside of priestly obedience to the Law of God.
Eve’s seduction brought death to all her children. Adam stood by and watched, concerned with only his immediate advantage. As they consumed the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they consumed the promises of God: the fruit of the Land and the fruit of the womb. Their succession became an unnatural mixture of life and death. The Land promised to Adam now suffered slavery to sin.
Covenant history is not merely a search for the Offspring of the Woman. We are also given numerous examples of Covenant men given the tough job of discerning the identity of the true Mother.
Abraham chose wisely between Hagar and Sarah, the naturally fertile Egyptian bondwoman and the miraculously fertile Covenant freewoman. It was a distasteful choice, but one mother was the past and one mother was the future. One was Egypt and the other was Canaan.
Solomon became famous for the wisdom he employed in his discernment between the two prostitutes. The threat of cutting the living child in two revealed the hearts of both women. The true mother was a true mother—a mother not only in flesh but in spirit. This woman was a shelter, willing to suffer loss to be a human Tabernacle. To save her child, she volunteered to let her child go. The sword “cuts the cord.” Hers was the faith of Abraham.
Judah suffered under the rule of Athaliah, who willingly slaughtered her grandchildren to usurp the throne of her dead son. This was a reverse succession, an unwillingness to allow Covenant history to move forward. She would sacrifice the fruit of the womb for a stolen throne.
The festival that the Jews consistently failed to appreciate was the Feast of Tabernacles. It was the feast that reminded them that they were not an elite people but a nation of priests called apart by God to serve the other nations. The New Testament records the unwillingness of the Jewish rulers to submit to the fulfillment of Tabernacles, a feast where Jew and Gentile were united under God. The fact that the feast which characterized the celebration of the completion of Herod’s Temple was not Tabernacles but Passover highlights the nature of Herodian rule—theirs was a stolen throne.2For a discussion of the contrast between Passover and Tabernacles, see God’s Kitchen, chapter 5, “Eat Local and Die.”
The infants of Israel should have been safe in their motherland. But Herod the Great slaughtered the offspring of Israel according to the flesh, and the final Herod slaughtered the Church, the offspring of Israel according to the Spirit. First century Israel was revealed by Jesus to be another Egypt (Revelation 11:8).
Herod’s slaughter of the innocents gives us the key to the strange law concerning boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. It is a confusion of Hagar and Sarah, of Egypt and Canaan, bondage and freedom, Passover (kid) and Promised Land (milk). The destruction of our offspring is a sign that Israel has become another Egypt, a mother who, in an effort to usurp the authority of God, is unwilling to “let her people go.” Israel’s king has become another Pharaoh, a slave dealer (Jeremiah 34; Revelation 18:13).
Paul tells us in Galatians that Jesus, like Abraham, was choosing wisely between two mothers, between Old Israel and New Israel. As the Old Creation groaned, His Gospel-sword cut the heart of every Jew and manifested the sons of God.
Revelation culminates in the description of two women, a bipolar Israel. In her pain, as her Veil was torn away for the last time, the true sons of God were commanded to “come out of her.”
One woman was a shelter, a prostitute justified by faith. Like Athaliah, the other sat on a stolen throne, drinking the blood of her own offspring.
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on [the Land]. (Revelation 18:24)
“Kids in the Kitchen” is a chapter from God’s Kitchen: Theology You Can Eat & Drink.
If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||James B. Jordan, Studies in Food and Faith, “On Boiling Meat in Milk.”|
|2.||↑||For a discussion of the contrast between Passover and Tabernacles, see God’s Kitchen, chapter 5, “Eat Local and Die.”|