Posted by: edhensley | September 26, 2010

“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

Exodus 34
The New Stone Tablets

1 The LORD said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2 Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. 3 No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
4 So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. 5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “O Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes,” he said, “then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

10 Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

17 “Do not make cast idols.

18 “Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

22 “Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. [b] 23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the LORD your God.

25 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Feast remain until morning.

26 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

27 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.

There is much discussion about the 10 commandments, but I decided to highlight one of the verses that struck me as funny in Exodus 34.

First of all, there are different versions (Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, etc) of the 10 commandments, also known as the Decalogue. These lists are based on Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The differences between the Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, etc. lists are discussed on many websites, including these two below.

Moses smashes the 10 commandments in Exodus 32, then he gets a new set of tablets in Exodus 34. I do not really want to dwell on the differences between the second set of commandments, also known as the Ritual Decalogue, and the Decalogue. If you wish to send me reasons why there are apparent differences, I may not post them.

I only wish to point out the commandment “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” This is a ridiculous commandment. I will never be tempted to break this commandment. I can think of no logical reason as to why this commandment is here, nor can I think of any reason why it would be immoral or harmful to anyone to cook a young goat in its mother’s mile.



  1. It’s because Canaanite religious practice included many bizarre practices such as boiling baby goats in their mother’s milk (mother’s milk was a symbol of life –

    It seems that God’s main purpose in giving commandments like these was to show a stark contrast between the worship and life of the Israelites and that of the nations around them (similar to the instructions on how to treat slaves).

    • The texts you question do not say mother’s milk, and the word your source described as “cook” is actually slaughter. Furthermore, all sources admit that the text in question is highly damaged.
      “For example, the legislation in Exodus 23:19 prohibiting the boiling of a young goat in its mother’s milk was thought to have been illumined by a similar offering recorded in the Ugaritic texts. This is now uncertain, since the Ugaritic word rendered “cook” actually means “slaughter,” and there are other problems with the text as well.”

      I will agree that the verses were PROBABLY added by the MEN who wrote Exodus due to cultural concerns of their day. This only highlights what the bible is – a book written by men only for the people of its day. From the time the New Testament was written and edited (367 CE) until 1933, nobody would have had any clue about your alleged but inaccurate reason for this command. Yet this command is placed in the same book as the ten commandments.

      A perfect god has a lot more things to worry about than whether or not we are boiling goats in their mother’s milk. This verse continues to highlight why it is ridiculous to believe that the bible is the perfect word of a perfect god.

  2. Yikes, it sounds to me, more than anything, reasons and justifications for xenophobia against the natives of Canaan. There was this grave danger that the Canaanites might show hospitality to the Israelites, and the Israelites might interbreed with them. Horror of horrors! /sardonic

  3. Another rant from the Lewiston class. Legs not forget the most important prophet and leader of the Jewish people , Moses was a levite. The scripture is of course highlighting how other locals – the Canaanites are different and wrong in their societies . This
    Of leads to more diatribes about how it’s ok to kill them.

  4. this is one that has always gotten me

  5. Maybe because it’s a really messed up thing to do? Why is this such a big deal to you? One little rule, which prohibits something that sounds particularly cruel, and you say the bible is bogus. Weak.

    • I stand by my statement that it is ridiculous to think that this verse is part of the words of a perfect and all knowing god. Yes, it may be gross to boil a goat in its mother’s milk, but why is this immoral?

      • It is immoral, because killing an animal is murder, except the case of self defense, and cooking a goat baby in his mother’s milk is a deliberate evil act.
        God teaches the heartless, that animals have family as well.
        Killing in order to eat is wicked.

      • The bible does not teach that it is immoral to kill animals. In fact, god in the bible commands the killing of animals as sacrifices. Early in the Genesis story God is pleased with the animal sacrifice of Abel.

      • The god of the Old Testament LOVED himself a good barbecue. In Exodus 29, there is a command to burn an entire ram because the smell of its roasting flesh was pleasing to the Lord. In 1 Kings 8, Solomon made a burnt offering of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep to the Lord. As if that wasn’t enough, he made another offering in the court before the temple because the altar wasn’t big enough to hold all the burnt offering, grain offering and fat of the slaughtered animals.

        I could go on but why bother? Face it, that god didn’t give a toss about vegetarian sensibilities.

  6. When people tell me they are Christian I ask if they believe in the bible and if the follow the 10 commandments. The usually say “yes” to the first, and “try too” to the second. I then ask them how much of the bible they have actually read, and to list the the commandments. Most have read less than 5% of the bible, and are struggling to list more than 4 or 5 commandments. I then ask if they know anyone who has worked on a Saturday, and if they stoned them to death.
    Don’t need to tell you what they say – you’ve guessed already.

  7. I recently loss a cat whom I treated like my own daughter and I find this verse the most comforting of all. I was grieving until God reminded me of this verse one morning when I woke up and couldn’t fall into sleep. This may be a verse coming from a human but God does use it. To me, it shows how God is touched by motherly love so much that it seems wrong to not honor it on animals. The reason why God wants it stated here may be that the Israelites did cook young goats in their mothers’ milk the night of the actual passover. I can imagine God was shaking His head and wondered why the Israelites didn’t find it disgusting. So in order to not let this happen, God is like saying “I shouldn’t have to tell you this kind of obvious and simple thing but seems like I have to spell it all out for you to get it”.

    • But he left rape out of the 10 commandments.

    • He left abolishing slavery out of the commandments, too–both sets. You’d think he’d use the second opportunity to correct that oversight. But no. Rectifying a dietary problem was more important. This deity has some weird priorities. It’s obsessed with what we eat, wear and whom we screw. But it won’t help us turn against slavery or marrying rapists.

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