|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
23:10-19 Every seventh year the land was to rest. They must not plough or sow it; what the earth produced of itself, should be eaten, and not laid up. This law seems to have been intended to teach dependence on Providence, and God's faithfulness in sending the larger increase while they kept his appointments. It was also typical of the heavenly rest, when all earthly labours, cares, and interests shall cease for ever. All respect to the gods of the heathen is strictly forbidden. Since idolatry was a sin to which the Israelites leaned, they must blot out the remembrance of the gods of the heathen. Solemn religious attendance on God, in the place which he should choose, is strictly required. They must come together before the Lord. What a good Master do we serve, who has made it our duty to rejoice before him! Let us devote with pleasure to the service of God that portion of our time which he requires, and count his sabbaths and ordinances to be a feast unto our souls. They were not to come empty-handed; so now, we must not come to worship God empty-hearted; our souls must be filled with holy desires toward him, and dedications of ourselves to him; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Verse 19. - Law of first-fruits. The first of the first-fruits may mean either "the best of the first-fruits" (see Numbers 18:12), or "the very first of each kind that is ripe" (ib, verse 13). On the tendency to delay, and not bring the very first, see the comment on Exodus 22:29. The house of the Lord. Generally, in the Pentateuch we have the periphrasis" the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to put his name there" (Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 14; Deuteronomy 16:16; Deuteronomy 26:2, etc.); but here, and in Exodus 34:26, and again in Deuteronomy 23:18, this "place" is plainly declared to be a "house" or "temple." Law against seething a kid in the mother's milk. The outline of law put before the Israelites in the "Book of the Covenant" terminated with this remarkable prohibition. Its importance is shown -
1. By its place here; and
2. By its being thrice repeated in the law of Moses (see Exodus 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21). Various explanations have been given of it; but none is saris-factory, except that which views it as "a protest against cruelty, and outraging the order of nature," more especially that peculiarly sacred portion of nature's order, the tender relation between parent and child, mother and suckling. No doubt the practice existed. Kids were thought to be most palatable when boiled in milk; and the mother's milk was frequently the readiest to obtain. But in this way the mother was made a sort of accomplice in the death of her child, which men were induced to kill on account of the flavour that her milk gave it. Reason has nothing to say against such a mode of preparing food, but feeling revolts from it; and the general sense of civilised mankind reechoes the precept, which is capable of a wide application - Thou shalt not seethe a kind in his mother's milk.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The first of the first fruits of thy land,.... Both of the barley and wheat harvest, and of the wine and oil; yea, Jarchi says, the seventh year was obliged to first fruits; and Josephus (d) relates, that the Jews were so tenacious of this law, that even in the famine in the time of Claudius Caesar, the first fruits were brought to the temple, and were not meddled with:
thou shall bring into the house of the Lord thy God; to the tabernacle, during the standing of that, and the temple when that was built; which were the perquisites of the priests who officiated in the house and service of God: so Pliny says (e) of the ancient Romans, that they tasted not of the new fruits or wines before the first fruits were offered to the priests, which seems to have been borrowed from hence:
thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk: and so a calf, or a lamb (f), as Jarchi interprets it; which some understand of slaying a young kid and its dam together, and so is a law against cruelty, like that law of not taking the dam with the young, on finding a bird's nest, Deuteronomy 22:6 others, of killing, dressing, and eating a kid, while it sucks the milk of its mother, before it is eight days old, and so a law against luxury; but the Jews generally understand it of boiling, or eating the flesh of any creature and milk together (g): so the Targum of Onkelos paraphrases it,"ye shall not eat flesh with milk;''and the Targum of Jonathan is,"ye shall neither boil nor eat the flesh and the milk mixed together:''hence, according to the rules they give, the flesh of any beast, or of a fowl, is not to be set upon a table on which cheese is (being made of milk), lest they should be eaten together; nor may cheese be eaten after flesh until some considerable time, and then, if there is any flesh sticks between a man's teeth, he must remove it, and wash and cleanse his mouth; nor may cheese be eaten on a table cloth on which meat is, nor be cut with a knife that flesh is cut with (h): so careful are they of breaking this law, as they understand it: but the words are, doubtless, to be taken literally, of not boiling a kid in its mother's milk; and is thought by many to refer to some custom of this kind, either among the Israelites, which they had somewhere learnt, or among the idolatrous Heathens, and therefore cautioned against; Maimonides and Abarbinel both suppose it was an idolatrous rite, but are not able to produce an instance of it out of any writer of theirs or others: but Dr. Cudworth has produced a passage out of a Karaite author (i), who affirms,"it was a custom of the Heathens at the ingathering of their fruits to take a kid and seethe it in the milk of the dam, and then, in a magical way, go about and besprinkle all their trees, fields, gardens, and orchards, thinking by this means they should make them fructify, and bring forth fruit again more abundantly the next year:''and the Targum of Jonathan on Exodus 34:26 seems to have respect to this, where, having paraphrased the words as here quoted above, adds,"lest I should destroy the fruit of your trees with the unripe grape, the shoots and leaves together:''and if this may be depended upon, the law comes in here very aptly, after the feast of ingathering, and the bringing in the first fruits of the land into the Lord's house.
(d) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 15. sect. 3.((e) Nat. Hist. l. 18. c. 2.((f) Vid. T. Bab. Cholin. fol. 114. 1.((g) Tikkune Zohar, Correct. 14. fol. 26. 1.((h) Schulchan Aruch, par. 2. Yore Deah, Hilchot Bashar Bechaleb, c. 88. sect. 1. & 89. sect. 1. 4. (i) Apud Gregory's Notes & Observ. c. 19. p. 97, 98.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk—A prohibition against imitating the superstitious rites of the idolaters in Egypt, who, at the end of their harvest, seethed a kid in its mother's milk and sprinkled the broth as a magical charm on their gardens and fields, to render them more productive the following season. [See on De 14:21].
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