Exodus 23:19
The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.
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(19) The first of the firstfruitsi.e., the very first that ripen. There was a natural tendency to “delay” the offering (Exodus 22:29) until a considerable part of the harvest had been got in. True gratitude makes a return for benefits received as soon as it, can. “Bis dat qui cito dat.”

The house of the Lord. Comp. Exodus 34:26 and Deuteronomy 23:18. It is known to Moses that the “place which God will choose to put his name there” is to be a “house,” or “temple.”

Thou shalt not seethe a kid.—A fanciful exegesis connects the four precepts of Exodus 23:18-19 with the three feasts—the two of Exodus 23:18 with the Paschal festival, that concerning firstfruits in Exodus 23:19 with the feast of ingathering, and this concerning kids with the feast of tabernacles. To support this theory it is suggested that the command has reference to a superstitious practice customary at the close of the harvest—a kid being then boiled in its mother’s milk with magic rites, and the milk used to sprinkle plantations, fields, and gardens, in order to render them more productive the next year. But Deuteronomy 14:21, which attaches the precept to a list of unclean meats, is sufficient to show that the kid spoken of was boiled to be eaten. The best explanation of the passage is that of Bochart (Hierozoic. pt. 1, bk. 2, Exo. 52), that there was a sort of cruelty in making the milk of the mother, intended for the kid’s sustenance, the means of its destruction.

Exodus 23:19. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk — It is remarkable that this command, extraordinary as it is, is repeated Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21, and that, as here, in connection with the offering of the first-fruits. Hence it has been conjectured that it has a reference to the payment of these fruits, and to some superstitious practices which the Pagans used on these occasions, who were wont, it seems, when they had gathered in all the fruits of the earth, to boil a kid in its mother’s milk, and “to sprinkle the trees, and fields, and gardens, with the broth in a magical manner, to make them more fruitful the following year.” See Dr. Cudworth, On the Lord’s Supper, page 14. Some, however, with an appearance of probability, take this for a prohibition against offering any animal in sacrifice when it was milky and unformed, or before it was eight days old, till which time it was to be left with its dam, Exodus 22:30. And others, again, consider the precept as being chiefly intended, like many other of God’s laws, to prevent cruelty toward the creatures, and to inculcate a mild and tender disposition.

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.The first of the firstfruits of thy land - The "best," or "chief" of the firstfruits, that is, the two wave loaves described Leviticus 23:17. As the preceding precept appears to refer to the Passover, so it is likely that this refers to Pentecost. They are called in Leviticus, "the firstfruits unto the Load;" and it is reasonable that they should here be designated the "chief" of the firstfruits. If, with some, we suppose the precept to relate to the offerings of firstfruits in general, the command is a repetition of Exodus 22:29.

Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk - This precept is repeated. See the marginal references. If we connect the first of the two preceding precepts with the Passover, and the second with Pentecost, it seems reasonable to connect this with the Feast of Tabernacles. The only explanation which accords with this connection is one which refers to a superstitious custom connected with the harvest; in which a kid was seethed in its mother's milk to propitiate in some way the deities, and the milk was sprinkled on the fruit trees, fields and gardens, as a charm to improve the crops of the coming year. Others take it to be a prohibition of a custom of great antiquity among the Arabs, of preparing a gross sort of food by stewing a kid in milk, with the addition of certain ingredients of a stimulating nature: and others take it in connection with the prohibitions to slaughter a cow and a calf, or a ewe and her lamb, on the same day Leviticus 22:28, or to take a bird along with her young in the nest Deuteronomy 22:6. It is thus understood as a protest against cruelty and outraging the order of nature.

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 [21]De 14:21]. This seems to be a general rule, extending to all the fruits which the earth first produced; in every kind of which the very first are here enjoined to be offered unto God, before they should presume to eat any of them. It may seem to be repeated here, where the year of rest is mentioned to leach them the first-fruits were to be given to God of all that the earth produced, not only by their labour and seed, as might be thought from Exodus 23:16, but also of its own accord, as is here implied.

He names one kind, under which he understands a lamb, or a calf, &c., according to the use of Scripture style. This law many understand literally, and that it is forbidden to them, because the idolaters had such a custom, whereof yet there seems to be no sufficient proof; nor, if there were, doth it seem to be a rite of that importance or probability to entice the Israelites to imitate it, that there needed a particular law against this, more than against a hundred such ridiculous usages which were among the heathen, and are not taken notice of in the book of God’s laws. The words may be rendered thus,

Thou shalt not seethe, or roast, (for the word bashal signifies to roast as well as to boil, as it is evident from Deu 16:7)

a kid, being, or whilst it is (which is to be understood, there being nothing more common than an ellipsis of the verb substantive)

in his mother’s milk; which it may be said to be, either,

1. Whilst it sucks its mother’s milk; and so it may admit of a twofold interpretation:

(1.) That this is to be understood of the passover, of which most conceive he had now spoken, Exodus 23:18, in which they used either a lamb or a kid, Exodus 12:5, and then the word bashal must be rendered roast.

(2.) That this speaks not of sacrifice to God, wherein sucking creatures were allowed, Exodus 22:30 Leviticus 22:27 1 Samuel 7:9, but of man’s use; and so God ordained this, partly because this was unwholesome food, and principally to restrain cruelty, even towards brute creatures, and luxury in the use of them. Or rather,

2. Whilst it is very tender and young, rather of a milky than of a fleshy substance, like that young kid of which Juvenal thus speaks, Qui plus lactis habet quam sanguinis, i.e. which hath more milk than blood in it. And it may he said to be in its mother’s milk, by a usual hypallage, when its mother’s milk is in it, i.e. whilst the milk it sucks as it were, remains in it undigested and unconverted into flesh, even as a man is oft said to be in the Spirit, when indeed the Spirit is in him. And what is here indefinitely prohibited, is elsewhere particularly explained, and the time defined, to wit, that it be not offered to God before it was eight days old. And this interpretation may receive light and strength from hence, that the law of the firstfruits, which both here and Exodus 34:26 goes immediately before this law, doth in Exodus 22:30 immediately go before that law of not offering them before the eighth day, which implies, that both of them speak concerning the same thing, to wit, the first-fruits or first-born of the cattle, which were not to be offered to God while they were in their mother’s milk, saith this place, or till they were eight days old, saith that place. And consequently, if they might not be offered to God, they might not be used by men for food.

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.

The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his {l} mother's milk.

(l) Meaning, that no fruit should be taken before just time: and by this all cruel and wanton appetites are controlled.

19a. Firstfruits to be brought to Jehovah’s house.

the first of the firstripe fruits] ‘Firstripe fruits’ (bikkurim) seems to be used here in the wider sense noticed on v. 16; and it is said either (Ges.) that the earliest, or (Kn., Ke.) that the first (i.e. the choicest, best: rçshîth as Amos 6:1; Amos 6:6), of these are to be presented to Jehovah: comp. esp. Ezekiel 44:30. The rend. the best, (even) the firstripe fruits, of thy ground (Di., Benzinger, EB. iv. 4910, Nowack, Arch. ii. 256, Bä.) is less natural. As regards the relation of this law to that in v. 16, v. 16 alludes only to the bikkurim to be presented at the Feast of Weeks; the present law is wider, and would include for instance the firstfruits of the grape and olive harvest, which fell later in the year (according to the Mishna, bikkurim were offered on ‘seven kinds,’ viz. wheat, barley, vines, figtrees, pomegranates, oil, and honey: see Gray, Numbers., p. 228). It seems to be a parallel to the law in Exodus 22:29; the two laws probably belonged originally to two distinct collections, and both were preserved on account of the difference in their form.

The amount of firstfruits to be offered is not prescribed; and is evidently left to the free will of the individual offerer (cf. v. 15b; Deuteronomy 16:17).

the house of Jehovah] The expression might denote the hêkal, or temple, at Shiloh (Jdg 18:31, 1 Samuel 1:7; 1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 3:15), or the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8:10, and often): it might also, presumably, denote the local sanctuary nearest to the offerer’s own home; for these, or at least the principal ones, had almost certainly ‘houses’ or shrines (cf. 1 Kings 12:31, 2 Kings 17:32, Amos 7:13; Amos 9:1). The Tent of meeting might also perhaps be spoken of generally as the ‘house,’ or abode, of Jehovah; but the term is not a very natural one to apply to it; and where it does apparently denote the Tent of meeting (Joshua 6:2 [but ‘the house of’ omitted in LXX., as in v. 19 in the Heb.], Exodus 9:23 end), or the tent erected for the ark by David (2 Samuel 12:20; cf. 2 Samuel 6:17), is open to the suspicion of having been used by the writers on account of their familiarity with the Temple of Solomon (in 2 Samuel 7:6 a ‘tent’ denied to be a ‘house’). The present law must have been formulated it seems natural to think, without any reference to the Tent of meeting.

19b. A kid not to be boiled in its mother’s milk. Repeated verbatim, in the "" Exodus 34:26 b, and Deuteronomy 14:21 b. The law, to judge from its position beside ritual injunctions, will have had not, as might have been supposed, a humanitarian, but a religious motive. Di. and most suppose then it is aimed against some superstitious custom—perhaps (Maimonides; Spencer, Legg. Hebr. (1686), II. viii.; al.) that of using milk thus prepared as a charm for rendering fields and orchards more productive. Frazer (‘Folk-lore in the OT.,’ in Anthropological Essays presented to E. B. Tylor, Oxford, 1907, p. 151 ff.) quotes examples shewing that among many pastoral tribes in Africa there is a strong aversion to boiling milk, lest (on the principle of ‘sympathetic magic’) it should injure or even kill the cow which yielded it: but this case is not quite the same as the one here. Ibn Ezra (11 cent.) ad loc., and Burckhardt (Bedouins, i. 63), both mention boiling a lamb or kid in milk as an Arab custom.

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.

CHAPTER 23:20-31 Exodus 23:19The next command in Exodus 23:19 has reference to the feast of Harvest, or feast of Weeks. In "the first-fruits of thy land" there is an unmistakeable allusion to "the first-fruits of thy labours" in Exodus 23:16. It is true the words, "the first of the first-fruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God," are so general in their character, that we can hardly restrict them to the wave-loaves to be offered as first-fruits at the feast of Weeks, but must interpret them as referring to all the first-fruits, which they had already been commanded not to delay to offer (Exodus 22:29), and the presentation of which is minutely prescribed in Numbers 18:12-13, and Deuteronomy 26:2-11, - including therefore the sheaf of barley to be offered in the second day of the feast of unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:9.). At the same time the reference to the feast of Weeks is certainly to be retained, inasmuch as this feast was an express admonition to Israel, to offer the first of the fruits of the Lord. In the expression בּכּוּרי ראשׁית, the latter might be understood as explanatory of the former and in apposition to it, since they are both of them applied to the first-fruits of the soil (vid., Deuteronomy 26:2, Deuteronomy 26:10, and Numbers 18:13). But as ראשׁית could hardly need any explanation in this connection, the partitive sense is to be preferred; though it is difficult to decide whether "the first of the first-fruits" signifies the first selection from the fruits that had grown, ripened, and been gathered first-that is to say, not merely of the entire harvest, but of every separate production of the field and soil, according to the rendering of the lxx ἀπαρχηὰς τῶν πρωτογεννημάτων τῆς γῆς, - or whether the word ראשׁית is used figuratively, and signifies the best of the first-fruits. There is no force in the objection offered to the former view, that "in no other case in which the offering of first-fruits generally is spoken of, is one particular portion represented as holy to Jehovah, but the first-fruits themselves are that portion of the entire harvest which was holy to Jehovah." For, apart from Numbers 18:12, where a different rendering is sometimes given to ראשׁית, the expression מראשׁית in Deuteronomy 26:2 shows unmistakeably that only a portion of the first of all the fruit of the ground had to be offered to the Lord. On the other hand, this view is considerably strengthened by the fact, that whilst בּכּוּר, בּכּוּרים signify those fruits which ripened first, i.e., earliest, ראשׁית is used to denote the ἀπαρχή, the first portion or first selection from the whole, not only in Deuteronomy 26:2, Deuteronomy 26:10, but also in Leviticus 23:10, and most probably in Numbers 18:12 as well. - Now if these directions do not refer either exclusively or specially to the loaves of first-fruits of the feast of Weeks, the opinion which has prevailed from the time of Abarbanel to that of Knobel, that the following command, "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk," refers to the feast of Ingathering, is deprived of its principal support. And any such allusion is rendered very questionable by the fact, that in Deuteronomy 14:21, where this command is repeated, it is appended to the prohibition against eating the flesh of an animal that had been torn to pieces. Very different explanations have been given to the command. In the Targum, Mishnah, etc., it is regarded as a general prohibition against eating flesh prepared with milk. Luther and others suppose it to refer to the cooking of the kid, before it has been weaned from its mother's milk. But the actual reference is to the cooking of a kid in the milk of its own mother, as indicating a contempt of the relation which God has established and sanctified between parent and young, and thus subverting the divine ordinances. As kids were a very favourite food (Genesis 27:9, Genesis 27:14; Judges 6:19; Judges 13:15; 1 Samuel 16:20), it is very likely that by way of improving the flavour they were sometimes cooked in milk. According to Aben Ezra and Abarbanel, this was a custom adopted by the Ishmaelites; and at the present day the Arabs are in the habit of cooking lamb in sour milk. A restriction is placed upon this custom in the prohibition before us, but there is no intention to prevent the introduction of a superstitious usage customary at the sacrificial meals of other nations, which Spencer and Knobel have sought to establish as at all events probable, though without any definite historical proofs, and for the most part on the strength of far-fetched analogies.
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