If a bird's nest chance to be before you in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs…
The Law descends to very slight points of conduct. It keeps in view that character is made up of the result of our actions in the million trivial details of life. "Trifles," said Michael Angelo, when a friend thus characterized the slight finishing touches he was giving to a statue - "trifles make perfection." Matters which in themselves are of little moment acquire importance from the associations they awaken, the ideas they suggest, the consequences they lead up to. Little traits of humane behavior (vers. 6, 7), the habit of considering the bearings of what we do on others (ver. 8), respect for the ordinary and obvious distinctions of creation (ver. 9), etc., have all their influence on character, their effect in making us what we ultimately become. We may suggest, as lessons from these verses, that our conduct is to be marked:
1. By humanity.
(1) To animals.
(2) To our fellow-men.
In vers. 6, 7, the act forbidden is one akin to killing a cow and calf on the same day, or to seething a kid in its mother's milk (cf. on Deuteronomy 14:21) - an unfeeling violation of the sacredness of the relation between parent and offspring. Or the parent bird may be presumed to be taken only in wantonness, the young ones being really of service. This would be an act of cruelty. Humanity may be a motive in the precept of ver. 10 - "ox" and "ass" being obviously "unequally yoked together" (cf. Paul's allusion with application to marriage with unbelievers, in 2 Corinthians 6:14).
2. By caution. This is strikingly inculcated in ver. 8. How many accidents might be avoided if greater conscientiousness and caution prevailed in the different departments of labor! A shipbuilder puts in the side of a ship one wormy plank, and years after this costs the whole ship's crew their lives.
3. By simplicity. This is a lesson which may be learned from the precepts against mixing kinds (vers. 9, 11).
4. By mindfulness. The law of fringes in Numbers 15:38 - if this refers to the same thing - was intended to aid memory In another view of the precept, it inculcates decency and propriety. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:
WEB: If a bird's nest chance to be before you in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the hen sitting on the young, or on the eggs, you shall not take the hen with the young: