on Exodus 23 :19
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk - This passage has greatly perplexed commentators; but Dr. Cudworth is supposed to have given it its true meaning by quoting a MS. comment of a Karaite Jew, which he met with, on this passage. "It was a custom of the ancient heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruits, to take a kid and boil it in the milk of its dam; and then, in a magical way, to go about and besprinkle with it all their trees and fields, gardens and orchards; thinking by these means to make them fruitful, that they might bring forth more abundantly in the following year." - Cudworth on the Lord's Supper, 4th.
I give this comment as I find it, and add that Spenser has shown that the Zabii used this kind of magical milk to sprinkle their trees and fields, in order to make them fruitful. Others understand it of eating flesh and milk together; others of a lamb or a kid while it is sucking its mother, and that the paschal lamb is here intended, which it was not lawful to offer while sucking.
After all the learned labor which critics have bestowed on this passage, and by which the obscurity in some cases is become more intense, the simple object of the precept seems to be this: "Thou shalt do nothing that may have any tendency to blunt thy moral feelings, or teach thee hardness of heart." Even human nature shudders at the thought of causing the mother to lend her milk to seethe the flesh of her young one! We need go no farther for the delicate, tender, humane, and impressive meaning of this precept.
on Exodus 23 :19
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.
on Exodus 23 :19