The scriptures are clear with regard to clean and unclean meats, but does this verse actually say that meat and milk should not be eaten together? No, it does not. Then what does it say? It says that God's people should not seethe a kid in its mother's milk. "Seethe" is an old English word for "boil" or "stew."
Why would anyone ever consider cooking a young goat in its mother's milk? Why did God bring this to the Israelites' attention? Why would they even think of doing such a thing? Even if they did, what would be wrong with it?
According to various Bible commentaries, the pagans of that era and of that area had a fertility rite, which involved boiling a kid in its mother's milk and sprinkling the broth as a magic charm on their gardens and fields. They did this in the hope of increasing the yield of their crops. Here is what The Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge says about Exodus 23:19:
The true sense of this passage seems to be that assigned by Dr. Cudworth, from a MS. comment of a Karaïte Jew. "It was a custom with the ancient heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruits, to take a kid, and boil it in the dam's milk; and then in a magical way, to go about and sprinkle all their trees, and fields, and gardens, and orchards with it, thinking by these means, that they should make them fruitful, and bring forth more abundantly in the following year. Wherefore, God forbad his people, at the time of their in-gathering, to use any such superstitious or idolatrous rite.
God was warning His people against following this heathen custom. It actually had nothing to do with the dietary laws.
If we were so inclined, would it be permissible for us to boil a kid in its mother's milk? It is not likely that we would want to, but if we did, we would be "tempting" God (Deuteronomy 6:16; Malachi 3:15) and breaking one of His laws, one that is just as binding today as those regarding the holy days and tithing.
Finally, is it permissible to eat meat and milk products together? Yes, of course! In fact, God has always allowed it. Our Elder Brother—our example in righteousness—Jesus Christ, mixed the two in a meal prepared for Him by Abraham and Sarah, hundreds of years before Moses:
Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. . . . So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate. (Genesis 18:1, 8)
Is it likely that Jesus Christ would have broken one of His own laws in the presence of His human servants?
Milk and Meat
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 contain God's commandment to Israel concerning clean and unclean meats. In these passages, either He lists specific animals that are clean or unclean, or He provides us with instructions about how to determine if an animal is clean or unclean. For instance, He tells us specifically that the camel, the hyrax (rock badger), the hare, and the swine are unclean (Leviticus 11:4-8), but regarding fish He instructs us to determine if a species possesses both fins and scales (verse 9).
People have varying reactions to these scriptures. Some will take the position that unclean animals are harmful to the body. Many of us have had experience, either personally or by an acquaintance, with poisoning by trichinosis (a disease caused by parasitic worm larvae) in pork or becoming deadly sick from shellfish. Then others will bring up "Aunt Sarah," who ate pork and crawdads, drank a bottle of whiskey, smoked cigars every day, and lived to be 102 years old. Indeed, God makes some with amazingly strong constitutions.
God designed many of the unclean animals for the specific purpose of disposing of the earth's garbage. For instance, without feeling any ill effect, vultures can consume 59 times the amount of botulin, the neurotoxin that causes botulism, that it would take to kill a man. Pigs are scavengers that will eat anything, and if pork is not fully cooked to kill the Trichinella spiralis in it, it can destroy a person's health or even kill him.
Even though people throughout the world eat unclean food and live, and even though we could probably do the same'and many of us once did'for Christians, it is more than a health matter. In the Bible, God never directly connects keeping the laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 with health. In reality, it is a test commandment to see if we will obey God.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?
In verses 3-21, He gives instructions about what should be taken internally, what kinds of meats are suitable for intake from God's perspective. The eating habits of the Egyptians were certainly not up to God's standards, and He thus illuminated Israel on what was good as food for human consumption and what was not. In essence, God is concerned about what goes inside our bodies. Junk foods, of course, are not addressed, but God's intent is the same: Do not misuse the inside of the body.
Whatever Your Heart Desires
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Deuteronomy 14:21: