Bible Note #20 — Deuteronomy 22:6-7 and Cruelty to the Vulnerable and Weak

Robin in a nest; photo by GAC

Deuteronomy 22:6-7 [ESV]
“If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young.
  You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.”

These verses are truly a window into the heart of God.  Here Moses lays down a regulation on the treatment of wild animal, specifically wild birds.  It is an interesting and, I think, not an unimportant fact that he has set this regulation in the midst of a long set of regulations dealing almost exclusively with the way people are to treat each other.

Why does God want to have this regulation on the treatment of wild birds right here in the heart of his moral law for his people?  There are some layers to the answer to that question.  First, and most obvious, he makes this regulation because he cares about all aspects of his creation, not simply the human parts of his creation.

Beyond that, though, this passage exhibits the inherent kindness and mercy of the heart of God.  And it reveals God’s deep-seated bias in favor of the weak and vulnerable.  (Without that bias in God’s character, there would have been no Cross of Christ and no salvation for us.  Grace is bias toward the weak and the vulnerable.)

Plainly, God has no opposition to the killing of animals by human beings for food.  Hence, he does not restrict the taking of eggs, the more likely action, or the taking of the young, a rather impractical and unlikely action, if food is the aim.  But God is opposed to blatant cruelty toward the weak and the vulnerable.  Hence, his prohibition on taking a mother and leaving the young to starve.

So, God forbids a hungry human being from killing a brooding mother bird no matter how hungry that person may be.  Cruelty toward the weak and the vulnerable young is never  permitted.  He recognizes that a people and a culture that make a routine practice of cruelty and abuse of weak and vulnerable animals will soon be quite tolerant of cruelty and abuse toward weak and vulnerable human beings and will neither reflect nor understand God’s own heart concern for those who are defenseless and in need.  Such a culture will never understand the gospel of grace.  Theirs will become a culture that idolizes power and strength, one whose religion will be one of “works righteousness,” one in which only the “deserving” and the “worthy” (the “winners”) will receive blessing.  And the broken and the weak (the “losers”) will be cast aside.  Such a culture will never understand, welcome, or honor a gospel of free and undeserved grace.

©2017 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.



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