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As this question notes, the law concerning cooking a young goat in its mother's milk appears three times in Torah: Exodus: 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21. It's placement in Deuteronomy fits somewhat with the preceding laws: do eat this, do not eat this, etc... - laws that all deal with diet.

However, its placement in the two passages in Exodus strikes me as unusual. In both cases it comes in sections dealing with the annual festivals. In Exodus 23:14-19, the law appears to be part of the instructions particular to the Festival of Ingathering (though perhaps not). While in Exodus 34, the instructions seem more applicable to festivals and sabbaths in general.

Why is this law specifically included in these two sections dealing with festivals?

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According to Jacob Milgrom:

Both ideas inhering in the kid prohibition—the reverence for life and Israel's separation from the nations—are also present in the dietary laws, the former in the blood prohibition and the latter in the animal prohibitions. Thus the kid prohibition was automatically locked into Israel's dietary system. Therefore, it should occasion no surprise that the kid prohibition, which in Exodus is related to the cult and sacrifices, is transformed in Deuteronomy into a dietary law. Deuteronomy, it should be recalled, has transferred the act of slaughtering an animal for its flesh from the sanctuary to the home. With the centralization of worship at the Temple, Deuteronomy had to enact a concomitant law permitting common slaughter in order to obviate the necessity of journeying to the Temple each time a family desired meat for the table. The result is that the taboo of cooking a kid in its mother's milk, which needed but to be observed within the sanctuary compound while under priestly supervision, henceforth had to be heeded by every Israelite family, without outside supervision, in every kitchen.

I believe this theory assumes that Deuteronomy was edited into final form sometime during or after the establishment of Jerusalem and its Temple as the center of worship in Israel. However, the principle of decentralization of animal slaughter seems to be a theme of Deuteronomy.

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This is explained in the Samaritan Pentateuch In Exodus 23:19 which contains the following passage after the prohibition:

כי עשה זאת כזבח שכח ועברה היא לאלהי יעקב

This roughly translates to

that one doing this as sacrifice forgets and enrages God of Jacob.

This obviously makes this verse relevant to sacrifices only and thus these dietary restrictions appear to be an addition of the Rabbis. This can also be seen from Genesis 18:8 where Abraham ate milk and meat together with Messengers of God without any problems:

Abraham then took some curds and milk, along with the calf that had been prepared, and placed the food before them. They ate while he was standing near them under a tree.

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The Hebrew word for Boil also can mean Steep or Mature, and the Hebrew prefix B' can mean in or on... "You shall not Mature a young goat on it's mother's milk." Kinda changes things doesn't it? Perhaps God is telling us not to delay in tithing the first born animal.

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    Okay, but how does that explain why this law is "specifically included in these two sections dealing with festivals"? (Welcome to BH, by the way! - have a look at our tour to get to know the site.) – user2672 May 13 '18 at 13:05
  • This is an interesting insight, but I don't think it's correct. Fruits can בשל-"mature," but where are animals referred to maturing with that word? This answer would be improved if you could support it better. – b a May 15 '18 at 12:03
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Compassion may be a possible reason.

The command may have been given to show sympathy, this would be in line with other commands given, prohibiting sacrifice of an animal, unless the animal remained seven days with its mother, the law also prohibited the killing of both mother and young ones on the same day. Similarly, Deuteronomy 22:6-7

Leviticus 22:27-28 (NASB)

27 “When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall [a]remain seven days [b]with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be accepted as a sacrifice of an offering by fire to the Lord. 28 But, whether it is an ox or a sheep, you shall not kill both it and its young in one day.

Deuteronomy 22:6-7 (NASB)

6 “If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, 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."

7 "You shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days."

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