Let the Dam Go

The promise of longevity accompanies only a few of God’s commands: honoring parents (Ep 6:2-3), maintaining consistent standards in business (De 25:15), and freeing a mother bird that’s protecting her young; if we happen to find a bird’s nest we’re not allowed to take the dam, only the babies. (De 22:6-7)

Parents represent God, giving us life, protecting and guiding us, so honoring them is intuitive, and a just measure is the basis of any healthy economy. But God’s not concerned about animals per se (1Co 9:9), so why’s this third command so important?


Mothers instinctively endanger themselves to protect their own. My own dear wife Elizabeth, for example, screaming and praying for God’s mercy as a pit bull was killing our dog Hoolah, stuck her hands in its mouth to pry open its jaws, risking life and limb. My wife knows she’s infinitely more important than our dog, but in the moment she completely forgot about herself and saved Hoolah’s life. (Full story in 3rd comment below.)

Taking advantage of an animal as it tries to protect its young is a type of extortion; it’s cruel, sadistic and disrespectful. If it’s wrong to take advantage of birds in this way, how much more so of people? (1Co 6:9-10)

In promising longevity in these commands, it seems God is telling us that respecting authority, each other, and the dignity of life forms the basis of a healthy society. Cultures which follow God’s Law tend to thrive (Ps 19:7,11); those that don’t suffer deeply. (Pr 4:19)

articles      blog

6 thoughts on “Let the Dam Go”

  1. Respect for the dignity of life can also be seen in, “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk,” which God repeats verbatim in two distinct contexts: Ex 34:26b and De 14:21b. A similar command is found in Le 22:27-28: “When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And whether it be cow or ewe, ye shall not kill it and her young both in one day.” As God teaches us respect for animal life we should be translating it into respect for the dignity of our neighbors.

  2. I think the promise of longevity is not applicable to individuals; Jesus was certainly respectful to His earthly parents but did not live a long life. I see this command as being given to Israel, personified as a man, promising longevity and blessing to any people group or culture that obeys it.

  3. The story of Elizabeth and the pitbull is pretty amazing. During a routine walk on a calm, sunny afternoon, the animal snuck up on my wife Elizabeth and our dog Hoolah without a sound. It immediately grabbed Hoolah by the throat and began trashing her violently. Elizabeth began to cry out for help but there was no one around; in a bit of shock, she couldn’t really believe what was happening. Hoolah was groaning and crying out and not fighting back, but the dog attacked her ferociously and relentlessly, and was not going to let up.

    Elizabeth began screaming and crying out to God for mercy, and wasn’t really sure what else to do. She finally thought to herself, “This is NOT going to happen to me today! I am not going to just stand here and let this dog kill my baby!” She began pulling at its collar but the dog didn’t even seem to notice, so she got down in its face and began screaming at it, again with no effect. She finally stuck her hands in its mouth and began trying to pry its jaws open, cutting her fingers on its teeth and trying to wrestle it loose.

    After what must’ve seemed like forever, the pit bull miraculously let go and sat down next to Elizabeth and Hoolah on the sidewalk, looking up at her for her approval. As Elizabeth talked calmly to the dog trying to shoo it away, it turned on Hoolah again, regained its death grip and thrashing, and they were back to square one.

    So what did Elizabeth do? Of course! She got back down on the ground again, stuck her hands back in its mouth and started screaming and crying and praying again, trying to pry this dog off of Hoolah a second time. This time Hoolah was at least starting to try and fight back, but unsuccessfully.

    Again, miraculously, the dog finally let go a second time, but now Elizabeth kept hold of its collar so it couldn’t attack Hoolah again. Hoolah immediately bolted, running for her life, leaving Elizabeth and the pit bull alone on the sidewalk, still no one noticing or coming over to help.

    Elizabeth noticed that the pit bull seemed to have no intention of harming her, so she kept holding its collar, not wanting to let it go and attack someone else. She started looking for a home that it could possibly have come from and saw an open gate in a nearby alley. She released it into this backyard, hoping this was the pit bull’s home, and shut the gate.

    Elizabeth returned home to find Hoolah waiting patiently at the garage door, let her into the house, and checked her out to see if she was OK. Hoolah had some gaping puncture wounds in her neck, but with all the excitement did not seem to be in any pain at the moment. Since the wounds didn’t seem life-threatening, Elizabeth went back to the home where she had left the pit bull, called animal control with the address and told the story.

    When the animal control officer came to the home and rang the doorbell, a man answered, but when confronted with the story denied it saying that his dog had been in the backyard the whole time. But again, miraculously, the man’s daughter overheard the conversation, came forward and admitted in front of the officer that she had found the back gate open when she had come home from school.

    The man promptly had his dog put down, so the threat was quickly and permanently removed from the neighborhood, but it took a couple of intense weeks for Elizabeth to fully recover from the emotional trauma. Who knows if anyone can ever fully recover from something like this. I cannot really even imagine! It certainly has become part of the color and fabric of her amazing story.

    My interest in this story, and why I included it in this blog, is that I think my wife handled this once-in-a-lifetime freak event amazingly well by the grace of God. She really is an amazing woman and the more I learn about her the more I love and respect her. Her story here is a testament to both the mercy of God and the power of motherly instinct, one which I will never forget; I want everyone else to remember it too.

  4. Tim,
    There is at least one other verse you might find of value on the subject. Deut. 25:15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord they God giveth thee.

    1. THANKS!! I heard that there were only two, yet was thinking there might be another one but couldn’t find it. Very helpful!! Will include this one too. So much appreciated!

  5. The Apostle Paul positions extortion as a sin that cannot pervade the life of a child of God: “Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Co 6:10), yet where do we see this kind of sin spelled out in Torah, if not in the bird’s nest command?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.