The Old Testament can appear to say some very strange things. The Bible reading for this morning was from the Book of Deuteronomy, and has the following instruction:
“If you come on a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs, with the mother sitting on the fledglings or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. Let the mother go, taking only the young for yourself, in order that it may go well with you and you may live long.”
I was not sure whether to be appalled by this endorsement of nest stealing or applaud an attempt at sustainable hunting. As so often when reading the Bible, context is everything. This passage, probably drawing on laws from around 1000BC, reflects a society where wild-fowl were a useful extra source of protein in an age where death from starvation when the rains failed was a very real possibility. The writer is urging his reader to act responsibility, to ensure that there will continue to be wild-fowl in the coming years. In much the same way, we impose restrictions on shooting and fishing.
The passage struck a cord with me as just a few minutes before I had read that the pair of Peregrine falcons that were nesting on the Clee Hill had been deliberately poisoned; the police are trying to identify the criminals behind this. I suspect that if the writer of Deuteronomy were to read of this incident, he would sadly conclude that all was not likely to go well for us in our society. Perhaps those responsible should learn from him or her.