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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Doves' Dung

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This expression is by many considered to signify literally the dung of pigeons, as in the passage of . Different opinions, however, have been entertained respecting the meaning of the words which are the subject of this article, namely, whether they should be taken literally, or as a figurative name of some vegetable substance. The strongest point in favor of the former view is that all ancient Jewish writers have understood the term literally. Taking it, however, in this sense, various explanations have been given of the use to which the doves' dung was applied. Some of the Rabbins were of opinion, that the doves' dung was used for fuel, and Josephus, that it was purchased for its salt. Mr. Harmer has suggested that it might have been a valuable article, as being of great use for quickening the growth of esculent plants, particularly melons. Mr. Edwards is disposed to understand it as meaning the offal or refuse of all sorts of grain, which was wont to be given to pigeons, etc. Dr. Harris, however, observes that the stress of the famine might have been so great as to have compelled the poor among the besieged in Samaria to devour either the intestines of the doves, after the more wealthy had eaten the bodies, or, as it might perhaps be rendered, the crops.

Bochart, however, has shown that the term 'pigeons' dung' was applied by the Arabs to different vegetable substances, and supposes that it was one of the pulses used in ancient times, as at the present day, as an article of diet. With reference to this grain it has been observed that 'large quantities of it are parched and dried, and stored in magazines at Cairo and Damascus. It is much used during journeys, and particularly by the great pilgrim-caravan to Mecca; and if this conjecture be correct it may be supposed to have been among the provisions stored up in the besieged city, and sold at the extravagant price mentioned in the text' (Pict. Bible). The late Lady Callcott, in her Scripture Herbal, 1842, adduces the common Star of Bethlehem as the 'doves' dung' of Scripture, and assigns this, as well as 'birds' milk,' as two of its vernacular names. It is a native of this country, and also of Taurus, Caucasus, and Northern Africa Dioscorides states that its bulbs were sometimes cooked with bread, in the same way as the melanthium, and also that it was eaten both raw and roasted. The roots were also commonly eaten in Italy and other southern countries at an early period.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Doves' Dung'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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