International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
DUNG; DUNG GATE
dung ('ashpoth, domen, peresh; skubalon, etc.): Nine different words occurring in the Hebrew have been translated "dung" in the Old Testament. The word used to designate one of the gates of Jerusalem ('ashpoth, Nehemiah 2:13; Nehemiah 3:14) is more general than the others and may mean any kind of refuse. The gate was probably so named because outside it was the general dump heap of the city. Visitors in recent years riding outside the city walls of Jerusalem, on their way to the Mt. of Olives or Jericho, may have witnessed such a dump against the wall, which has existed for generations.
The first mention made of dung is in connection with sacrificial rites. The sacred law required that the dung, along with what parts of the animal were not burned on the altar, should be burned outside the camp (Exodus 29:14 Leviticus 4:11; Leviticus 8:17; Leviticus 16:27 Numbers 19:5). The fertilizing value of dung was appreciated by the cultivator, as is indicated by Luke 13:8 and possibly Psalm 83:10 and Isaiah 25:10.
Dung was also used as a fuel. Ezekiel 4:12, 15 will be understood when it is known that the dung of animals is a common fuel throughout Palestine and Syria, where other fuel is scarce. During the summer, villagers gather the manure of their cattle, horses or camels, mix it with straw, make it into cakes and dry it for use as fuel for cooking, especially in the winter when wood or charcoal or straw are not procurable. It burns slowly like peat and meets the needs of the kitchen. In Mesopotamia the writer saw it being used with forced draft to fire a steam boiler. There was no idea of uncleanness in Ezekiel's mind, associated with the use of animal dung as fuel (Ezekiel 4:15).
Figuratively: Dung was frequently used figuratively to express the idea
(a) of worthlessness, especially a perishable article for which no one cares (1 Kings 14:10 2 Kings 6:25; 2 Kings 9:37 Job 20:7 Psalm 83:10 Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 9:22; Jeremiah 16:4; Jeremiah 25:33 Zephaniah 1:17 Philippians 3:8 (the American Standard Revised Version "refuse")). Dunghill was used in the same way (1 Samuel 2:8 Ezra 6:11 Psalm 113:7 Isaiah 25:10 Daniel 2:5; Daniel 3:29 Luke 14:35 Lamentations 4:5);
(b) as an expression of disgust (2 Kings 18:27 Isaiah 36:12);
(c) of rebuke (Malachi 2:3).
James A. Patch