And there was a great famine in Samaria
No care, perhaps, having been taken to lay up stores against a siege:
and, behold, they besieged it until an ass's head was [sold] for
fourscore [pieces] of silver;
shekels, as the Targum explains the word in the next clause, which amounted to about nine or ten pounds of our money; a great price for the head of such a creature, by law unclean, its flesh disagreeable, and of that but very little, as is on an head:
and the fourth part of a cab of doves' dung for five pieces of silver;
some of the Jewish writers say F8, this was bought for fuel, which was scarce: Josephus says F9, for salt, and so Procopious Gazaeus, and Theodoret; others, for dunging the lands, which is the use of it in Persia F11 for melons; neither of which are probable; most certainly it was for food; but as doves' dung must be not only disagreeable, but scarce affording any nourishment, something else must be meant; some have thought that the grains found in their crops, or in their excrements, undigested, and picked out, are meant; and others, their crops or craws themselves, or entrails; but Bochart F12 is of opinion, that a sort of pulse is meant, as lentiles or vetches, much the same with the kali or parched corn used in Israel, see ( 1 Samuel 17:17 ) ( 2 Samuel 17:28 ) and a recent traveller F13 observes, that the leblebby of the Arabs is very probably the kali, or parched pulse, of the Scriptures, and has been taken for the pigeons' dung mentioned at the siege of Samaria; and indeed as the "cicer" (a sort of peas or pulse) is pointed at one end, and acquires an ash colour by parching, the first of which circumstances answers to the figure, the other to the usual colour of pigeons' dung, the supposition is by no means to be disregarded: a "cab" was a measure with the Jews, which held the quantity of twenty four egg shells; according to Godwin F14, it answered to our quart, so that a fourth part was half a pint; and half a pint of these lentiles, or vetches, or parched pulse, was sold for eleven or twelve shillings.
F8 R. Jonah in Ben Melech, Kimchi & Abarbinel in loc.
F9 Antiqu. l. 9. c. 4. sect. 4.
F11 Universal History, vol. 5. p. 90.
F12 Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 1. c. 7. col. 44
F13 Shaw's Travels, p. 140.
F14 Moses & Aaron, B. 6. c. 9.