And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver.
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George Leo Haydock
In Samaria. It had raged in all the country above three years, (Salien) and continued other four, chap. viii. 1. The continuance of the siege added fresh horrors.
Pieces is not expressed in Hebrew: a sicle is understood. (Haydock)
Lyranus supposes that the whole ass was sold for about 38 crowns, (Haydock) or 130 livres; as we say commonly, "so much a head. "But interpreters generally assert that the price of the head alone is given; which shows more forcibly the greatness of the famine. On other occasions the animal could not be eaten by the Jews. Artaxerxes was forced to kill his beasts of burden; and an ass's head was then sold for 60 drachms, or 25 livres. When Hannibal besieged Casilinum, a mouse (or rat) was sold for above 70, or for 200 denarii. (Pliny, viii. 57.) (V. Max. vii. 6, 3.)
Cabe. Sufficient measure of corn for a man's daily sustenance. (Menochius)
The fourth part would be about a gill. (Haydock)
Dung. Bo chart maintains that "chick-peas "are designated. The Arabic usnen and kali, "pigeon or sparrows' dung "are real eatables. Those who suppose that the Samaritans bought the dung of pigeons to use as salt or for food, or to burn, or to manure the earth, produce not satisfactory reasons; no more than the Rabbins, who pretend that the corn which they had picked up was taken from their crop. (Tr. Megil. 3., and the Scholastic History.) Junius and Fuller would translate "belly "which is refuted by Bo chart. (Anim. T. ii. B. i. 7.) Very disgusting things have often been used through extreme hunger, (Grotius) and some sort of birds' dung is said to fatten oxen and swine. (Varro 38.; Pliny xvii. 9.)
But what nutriment can there be in that of pigeons, that people should go to buy it? (Calmet)
Houbigant understands a sort of peas to be meant. (Haydock)
The Hebrews called them kali when they were parched; and such food was very common, 2 Kings xvii. 28. (Bellon. ii. 53, and 99.) (Calmet)