And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water:
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Caesarius of Arles
Now why should the little children, who had committed no sin, fast? Evidently, the innocent fasted in order that sinners might escape punishment; the little child cried out that the older man might not perish. But even if the fasting of infants was necessary, why the further fasting of flocks and herds? Surely, in order that the hunger of even the animals might manifest the repentance of men.
Princes. Their consent was requisite, to form an irrevocable edict, Daniel vi. 8.
Men. Even infants, according to the Fathers, Joel ii. 16. St. Basil adds also, the young of cattle. This was done to excite rational beings to repentance. (Theodoret)
We do not find that cattle were deprived of food on such occasions among the Jews. But Virgil specifies that this was the case at the death of Cæsar, (Ecl. v.) as it was in droughts among some nations of America. (Horn ii. 13.) (Calmet)
When people are greatly moved by repentance, they exceed in austerity; but if this be not indiscreet, God accepts of their good intention. (Worthington)
The king conquered enemies with a display of valor. He conquered God, however, by humility. He is a wise king who, in order to save his people, owns himself a sinner rather than a king. He forgets that he is a king, fearing God the King of all. He does not bring to mind his own power but rather comes to possess the power of the Godhead. Marvelous! When he forgets that he is a king of men, he begins to be a king of righteousness. The prince, becoming religious, did not lose his empire but changed it. Before he held a princedom of military discipline. Now he obtained a princedom in heavenly disciplines. .