Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Dan

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Dan

Now here is an interesting verse found in 2 Kings 6:25:

And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. (2Ki 6:25)

First let’s find out what caused this event in the first place. Israel was being besieged and it was causing a very severe famine. Food was extremely scarce and the people were paying exorbitant prices for small amounts of anything edible.

Why were they under siege?

Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. (2Ki 6:24)

They were surrounded by the Syrian army and there was very little to eat. They may have been there for sometime or the inhabitants of Samaria were caught by surprise and didn’t have time to lay up supplies. Then again, if you read the verses just prior, 2 Kings 6:8-23, another reason for the lack of food may be given. The Samaritans had fed the Syrian raiders before sending them back home. Most commentators say that there was at least a year between that event and when this one happens.

What ever the cause, the people were so hungry that they were paying 80 shekels of silver for a donkey’s head. Several things about this:

  • Donkeys were very prized animals and well treated.
  • The head has very little meat on it.
  • “The head was the worst part of the animal.” (JFB)
  • They were on the “do not eat” list.
  • “A vast price, especially for that which had on it so little meat, and that unwholesome and unclean.” (Wesley)
Doves in Israel

Doves in Israel ©©

Now for the next food on their menu – “Dove’s dung.” Looking at the different versions of Scripture, here are some of the ways this is translated:

  • small measure of doves’ droppings was five shekels of silver – BBE
  • one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver – NKJV
  • fourth part of a (cab or kab) of dove’s dung at five pieces of silver – ASV Brenton ESV JPS KJV LITV NASB RV WEBSTER
  • small bowl of pigeon droppings cost about two ounces of silver – CEV
  • fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung five silver-pieces – Darby
  • fourth part of a cabe of pigeons’ dung, for five pieces of silver – DRB
  • forth of the cab of dovesdung at five silverlings – YLT
  • one pint of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver – ERV
  • one quarter of a unit of dove’s dung cost five silver coins – ISV
  • half a pound of dove’s dung cost five pieces of silver – GNB
  • two pounds of silver and a half-pint of dove manure for two ounces of silver – GW

One thing they all agree on is that it was either a Dove or a Pigeon, which are both in the same family and their names are changed back and forth even today. Most agree it was a forth of something. The cab or kab according to the commentaries is described as:

A kab – A measure containing twenty – four eggs. and a kab was the usual measure of all sorts of grains and fruits of that sort. (Wesley)
Cab – This measure is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. According to the rabbinical writers it was the smallest of all the dry measures in use among the Jews, being the sixth part of a seah, which was the third part of an ephah. If it was about equal to two of our quarts, the “fourth part of a cab” would be about a pint. (Barnes)

Nicobar Pigeon at Lower Park Zoo by Dan

Nicobar Pigeon at Lower Park Zoo by Dan

Up to now, we know that it was expensive for a small amount. What keeps the commentators of differing opinions is what the “Dove’s Dung” really was. Many say that it was a pulse or pease made from a pea or bean and that it had the color or texture of a dove’s droppings. Others say it was from the actual droppings and that (this is yuk) they picked through it for edible parts. (For an interesting study, load the e-Sword program – it’s free – and after loading the Bibles, dictionaries and commentaries, do a study of 2 Kings 6:25)

“dove’s dung: This probably denotes, as Bochart, Scheuchzer, and others suppose, a kind of pulse, or vetches, which the Arabs still call pigeon’s dung. “They never,” says Dr. Shaw (Travels, p. 140), “constitute a dish by themselves, but are strewed singly as a garnish over cuscasowe, pillowe, and other dishes. They are besides in the greatest repute after they are parched in pans and ovens; then assuming the name leblebby;” and he thinks they were so called from being pointed at one end, and acquiring an ash colour in parching.

Dove’s dung – Most commentators understand by this expression a sort of pulse which is called “dove’s dung,” or “sparrow’s dung” in Arabic. But it is possible that the actual excrement of pigeons is meant. The records of sieges show that both animal and human excrement have been used as food – under circumstances of extreme necessity.” (Barnes)

I am inclined to think that it could have actually been the real droppings.  The reason for that is what is mentioned after verse 25. Two ladies had agreed to eat their sons. See 2 Kings 6:26-29.

Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying,

“Help, my lord, O king!” And he said, “If the LORD will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?” And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.”  (2Ki 6:26-29)

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil Devasar

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil Devasar

Another thought, were there any doves left that hadn’t been eaten?

I’ll end with a quote from the Wesley commentary. “Learn to value plenty, and to be thankful for it; see how contemptible money is, when, in time of famine, it is so freely parted with for anything that is eatable.”

See also:

Birds of the Bible – Doves and Pigeons
Birds of the Bible
Columbidae – Pigeons, Doves

Interesting articles from the Internet:

Dove’s Dung
Simplified Bible Concordance – Dove’s Dung
From Heart to Heart
Dove’s Dung – Wikipedia
Plants of the Bible – Dove’s Dove


(Originally posted 6-10-11)


Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) by Nikhil

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; (Song of Solomon 2:12 KJV)

According to the latest list of Turtle Doves by the I.O.C version 2.5 there are only six doves that bear the name “Turtle Dove.” They are in two genus (groups), the Nesoenas and the Streptopelia. That means that they are closely related, but the ornithologist have divided them that way.

Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) ©WikiC

Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) ©WikiC

The Malagasy Turtle Dove (Nesoenas picturata) is the only one in the Nesoenas. The Malagasy Turtle-dove (Nesoenas picturata), is also known as the Madagascar Turtle-dove, is a bird species in the pigeon and dove family, Columbidae. It is found in British Indian Ocean Territory, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, and Seychelles. Its closest relative a Pink Pigeon together they form a lineage apart from both the typical pigeons (Columba) and the typical turtle-doves (Streptopelia).

Adamawa Turtle Dove (Streptopelia hypopyrrha) ©WikiC

Adamawa Turtle Dove (Streptopelia hypopyrrha) ©WikiC

The other five Turtle Doves, the Euopean, Dusky, Adamawa, Oriental, and Red are in the Streptopelia genus. These are mainly slim, small to medium-sized species. The upperparts tend to be pale brown, and the underparts are often a shade of pink. Many have a characteristic black-and-white patch on the neck, and monotonous cooing songs. Mainly in Africa, but several species occur in tropical southern Asia. As a group, this genus is highly successful; many species are abundant in a range of habitats in the tropics, and two now have a much more extensive distribution.

Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens) ©WikiC

Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens) ©WikiC

In Scripture, the Turtle Dove or “turtledove” appears in fifteen verses. Most of those have to do with the turtledove being used as a sacrifice. In Genesis 15:9 the Lord GOD told Abraham to provide one and a pigeon as part of a sacrifice when Abraham was give the covenant of the promised land.

Then in Leviticus a turtledove was used in the burnt offering in Lev. 1:14, two turtledoves for the trespass offering of Lev. 5:7, two for a second burnt offering in Lev. 5:11, for purification after the birth of a child in Lev. 12:6, 8, a sin offering in Lev. 14:22, a sin and a burnt offering in Lev. 14:30, two more offered in Lev. 15:14 and 29.

In Deuteronomy 6:10, two turtledove or pigeons are used for a cleansing.

O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever. (Psalms 74:19 KJV)

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) ©WikiC

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) ©WikiC

Here is what Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible says about the above verse in Psalms: “Psa 74:19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove – The “life” of thy turtle-dove; or, thy turtle-dove itself. The turtle-dove is a name of endearment for one beloved, in Son. 2:12, and is thus applied here to the people of Israel. The leading idea in such an application of the word is that of innocence, harmlessness, timidity, gentleness. The thought here is that of a people dear to God, now timid and alarmed. It is the prayer of a people beloved by God that he would not deliver them to their enemies. The prayer may be regarded as one which was used on the occasion referred to in the psalm; or, as a general prayer for the people of God, considered as exposed to ravening enemies.”

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes says of Song of Son. 2:12 (quoted at top): “The flowers – The communications of God’s grace, the gifts, and graces, and comforts of the Holy Spirit, are vouchsafed unto, and appear in believers, as buds and blossoms do in the spring. The turtle – This seems particularly to be mentioned because it not only gives notice of the spring, but aptly represents the Spirit of God, which even the Chaldee paraphrast understands by this turtle, which appeared in the shape of a dove, and which worketh a dove – like meekness, and chastity, and faithfulness, in believers.”

Jeremiah speaks of the migration of the turtledove.

Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 KJV)

RedTurtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica) by Nikhil Devasar

RedTurtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica) by Nikhil Devasar

Last but not least, Mary offered a pair of turtledove at the end of her purification after Jesus was born. The turtledove are in Luke 2:24, but the whole passage from Luke 2:21-39 is worth reading.

Most of the times, not always, the turtledove or pigeons were use in the sacrifices by someone who could not afford an animal like a lamb or a bullock. I find this very comforting because God did not make salvation only for those who could afford it. In fact, none of us can afford the cost of what took for the purchase of our salvation.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 KJV)

The Gospel Message

(All photos may be clicked on – WikiC = Wiki Commons. Hover mouse over underlined verses.)
(Originally posted 7-30-10)

In Genesis 15, Abram was told in a vision:

(1)  After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”…
(5)  Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”  (6)  And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.  (7)  Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”
(8)  And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
(9)  So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”  (10)  Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two….
(12)  Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him….  (17)  And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
(18)  On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates  (19)  the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites,  (20)  the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,  (21)  the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

The next time a pigeon is mentioned is after the birth of a child, a woman was to bring a sin offering.

‘When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. (Leviticus 12:6 NKJV)

In North America we have four pigeons that are in the Order Columbifomes, which contains 300 plus species. This includes pigeons, doves, and turtle-doves plus others. The size of the bird helps distinguish between “doves” and “pigeons”, with the “pigeon” being the largest. Our Pigeons are the:

The Rock Pigeon (previously the Rock Dove), “Male, 12.2–13.4 in (31–34 cm), 6.3–12.5 oz (180–355 g). Plumage generally bluish gray with relatively short tail and long, strong wings.” “The rock pigeon has a rather fast and long step. It is a skillful flyer. Flight velocities of 115 mph (185 kph) have been recorded.”  “Carrier pigeons deserve special mention. Pigeons have been used to send communications since earliest times. In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Djoser (2600–2550 B.C.) released house pigeons at the borders of his empire to mail the news that enemies were attacking the frontiers. Today’s carrier pigeon was created about 1850 in Belgium by breeding various races. Carrier pigeons can cover up to 621 mi (1,000 km) in a single day, and were trained to live with two lofts 12.4 mi (20 km) apart.” (About.com)

White-crowned Pigeon

White-crowned Pigeon

White-crowned Pigeon, is 13 in long, has a wingspan of 23 in and weighs about 8 oz. “The adult is dark grey, with green and white bars on the nape, a brilliant white crown to the head, a white iris, and a pale-tipped red bill.” “The ground speed of the White-crowned Pigeon in flight has not been formally documented, but is said to easily outpace a fast motorboat.” (All About Birds)

Band-tailed Pigeon, is 13-16 in and weighs 12.5 oz. and has a yellow bill and feet. “The plumage is gray, somewhat darker above. The head and underparts have a faint pink cast, especially in the adult male; the belly is nearly white.” (Western Field Guide)

Red-billed Pigeon – is 14 in and a large pigeon, that is gray and deep maroon, with a red bill with a pale tip.

“Pigeons and doves are distributed everywhere on Earth, except for the driest areas of the Sahara Desert, Antarctica and its surrounding islands and the high Arctic. They have colonised most of the world’s oceanic islands (with the notable exception of Hawaii), reaching eastern Polynesia and the Chatham Islands in the Pacific, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Reunion in the Indian Ocean, and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Band-tailed Pigeon is the largest in North America. The Passenger Pigeon, which has become extinct, at one time had over 4 billion in number. One report mentioned that on a fly-over the pigeons were in a flock, “a mile wide and up to 300 miles long, were so dense that they darkened the sky for hours and days as the flock passed overhead.” (Chipper Wood Bird Observatory)

The family has adapted to most of the habitats available on the planet. The largest number of species are found in tropical forests and woodlands, where they may be arboreal, terrestrial or semi-terrestrial. Various species also inhabit savannas, grasslands, deserts, temperate woodlands and forests, mangrove forests, and even the barren sands and gravels of atolls.” From Wikipedia

“The Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) is a species of medium-sized, heavily built pigeon. Native to Australia and one of the country’s most common pigeons, the Common Bronzewing is able to live in almost any habitat, with the possible exception of very barren areas and dense rainforests.” From Wikipedia

Pigeons in a group are called a “loft,” “band,” “dropping”, “passel” or a “school” of pigeons.

Links from WhatBird.com
Red-billed Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon or Band-tailed from All About Birds
Rock Pigeon or Rock from All About Birds
White-crowned Pigeon or White-tailed from All About Birds

ClickHere for some of the Pigeons Worldwide:


(Originally posted 1-22-09)