Dung (#2)

(2 Kings 9:37) And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.

Jezebel was one of the most wretched women in Scripture. She was the wife of vile King Ahab whom she stirred up to idolatry and wickedness (1KI 16:30-31; 1KI 21:25-26). Her only usefulness to this earth was her ignominious death and disposal: she was eaten of dogs and became fertilizer (2KI 9:30-37). That we may know how little God values apostates, Jesus said of disciples (who are supposed to be the salt of the earth, MAT 5:13):

(Luke 14:34) Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?
(Luke 14:35) It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

At least Jezebel had some usefulness.

In our previous meditation, we saw that God commanded Israel to not defecate within their camp but rather outside of it and they were to bury and cover their filth (DEU 23:12-14). The ceremonial cleanliness of the Law aside, the practicality of this is obvious: proper hygiene and sanitary disposal systems play important roles in preserving public health. It is interesting that God's emphasis in DEU 23:12-14 was on human dung, not animal dung, which implies that human dung is the worse of the two. This may remind us of when God commanded Ezekiel to graphically depict to Judah their defiling sins which would cause them to be taken captive and absorbed into the heathen and their customs from which they were to be set apart. He told Ezekiel to make a healthy dough (EZE 4:9) but then:

(Ezekiel 4:12) And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight.
(Ezekiel 4:13) And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.

Put yourself in Ezekiel's sandals for a moment. Might you be tempted to gag and say, “Arghh...!”? Ezekiel's response seems appropriate:

(Ezekiel 4:14) Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.

God cut Ezekiel some slack on this one:

(Ezekiel 4:15) Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow's dung for man's dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.

Dried cow's dung (“chips”) or that of other non-carnivorous creatures can serve as a fuel source for heat or cooking. This may have been the case when Samaria was besieged by the Syrians and a small amount of dove's dung was worth five pieces of silver (2KI 6:25). It is to be hoped that they were using the dove's dung for fuel, not food. But desperate people will resort to desperate things to survive, as Rabshakeh taunted Jerusalem years later about the ramifications of resisting the Assyrian siege:

(2 Kings 18:27) But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?

In the siege of Samaria by the Syrians and the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, they ate their own children (2KI 6:28-29; LAM 4:10). To the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet (PRO 27:7), and in extreme conditions, even the most repulsive things. Beware of saying, “I would never...”

Though not universally so, heathen cultures without the light of God's word tended to suffer more from ailments associated with poor hygiene. Their vain superstitions did not help matters. If, for example, people ignorantly associate dung with deity, they might not be so diligent to distance themselves from dung (which can be laden with bad germs and viruses) and also be more affected by the disease-carrying vermin and insects which feed on dung. Ancient Egyptians, for example, considered the scarab dung-beetle sacred:

“The scarab was linked to Khepri ('he who has come into being'), the god of the rising sun. The ancients believed that the dung beetle was only male in gender, and reproduced by depositing semen into a dung ball. The supposed self-creation of the beetle resembles that of Khepri, who creates himself out of nothing. Moreover, the dung ball rolled by a dung beetle resembles the sun.” (Wikipedia art. Dung Beetle)

The mystery of generative power prompted all manner of superstition. Dung may well have held a fascination as a creator of life because of the seemingly spontaneous appearance of maggots. We read of a certain Philistine deity in Scripture to whom a wicked king of Israel appealed for help:

(2 Kings 1:2) And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.
(2 Kings 1:3) But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?

Baalzebub is a compound word which means “Lord of the flies.” This devil-god (for all false gods are devils, 1CO 10:20) was so named, possibly because of some mystic coincidence concerning a plague of flies or because of veneration of the fly as a divine power integral to the cosmic order. The latter agrees with the Egyptian view of the dung beetle and it is conceivable that inasmuch as the dunghill seems to produce life, that form of life should be venerated. The Philistines were certainly not averse to such strange ideas: they once made images of hemorrhoids to appease the God of Israel Who had smitten them with hemorrhoids (emerods, 1SAM 6:4-5). This Baalzebub became known among the Jews as “...the prince of the devils...” (MAR 3:22) which the Pharisees said was the source of Jesus' power to cast out devils. This was an intentionally demeaning accusation but rather than return fire with a counter-slander (when reviled, He reviled not again, 1PE 2:23), Jesus simply turned it back on them thus:

(Matthew 12:27) And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.

These Pharisees, whose father was the devil (JOH 8:44) were into the “casting-out-devils-business” as part of their religious treachery. Beelzebub seems to be still quite active today in televangelism, and for the same reason. You probably thought that buzzing sound when you turned on TBN was electricity. False religion seems to be chronically associated with flies, but more on that in an upcoming meditation.