Excrement of humans, birds and beasts is represented by various words in Biblical languages. In the Scriptures, dung often has figurative associations.
A “private place” or “privy” was at the service of Israel’s soldiers outside their army camps, and they were to cover their excrement. (Deut. 23:12-14) This preserved the army’s cleanness before Jehovah and also helped to prevent the spread of fly-borne infectious diseases.
One of Jerusalem’s gates was the “Gate of the Ash-heaps,” usually called “the Dung Gate.” (Neh. 2:13; 3:13, 14; 12:31) Situated a thousand cubits (c. 1,458 ft., or 444 meters) to the E of the Valley Gate and hence to the S of Mount Zion, this gate probably was so named because of the refuse heaped up in the Valley of Hinnom located below it and to which it led, the city’s garbage possibly being taken out through this gate.
Some of the nomadic heathen peoples may have used dung as fuel. Ezekiel, enacting a scene prophetic of Jerusalem’s siege, objected when God commanded him to use human excrement for fuel in baking bread. God kindly permitted him to use cattle manure instead. (Ezek. 4:12-17) This seems to indicate that it was not the normal practice in Israel.
Dung was used as manure to fertilize the soil. Straw and dung seem to have been mixed in a “manure place,” the straw possibly being trodden into it by animals. (Isa. 25:10) A way to fertilize a fig tree was to “dig around it and put on manure.”—Luke 13:8.
Generally, dung was considered to be offensive refuse, something for disposal. Expressive of its offensiveness, and also giving force to the thought of removal, were Jehovah’s words concerning the wayward house of Israel’s King Jeroboam: “I shall indeed make a clean sweep behind the house of Jeroboam, just as one clears away the dung until it is disposed of.”—1 Ki. 14:10.
Turning a man’s house into a public privy was the greatest insult and a punishment. (Ezra 6:11; Dan 2:5; 3:29) During the test of godship atop Mount Carmel, Elijah taunted the prophets of unresponsive Baal by saying: “He must be concerned with a matter, and he has excrement and has to go to the privy.” (1 Ki. 18:27) Jehu later had the house of Baal pulled down and “they kept it set aside for privies.”—2 Ki. 10:27.
Dung or manure is also employed as a simile to denote an ignominious end of an individual or a nation. (2 Ki. 9:36, 37; Ps. 83:10; Jer. 8:1, 2; 9:22; 16:4) God foretold that during his controversy with the nations those slain by Jehovah would not be bewailed, gathered up or buried, but they would become “as manure on the surface of the ground.”—Jer. 25:31-33; compare Zephaniah 1:14-18.
According to the Law, no sin offering, the blood of which was brought into the sanctuary to make atonement, was to be eaten by the priest. Its carcass and its dung were to be burned in a clean place outside the camp. (Lev. 4:11, 12; 6:30; 16:27) This was because none of the animal was to be put to any other use or allowed to decay. It was “clean,” that is, sanctified to Jehovah and therefore had to be burned in a clean place.—Compare Hebrews 13:11-13.
Paul, who highly esteemed spiritual things and greatly valued his hope in Christ, declared: “On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in union with him.” (Phil. 3:8, 9) The Greek word here rendered “refuse” (skuʹba·lon) denotes either excrement or the things left from a feast and thrown away from the table. Even if the apostle had the latter meaning in mind, his evaluation of “all things” as “refuse” emphasizes the high value he placed on gaining and being found in union with Christ.—See DOVE’S DUNG.