Poole on 1 Samuel 5:6: The Plague of Hemorrhoids

Verse 6:[1] But (1 Sam. 5:7, 11; Ex. 9:3; Ps. 32:4; Acts 13:11) the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he (1 Sam. 6:5) destroyed them, and smote them with (Deut. 28:27; Ps. 78:66) emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.



[It was made heavier[2]] They hardened themselves to the first plague: Previously they were observing the altar of Dagon; but afterwards they began to reverence his entrance with consummate zeal. It was necessary, therefore, that their punishments be aggravated (Mendoza). The Philistines were detaining the Ark in their cities not otherwise than the Spartan boy was bearing the fox in his bosom, which at the same time was tearing at his vitals[3] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:36:365). It was heavy, that is, great. Thus in Genesis 41:31, it shall be heavy,[4] that is, great. Likewise in Job 23:2;[5] Isaiah 32:2[6] (Drusius).


The hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, for their incorrigibleness by the foregoing documents.


[He destroyed them, וַיְשִׁמֵּם] And He caused to forsake, or He emptied them (Pagnine, Montanus, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius); He devastated (Jonathan, Osiander). He wasted them (Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus).


He destroyed them; partly by wasting their land, 1 Samuel 6:5; and partly by killing many of their persons, as is sufficiently implied here, 1 Samuel 5:10.



[And He smote them in the more secret part of the buttocks, וַיַּ֤ךְ אֹתָם֙ בָּעֳפָלִ֔ים] It is written עֲפוֹלִים/tumors/mounds; but it is read by the Masoretes טְחוֹרִים/ tumors/hemorrhoids (Munster, Drusius). Which very word the Chaldean and Syriac make use of, modified in their manner. But what sort of disease is here is not very apparent; because it is mentioned only here, and in Deuteronomy 28:27.[7] Neither are any symptoms of it related. And so at this point Interpreters go off in very different directions: the Septuagint renders it seats, or buttocks (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:36:365). And He smote them in extreme places (Montanus). In their seats their seats, in such a way that dysentery overtook them (Arabic). In their anuses (Syriac, Tigurinus, Drusius). In the lower parts of the belly (Munster). With disorders of the seat, or anus (Vatablus). עוֹפֶל signifies a part standing forth and projecting. The anus, so called by antiphrasis, because it does not at all project (Hebrews in Drusius and in Munster). Nevertheless, Physicians say that it projects because of disease; namely, when it drops (Vatablus). With dysentery (Arabic, Jonathan in Grotius). Symmachus: sometimes τὰ κρυπτὰ, the secrets; sometimes περίλυσιν τῆς ἕδρας, looseness of the seat, that is, a prolapsed seat; which is a disease common in children (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:36:365). With disease of the anus, callous anal protuberances, while the seat falls (Castalio). Aquila, with Theodoret reporting, has φαγέδαιναν/cankers (Grotius): that is, with a sore gnawing and consuming (Sanchez). Others: in constrictions (Jonathan). There are those that expound טָחוֹר as a constricted and compressed passage-way, from the Chaldean טְחַר, which signifies to constrict and compress (Drusius). Others: with hemorrhoids, or piles (which we also call figs from the similitude with that fruit [Mariana]) (Junius and Tremellius, Drusius, Grotius, Dutch, English). Thus a great many of the Hebrews, and new Interpreters generally, however many they are. I think that a distinction is to be made between טְחוֹרִים/tumors/ hemorrhoids and עֲפוֹלִים/tumors/mounds, which the Masoretes nevertheless take promiscuously, as if the words were ἰσοδύναμοι/equivalent. But to us טָחוֹר is anus, or fundament, from טְחַר, to close and constrict; whence טָחוֹר is σφιγκτὴρ, the sphincter, or anal aperture. But I think that עֲפוֹלִים are tumors of that part; because עֻפַּל in the Pual is to swell and to project oneself; and in the Hiphil it signifies to stretch unto a height. And the noun עוֹפֶל is a mound. And so עֲפוֹלִים are distempers, whereby athat part bulges, and becomes swollen; when it is distended with melancholic blood. Thus it is taken in Deuteronomy 28:27, He will smite thee with the Egyptian ulcer, וּבָעֳפָלִים. Therefore, it does not signify buttocks there, but a sort of disease. So also in this passage. And so in verse 9 it is said, and were lying hidden to them עֳפָלִים/APHOLIM,[8] which is not able to pertain to the anus, but to hemorrhoids; of which those that lie hidden within hurt more grievously, and are cured with greater difficulty. Nevertheless, the same things that are called עֳפָלִים, here and in 1 Samuel 6:4, 5,[9] are also called טְחוֹרִים/ anuses; because they were relating to anuses with hemorrhoids. And so it was free to denominate those images by either (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:36:365). Some think that this disease was piles; which was consuming the interior parts of the belly in the secret places; but others assert that it was an incurable flux of blood (Munster). Although hemorrhoids harshly affect those parts of the body; something more troublesome appears to have happened to the inhabitants of Azotus, which forced them to wail, and led them to death. For which reason, to this vexation others add other things, griping pains of the bowels, and ulcers, etc. (Sanchez). This disease appears to have been peculiar, new, and multifaceted (Lapide). Just as the sin of the Philistines defiling the Ark was new and unheard of, so this sort of disease was new (Mendoza). But it was also disgraceful. Thus God rendered measure for measure. For they wished to afflict with ignominy, not only the Jews, but aslo their God (Martyr). God smote them with a punishment of childhood, who foolishly became swollen with pride over the victory, as if it were produced by their manly strength. And deservedly are they smitten in their seats, who set the Ark in a profane seat next to Dagon (Mendoza). This punishment was suited to the Philistines, because they were given to their bellies (Lapide), and Sodomites (Rupertus and Jerome in Mendoza). From this passage it appears with sufficient clarity, how brief are the joys of the impious: The Philistines, who had just led the Ark away in triumph, are immediately wretchedly wasted by it. On the other hand, the suffering of the pious is brief, but eternal happiness and joy are recompensed[10] (Martyr). Herodotus, Histories 1, made mention of this disease; but, after the manner of the Gentiles, distorting Jewish affairs, he mixes false things with the true, as Josephus notes in Antiquities 10:1, for he says that there was a Temple of Venus as Askelon, which some plundered, and therefore were smitten with hemorrhoids (Lapide).


Emerods; a disease mentioned only here and Deuteronomy 28:27; it was in the hinder parts. It is needless to inquire into the nature of it. It may suffice to know that it was a very sore disease, and not only very vexatious and tormenting, but also pernicious and mortal.


[And the villages and fields in the midst of that region produced in abundance, and mice were born; and the confusion of a great death was made in the city]This part of this verse is found neither in the Hebrew, nor in the Chaldean, nor in the Greek of the Royal Bible (and Complutensian [Mendoza]). Nevertheless, other Greek Codices insert it, whence perhaps it was taken.Moreover, these things are absent from many exemplars of the Latins:Indeed, first, they appear to have written in the margin as commentaries on the passage; but afterwards to have been mixed in the text; as Lyra and Tostatus think (Brugensis’[11]Notations on the Varying Passages of the Sacred Books[12]).

[1] Hebrew: וַתִּכְבַּ֧ד יַד־יְהוָ֛ה אֶל־הָאַשְׁדּוֹדִ֖ים וַיְשִׁמֵּ֑ם וַיַּ֤ךְ אֹתָם֙ בָּעֳפָלִ֔ים אֶת־אַשְׁדּ֖וֹד וְאֶת־גְּבוּלֶֽיהָ׃ [2] Hebrew: וַתִּכְבַּד. [3] Plutarch’s “Lycurgus” 18:1. [4] Genesis 41:31: “And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous (כִּֽי־כָבֵ֥ד ה֖וּא מְאֹֽד׃).” [5] Job 23:2: “Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning (יָ֜דִ֗י כָּבְדָ֥ה עַל־אַנְחָתִֽי׃).” [6] Isaiah 32:2: “And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a heavy rock (סֶלַע־כָּבֵד) in a weary land.” [7] Deuteronomy 28:27: “The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods (וּבָעֳפָלִים [Kethib], וּבַטְּחֹרִים [Qere]), and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.” [8] Hebrew: וַיִּשָּׂתְר֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם עֳפָלִֽים׃. [9] 1 Samuel 6:4, 5: “Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods (עָפְלֵי [Kethib], טְחֹרֵי [Qere]), and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods (עָפְלֵיכֶם [Kethib], טְחֹרֵיכֶם [Qere]), and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land.” [10] See Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17. [11] Francis Lucas Brugensis (1552-1619) was a Jesuit scholar, who labored in the collation of manuscripts. He was skilled, not only in Greek and Hebrew, but also in Syriac and Chaldean. [12] In Variantia Sacrarum Bibliarum Loca Notationes.