Poole on 1 Samuel 6:4: Golden Hemorrhoids and Mice

Verse 4:[1] Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, (see 1 Sam. 6:17, 18; Josh. 13:3; Judg. 3:3) according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all (Heb. them all[2]), and on your lords.

[What is it? etc.] What the Priests had declared in a confusing manner, the Philistines desired to be explained more clearly; as if they desired to do nothing except at the direction of the Priests (Mendoza).

What shall be the trespass-offering? they desire particular information, because they were ignorant of the nature and manner of the worship of Israel’s God, and they might easily understand that there were some kinds of offerings which God would not accept.

[According to the number of the provinces, etc., מִסְפַּר֙ סַרְנֵ֣י וגו׳] The number of the satraps (Montanus). According to the number, etc. (Septuagint, Munster, Pagnine). According to (or, of [Junius and Tremellius]) the number (Syriac, Arabic). This region was πεντάπολις, a pentapolis, and had five Princes. Who, by a term proper to the Philistines, are called סַרְנִים/sarnim in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Chronicles. Which in Hebrew would be שָׂרִים/ sarim/rulers, as it is explained in 1 Samuel 29:9[3] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:36:368). In the place of satraps the Vulgate has provinces. I suspect that this is an error. For there was only one province (Drusius).

[Ye shall make five golden anuses, עָפְלֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב] Piles, or hemorrhoids (or anuses [Pagnine, Drusius, Munster], or fundaments [Syriac, Tigurinus], seats [Septuagint]) of gold (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Dutch, Osiander, Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals). Question 1: Of what sort was this figure? Responses: 1. Antonius Sabellicus[4] says that they were likenesses of those five cities (Mendoza). 2. Others maintain that they were likenesses of men (thus Hugo Cardinalis and Dionysius Carthusianus in Mendoza, Josephus in Sanchez). Perhaps not incorrectly; for otherwise it does not appear how, from a figure separated and alone, it could be known what this appearance, unusual and removed by nature from the eyes of men, might mean. But in human form that swollen and diseased part could be expressed; and the structure itself would show the sort of disease. 3. Still others commonly, and, in my opinion, more rightly, separate that part from the whole body; and fashion that into a circular form; to which a swelling by hemorrhoids is added, and what things are not wont to be wanting from that disease, when the rawness grew very severe (Sanchez). Five hemorrhoids, that is, images of hemorrhoids. Metonymy of subject (Piscator). Seats, or fundaments, with hemorrhoids, or piles, as in verses 11, 17 (Malvenda out of Junius). Question 2: But why did they consecrate so abject and sordid an image (Martyr, Sanchez)? Response 1: Their deformity and disgrace, which they have from their sin, they thus set before the Ark; and their ignominy they acknowledge in a ceremonial form; so that they might obtain the pardon of their sins from God, and turn aside the severity of the punishment (Sanchez). In this manner, 1. They acknowledge their faults in those anuses, as in signs. 2. And they signifity that punishments sent by God are to be willingly received. They do not withdraw their bodies from the blows, but they expose and lay bare their backs to their stokes; they offer themselves as ready to suffer; and they rouse God to His mercy. 3. They wanted to signify the ignominious punishment of ignominious sin; and that the shame of both is going to be present with them always, to which they testify by these things as perpetual monuments. See Psalm 78:66. These gifts, deformed and certainly to be blushed at, were begetting great shame in the Philistines, and were preserving it perpetually (Mendoza). It is a filthy and shameful thing, to show one laboring under such a disease, to show that disgraceful part. And God sometimes threatens that He is going to uncover the secret parts of His people, because they glory in their strength, Isaiah 3:17, 18; Jeremiah 13:26; Ezekiel 16:37. But the Philistines not only showed the private parts of their bodies, but they also made relics of them; and they showed those parts openly, as it were, dripping gore; so that to every age they might be a spectacle and example of the judgments of God, and might lie open to the reproach of all. In which ways God subdues the obstinacy of the dispisers of His Majesty (Calvin). Response 2: They offer these things as an expiatory offering for the plague of their anuses, etc. Thus are wont to be offered to the holy ones the likenesses of the members, the health of which we receive from them, as if things anathematized (Lapide). The ancients, having done with some fear or danger, were wont to consecrate emblems and monuments of the past evils to those God by whom they esteem themselves to have been liberated. Thus the shipwrecked were dedicating to Isis, or Neptune, a tablet that was containing an image of the shipwreck: Horace’s Odes 5, Juvenal’s Satires 12. Gladiators were hanging up arms to Hercules: Horace’s Epistles 1. Slaves and captives released unto liberty were offering chains to the Lares:[5] Horace’s Satires 1:5. Indeed, Christians, imitating these, in the fifth century after Christ, began to hang gifts in Temples, having the image of the parts that, having been afflicted with some disease, had recovered health; for example, the eyes, feet, etc., as Theodoret expressly testifies in Cure of Greek Maladies 8. Therefore, the Philistines dedicate images of hemorrhoids to that God from whom they were expecting health (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:36:368). Response 3: The sense of these images is στοιχειωτικὸς/elementary; it is to be sought from Telesmatic traditions. Forms, general and corruptible, are influenced by celestials; of which, therefore, Telesmatics (στοιχειωματικοὶ, those that cast nativities from the signs of the Zodiac, in Greek) make use, observing the entrance of the stars: Ptolemy’s[6]Centiloquim 9. The sense is that the forms of inferior things answer to similar heavenly configurations; and the heavenly forms have an influence over sublunaries; for example, the celestial scorpio, and serpens, upon earth scorpions and serpents. Therefore, those having an understanding of images were looking into when the planets were coming out from under the sun, and were entering these faces; and they were placing it in the ascendant, and were engraving the face that it was entering in stone, etc.[7] These things are called στοιχειώσεις/elementals and τελέσματα/talismans by the Greeks. Hali[8] relates the force of these, confirmed by experience. A slave, stricken by a scorpion, was healed by his master with a stone of this sort, on which the figure of scorpio was engraved, with the moon appearing in scorpio. The most famous of all were the Talismans of Apollonius of Tyana.[9] For Apollonius, by an engraving of Midges and of Storks, kept midges from entering Antioch, and Storks from entering Byzantium; as John Tzetzes[10] testifies in his Book of Histories 3:60. The same took care that a bronze image of a scorpion be poured; which, placed upon a small column, he set up in the midst of the city of Antioch; and the scorpion in that region disappeared. Thus Domninus,[11] cited by John Malalas of Antioch in Manuscripts of his Chronography[12] 10. Thus a Talisman of a lead crocodile for a long time protected the region of Gran Cairo[13] from the injuries of crocodiles. See Cardano’s[14]Concerning the Subtlety of Things[15] 9; Scaliger’s[16] Exercitations[17] 196:6; Zonaras’ Annals 3 “Anastasius”. And these things more frequently, but not solely, obtained in the East. And all these things are to be referred to the original rite of averruncation.[18] And I say that this was the reason why the Philistine Astrologers advised images of hemorrhoids to be made. Nearly thus Maimonides, in Guide for the Perplexed 1:1, I say (says he) on that of Samuel, that thus the things were appointed concerning the images of the Hemorrhoids, not so much on account of their form, as on account of some secret influence, whereby they might heal that disease. The Astrologers saw that that serpent of brass had satisfied God, Numbers 21:8, which, I think, was the first occasion taken (I do not say, given) of all these Talismans. Hence also one may understand why the God of Ekron is called Baal Zebub;[19] namely, the people of Ekron were vexed by Flies: the Astrologers, so that they might avert this evil, made an image of a Fly as a Talisman. The common people, freed by the blessing of this Ἀπομυίου, Averter of flies, made it a God; as the Israelites themselves also did with the serpent of brass (John Gregorie’s[20]Notes and Observations on Some Passages of Sacred Scripture 8). Moreover, here, the illusions of the Devil are to be observed by us. For, the Philistines, after the oblation was made, were relieved of their plagues: yet, not with God approving of those sacrifices, as it will be easily seen. For sacrifices were lessons, summoning the people to repentance, and to faith; so that, acknowledging themselves as evil-doers, they might seek satisfaction in Christ. But the Philistines contemplated no such thing in their sacrifices; only the appearance and apparatus external to that, and a ridiculous imitation of divine worship, and a corruption of the same (Calvin).

Golden emerods, that is, figures of that part of the body which was the seat of the disease, which by its swelling, or some other way, represented also the disease itself; which they offered not in contempt of God, for they sought to gain his favour hereby; but in testimony of their humiliation, that by leaving this monument of their own shame and misery they might obtain pity from God, and freedom from their disease.

[And five mice, etc.] No mention of mice was made above, except out of Dras; which hence receives strength (Drusius). While, from the weakness of the anus, the rectum was prolapsing, and discharging blood and the remaining moisture of the belly; the mice of the land were coming, and gnawing at the intesting, with the greatest possible pain of the sufferer (Hebrews in Munster).

Golden mice; which marred their land, (as it is related, verse 5) by destroying the fruits thereof; as the other plague afflicted their bodies.

[There was one plague to you all, and your satraps,כִּֽי־מַגֵּפָ֥ה אַחַ֛ת לְכֻלָּ֖ם וּלְסַרְנֵיכֶֽם׃] For the plague, or smiting, is one, or the same, to all (all those [Montanus], you all [Jonathan, not otherwise in the Septuagint according to Drusius], you [Syriac, similarly the Arabic]), and your satraps (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Dieu). This he says, to all yourselves. Thus elsewhere, Hearken ye, O people, all yourselves.[21] For the pronoun, which is כֻּלָּם, is of all persons; as is הֵמָּה/themselves sometimes. Thus we say, we ourselves, ye yourselves, they themselves. In the margin of a certain Venetian edition, it is written לְכֻלְּכֶם, to you all; which perhaps the ancients were following (Drusius). The כָּל is frequently joined with a suffix of the third person, and signifies all when set down alone; even when it is referred to those that one addresses in the second person; as in Micah 1:2, שִׁמְעוּ֙ עַמִּ֣ים כֻּלָּ֔ם, hearken, all ye people. Properly it is all those, in the place of all you. Thus 1 Kings 22:28 (Dieu). The sense: To relieve the common plague, a common oblation is to be offered (Mendoza).

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמְר֗וּ מָ֣ה הָאָשָׁם֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָשִׁ֣יב לוֹ֒ וַיֹּאמְר֗וּ מִסְפַּר֙ סַרְנֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֔ים חֲמִשָּׁה֙ עָפְלֵ֣י זָהָ֔ב וַחֲמִשָּׁ֖ה עַכְבְּרֵ֣י זָהָ֑ב כִּֽי־מַגֵּפָ֥ה אַחַ֛ת לְכֻלָּ֖ם וּלְסַרְנֵיכֶֽם׃ [2] Hebrew: לְכֻלָּם. [3] 1 Samuel 29:9: “And Achish answered and said to David, I know that thou artgood in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes of the Philistinesשָׂרֵ֤י) פְלִשְׁתִּים֙) have said, He shall not go up with us to the battle.” [4] Marcus Antonius Coccius Sabellicus (1436-1506) was a Venetian scholar and historian. He composed a universal history, Enneades, sive Rhapsodia Historiarum. [5]Lares were household gods. [6] Claudius Ptolemæus (c. 90-c. 168), of Roman Alexandria, was a scientist and thinker of great profundity; and his contribution to the fields of geography and astronomy in the Western world has been enormous. [7] Ptolemy’s Centiloquium came into the light in the tenth century, after Ahmad ibn Yusuf al-Misri (ninth century), an Arab mathematician and astronomer, published his comments on the text. It is thought by some that ibn Yusuf is the true author of the Centiloquium. [8]Abu'l Hassan Ali ibn Ridwan Al-Misri, or Haly ibn Rodoan (c. 988-c. 1061), was an Arab Egyptian physician, astrologer, and astronomer. He commented on Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, and sometimes ibn Yusuf’s comments on the Centiloquium are attributed to him. [9] Philostratus’ (c. 170-247) Life of Apollonius Tyana describes the travels of Apollonius of Tyana (first century AD), a Pythagorean sophist, into India, and his miracles. [10] John Tzetzes was a twelfth century poet and grammarian, living in Constantinople. [11] Domninus of Antioch wrote a history of the world, from the beginning to 560 AD. He is frequently cited by John Malalas, who extends his history. [12] John Malalas (c. 491-578) was a Greek jurist and chronicler. The beginning and ending of his eighteen-book Chronographia are lost, but what remains begins with the mythical history of Egypt and ends during the reign of Justinian. [13]Gran Cairo is ancient Ecab in Mexico. [14] [14] Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576) was an Italian polymath, most remembered for his contributions to the field of mathematics. [15]De Subtilitate Rerum. [16] Julius Cæsar Scaliger (1484-1558) was a physician, and one of the great Humanistic scholars. He was the father of Joseph Justus Scaliger. [17]Exotericarum Exercitationum. [18] That is, averting, or warding off. [19] See, for example, 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 Baal-zebub (בְּבַ֤עַל זְבוּב֙, the lord of the flies) the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.” [20] John Gregorie (1607-1646) was an English divine and churchman. In spite of the relative brevity of his life, his attainments in learning were considerable, especially in Oriental studies. He was preferred to the Prebendary of Salisbury in 1641, but he was deprived at the outbreak of the civil war. [21] 1 Kings 22:28: “And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O peoples, every one of you (שִׁמְע֖וּ עַמִּ֥ים כֻּלָּֽם׃).”


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




426 Patterson St.

Central, SC  29630