I was just reading through 1 Sam. 5 again, and for some reason this time, it struck me as weird. I had never considered just how weird God's curse of hemorrhoids was. Now, it's certainly probably not the weirdest thing he has cursed people with, but I have never considered it.

There are some practical reasons why he might--they are a war like people, and you can't have soldiers with hemorrhoids hobbling around the battlefield in heavy brass, maybe even some mixtures of iron, armour.

However, the thought occurs to me in how symbolic the surrounding context is. It is very intentionally orchestrated; first from the curse of Eli so that no man would miss it, but also to begin equally as grand to inundate Samuel's prophet-hood. The Philistines, of course, set the Ark before their god, Dagon, thus symbolically showing the superiority of their god being literally above the Lord.

Rather than being forward or complacent, the Lord then tumples over their idol--a message I take it as saying he is fallen over and needs human aide to get him back up, where the Lord needs no human aide to take care of the Ark where he rests, but also to force Dagon to bow before him. But, of course, he made it nonchalant so that none would connect two-and-two. Then, of course, he knocks over Dagon again, this time decapitating him and removing his hands--a clear display of dominance.

This is very spiritually significant clearly, in its symbolism. So, I also wonder, is there anything that we know of to why he would opt to curse the Philistines with Hemorrhoids? Perhaps like a folk superstition that is a curse of their gods or something? just a thought.

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    Sam. 6:4 might actually shed some light on the significance of hemorrhoids. In fact I always wondered why they would send back five golden sculptures of hemorrhoids (I don't even know how you would sculpt hemorrhoids. Should it rather be translated "rodents"??). Was that a kind of scapegoat for the hemorrhoids they themselves were suffering from? Or was it a kind of sympathetic magic as some suggested? The whole narrative is extremely ambiguous and I have never found a satisfactory explanation. But I have a feeling that one mystery could be solved by the other. BTW excellent question, +1.
    – bach
    Feb 24, 2020 at 14:51
  • Reading 1 Sam 6 after that the other night, I think the rats are interesting, as it seems they also had a possibly unrelated plague of rats and they assumed both were connected, so they because they made Emrod cast for each lord, and also an image of mice as well for their cities. Feb 24, 2020 at 20:58
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    The Great Bible of 1540 references 1 Sam. 5:5 in the margin of Psalms 78:66.
    – user21676
    Feb 25, 2020 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


Hemmorhoids is a disputed reading. Originally the underlying hebrew, tehorim, meant any swelling. Over time it came to represent the taboo hemorrhoids, and so the MT qere is "‘ŏpālîm" or "tumors", which also refers to any swelling and is closer to the original meaning of boils. Therefore the inclusion of mice suggests it was an outbreak of bubonic plague.

See the NICOT commentary for more elaboration: Tsumura, D. (2007). The First Book of Samuel (p. 208). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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