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I want to know what is the disease portrayed in 1 Samuel 5. There are some details regarding this:

  1. Emerods were in the secret parts (v 9)
  2. Men either died or had Emerods (v 12)
  3. The hand of the Lord was heavy - I take it to mean that men suffered much pain, if they did not die (v 11)
  4. It was associated with rats (6:4)

I wish to know:

  1. What is the general consensus among churches regarding this disease?
  2. Is there any research paper regarding this?
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    'Emerods' is the old fashioned name for Hemorrhoids. (Caution - graphic content). If you have not had them . . . . be grateful.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 20, 2020 at 14:35

3 Answers 3

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I have no idea if there is any “research paper” on the nature of the disease described in 1 Samuel chapters 5 and 6. Neither do I know if there is any “general consensus among churches”. However, the learned and accredited Bible scholars who contribute meaningful comments in Study Bibles such as the New Living Translation (NLT) and the English Standard Version (ESV) may shed some light.

With regard to 1 Samuel 5:6 the NLT has this to say:

Greek version and Latin Vulgate read ‘tumors’: “and rats appeared in their land, and death and destruction were throughout the city.” The Hebrew term can mean simply “swellings”. A possible alternative translation is “hemorroids”. They were possibly the fatal ‘buloes’ of bubonic plague, which attack the lower body, especially the rectal area. Rats are known carriers of the plague.

The ESV also uses the word “tumors” in 1 Samuel 5:6, and as verse 9 says, it afflicted only the men:

The tumors, together with an abnormal number of mice in the area (6:5) have led most commentators to identify the disease as bubonic plague. Yet 5:12 has no reference to mice at all.

The Bible informs us that the God has brought plagues upon sinful rulers as well as on His own people. The plagues on Egypt testify to God’s ability to be discriminate with His judgments. Here this plague (whatever it was) struck down only the men in the city and the pagan rulers were forced to bring a guilt offering made of gold. Here is the NLT translation of 1 Samuel 6:4:

Since the plague has struck both you and your five rulers, make five gold tumors and five gold rats, just like those that have ravaged your land.

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The NKJV translates it as "tumors". So I'm guessing they were large growths.

So it was, after they had carried it away, that the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction; and He struck the men of the city, both small and great, and tumors broke out on them.

1 Samuel 5:9 NKVJ

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The operative word here is listed below from Brown-Driver-Briggs

I. עֹ֫פֶל noun [masculine] mound, hill, only as acropolis; — ׳ע absolute 2 Kings 5:24 +, construct Micah 4:8; — fortified mound or hill within city, or Jerusalem (compare RobBR i. 267 GuZPV v (1882), 326) Micah 4:8; Isaiah 32:14; south end of eastern hill Nehemiah 3:26; Nehemiah 11:21; 2Chronicles 33:14 ׳חוֺמַת הָע Nehemiah 3:27; 2Chronicles 27:3 (compare חמת העפל in קרחה MI21, 22); of Samaria 2 Kings 5:24.

II. [עֹ֫פֶל] noun masculine1Samuel 6:4 tumour; — only plural Kt (בָּ)עֳפָלִים Deuteronomy 28:27; 1 Samuel 5:6,9,12; construct עָפְלֵי 1 Samuel 6:4; suffix עָפְלֵיכֶם 1 Samuel 6:5; Qr in all (ב)טְחֹרִים, טְחֹרֵי, טְחֹרֵיכֶם, see [ טְחוֺר].

This word occurs just nine times in the OT as follows:

  1. Deut 28:27, "tumors"

2-6. 1 Sam 5:6, 9, 12, 6:4, 5, "tumors"

  1. 1 Kings 5:24, "hill" or "tower"

  2. Isa 32:14, "hill"

  3. Micah 4:8, "hill"

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