[b-hebrew] 1 Sam 5:6 ; devastation; "hemorrhoids", and Plague

David Kimbrough (CLWA) dkimbrough at clwa.org
Mon Apr 26 12:04:04 EDT 2004

Just a noted that the word for "emeroids" (i.e. hemorrhoids or tumors) is
"tekhor" (possibly suggesting a burning sensation) can describe the symptoms
of bubonic plague.  The lymph glands swell up producing a painful burning
sensation.  The ketib for "tekhor" is "ophel", suggesting swelling.  The
words tekhor and ophel are not precise medical terms as we might use today
but general terms for any painful swelling.  While bubonic plague is carried
by the fleas and rats, it is not transmitted by mice (assuming the writer is
making an effort to distinguish mouse from rat).  I do not believe that the
word "rat" occurs anywhere in the OT while mouse or mice (akbar) occurs six

David Eugene Kimbrough

-----Original Message-----
From: CS Bartholomew [mailto:jacksonpollock at earthlink.net]
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 2:03 AM
To: Brian & Laureen Powell
Cc: hebrew
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] 1 Sam 5:6 ; devastation

On 4/25/04 11:18 PM, "Brian & Laureen Powell" <PowellBrian at omf.net> wrote:

> I'm currently translating 1 Samuel into one of the minority languages of
> the Philippines and have reached the above verse.
> I am wondering if the word translated in the NIV as 'devastation',
> shamem in the Hebrew, refers to a destruction of crops (which would be
> quite likely if there were a plague of rats which is mentioned in
> chapter 6) or whether this is some other form of destruction, such as
> death by plague.
> I should be grateful if anyone could shed some light on the meaning of
> this word.

Brian & Laureen,

The notion of a plague brought by mice is an addition of the LXX (also
Josephus). Robert Alter (David Story, p.28) notes that the Philistines
complain that they are dying and this suggests a lethal plague not
"hemroids" which are not a plague and not lethal. Alter notes Rashi's
reading  that this was bubonic plauge spread by rats. This seems to be a
logical deduction from the exetended context more than a philological

Not sure you will solve this one with by focusing on #MM (shamem) which has
a wide semantic range. Someone else will certainly fill you in on the
philological issues.

Clay Bartholomew 

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