Jehovah seems to have been pretty hard on the poor Philistines. In I Samuel IV, there is an account of a battle in which the Philistines overcame the Jews, slaying about 30,000 of them in what appears to have been a perfectly fair fight. The victory of the Philistines was facilitated by the fact that the Hebrew army ran away, and tried to hide in their tents. The conquerors then took the ark of God into the house of their own god, whose name was Dagon, and who was a sort of half fish, and consequently more or less helpless. The Hebrew God then smote Dogon, cutting off his hands and throwing him off his pedestal, so that his face was on the ground. This threw a terrible scare into the Philistines of Ashdod, so that they sent the ark to Gath. Thereupon, “the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction: and He smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts,” and “the hand of God was very heavy there. And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods.” But the Lord only knows what an “emerod” was. Literally, it is a hemorrhoid—the etymological rela-tionship of these two unpleasant words being obvious; but it is hardly likely that even the Philistines could have had a fatal epidemic of hemorrhoids. The words translated as “emerods” are “ophalim” and “teharim,” which mean swellings, or rounded eminences. According to our learned informant, the translation “emerods” depends on a comparison with Psalms LXXVIII 66, where God is said to have smitten his enemies “in the hinder parts.” This identification is very early, from Talmudic sources and in Aramaic translations. “Ophalim,” according to other translators, merely means an elevated, rounded place. Hastings, in his Dictionary of the Bible, does not believe that “emerods” were hemorrhoids, and connects this description with bubonic plague. Granting, therefore, that these words refer to swellings in the private parts, the controversy merely turns upon whether it was the hinder end or the front end which was affected. Although the material available is insufficent for diagnostic accuracy, rounded swellings in these regions, associated with epidemic spread and high mortality, are suspicious of plague.
—Dr. Hans Zinsser, Rats, Lice and History