Piles or Penises?

I’ve often wondered why Spielberg couldn’t have been more true to the bible about the way the Ark of the Covenant supposedly punished people. Bums bursting out in hemorrhoids (I Sam 5:6,9,12) would have been more amusing than melting faces, though I suppose demanding an R-rating to appreciate. But now it looks like God’s judgment may have been more risque than even that. In a recent BAR article, Did the Captured Ark Inflict the Philistines with E.D.?, Aren Maeir suggests that the Ark zapped people with erectile dysfunction, not hemorrhoids. From the article:

“I’ve always been troubled by the Philistine hemorrhoids. The Hebrew word is ‘opalim (Mylpe). That was supposedly their affliction when they captured the Ark of the Covenant and placed it before a statue of their god Dagon… These ‘opalim have caused scholars lots of problems. The root of the word is ‘pl (lpe, or Ophel, as in the acropolis [upper city] of ancient Jerusalem), which means ‘high’ or ‘rise,’ hence a swelling. But there is something strange, even a bit peculiar about ‘opalim. Is it a vulgarity? Is it simply too intimate for use in a holy text? Or does it perhaps mean something entirely different?”

Like Maeir I’ve always had a hard time getting my head around the business with the golden hemorrhoids (I Sam 6:4-5). How would hemorrhoids be crafted to distinguish them as such? (Maybe I should snip one of my own sometime and examine it carefully.)

Based on recently recovered archaeological evidence (of which there is admittedly plenty), Maeir suggests that ‘opalim refers neither to hemorrhoids or tumors — nor even the bubonic plague — but to penises:

“I suggest that the ‘opalim with which the Philistines were afflicted after they captured the Ark of the Covenant and placed it in the temple of Dagon involved penises rather than hemorrhoids. It is unclear precisely what the nature of the affliction of the Philistine membra virile was. Perhaps it was the failure to attain erection, the condition referred to today as E.D., or erectile dysfunction. Or perhaps it was some malady causing penile pain.

“The root of ‘opalim, which means ‘a rise,’ suits the penile context as well as it does a hemorrhoid swelling. But it is far easier to visualize the Philistine offering, apparently to placate the Israelite God, as golden penises than golden hemorrhoids. Although we have much Philistine cultic material, nothing in it suggests the possibility of a visual reproduction of a hemorrhoid. Understanding ‘opalim as penises, on the other hand, has excellent parallels in the archaeological record.

“The word ‘opalim is still very much a dirty word, inappropriate for use in the synagogue. But it would be quite appropriate (for reading), given the fact that the Biblical text is clearly making fun of the Philistines and their penile malady.”

I suppose the melting faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark were more dramatically effective than either hemorrhoids or erectile dysfunction. But a fun article in any case, and interesting enough suggestion from Maeir. And speaking of Spielberg, the fourth Indiana Jones film is just around the corner.

UPDATE: On his blog Maeir says that the specific point about E.D. was not his idea and incorporated into the article for sake of popularization (sensationalism?). I guess nothing about BAR suprises me anymore. Thanks to Chris Heard for pointing this out in comments.

6 thoughts on “Piles or Penises?

  1. I was wondering the same. Maeir’s claim is that <>‘opalim<> refers to the male sexual organ itself, and that the Philistines’ (normally) rising organs were detrimentaly afflicted. Or alternatively, that their organs were afflicted with some other malady (involving growths?). I like the vessels of non-erect phalluses unearthed at Ashkelon — and can certainly imagine golden offerings like those in place of visual representations of hemorrhoids — but I don’t know that E.D. is precisely what we’re after here.

  2. I think all of you are missing important clues that Maeir obviously missed. The translation is risings or “piles”. Piles are hemorrhoids. Piles is more likely the correct insulting humor Yahweh was going for NOT limp/erect phalluses offered to Dagon.

    Read the context of 1 Samuel 5 please. Yahweh sent punishing Jeroboa mice (gerbils??? Hebrew: yarbōa) to eat up their wheat crop causing dietary dysfunction. Put your Dr. medicine hats on please.

    What is the cause of piles? Poor diet and constipation. Josephus called it “dysentery” (inflammatory disorder of the intestine).

    You can't simply remove a pile (or tumor – KJV) because its just a swollen rectal vein that sticks out or “rises”. God gave them HUGE ones as punishment for their act of theft of His holy relic! Yes a Dr. can remove it but not until the 19-20th century safely without sepcis.

    So think how humiliated the Philistines must have been having to look into a pile sufferer's hinder area to get the small gold statutes correct according to Yahweh's exact specifications. They would look like medium sized lumps of gold. Archeology would NOT find them in a Philistine dig at Gath (too humiliating to save to posterity) but at a HEBREW dig as they had to give them to them per Yahweh's specific instructions. That with gold representation of the mice too.

    I think you need to do a dig at Exum (Ethiopia)or the Temple mount (Jerusalem) to find these artifacts still in the ark. BTW – The ark has NO power – ever. IT was from God NOT the ark. The ark was just a Divine symbol. So having it is pointless today.

    This Philistine humiliation punishment scenario is called Divine “in your face” justice. This was not some placation of pagan god Dagon (i.e. Satan) but the Hebrew God Yahweh (i.e. Jehovah). Logic wins out in this debate not lustful wishful thinking of an arguably “horny” Israeli so-called scientist.

    IMHO Maeir just has a dirty mind – LOL

  3. “The word ‘opalim is still very much a dirty word, inappropriate for use in the synagogue. But it would be quite appropriate (for reading), given the fact that the Biblical text is clearly making fun of the Philistines and their penile malady.”

    No opalim is a dirty word because it refers to a rising in your hinder region an OBVIOUSLY dirty area involving fecal matter. The Hebrews had a thing about this as proper hygiene was REQUIRED in Synagogue.

    Erect penises are NOT a dirty word as it is all about God's gift to us for procreation. So a frank discussion about procreation dynamics in Synagogue would NOT be inappropriate for a Rabbi. The O.T. talks about it all the time! See Genesis 38:9; Leviticus 15-33; etc.

    Also how does one instruct their children (Rabbis included) in a birds and the bees discussion without explaining penile turgidity?

    No this is much ado about nothing. More like an attempted pointless exercise to legitimize some hidden gay agenda IMHO (wait for the other shoe to drop?). Is Maeir gay? Why bring this foolishness up now? What's his fascination with the male penis? Get your mind out of the gutter Arien.

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