According to the Old Testament (1 Samuel 5 and 6) the
Ark of the Covenant was on occasion captured from the
Israelites by the Philistines and taken to their own country.
Subsequently, a plague, attributed to the Ark, erupted among
the Philistines, and led to the Ark being returned to Israel
after seven months. The plague consisted of abscesses or
tumours, without indicating a specific anatomical location.
There have in time been various suggestions of what the
plague represented. Bubonic plague has often been
mentioned as a possible cause, but the symptoms do not
correspond with those mentioned in the Septuagint or the
Vulgate, and the first recorded case of bubonic plague
was in the 6th century AD. We thus consider that the 1st
century AD Jewish-Roman historian, Josephus, was correct
when he stated that the Philistine epidemic was dysentery:
bacillary dysentery is a disease caused by a micro-organism
which spreads from person to person by way of oral-faecal
infection in a situation where there is poor hygiene, as was
probably the case in 11th century BC Philistia.