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These were bleeding piles known to the ancient Romans as mariscae, but more probably malignant boils of an infectious and fatal character.
With this loathsome and infectious disease the men of Ashdod were smitten by the hand of the Lord. This calamity they attributed to the presence of the ark in their midst, and therefore they removed it to Gath (1 Sam. 5:6-8). But the same consequences followed from its presence in Gath, and therefore they had it removed to Ekron, 11 miles distant. The Ekronites were afflicted with the same dreadful malady, but more severely; and a panic seizing the people, they demanded that the ark should be sent back to the land of Israel (9-12; 6:1-9).